South African MP and the grandson of Nelson Mandela, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, addressed a sold out crowd at the Palestine Expo in London on July 7 saying “We have a moral duty to support the BDS and to support the Palestinian struggle”.
Organised by the British NGO Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA), Palestine Expo has been dubbed the ‘biggest Palestine event in Europe‘, being held in the iconic Olympia Exhibition Centre in London.
In his speech,(edited here) he also addressed efforts of the anti-Palestinian group UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) in trying to cancel the Palestine Expo, calling them “defenders of a crime against humanity”.
“We wish to express our outrage and disgust at the intimidation tactics of the U.K. Lawyers for Israel. We say to them and all who seek to deny our basic human rights such as freedom of expression – hands off BDS, hands off Palestine Expo.”
This is a cause that my grandfather Nelson Mandela described as the “the greatest moral issue of our time” – the struggle for Palestine. the struggle must be waged on multiple fronts: cultural, academic, trade, political, diplomatic, sport, communication but most of all the battle of the hearts and the battle of perception. This multi-prong approach not only armed us with a greater diversity of tools of struggle, it also enabled us to attract a broader audience or support base that could constitute the basis for popular struggle.
We had first-hand experience as an organization calling themselves UK Lawyers for Israel applied best efforts to stymie this event or to downplay support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Let me say it loud and clear for all to hear: Next to the internal popular protest movement waged in the face of all odds by the brave and courageous children, women and men of occupied Palestine, BDS is the most painful thorn in the side of Apartheid Israel.
They cannot stomach its worldwide popular appeal and success and will do all in their power and might to obstruct, hinder or stand in the way of any forum that advances the principles that BDS stands for. I have news for them. There is nothing you can do to stop the tsunami of history; you may frustrate, obstruct or obscure but in the end justice will prevail. In the 70s, 80s and early 1990s we too engaged in political action for the liberation struggle in South Africa. Apartheid South Africa and its imperialist allies too underestimated the power of the people but today we stand before you free from centuries of colonization and free from decades of apartheid brutality and discrimination. Today South Africa, tomorrow Palestine!! This gathering right here reminds us of our date with history.
My brothers and sisters; Palestine Expo reminds us of the reality of a nation that has now withstood 71 years of the Nakba. It reminds us of homes, farms and villages that was once home to a vibrant community with a proud history, culture, language and cuisine that has been usurped and occupied in gross violation of international law. Seven decades of ethnic cleansing and genocide perpetrated in the name of the myth of a land without people, for a people without land.
Palestine Expo raises the bar of awareness and consciousness by combining the use of traditional forms of education with cutting edge technology to raise awareness about Palestine. It brings people together to celebrate Palestine like never before. It holds the promise and the dream alive that one day we shall celebrate in a free Palestine; one day we shall celebrate in a free Jerusalem; the eternal capital of a Palestinian State.
I am often asked what is so important to us as South Africans about the Palestinian struggle that Madiba declared during his visit to Gaza in 1995 “that our struggle is yet incomplete without the Freedom of the Palestinian people.” What does this mean? In the darkest hours of our struggle when our leaders were incarcerated on Robben Island and other jails of Apartheid South Africa; whilst our cadres were driven into exile and our internal rebellion was being crushed; it was the images of the brave and courageous young people of Palestine armed with nothing but rocks and their bare hands that inspired us.
When they themselves were under siege and attack it was the leadership of the Palestinian struggle that provided home, training and financial support to our struggle. Our freedom is inter-connected with that of the Palestinian people because ours is a relationship forged in the heat of struggle and they were the strongest advocates of our freedom in every global forum where they raised the flag of our just struggle alongside the struggle of the Palestinian people.
On 17 September 1964 just months before he was assassinated. Malcolm X “The Israeli Zionists are convinced they have successfully camouflaged their new kind of colonialism. Their colonialism appears to be more “benevolent,” more “philanthropic,” a system with which they rule simply by getting their potential victims to accept their friendly offers of economic “aid,” and other tempting gifts…” Malcolm X was referring to the newly-independent African nations, whose economies were experiencing great difficulties and whom Israel was manipulating to seek legitimacy.
So when the “leader of the free world” comes around offering golden hand-shakes and bearing Trump Card gifts which the Arab nations must pay for themselves we recognize the behaviour and smell a rat. Call it what you will but the Deal of the Century is a no deal and is only designed to fortify Apartheid Israel, legitimize its illegal settlements and forever forego the right of return of six million Palestinians living in exile. This Hoax of the Century has served to unite the voice of the Palestinian people in opposition to it but we must caution against the guile of imperialism.
We have a moral duty to support the BDS and to support the Palestinian struggle. We say to UK Lawyers for Israel that you are defending a crime against humanity; a crime against the Palestinian people. In a recent article 240 Israeli and Jewish scholars wrote that “the three main goals of BDS – ending the occupation, full equality to the Arab citizens of Israel and the right of return of Palestinian refugees-adhere to international law.” We did not need that affirmation but merely cite it to demonstrate the myopia and desperation of UK Lawyers for Israel and others who do the bidding of Apartheid Israel. We shall continue to speak out against those who seek to limit or criminalize our right to free speech.