PRETORIA (JTA) — The African Christian Democratic Party said it would fight the South African government’s decision to adopt a regulation that prevents the labeling of goods from the West Bank as being produced in Israel.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s ambassador to Israel was summoned to a meeting Thursday morning at the Foreign Affairs ministry to clarify the new regulation.
The Rev. Kenneth Meshoe, head of the opposition African Christian Democratic Party, told JTA Thursday that the people of Israel must know that the battle has only started, and that he will fight this matter "until justice is done."
"We are upset and outraged over the government’s decision. We fail to understand why this decision was taken without consulting the Jewish community of South Africa, so that a compromise could be found," Meshoe said, adding that three weeks ago he requested a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma on the issue, which never took place.
"My intention is to follow up on this fight, and if needed I will take it to a court of law. I do not believe that this notice will withstand legal scrutiny. The South African government will be embarrassed once the court declares this notice illegal,” Meshoe said.
The party organized at the end of June unprecedented pro-Israel demonstrations, against the proposed regulation, both in Pretoria in front of the Trade Ministry’s offices, and in Cape Town at the gates of the Parliament. Close to 3,000 people participated.
How the goods will be labeled remains unclear. While the original proposal by the Trade and Industry Ministry said the products should be labeled as being manufactured in the ”Occupied Palestinian Territories,” the Ministerial Council’s decision Wednesday refers to a new label which reads ”Israeli Occupied Territories.”
Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Wednesday reacted to the decision by calling South Africa "an apartheid state."
”South Africa’s apartheid is directed at the moment against Israel and also against her own miners," he said, referring to the killing last week by police of 34 miners demonstrating over wages. "Instead of embracing a decision on the labeling of Israeli products, South Africa’s government should take courageous decisions on behalf of the 34 innocent miners, who simply demanded an improvement of their working conditions.”
Yigal Palmor, an Israel Foreign Ministry spokesperson, issued a statement condemning the measures taken by the South African government, calling it "without precedent."
"It constitutes a blatant discrimination based on national and political distinction. This kind of discrimination has not been imposed – and rightly so – in any other case of national, territorial or ethnic conflict. Israel and South Africa have political differences, and that is legitimate. What is totally unacceptable is the use of tools which, by essence, discriminate and single out, fostering a general boycott. Such exclusion and discrimination bring to mind ideas of racist nature which the government of South Africa, more than any other, should have wholly rejected.”
The Deputy Director General for Africa at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Avi Granot, was scheduled to meet Thursday with the South African ambassador to Israel to convey to him Israel’s reaction and to seek clarification.