Pro-Palestinian activists hold placards and shout slogans

Pro-Palestinian activists hold placards and shout slogans during a demonstration in support of Palestine in Durban, South Africa on October 13, 2023.

(Photo: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP via Getty Images)

South Africa Joins Growing List of Countries Cutting Ties With Israel Over 'Genocide' in Gaza

"A genocide under the watch of the international community cannot be tolerated," said one government official in South Africa.

In its latest show of solidarity with the Palestinian people, the government of South Africa on Monday announced it will withdraw all diplomatic staff from Israel over its objection to what one official called the Israeli military's "genocidal acts" against Gaza and the West Bank during its ongoing assault on the blockaded enclave.

All of South Africa's diplomats have been called back from Tel Aviv, said Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, a minister in the office of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said last month that people in South Africa, where an official apartheid system was in place for more than four decades, "can relate to what is happening to Palestinians."

As the death toll in Gaza climbed over 10,000 and the number of children killed by Israel's bombardment surpassed 4,100, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni told the press that the diplomatic mission was being recalled because "a genocide under the watch of the international community cannot be tolerated."

"The failure of the international community to hold Israel to account and... to stop the impunity and the genocidal acts that the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinian people will mean a total collapse of a multinational system," said Ntshavheni. "If... the United States does not stop the bombardment by Israel of the Palestinian territory, it will mean everybody will take matters in their own hands and do as they please."

The minister particularly expressed concern over comments made on Sunday by Amichay Eliyahu, the minister of heritage for Israel's Jewish Power party, in which he said dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza—home to more than 2 million people, about half of whom are children, is "one way" to neutralize the threat of Hamas, which killed more than 1,400 Israelis and took more than 200 people hostage on October 7. Eliyahu was suspended from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government on Sunday.

Ntshavheni also rebuked comments made by Eliav Belotserkovsky, the Israeli ambassador to South Africa, who made "disparaging remarks" about South Africans who have marched and protested against the bombardment of Gaza, including hundreds of people who marched in Cape Town last week and assembled outside the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg in October.

Supporters of Palestinians have called for Belotserkovsky to be expelled from the country in recent days.

Ntshavheni said South Africa's department of international relations is taking "the necessary measures within the diplomatic channels and protocols" to hold Belotserkovsky to account.

In March, South African lawmakers voted to downgrade the status of Israel's embassy in Pretoria in response to its apartheid policies in Palestine and its illegal occupation.

Bolivia became the first country to sever diplomatic relations with Israel earlier this month, citing the government's "disproportionate" attacks on Gaza. Chile, Colombia, Turkey, and Jordan, where Queen Rania Al Abdullah has emerged as an outspoken critic of Israel's onslaught on American news channels, have also withdrawn their diplomats.

Countries that have continued to back Israel, said former member of British Parliament Chris Williamson, "should be indicted for their collaboration in war crimes."

Naledi Pandor, minister of international relations in South Africa, said the government believes "the nature of response by Israel has become one of collective punishment," which is banned under international law.

"We need to have this engagement with our officials," said Pandor, "because we are extremely concerned at the continued killing of children and innocent civilians in the Palestinian territory."

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