As we celebrate 53 years of independence, we must not betray our history and forget the Palestinian struggle, writes MOETI MOHWASA*
During the struggle against apartheid, the South African government adopted what it called a “new policy” to entice African states – including Botswana - into closer co-operation and friendly relations with her in return for financial aid, mainly in the form of mining know-how and technical aid. This ‘aid’ was on condition that they did not support the ANC and MK activities within their borders.
Apartheid South Africa’s policies came to mind when I recently read that the Israeli government recently led six Israeli cyber security companies on a business delegation to Botswana. Dubbed a “cyber roadshow”, the Israeli companies’ aim was to engage with Botswana government officials to initiate business relationships.
In 2017, Botswana’s Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Israel on how best Botswana could benefit from Israeli agricultural technologies. There is also a student exchange between Botswana and Israel.
Like Apartheid South Africa’s assistance, Israeli aid to Botswana is not about goodwill or generosity. Israeli offers of water and agricultural technology, investment, trade, and security, is an attempt to buy our silence about Israeli crimes against Palestinians.
By normalising relations with Israel, we are also normalising Israel’s occupation of Palestine. When we accept offers of Israeli intelligence, we are saying that we have no problem with the destruction of Palestinian towns, villages, homes, businesses and farms, to make way for the construction of illegal Israeli settlements.
When we welcome Israel’s cyber-technology experts, we also welcome the siege of the Gaza Strip, Israeli checkpoints and Israeli apartheid. Israel wants us to forget about Palestine.
As we celebrate, we must remind ourselves of the fact that Botswana
International solidarity was one of the cornerstones of the fight against apartheid. Together with internal mobilisation and mass resistance as well as the armed struggle, the international boycott campaign was instrumental in isolating the apartheid regime.
The world was not allowed to forget about the struggle to free South Africa. Now, we must do the same for Palestine.
We must ensure that we keep Israeli atrocities perpetrated against Palestinians high on the agenda of the international community. While the situations in Western Sahara, Swaziland, Kashmir, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain must receive our attention, we must not forget the plight of the Palestinian people.
The government and people of Botswana cannot betray our legacy of standing up to unjust and oppressive regimes.
Just as Botswana played a vital role in the struggle against apartheid, so too are the Palestinian people now asking us and the world to help them achieve freedom. We must boycott Israel.
Palestinians require such strong and radical action to end more than half a century of military occupation of Palestinian land. They require a boycott to force Israel to comply with international law so that Palestinian refugees can return and the world can finally see the establishment of a Palestinian state.
As a nation we must not allow our voice to be muted by Israeli offers of technology, investment and security. The government of Botswana must rethink its decision to engage with Israel and choose to be on the right side of history.
*Moeti Mohwasa is Botswana National Front (BNF) secretary general