Former Israel president Peres' SA visit sets off controversy
Former president and prime minister of Israel Shimon Peres is set to visit Johannesburg on February 28‚ but his visit has been opposed by South African Jews for a Free Palestine.
The South African Zionist Federation released a statement on Monday saying Peres would be meeting “with high level officials during his visit to South Africa‚ with these expected to lead to further engagements and strengthening of ties in the future”.
“At 92 years’ old‚ Peres is the last of Israel’s founding generation. He was first elected in 1959 to the Knesset and held the post for 48 years‚ the longest ever term of service for an Israeli parliamentarian‚” the federation’s statement reads.
“During his long service Peres is credited with creating the initial agreement that lead to peace with Egypt and was a key actor in the peace negotiations with Jordan. He was also in charge of the peace process with the Palestinians that led to the creation of the Oslo Accords. This earned him a Nobel Peace Prize‚ which he shared with Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. He was part of the delegation that welcomed President Nelson Mandela during his inaugural visit to Israel. He also met with Mandela during his visit to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.”
But the Boycott‚ Disinvestment and Sanctions organization in South Africa released a statement on Friday condemning the visit‚ which it says is also being opposed by South African Jews for a Free Palestine‚ a body constituted by South African Jews in favour of "a just resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict".
In its statement‚ BDS said: "Peres claims to advocate for a ‘two state solution’ to resolve the Palestine/Israel conflict‚ but he is the same person who‚ as Minister of Defence in 1968‚ instigated the illegal annexation of Palestinian territory – on the only land that such a Palestinian state could be founded.
"Shimon Peres’ reputation as a man of peace is even more preposterous in a South African context. As Minister of Defence in the 1970s Shimon Peres colluded with South Africa’s apartheid regime‚ defying an international arms embargo. 35% of Israel’s arms exports were in fact bought by Apartheid South Africa.
"In 2006 Chris McGreal from The Guardian asked Peres about his dealings with the apartheid regime. Peres response was‚ ‘”I never think back. Since I cannot change the past‚ why should I deal with it?” And indeed‚ it would have been dishonest for Peres to have expressed any regret: his desire for a ‘two state solution’ is really little more than a continued commitment to the policy of separate development."