South African ruling party discourages travel to Israel

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete awaiting members of the South African parliament to take there seats in  Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014. Baleka Mbete called for the meeting of Parliament to complete outstanding matters before going into recess, after recent disagreements under members of parliament.  (Schalk van Zuydam/ AP Images)

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, shown in Parliament in November 2014, has said, “Apartheid in South Africa was a picnic compared to what we have seen in the occupied territories.” (Schalk van Zuydam/ AP Images)

(JTA) — The ruling party in South Africa urged the country’s citizens not to visit Israel unless they are in solidarity with the “Palestinian struggle.”

While similar calls have been made in the past by African National Congress party ministers, there reportedly was a “strong consensus” on the matter at the party’s midterm conference held in Johannesburg over the weekend.

The party’s International Relations Committee resolved to “conscientise[sic] South Africa’s young people, leaders and public representatives not to travel to Israel,” the South African news website reported.

Members of Parliament and South African business figures, as well as students, who have traveled to Israel recently have been criticized by senior ANC leaders and anti-apartheid struggle stalwarts.

“Apartheid in South Africa was a picnic compared to what we have seen in the occupied territories,” Baleka Mbete, the speaker of the Parliament’s National Assembly, said recently after visiting Palestinian communities.

In response to this weekend’s resolution, the president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Zev Krengel, said that banning travel to Israel was “wholly inconsistent with the way South Africa engages with other countries.”

“ANC representatives regularly travel to all parts of the world, including to countries with very poor human rights records; it’s therefore grossly discriminatory to single out Israel alone for a travel boycott,” Krengel told

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