Allan Boesak slams 'spineless' hosting of pro-Israel US for Agoa forum

30 October 2023 - 13:44
By Andisiwe Makinana
Dr Allan Boesak, SA Dutch Reformed Church cleric, politician and anti-apartheid activist. File photo.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES​ Dr Allan Boesak, SA Dutch Reformed Church cleric, politician and anti-apartheid activist. File photo.

Anti-apartheid struggle veteran Allan Boesak criticised the government’s hosting of US representatives for the African Growth & Opportunity Act (Agoa) forum while that country “supports” Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

This means South Africa will play host to US President Joe Biden or his representatives amid “the intensifying genocidal war on the people of Gaza” and on all Palestinians which has now reached fever pitch, he said.

This “incomprehensible” situation raises three fundamental questions for South Africans who profess a “special relationship” with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, dignity, and the right to the return of the land and to the land.

In a statement issued on Sunday night, Boesak asked: “Why is South Africa playing host to representatives engaged in open, declared genocide, in targeted killings and bombardments of innocent Palestinians, of hospitals and churches?

“The Israeli embassy is still not closed down, the Israeli ambassador still enjoys South African hospitality, and this country still has not cut ties with a 'murderous apartheid' state, which under the circumstances is the least it should have done already, if solidarity with Palestine or even adherence to international law was to mean anything.

“Why is South African playing host to Biden (or his representatives), whose country is the most ardent supporter of apartheid Israel, whose weapons and billions in military aid have kept the occupation and wars of extermination going for 75 years?

“The US, since the very beginning, has been the main funder and political protector of the Zionist project in the land of the Palestinians, and is, together with Israel, responsible for the slaughter of children [the world] is witnessing right now. Only a week ago Joe Biden’s regime vetoed a resolution at the UN which called for the minimum: a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to get through. Now we are uttering mealy-mouthed sympathies for Palestine while shaking the bloodstained hand of Joe Biden.

“Why are South Africans putting up with a president and a government who would rather openly stand with racist occupiers, settler-colonialists, war criminals and genociders than with the brave, suffering people of Palestine engaged in a struggle for the right to live with justice, peace and dignity? Is this spineless, unprincipled, shameless stand to be the reflection of the character of our people in Palestine’s darkest hour and greatest need?

“Rising up for the sake of Gaza and the children of Palestine is now rising up for our own dignity as a people.” 

The Sunday Times quoted President Cyril Ramaphosa at the weekend as having hailed the three-day Agoa forum that starts in Johannesburg on Thursday as a milestone in improving South Africa’s recently strained relationship with the US.

“[It] is going to enhance our relationship with the biggest economy in the world, where we export a number of our goods and services. So it’s going to be one of the highlights of the year for us,” Ramaphosa said on the sidelines of an oversight visit to the Emfuleni local municipality on Friday.

The Agoa forum is being held as scheduled in South Africa despite agitation by conservative lawmakers in the US earlier this year for it to be moved, mainly because of Pretoria’s stance on the war in Ukraine. South Africa, declaring itself non-aligned, has abstained from UN resolutions condemning Russia.

The US lawmakers cited allegations that South Africa shipped arms to Russia — which have never been substantiated — and its participation in naval exercises with Russia and China.

More than 2,000 delegates are expected at Nasrec for the forum. They will explore ways of enhancing the partnership – which, among other things, allows duty-free access to the US market – and will discuss renewing it for another 10 years. It is due to expire in 2025.