From its very inception, the Botswana National Front (BNF) has never tired of instilling into its cadres and ordinary members the need for taking an active interest in the fate of liberation struggles in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Africa.
In its political rallies, seminars and educational pamphlets it consistently hammered the idea that Botswana could not consider itself genuinely free and independent while the rest of the world was under the tight grip of oppressive regimes. In this way, the ideas of Internationalism and solidarity with popular liberation struggles was deeply engrained in the consciousness of ordinary members of our movement.
One of the quotes on Solidarity that has always remained relevant is the one by none other than Cde Samora Moises Machel who said, "International Solidarity is not an act of charity; it is an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains towards the same objectives. The foremost of these objectives is to assist in the development of humanity to the highest level possible." It is therefore not by accident that the BNF stood firm in solidarity with the struggles of Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Angola and Mozambique. We were in solidarity with these struggles on the basis of principle. We continue to be in solidarity with the struggles in different terrains particularly Western Sahara, Palestine and Swaziland. But because this year the Israeli Apartheid Week campaign, which we endorses, will run between the 6th and 12th of March, this article will be focusing on the Palestinian struggle. Maybe we should also congratulate the BDP government for shockingly taking a principled position of raising concerns about the re-admission of Morocco into the AU fold at the recent summit. Western Sahara continues to be last colony in Africa under another African state, Morocco.
Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an annual international series of events across the world. It seeks to raise awareness about the of Israel's apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and mobilises support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign. It seeks to bring an end to Israel's apartheid policies and violations of International Law. The architect of Apartheid, Dr Hendrik Verwoed is quoted in 1961 saying, Israel, like South Africa, is an Apartheid state. The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (ICSPCA) was adopted in 1973 by the United Nations General Assembly. The crime of Apartheid is defined by the ICSPCA as: inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group... and systematically oppressing them. The convention intended to provide a "universal instrument", which means it applies to Apartheid systems anywhere in the world. In terms of the ICSPCA, Apartheid is seen as inhuman acts that are practiced "for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them". Apartheid is an Afrikaner word for "apartness".
The IAW was initiated at the University of Toronto in 2005 by student activists. Since then it has been adopted across the world. As indicated earlier, the campaign intends to mainstream the struggle of the Palestinians. Palestinian citizens are discriminated against in Israel and are barred from controlling and developing over 90% of the land, and are discriminated against in most aspects of their lives. The Arabs do not have a free movement into and out of Palestine and Gaza. Palestinians expelled from Palestine in 1948 and 1967 are not allowed to return to their homes and lands. On contrast, anyone who is of Jewish background, from anywhere in the world, has the automatic right to become an Israeli citizen and live in Palestine. Palestinians are only allowed fishing within six (6) miles of the sea. These areas where they are allowed to fish do not really have a lot of fish. The Arabs living in Israel have to say when travelling when they will be back and if they do not return as reported, they risk having their property confiscated by the state. Those living in the occupied territories are not free. They carry what is similar to the "pass" that was used in the old South Africa. They also have to come back to their places of residence within a particular time and can only move once granted permission. They are subjected to continuous bombing and shelling by the Israeli government. Our position and posture is that there should be equality and we subscribe to the two state solution based on the 1967 borders. The Israelis continue to rob the Palestinians of their land and this has to stop. The two state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians live peacefully side by side is what we hope for. While we condemn violence, we have to come up with approaches that will not justify some resorting to violence. Just as much as we are critical of the Nazi Holocaust, we are critical of the genocide perpetrated on the Palestinians. This is a classic case of genocide. The Nazi Holocaust was a human tragedy of unspeakable proportions. The stories of human spirit, love and strength during these times will fortify those fighting against injustice. Anne Frank, a young child, hiding from the murderous Nazi soldiers said, "as long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?' The feeling of hope and smiles of Palestinian children and the other oppressed people of the world make the words of Anne Frank lived out. The brutal abuse against the jewish community at the hands of German fundamentalist and extremist regime should not be allowed to continue occasioning on the Palestinians and other oppressed people of the world. Cde Hedy Epstein, a haulocast survivor, Palestine Solidarity activist and BDS supporter, who died last year aged 91 years, had committed her life to social justice. Made a refugee at the age of 14 years, she had to flee the brutal Nazi regime in Germany, the country of her birth. We agree with BDS' description of her: Hedy did not surrender to despair by this horrific experience at such a young age but instead chose to dedicate her life to working for justice for all people". We know that not all Israelis agree with this carnage on the Palestinians. We should therefore collectively raise our voices and speak out against this injustice. Like Martin Luther King said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".
* Moeti Mohwasa is the BNF secretary general