Message from Palmem list:

Dear Friends and Comrades,
As reported by the New York Times, Washington Post, Israel National News, Sky News, Mail&Guardian, IOL, News24  and several other news agencies South Africa’s ambassador to Israel, Mr Ismail Coovadia (who recently completed his term in Tel Aviv last December) has rejected and is returning a “gift” presented to him by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The former anti-apartheid activist, active member of South Africa’s ruling party the African National Congress and long-time diplomat has cited Israel’s “Apartheid” policies toward the indigenous Palestinians as the reason for his action. The “gift” was a certificate [find a copy here: http://t.ymlp344.net/msmualaywewafauwsapabhej/click.php] indicating that 18 trees would be planted in honour and in the name of the South African Ambassador by the Israeli parastatal, the Jewish National Fund (JNF). In a hard hitting letter, Coovadia writes:
 
“I have recently completed serving my term as the fifth Ambassador of democratic, non-racial South Africa to the State of Israel…regrettably, my permission was not sought [by the JNF nor the Israeli Government] to plant a tree/s in my or the name of the South African Ambassador on usurped land, the rightful land of the Palestinians and Bedouins. I reserve the right to the usage of my name…I have supported the struggle against Apartheid South Africa and now I cannot be a proponent of what I have witnessed in Israel, and that is, a replication of Apartheid.”
 
“The ‘Certificate’ awarded to me by Mr. Rafael Barak, the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the backing of the JNF, is nothing less than an offence to my dignity and integrity. I was not a party to, and never will be, to the planting of ’18 trees’, in my ‘honour’, on expropriated and stolen land…I shall be returning the ‘Certificate’ to the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a humble request to remove the ’18 trees…planted…in my honour’.” [Find the full letter by Ambassador Coovadia below this email release or here: http://t.ymlp344.net/msmeagaywewanauwsanabhej/click.php].
 
The gift ‘Cetificate’ to the former South African ambassador was co-signed by the controversial Israeli parastatal organization, the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF is the subject of a recently released documentary titled “Village Under the Forest” by Emmy-award winning filmmaker, Mark Kaplan and Cape Town based Jewish scholar, Heidi Grunebaum [Village Under the Forest will be re-screened at the Bioscope next Thursday at 19h30 in Johannesburg, more info: http://t.ymlp344.net/msmbakaywewacauwsadabhej/click.php]. The film explores the role of the JNF in building the “South Africa Forest” over the Israeli-destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya (destroyed by Israeli forces in 1948, during the Palestinian “Nakba“). The JNF is celebrated by Israel and its supporters for its forest building work, however, the JNF is also criticized by human rights activists and experts for its involvement in the Israeli oppression and “ethnic-cleansing” against the indigenous Palestinian people, and specifically the construction of forests above Israeli-destroyed Palestinian villages in an attempt to erase traces of Palestinian life.
 
The JNF tries to operate as a charity in some countries including South Africa, but is coming under increasing protest by the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel movement for its involvement in the Israeli displacement, forced removals and oppression of the indigenous Palestinian people. Recently, after months of nationwide protests, South Africa’s largest toy retailer, “Reggies”, terminated its charity relationship with the JNF.
 
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TAKE ACTION – JOIN CALL FOR SA GOVERNMENT TO DISSOCIATE FROM ISRAEL’S “SA FOREST”

BDS South Africa has officially written to South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) requesting an investigation into the use of the name of “South Africa” by Israeli authorities for the forest planted above the Israeli destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya. BDS South Africa contends that permission cannot be granted to Israel on ethical and policy grounds, in its letter to DIRCO, BDS South Africa writes:
 
“Permission [to name the forest above the Israeli destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya] may have been granted to Israel in the 1980s by Apartheid South Africa, however, given South Africa’s painful history of forced removals (which have been compared, by DIRCO itself, to current day Israeli practices, see: http://t.ymlp344.net/msjmaaaywewakauwsaiabhej/click.php), the Group Areas Act and other apartheid policies (which, again, DIRCO itself has compared to Israel, see: http://t.ymlp344.net/msjjakaywewagauwsanabhej/click.php) together with South Africa’s deep solidarity and support for the Palestinian people (and their progressive Israeli allies), post-1994 Democratic South Africa cannot be associated with such Israeli destruction and displacement. ” [Find the full letter by BDS South Africa to DIRCO here: http://t.ymlp344.net/msjbafaywewaiauwsaiabhej/click.php]
 
You can take action by signing (and spreading) this online Avaaz petition (http://t.ymlp344.net/msjhafaywewapauwsadabhej/click.php) joining the call for DIRCO and the South African government to dissociate from and demand that Israel and the JNF not use South Africa’s good name for the “South Africa” forest above Lubya (under which, literally, lie the remains of destroyed Palestinian homes).
 
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CATHOLIC BODY TO END ISRAELI RELATIONS WITH THE JNF

Finally, in a related story, immediately following the release of the film, “Village under the Forest”, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) stated that it is considering ending its ties with Israel’s JNF, over the JNF’s complicity in the Israeli oppression of Palestinians. According to West Cape News:
 
“The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) may severe collaborations with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) following the premier of a film at the Encounters International Documentary Festival which criticizes Israeli occupation of Palestine….[The SACBC] said they would not partner with an organisation alleged to be oppressing Palestinians and forcing them off their land…Father Michael Deeb of the SACBC’s Justice and Peace department said they were ‘very concerned’ about JNF’s alleged role in trying to erase the identity of Palestinians who lived in Lubya.”

BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA (BDS SOUTH AFRICA)
Office 915 | 9th Floor | Khotso House | 62 Marshall Street | Johannesburg
PO Box 2318 | Houghton | 2041 | Johannesburg
T: +27 (0) 11 492 2414 | F: +27 (0) 86 650 4836
W: http://t.ymlp344.net/msjwalaywewatauwsavabhej/click.php | E: administrator@bdssouthafrica.com
http://t.ymlp344.net/msjqafaywewaiauwsadabhej/click.php | http://t.ymlp344.net/msjyagaywewafauwsapabhej/click.php

BDS South Africa is a registered Non-Profit Organization. NPO NUMBER: 084 306 NPO
BDS South Africa is a registered Public Benefit Organisation with Section 18A status. PBO NUMBER: 930 037 446

 
LETTER FROM SOUTH AFRICAN AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL (10 JUNE 2013)
 
Dear Mark Kaplan and Heidi Grunebaum,

Thank you ever so much for allowing me to have a preview of your aptly titled film “Village under the Forest”.
 
Needless to say, the forced removal by Israel of Lubyans from their place of abode bears all the hallmarks of Apartheid South Africa’s forced removals of the legitimate inhabitants of Sophiatown.
 
I have recently completed serving my term as the fifth Ambassador of democratic, non-racial South Africa to the State of Israel.
 
The racist actions of the Israeli parastatal, the Jewish National Fund, together with various other Israeli state institutions to forcibly remove the Palestinians and Bedouins from their legitimate homes is yet another repeat of the ongoing injustice meted out by the Israeli Defence Forces, etc…..
 
I have had the opportunity to visit both, the “South Africa Forest” and the “Ambassador’s Forest” in Israel where trees are reportedly planted in the name of South Africa. In regard to the latter case, my queries, to the Israeli Foreign Ministry officials, have gone un-answered for over a year.
 
Regrettably, my permission was not sought to plant a tree/s in my or the name of a South African Ambassador on usurped land, the rightful land of the Palestinians and Bedouins. I reserve the right to the usage of my name with or without my permission.
 
I have supported the struggle against Apartheid South Africa and now I cannot be a proponent of what I have witnessed in Israel, and that is, a replication of Apartheid!
 
The “Certificate” awarded to me by Mr. Rafael Barak, the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the backing of the Jewish National Fund, is nothing less than an offence to my dignity and integrity. I was not a party to, and never will be, to the planting of “18 trees”, in my “honour”, on expropriated and stolen land.
 
In view of this inhuman act against ordinary people, I shall be returning the “Certificate” to the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a humble request to remove the “18 trees…… planted… in my ‘honour'”.
 
Your awareness-raising film, hopefully, will also inspire other recipients to consider returning trees that were planted in their names.
 
I am pleased to be associated with the film “Village under the Forest”, a truly objective , honest and a far reaching story on the screen , that requires national and international viewing.
 
With all good wishes for successful showings of “Village under the Forest.”
 
Regards
 
Ismail Coovadia

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