A senior delegation from the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, arrived in South Africa for a historic official visit on Sunday. The delegation was given an unprecedented welcome that immediately infuriated the Israelis.
Headed by the leader of the Hamas Political Bureau, Khaled Meshaal, the delegation met South African President Jacob Zuma on the first day of the visit. The Hamas delegation includes Mousa Abu Marzouk and Muhammad Nazzal. According to Arabi 21, they will attend a mass rally in the centre of Cape Town on Wednesday and Meshaal is expected to address the South African parliament.
South Africa is one of the world’s leading lights in the fight against racism and despotism. Its late President Nelson Mandela spent almost three decades jailed by the Apartheid regime — which had very close links to Israel — before it collapsed, leading to the country’s first, free and fair democratic election which saw Mandela and the African National Congress weep to power.
Israel is furious about the visit. The government in Tel Aviv summoned the South African ambassador to protest at the reception given to the Hamas leadership and the delegation from the “terrorist group”. A statement from the Israeli foreign ministry said that it is “angry and shocked” and expressed its “dismay” to the ambassador. “This visit provides support for terrorism,” it claimed predictably, “and ignores the stance of the international community which considers Hamas to be a terrorist organisation.”
Supporters of the visit responded by pointing out that the self-same “international community” — a euphemism for Israel’s friends and allies in the West — also regarded Mandela and the ANC as “terrorists” throughout their struggle against Apartheid. “They were on the wrong side of history,” said one commentator, “just as those who condemn Palestinian freedom fighters are today.”