External Affairs

African National Congress Votes to Downgrade South African Embassy in Israel

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“The downgrade will send a clear message to Israel that there is a price to pay for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.”

Palestinian women in Gaza shout slogans during a protest against the US intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Credit: Reuters

Palestinian women in Gaza shout slogans during a protest against the US intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: Spurred by US President Donald Trump’s controversial declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the African National Congress (ANC) – South Africa’s ruling party – has decided to “immediately and unconditionally downgrade” the country’s embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office.

The unanimous vote took place at a meeting of the ANC’s international relations commission during the party’s Elective Conference on Wednesday, with the resolution declaring:

“In order to give our practical expression of support to the oppressed people of Palestine; the ANC has unanimously resolved to direct the SA government to immediately and unconditionally downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel to a Liaison Office.”

After the US veto, the United Nations General Assembly is now set to vote for or against the withdrawal of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem in an “emergency meeting” on Thursday.

According to New York-based journal Algemeiner, the ANC said that it was in agreement with Palestine’s Jibril Rajoub who had asserted at the conference that the downgrade “will send a clear message to Israel that there is a price to pay for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.”

Welcoming the decision, BDS South Africa, a human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation, said in a statement that it was huge step in the right direction and a “massive gain for the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel movement.”

It, however, remains to be seen whether or not the resolution will be implemented, since the ANC at its 2012 conference also had approved a policy to boycott Israel. But as Mail and Guardian noted, the vote was never implemented by the South African government.

“Strongly condemning” the decision, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation warned in a statement that the downgrade will “negatively affect the South African economy by jeopardising (to name but a few) trade, tourism, access to hi-tech and water technology.”

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