The exact wording proposed is unclear, but a notice issued by the trade and industry department that goods imported from Israel and manufactured in the Israeli-occupied territories ought to be labelled as such has been met by protest.
The Inkatha Freedom Party, the African Christian Democratic Party, the South African Zionist Federation and the Shembe Church – dubbing themselves “Africans for Israel” – on Thursday marched to the trade and industry department's head office in Pretoria to demand that minister Rob Davies withdraw the notice.
According to ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe – whose human rights record includes opposition to gay rights and condom distribution and who supports the death penalty – the notice “is discriminatory, indefensible and part of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign to isolate and delegitimise Israel.”
Davies' action is yet another indication that the South African government has taken Palestine's side in the conflict, IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi added. He also claimed that the notice had no basis in law.
“Our government has maintained an unstated position with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has made no effort to conceal the fact that it supports the Palestinian cause. One seldom hears an unbiased statement in Parliament. Our government has taken sides,” he said.
Buthelezi also likened the consumer boycotts against the re-labelling to those preceding the persecution of Jews and the Holocaust in Germany.
Responding to Thursday's protests, pro-Palestine lobby group Open Shuddah Street accused the IFP and ACDP of misleading their members and maintained that the notice upheld the law and consumer's rights to accurate information.
Trade union Cosatu also criticised the protest and appealed to Shembe Church spiritual leader Phakama Shembe not to allow the church's members to be co-opted into furthering “the racist supremacist ideology” of the SA Zionist Federation.
“Those who choose to (participate in the protest) are either genuinely misinformed, opportunistic or are deliberately sacrificing principle on the altar of cheap politicking, as is being consistently demonstrated by the leader of the ACDP, Reverend Meshoe, and the IFP,” Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said in a statement.
At a Thursday press conference in Cape Town, the Palestine Solidarity Group, refugee-rights group Passop, religious leaders group Kairos, and the South African boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign also voiced support for Davies' decision to issue the notice.
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