A controversial water conference in South Africa has been called off following opposition from the Palestine solidarity movement to the participation of Israeli Ambassador, Arthur Lenk. The conference organized by the Mail & Guardian was set to take place on the 26th of February and was expected to feature a host of experts discussing the country’s current water crisis. But a withdrawal by Pretoria based academic Professor Lorenzo Fioramonti over the inclusion of Lenk has instead placed the spotlight on Israel’s atrocious water policies which mostly denies Palestinians their right to water.
Speaking to VOC on Tuesday, the South African Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) welcomed the cancellation of the conference, saying this proves that the growing isolation campaign against Israel is spreading. BDS spokesperson Kwara Kekana explained that the Israeli regime in recent years has been attempting to break its increasing isolation by promoting its water technology.
She said the growing movement of isolation within Israel speaks to their apartheid policies, as well as their discriminative policies applied against Palestinians with regard to access to water resources in Palestine.
“Palestinians are assigned times when to collect rainwater, a resource from the heavens,” Kekana said.
Pro-Palestinian activists believe that it is contradictory for the Israeli government to display a willingness to assist South Africa and discuss new hydro-technology, when as a state; Israel has applied discriminatory policies against Palestinian’s right to water.
A 2009 Amnesty International report, entitled “Troubled Waters—Thirsting for Justice” details Israel’s discriminatory water policies. In 2010, the UN Human Rights Committee found Israel guilty of directly violating Palestinian human rights to water and sanitation.
According to Prof Fioramonti, a political economist at the University of Pretoria and director of the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation, his decision to withdraw was in support of the “international academic boycott against Israel.” In 2015, over 200 South African academics came out in support of the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
“This boycott is key to help the cause for sustainable and equitable peace in the Middle East, highlighting how behind the facade of technological solutions lies a systematic exploitation of Palestinian communities,” he said.
“There is enough evidence to show how Israel’s policies have taken water away from Palestinian communities. Hiding this through a pseudo-technical debate about water technology would be unacceptable … [W]e cannot ignore that, regardless of the specific technology the Israeli government has embraced, it is based on an unequal and often oppressive policy. As columnists in The Daily Maverick have pointed out, Israel’s alleged success in water management is a ‘constructed fantasy’,” he was quoted as saying.
Kekana believes the refusal of Professor Fioramont to attend the event is an indication that individuals are willing to voice their concern about attaching their names to events that include Israeli dignitaries, who are an extension of Israel’s regime.
“This is the very regime that goes out of its way to white wash Palestinian human rights.”
“People increasingly do not want to associate with Israel, [and it is] exactly what happened with apartheid South Africa,” Kekana explained.
On Monday, it was announced that ex-Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, will be visiting South Africa on a speaking tour dubbed the “The Man of Peace.” Kekana described the tour as “preposterous.”
“It is ridiculous to label anybody, [who is an] extension of apartheid, as ‘a man of peace’,” Kekana asserted.
She warned that the broader Palestinian solidarity movement will respond ‘in kind’ to the presence of Peres in South Africa.
“We will not accept anybody that condones apartheid on our door-step, because we [as South Africans] received an international solidarity gift, and we know exactly what that means,” Kekana said.
VOC (Thakira Desai)