South African Foreign Minister’s Phone Call With Hamas Sparks Ire
South Africa’s Foreign Minister has been criticised for making a call to the leader of Hamas only 10 days after that militant Palestinian group launched an attack on Israel. South African Jewish organizations claims that the call shows the minister’s “support” for Hamas, even though the government has expressed its solidarity with Palestinians.
Naledi Pandor, former South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, stated in a press release that she spoke with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to “discuss the getting humanitarian aid into Palestine.”
DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Cooperation) has denied false reports that the Minister expressed support for Hamas’ attack on Israel, which resulted in 1,400 deaths and nearly 200 Israelis being taken hostage on 7 October.
In keeping with the government’s position the department stated that she “reiterated South Africa’s solidarity and support” towards the Palestinians and “expressed sorrow and regret for innocent lives lost on both sides.”
Karen Milner said that the minister’s call was a sign of his taking a position.
Milner said, “The South African Jewish Board of Deputies and South African Jewish Community are horrified that Naledi Paandor, Minister of Foreign Affairs for South Africa had a phone call with Hamas shortly after the atrocious attack by Hamas against Israel.”
She claimed that Pandor’s actions suggest Pandor “supports Hamas”.
Milner stated that “the minister of foreign affairs calling Hamas’ leader while every other country has condemned Hamas’ attacks shows Minister Pandor is taking a side, and has brought South Africa into an extremely dangerous situation because she supports Hamas militants.”
Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African president, expressed his condolences for the Israeli people, but also showed his solidarity with the Palestinians. He stated that they are waging a just struggle.
The African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party in South Africa, has drawn parallels with the Middle East’s situation and the struggle of Black South Africans against the racist apartheid white regime. Pandor had previously called for Israel’s designation as “an apartheid-state.”
Bob Wekesa is a senior lecturer from the University of Witswatersrand, Johannesburg. He said that while the government usually deals with the Palestinian Authority it was evident the government also took a “support of Hamas” position.
He said that it was strange, on the diplomatic side, that DIRCO, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, would accept a call from Hamas. “In any event, it’s been declared – or labeled, classified – as a terror group.”
More than 3,000 Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the war and ordered civilians in Gaza to move south.
A hospital explosion on Tuesday killed almost 500 people. Both sides claimed responsibility for the blast.
Israel Defense Forces says militants in Gaza fired a rocket meant for Israel by mistake, which hit the hospital. Joe Biden, the U.S. president, said that it appeared Israel wasn’t behind the explosion.
Pretoria released a statement in support of the authorities in Gaza, who claimed that an Israeli airstrike had hit the hospital.
South Africa is home to a large Jewish and Muslim population.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have taken place in the country since the outbreak of the war 10 days ago. On Friday, the ANC organized a Palestinian Solidarity march outside of the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria.