Isolate Apartheid Israel now! Build a powerful mass movement in solidarity with Palestine!

by Oct 15, 2014Magazine

The message from the estimated 150,000 marchers who took part in the 9th August Cape Town march in solidarity with Palestine was powerful, principled and unequivocal: South Africa must end its diplomatic relations with Israel. It is a betrayal of South Africa’s own struggle for national liberation that the ANC government has maintained diplomatic relations with Israel since Mandela’s Presidency. Many people across the world would have expected the South African government to lead the international isolation of Israel. The ANC government is failing the people of Palestine.

Like millions elsewhere in the world, the Cape Town march and other impressive solidarity actions elsewhere in the country were an immediate response to the sustained Israeli assault on Gaza, which shocked and moved millions of people across the world into active solidarity with the just cause for the freedom of occupied Palestine.

The demand is that South Africa must end its diplomatic relations with Israel. This will require sustained action on the part of hundreds of thousands of people across the length and breadth of the country. We can no longer have illusions about the vested interests that shape South Africa’s foreign policy. We must build from the momentum of Cape Town and reach a wide range of progressive and mass organisations across the length and breadth of the country.

We must learn from our own struggle against apartheid. The famous Dunnes strike in Dublin, Ireland was one case of effective international solidarity from below. In July 1984, a 21-year old cashier at the Henry Street branch of Dunnes Stores refused to serve a customer who was buying two Outspan oranges produced in the Western Cape. Her refusal was based on a resolution of her trade union (IDATU) that asked its members not to handle South African goods. Her refusal led to a walkout and a long strike by her fellow workers. The Dunnes strike reinvigorated the Irish anti-apartheid movement, which directed its pressure and huge public outrage at the Irish government’s foreign policy until trade with South Africa was banned. [graphic for this page: song]

As the Dunnes strike teaches us, sustained international solidarity from below can achieve the isolation of apartheid Israel and effectively silence its loud Zionist lobby, both within the country and abroad. The range of Palestinian solidarity initiatives and other progressive forces must now undertake sustained, united, strategic and principled action to deepen our solidarity with Palestine.

The Palestinian solidarity work can also build and widely disseminate an alternative narrative and discourse on Palestine. This is crucial, given the failure of South African print and electronic media to provide informed and accurate reporting and analysis.

Recently, the SABC’s Thami Dickson told listeners to Umhlobo Wenene [‘My family’] that the situation in Palestine amounts to a conflict between Israel and Palestine, and that this conflict primarily had religious roots. He never bothered to reply to email and Facebook corrections from Amandla! These messages called on the SABC to withdraw his report and to ensure that their analysis of the situation in Palestine is was not that is a conflict between two equal sides, but rather that the Israeli state is a settler, racist, exploitative and oppressive colonial state that serves imperialist interests. The 150,000 marchers in Cape Town broke through the South African media’s complicity with the genocide of the people of Palestine.

We must dare to make our modest contribution to what must become a sustained global campaign for the isolation of the Israeli colonial settler regime, as well as for the active support of concerned people around the world for the struggle for the national liberation of Palestine. In this way, we can, like the women of the IDATU, stretch our hand of solidarity across the continent to the Palestinian people in their hour of need.

“Ten young women, and one young man”,

by Ewan MacColl.

Sung evocatively by Cliodhna ni Mhurchu in Songs of Irish Labour.

It is a tribute to the Dunnes workers and a powerful lesson in international solidarity from our own struggle.

Pause a while my friends and listen to what I’m going to tell to you

About the events in Dublin City and the girls of the IDATU

Dunne’s stores branch in Henry street was where the trouble first began

That led to the strike, the famous strike

Of ten young women and one young man

At the union conference that year they said we should not compromise

With apartheid, and they voted to boycott all South African merchandise

Karen Guerin, and the Dunne’s shop steward, told their mates about the ban

They said “We’ll stick by the resolution”

Ten young women and one young man

Mary Manning, from Kilmainham, a twenty one year old cashier

Was put to the test the very next morning and she spoke up loud and clear

“No, I’m afraid, I cannot serve you. That grapefruit’s South African

Some of us here are opposed to apartheid”

Ten young women and one young man

Well what a hell of a hullaballoo, the groans and threats and angry cries

The management foaming at the mouth and the suits running round like blue-arsed flies

“You’ll sell that fruit or be suspended, we’ll tolerate no union ban”

Little did they understand the will

Of ten young women and one young man

Mary Manning got the push, a lass of independent mind

And ten of her workmates came out and her and joined her there on the picket line

For days and weeks and months they stood there held their nerve and kept the ban

Showing the will and determination

Of ten young women and one young man

So here’s to the girls of Dublin City who stretched their hands across the sea

That action surely is a lesson in workers’ solidarity

Here’s to the folk who heed the boycott, won’t buy Cape and spurn Outspan

And to the lad who joined the lasses

Ten young women and one young man


Share this article:


Latest issue

Amandla 92