President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his weekly letter on Monday 17 May, spoke out on the escalating situation between Israel and Palestine. He said we as South Africans know too well that intractable conflicts can only be solved through peaceful negotiation. 

“It also demonstrates that unless the root causes of a conflict are addressed, in this case the illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian land and the denial of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, there will never be peace,” he said. 

ISRAEL AND PALESTINE: THE PAIN ECHOES THAT OF OUR OWN 

Ramaphosa said the latest violence was sparked by an Israeli court decision to evict a group of families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem to make way for Israeli settlements.

“The sight of men, women and children being evicted from the homes their families have lived in for generations brings back painful collective and personal memories for the majority of South Africans – of forced removals and land dispossession,” he said. 

“It was a pain and humiliation faced by my own family, and by many South African families. My family was forcibly moved to different parts of the country on two occasions. Being forced from one’s home at gunpoint is a trauma not easily forgotten, and is carried across generations,” he added.  

Ramaphosa said for all who believe in equality, justice and human rights, we cannot but be moved and indeed angered at the pain and humiliation being inflicted on the Palestinian people; for it echoes our own.

ISREAL’S ACTIONS A VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 

Ramaphosa said Israel’s actions are a violation of international law and show a total disregard for successive United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions that call for an end to the occupation of Palestinian land and for the fulfillment of the rights of the Palestinian people. 

“Since Israeli security forces launched assaults on worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem last week, the violence has now engulfed the Gaza Strip, large parts of the West Bank and a number of Israeli cities,” he said. 

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) at least 40 children have been killed in Gaza since 10 May. Over half of them were under 10-years-old.

“It is also deeply troubling that Israeli forces last week destroyed a multi-storey building that housed a number of media organisations, sending a chilling message to media reporting on the violence,” he added. 

ALSO READ: Watch: Israel bombs media building in Gaza City

‘AS LOVERS OF FREEDOM AND INJUSTICE, WE STAND WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE’ – RAMAPHOSA 

Ramaphosa then called on all parties involved to show restraint, to respect human life, and to cease the current hostilities. 

“As lovers of freedom and of justice, we stand with the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination, but also in their resistance against the deprivation of their human rights and the denial of their dignity,” he said. 

“As citizens of a country that was able to turn its back on race-hatred and bloodshed and build an inclusive society rooted in human rights for all, it is our collective hope that the people of Israel and Palestine will follow a similar path; that they will find each other, and that they will find peace,” he added. 

The South African