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Israel furious at S. Africa invitation of Hamas delegation

Hamas leader Khaled Mashal at a press conference with the African national Congress in South Africa on October 19, 2015
@myANC_/ Twitter
FM says invitation is 'backwind for terrorism'; Hamas leader calls for end to 'racist occupation'

Israel expressed 'shock and anger' after South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), on Monday invited a Hamas delegation to meet with the party and South African President Jacob Zuma.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry released a statement stating that the invite is a "backwind for terrorism which blatantly and rudely ignores the international community position, by which Hamas is considered a terrorist organization."

Israel's Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the South African ambassador to the country for a meeting concerning the invitation. 

The ANC released a number of tweets chronicling the meeting between Hamas leader Khaled Mashal and the South African president and a press conference that followed.

Photos shared by the ANC showed South African leaders exchanging gifts with Mashal as well as the signing of a letter of intent for the two governments to build a lasting relationship.

Many of the tweets expressed solidarity with Palestine. One quoted South African politician Gwede Mantashe saying, "we will call on all progressive countries to support the cause of the Palestinian people."

Another tweet said that the "ANC is always on the side of the oppressed. Hence we support Palestine and Western Sahara."

@myANC_/ Twitter

Referring to Israel, Mashal said during the press conference that "we are insisting with our people to finish this apartheid regime. This racist occupation should be put to an end."

Travel to Israel discouraged

Last week South Africa's ruling party encouraged its citizens not to visit Israel unless in solidarity with the “Palestinian struggle,” the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

There reportedly was a “strong consensus” on the subject at the African National Congress midterm conference held in Johannesburg over the weekend of October 10.

The party’s International Relations Committee resolved that “travel to Israel will be discouraged, and we shall make a concerted effort to conscientise [sic] our young people, leaders and public representatives, unless it [the trip] promotes solidarity and assists in resolving the conflict.” websites reported.

“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 a trip to the Middle East.

Alexander Joe / AFP

The comments from the ANC followed a visit to Israel by five leaders of South African opposition parties in September.

The group visiting Israel included Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP); Congress of the People’s (COPE) Mosiuoa Lekota; United Democratic Movement’s (UDM ) Bantu Holomisa; Pieter Mulder of Freedom Front Plus (FF+); and Rev. Kenneth Meshoe of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP).

They claim that their visit to Israel was a 'study tour,' however the trip ignited a wave of criticism from the African National Congress (ANC), supporters of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and other opposition parties.

Despite the disapproval from their political counterparts, the delegation released a statement saying that the September trip to Israel and meetings with both Israeli and Palestinian authorities were initiated with South Africa's best interests at heart.

Mujahid Safodien (AFP/File)

“We have benefited from meeting with officials and leaders from both the Knesset of the state of Israel in Jerusalem, and the Mukataa of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah," the statement said.

“We believe South Africa should promote peace between the clashing sides…This visit was done with the full knowledge of both the ambassador of Israel, Arthur Lenk, and the ambassador of Palestine, Bassam Elhusiny.”

In an interview with Independent Online, Buthelezi said that the group had returned to South Africa with a "much deeper understanding of the aspirations of both sides."

“We are now more convinced than ever that the South African government must not take sides, but must firmly stand on the side of peace.”

South African supporters of Israel are protesting government's plan to host senior Hamas officials, condemning “in the strongest terms possible the fact that a delegation representing the Hamas Central Committee will be visiting South Africa as the honored guests of the ruling party,” read a statement by the South African Zionist Federation.

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South africa today makes one wonder if apartheid was so wrong for them

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