Khaled Meshaal (C), exiled leader of the Islamic Palestinian organization Hamas, stands during the singing of the National Anthem at a rally in his honour on October 21, 2015, in Cape Town. (AFP/Rodger Bosch)
Khaled Meshaal (C), exiled leader of the Islamic Palestinian organization Hamas, stands during the singing of the National Anthem at a rally in his honour on October 21, 2015, in Cape Town. (AFP/Rodger Bosch)

Members of a Hamas delegation arrived in Cape Town on Wednesday where they plan to take part in several pro-Palestine rallies alongside South African activists and members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

On Wednesday afternoon, the delegation — led by Khaled Meshaal, chief of Hamas’ political bureau — met with South African civil society and Islamic groups at a Palestine solidarity rally in Cape Town.

At the meeting, some 2,000 people gathered at Darul Islam High School to welcome members of the ANC, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and other South African civil society organizations.

Western Cape

The ANC’s Western Cape branch, for its part, welcomed the Hamas delegation.

“The ANC in the Western Cape is privileged to host Palestine liberation movement Hamas,” the party asserted. “Indeed, the people of Western Cape have a long history of supporting the struggle of the heroic Palestinian people.”

MJC Chairman Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels likewise stressed the council’s support for the Palestinian national cause.

“This is a historical moment; one we have all been waiting for,” he said. “We will show Hamas our… support.”

MJC President Ighsaan Hendricks, for his part, asserted: “Your [i.e., Hamas’] leadership is our leadership and our leadership is your leadership. We believe Palestine will soon celebrate freedom.”

Meshaal, meanwhile, voiced his thanks for South Africa’s longstanding solidarity with Palestine.

“This indeed is a historical moment filled with deep emotion [in which we] find we have comrades in South Africa,” he said.

“Our leadership feels they have a presence here even though they are leading the struggle in Palestine,” he added.

Meshaal went on to reiterate Hamas’ longstanding rejection of Israel’s ongoing occupation of historical Palestine.

“Our objective is simply to achieve justice,” he said. “They [the Israelis] try to deprive us of arms, preventing us from defending ourselves. We therefore must make our own weapons in Gaza.”

Criticism

The ANC’s open support for Hamas has drawn criticism from at least one other South African political party.

In a Tuesday statement, the African Christian Democratic Party declared: “The ideology, values, aims and strategies of Hamas are out of sync with the stated principles of the ANC.”

Nevertheless, the ANC has continued to call on the Democratic Alliance (DA) opposition party — which holds municipal authority in the Western Cape Province — to sever its ties with Israel and to stop allowing its officials to go on Israeli lobby-funded trips to the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

It has also called on DA leader Helen Zille, who is also the current premier of Western Cape, to publicly welcome the visiting Hamas delegation.

Historical ANC support

The ANC has historically supported the Palestinian cause, both during and after the apartheid era, especially under late President Nelson Mandela.

“The ANC has a longstanding relationship with the Palestinian people and their struggle against Israeli apartheid,” ANC Provincial Secretary Faiez Jacobs asserted. “Our support is seen internationally at global forums, like the UN, the AU and elsewhere.”

“Our support is also witnessed locally in our participation in initiatives such as annual Israeli apartheid week, the BDS campaign and various community-led protests and activities,” Jacobs added.

By Shu’eib Hassen