Speech by Mampe Ramotsamai on the Debate: "The situation in Israel and Palestine and in particular the arrest and detention of members of the PLO"

7 June 2007

Madam Speaker

This year 2007 marks 40 years since the end of the Six Day War, which was waged between Israel and various neighboring Arab State in 1967. The Arab States at the time vowed to ensure the "Liberation of Palestine" from Jewish occupation, however it ended in total defeat of the Arab States. Since then, the peoples of Palestine have been subjected to various forms of challenges, human rights violations and oppression which has further undermined their chances of having a State their own with secure leaders.

Madam Speaker

According to a number of humanitarian agencies, the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) is faced with huge challenges in the area of socio- economic development. Recently UNICEF issued a donor request amounting to us $25.8m in order to meet needs of Palestinian women and children. Women and children in Palestine have found themselves in the most vulnerable position due to continued military attacks by the Israeli army, and the on-going public sector strikes have gravely affected critical services such as immunization and education.

Many a times Madam Speaker as South Africans we draw similarities between what we went through during Apartheid and what is going on in Palestine and to the people of Palestine, but Madam Speaker Palestinians suffering in much more than what we here went through. The issue that continues to infringe on the rights of the Palestine has been the creation of barriers which inhibits the free movement of Palestinians especially in the West Bank like we were restricted during apartheid by pass laws, Influx Control etc. These barriers have come in different forms such as several check points, road blocks as well as a concrete wall.

This government of Israel controls 2.5m Palestinians through matrix of more than 500 check points and road blocks as well as 700km wall. Each town and village is surrounded by these checkpoints and road closures that cause extreme hardship to the people of Palestine. For a distance that could have taken one 20 minutes to reach destination it takes Palestinians 7 hours due to a wall of apartheid. This wall is highly monstrous it even cut farmers from their land, children from their schools, mothers from medical services for their babies, grand parents from their grand children even in the Bantustans madam speaker we were not surrounded by gates. These enclosures are creating huge poverty and stiffling the economy of these villages and towns with the purpose to drive Palestinians people out. Poverty has now spread to 26% of the population, compared to 17 % in 2005. Unemployment has reached 30% of the population in the first quarter of 2007 and 70% of Palestinians living in Gaza are now dependent on food aid. By any measurable standards, it must come as an unacceptable outcome that currently across the OPT 66% of households fall below the poverty line and that in Gaza especially, eight out of ten families are struggling or cannot meet their daily food needs.

Furthermore the decision of the Western Governments to impose sanctions on the Hamas led government in Palestine must be criticized. After hamas won the legislative elections in Palestine at the beginning of 2006, The United States of America (USA), the European Union (EU), Canada and Israel imposed sanctions on the Hammas led government. These sanctions have impacted negatively on the capacity of the Palestinian Authority to deliver much needed social sources to the people of Palestine. By holding donor and they have directly contributed immensely to a process of undermining an elected government of Palestine. While on the other hand government of Israel refuses to release tax revenues which it collects on behalf of Palestinian Authority has only served to polarize relations between itself and the Palestine People. This situation has caused hardship for Palestinians.

Madam Speaker the fact that today we are still discussing the issue of Palestinian self determination and the continuing aggression and deprivation is an indictment against all of us. Today as we speak forty years after the 1967 war, the reality is that the Palestinians control only 23% of their original land even that 23% is threatened by increasing settlements. How long must the people of Palestine suffer before countries like US & EU act consciously?

It is important therefore for all of us as South Africans to understand the real reasons of this conflict. Many white South Africans believed what the apartheid government informed them about terrorists in S.A. In fact they did not see any thing wrong with the Group Areas Act, Pass Laws and many other unjust laws but many of us who suffered against that regime were feeling the pain. Madam Speaker today all of us in S. African black and white are enjoying life in a democratic country lets not forget the people of Palestine. How can you and me contribute to the liberation of this nation?

Madam Speaker every time I relate to my own children how it felt to live in apartheid conditions, detention without trial, State of Emergency. How we would be woken up at night as kids when police do their search for the illegals (Pass Laws). How as students we used to throw stones at police who were shooting us as it is happening in Palestine today. The respond I get from them is "Mom why did you allow them"? This they say without understanding how mighty the army was. I am sure children from Palestine wish to be in a situation where the present conditions they live under could be history.

As it was during apartheid in S.A. Presently there are 10 000 political prisoners in Palestine, 113 of them are women, 12 are children under the age of 16 as if that is not enough 2 babies in detention as well. All languishing in Israel's jails.

The latest action by the government of Israel which has further undermined the authority of the Palestinian Government is the detention of more than 41 of Palestinian Members of Parliament including about 10 cabinet ministers for nearly a year now. Among those arrested is Mr Nasser Shaer Nasser who is the Minister of Higher Education who had been invited by our minister of education some weeks ago. He was arrested as he was preparing to come to South Africa to participate in the week of "ACTION AGAINST OCCUPATION OF PALESTINE". The conclusion here is that this is done to prevent him from talking to us.

We call on immediate release of all detainees and I call on all members of our Parliament to send letters or post cards to our fellow counterparts in Palestine and I'm sure our parliament would agree to co-ordinate that. All those in this house who have been in that situation know how it felt just to receive a postcard or a letter from outside.

How can we as free people who benefited from international solidarity not be concerned about a matter which is a thread to world peace? At the recent I.P.U. meeting, our South African delegation ie. MP's unanimously supported the resolution that calls for the release of detainees in Palestine and hopeful that trend will apply there today as well.

I thank you!