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22nd April 2024

BENCH MARKS FOUNDATION STATEMENT ON RACISM & VIOLENCE IN GAZA

The reporting of Al Jazeera generally is more informative of the war on Gaza. See in particular https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLAKbQOBgnw which attempted to provide background to the complex moral and justice issues affecting victims of war, occupation and colonial rule.

The Bench Marks Foundation took place during the full scale throttling of Palestinians in Gaza. A guest speaker, Solly Mapaila from the SACP called on the conference to make its voice heard on the matter as silence and fear of speaking out was complicity. This call dovetailed with the Foundations own programmatic work and interests around mining and extractivism in Africa and the wider world.

More specifically, it followed the resolution of the Anglican Church that Israel is an apartheid state at the end of September 2023. In addition their most recent statement and appeal to assist Palestinians after the outbreak of the “fresh outbreak of violence in the holy land. The Anglican Church is a member of the SACC and the Bench Marks Foundation was formed with the assistance and association with the church.

Bench Marks Foundation Annual Conference resolution 2023

The chairperson of the Board Zithulele Cindi read the following statement to the conference. The resolution was entitled Of violence and racism in GAZA (2023)

This annual conference of the Bench Marks Foundation comprising church leaders, mining affected communities and activists meeting on 10 and 11 October, 2023 to deliberate on the critical minerals for the transition to green energy was disturbed and revolted by subsequent reports reaching us about the latest developments in Palestine (GAZA).A disturbing picture from latest media reports was emerging showing retaliatory attacks from both the Israeli Defence Force and the armed Hamas militia leading to mayhem and destruction. These wanton attacks and destruction of homes, schools and other populated settlements need to come to an end.  No amount of sabre-rattling from the USA and its allies in EU and predictably, NATO will bring about peace in the region.It is within this context that the call was made to us to strengthen our solidarity with the Palestinian people in their just struggle for freedom and national self-determination. As a faith-based organisation, working with the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and the South African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC), WE are proud to continue working alongside leaders of all the faiths to ensure a just peace in the holy lands.

Further, noting,  the Israeli state’s trade in (blood) diamonds as well as their theft of the water supplies denies Palestinians a fair share of particularly  drinkable water.  This theft and iniquitous use of water supplies as it denies the Palestine people access thereto is also a denial of quality life.  This practice sadly resonates with experiences in the extractive industries as documented and highlighted during the course of this conference.

Further submitting that it is important to be aware of the violence meted out by the Israeli regime on GAZA -a de facto landlocked strip of enclave and modern-day concentration camp-where bombing of buildings, workplaces and houses has resulted in the loss of lives that cannot be justified under international laws.  Ordering the complete siege of the Gaza strip – as per the injunction of Yoav Gallant, the Israeli Defence Minister- with no food, no fuel, no electricity with everything closed is iniquitous and inhumane and indefensible irrespective of the reasons that called for or led to the “retaliation”.

Noting further that Since the blockade of Gaza Strip in 2006 the people of Palestine have been engaged in continuous struggles to resist their subjugation and oppression.  International law demands protection of all citizens and the failure to call out the Israeli state’s violation of such prior to the Hamas attacks is opportunist as it is racist. Not surprisingly, the USA, the EU and other Western governments have lined up with the powerful against the weak and defenceless. Instead of seeking a sustainable and just peaceful solution, they vowed to continue policies and practices of attrition, vengeance and violence.

Israel continues to maintain exclusive control of Gaza’s airspace and the territorial waters, just as it has since it occupied the Gaza Strip in 1967.  This blockade is now in its 17th year, and the world powers have not spoken out against it.  It is undeniable that the Israelis have effectively turned Gaza into the world’s largest open-air prison. With over 2 million people living in a 45 square kilometres space, Gaza is regarded as the most densely populated place in the world.

THEREFORE RESOLVE

  1. To call for an immediate end to all hostilities and the siege of GAZA.
  2. To call for an end to the blockade of GAZA – an illegal act not  justified under international laws.
  3. To express our empathy with the people of Palestine and those in Gaza in particular. We have lived for decades under Apartheid tyranny and oppression and we stand with you. When people live under occupation, tyranny and oppression we recognise your right and obligation to resist.
  4. To call on the world and various elite mouthpieces to end duplicity when  reporting on the struggles of Palestinians and  call on you to affirm a commitment to justice and equality for all.
  5. To call for an end to structural violence represented by the annexation and occupation of the Palestine territory by the Israeli state as well as the reiteration of the Palestinians’ right to return, a right which is only available to Jewish people, whether they were born in Palestine or not. Of violence and racism

 

The annual conference of the Bench Marks Foundation, comprising church leaders, mining-affected communities, and activists met Oct 10 and 11 to deliberate on “Critical Minerals: for whom and at what costs?” The meeting concluded that the colonial socio-economic and political paradigms imposed on African countries over the centuries must come to an end. Participants also noted that our leaders are not without agency to meet with communities of the poor and workers to craft a justice-producing national development strategy that does not harm our water supplies, and that unites and affirms community well being and is solidaristic. A full conference report will detail these conclusions.

It is within this context that the call was made for us to strengthen our solidarity with the Palestinian people in their just struggle for freedom and national self-determination. As a faith-based organisation, working with the SACC and the SACBC, we are proud to continue working alongside leaders of all the faiths to ensure a just peace in the holy lands. In our sector we participate in a programme of research work that will expose the Israeli state’s trade of (blood) diamonds and the theft and iniquitous use of water supplies which denies Palestinians their fair share of the drinkable water. These longer-term programmes must wait for a while because we believe that it is important to be heard on the violence meted out by the Israeli regime on Gaza, where bombings of buildings of workplaces and homes has resulted in the loss of lives that cannot be justified under international law.

International law demands the protection of all citizens and the failure to call out the Israeli state’s violation of such prior to the Hamas attacks is opportunist as it is racist. Not surprisingly, the USA, the EU, and other Western governments have lined up with the powerful against the weak and defenceless. Instead of seeking a sustainable and just peaceful solution, they vowed to continue policies and practices of attrition and violence.

No Food, No Fuel

On the 8th of October, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant declared that “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed.”  His leader Benjamin Netanyahu, for his part, insisted that people of Gaza leave as he intended to turn the enclave “into a deserted island” as “we will target each and every corner of the strip”.  But Israeli NGO B’tselem already noted in 2011 that “Israel will hold sole control of Gaza airspace and will continue to carry out military activity in the waters of the Gaza Strip.” Therefore, Israel continues to maintain exclusive control of Gaza’s airspace and the territorial waters, just as it has since it occupied the Gaza Strip in 1967.”

This blockade is now in its 17th year, and the world powers have not spoken out against it. It is undeniable that the Israelis have effectively turned Gaza into the world’s largest open-air prison. With over 2 million people living in 45 square kilometres, Gaza is regarded as the most densely populated place in the world. So when the Israelis state that the Palestinians must leave, we ask, where to? These statements, emboldened by the comments by Biden and other leaders, reveal the Israeli government’s intent to hold hostage thousands and mete out violence.

Condemn Palestinian actions on the 6 October / aka condemn Hamas

The media is obsessed with trying to get every commentator to join the racist  bandwagon of condemnation of what they called the Hamas attacks. We believe that all civilians must be free from violence, physical and brutal as well as structural.

The media and the apologists for the state of Israel choose to ignore the following facts:

Israel has been defined as a racist, colonial settler regime since its inception, and many international NGOs have recently affirmed this fact. Apartheid under international law is a crime against humanity. Through their courts and the military, many Palestinians have been displaced from their homes and this has been the practice since the Nakba, the catastrophe. Racism, from transportation systems to education and civic life, has made apartheid an appropriate one.

The USA Government contributes US$3 billion in military aid annually to Israel. Occupied Palestine gets no military aid from the US.

From January 2023 up to October 6th, the day before the Palestinian resistance from Gaza began, Israeli forces had killed 240 Palestinians including 45 children, the highest level of killing since the UN began to keep accurate records in 2005.

That the overwhelming population of Gaza are refugees from other wars of displacement perpetrated by the Israeli regime.

This is in addition to the condoned killings of Palestinians on the Westbank by armed settler thugs, whilst the members of the Israeli Defence Force stood by ensuring that the settlers got the job done. Close to 20 Palestinian villages were attacked and set on fire by settlers, as their leaders empowered into the knesset called on them to burn entire villages. Ethnic cleansing is part of the agenda.

We call on the world and the various mouthpieces to end duplicity and affirm a commitment to justice and equality for all.

We must condemn the drone attacks that Obama unleashed whilst in his two terms of office as we do the various “silent attacks” against Palestinians since the Nakba. The actions of the elites and their allies must be called out and not hidden. We recall that the bureau of investigative reporting noted that “Obama embraced the US drone programme, overseeing more strikes in his first year than Bush carried out during his entire presidency. A total of 563 strikes, largely by drones, targeted Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen during Obama’s two terms, compared to 57 strikes under Bush. Between 384 and 807 civilians were killed in those countries, according to reports logged by the Bureau. Opening up discussions such as these is the beginning of truth telling and healing.

Finally we call for an end to structural violence, simply put: occupation and annexation by the Israeli state. The end of the blockade on Gaza and the reiteration of the Palestinians right to return, a right only opened to Jewish people.

If anything, the actions of the 6 October reiterated the principle that when the oppressed face oppression and tyranny they have the right and the obligation to resist. We believe in quality life and freedoms for all peoples and abhor violence against all defenceless peoples.

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