South Africa beats Turkey in Palestine

South Africa beats Turkey in Palestine

That is an ongoing discussion between South Africa and Israel. I see two types of countries in the world: those who do things and those who just enjoy talking about things. When it comes to resistance against the Israeli occupation in Palestine, South Africa belongs to the first group, while Turkey is still in the second. As of now, I see South Africa acting on the ground while Turkey only does the talking. Let me explain.

Last week, the South African government labeled Israeli exports originating from the factories in Israeli settlements in Palestine as products of the “occupied Palestinian territories.” This was designed as a disclosure rule to allow consumers to take their own ethical positions on the Israeli occupation. Israeli authorities are of course against the South African action and deem it discriminatory. In this way, the South African government’s decision breathes new life into the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s boycott of settlement products. The PA had made the decision some time ago, but could not implement it on its own. South Africa is the first country to label Israeli products from settlements in this way. I find this rather disturbing. South Africa does things like this all the time; they align their values with policy when it comes to Palestine. And Turkey does all the talking with no policy.

I personally know that the Palestinian officials have been trying to warn Turkish officials of settlement products, but to no avail, of course. As in so many other cases, Turkey is so preoccupied with giving order to the whole Middle East and North Africa that we do not tend to care for such mundane, but effective operational issues. At this time, I find the policy of the PA to boycott settlement products as the first-ever serious policy proposal of the Palestinian government. The Turkish approach strikes me as much more macro (so macro that it is the clouds), and much less effective.

South Africa was one of the countries in the United Nations supporting the Partition Plan for Palestine. That was the plan to define an administration for Palestine after the British Mandate. The Jewish Agency supported the plan while the Arabs were against it. That was the case in 1947. Turkey, on the other hand, was one of the 13 countries opposing the plan. Now Turkey is talking, South Africa acting for Palestine. South African imports from Israel are around half a billion dollars in 2010, while that of Turkey is about 1.5 billion and growing.

About 25 years ago, it was Israel that put sanctions against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Now, to Israel’s outrage, it is the South African government returning the favor.

If you ask me, disclosing the origins of imported products is not discrimination. It is merely about informing the public. And, as Turks, we are not there yet.