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Gaza Genocide: Not a time for moral cowardice

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Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, has slammed the University of Stellenbosch for failing to vote in support of a motion on ‘Genocide and Destruction of Scholarship and Education in Gaza’, the writer says. – Picture: FB@sanewsgovza

By Iqbal Jassat

Nzimande’s sharp criticism singled out powerful western nations for providing Israel with financial, military and diplomatic backing.

In a refreshing article, Blade Nzimande, South Africa’s minister of higher education, science and technology, took a tough stance by opposing Israel’s genocide against Palestinians.

The strongly-worded op-ed, published in the Sunday Times, Nzimande described the genocide as one of the biggest injustices and human rights issues of “our time”.

“The oppression and humiliation of the people of Palestine has its genesis in more than 100 years of western imperialism as advanced originally by British colonialism and in recent times by US imperialist policies in the Middle East”.

His sharp criticism singled out powerful western nations for providing Israel with financial, military and diplomatic backing.

Referring to Israel as “an occupying power and imperialist aggressor”, Nzimande contrasted it with the people of Palestine, who “are victims of western sponsored imperialist aggression”.

Importantly he affirmed Palestinian resistance as a legitimate struggle for “national self-determination and against the occupation of their lands”.

In addition Nzimande slammed the University of Stellenbosch for failing to vote in support of a motion on “Genocide and Destruction of Scholarship and Education in Gaza”.

The motion called for “an immediate ceasefire and the cessation on attacks on civilians in Gaza and Israel, the passage of humanitarian aid, the return of all captives including the safe return of hostages captured by Hamas”.

Further, the motion also called for “the condemnation of the destruction of the education sector in Gaza and the massive scale of killing of teachers and university staff in the current war and further expressed concern and opposition to any attempts to curtail academic freedom by labelling criticism of Israel or Zionist policies as antisemitism”.

Nzimande accused the University Senate’s decision as blatantly racist and that it “constitutes a monumental shame”.

His op-ed pointed out that close to 100 Palestinian professors have been killed and more than 12 universities have been destroyed in Gaza (virtually destroying the entire university system there). Hospitals were also attacked with some of the murdered patients being buried in mass graves.

Nzimande recalled that South Africa’s oppressed majority have historically had a long and special bond with the people of Palestine because of their different but shared histories under colonial oppression.

“Both the South African liberation movement and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation declared that our individual freedoms are indivisibly linked with each other: that South African cannot be free until Palestine is liberated. This is the enduring story of solidarity among the oppressed throughout the ages,” he wrote.

In taking a swipe at “defenders of Zionism”, Nzimande accused them for ignoring what he described as a sordid history of Israel’s close ties with the Apartheid state — secret arms deals, the co-operation of their security and intelligence services, their respective nuclear weapons programmes.

“The Israeli Uzi gun, which was widely issued to the notorious KwaZulu Police (KZP) of the KwaZulu Bantustan and also given to warlords wreaking havoc in KwaZulu-Natal in the 1980s into the 1990s, stand as one of the grim reminders of the murderous collaboration between the Israeli Zionist state and the apartheid regime”.

The minister’s firm critique also disputed Israel’s claim to be a democracy. It cannot be one if it commits acts of terror and genocide against an entire nation, he wrote.

“Our shared history with the oppressed peoples of the world makes it impossible for us to be neutral: the suffering of the Palestinian people is a suffering for all of us.”

It is for this reason that the government of South Africa correctly filed an application with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel for crimes against humanity — doing so in terms of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Earlier this year, the ICJ determined that Israel’s actions in Gaza “are plausibly genocidal” and has indicated provisional measures on that basis, he wrote.

The minister didn’t spare South Africa’s opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) either. He wrote that the co-ordinated attacks on South Africa for standing up to Zionist aggression in Palestine have exposed the hypocrisy and double-standards of “the collective West and its South African surrogates like the DA”.

“It is simply outrageous that these states that claim to be defenders of democratic values and freedom are actively conniving with each other to defend Zionist aggression and neutralise any international effort to call them to justice”.

According to him, the collective “West” is not the voice of the majority of “the international community”.

“The peoples of Palestine know their plight is heard and echoed by the overwhelming majority of people on this planet, from the vast African continent to Latin America, Eurasia, and all of the developing world.”

In his further reference to the University of Stellenbosch, he stated that its “repugnant decision” reflected a failure by the Senate to embrace an opportunity to speak out against the mass murder and dispossession of the oppressed Palestinians, including the murder of fellow academics.

Nzimande made a call on all progressive members of council, alumni, workers, and the student leadership to reverse “this morally bankrupt and profoundly racist decision”.

“The call for a stance against Israeli genocide and solidarity with the plight of Palestinians is not only pertinent to Stellenbosch University, but for all our public universities to boldly take a stand on this issue for which there cannot be any neutrality”.

He hoped that all 26 public universities in South Africa, will make their voices heard – like many across the world.

“This is not a time for moral cowardice,” he concluded.

Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the South Africa-based Media Review Network. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.