Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
This past Sunday, several groups with diverse opinions gathered in Johannesburg to take their stands on the complex and on-going tragedy that is being played out in Israel and Palestine.
At first glance, it seemed incongruous to find a group of concerned Jewish South Africans protesting against the Solidarity Rally for Israel, which was attended by many religious leaders and friends of the Jewish community. But the heartfelt concerns they raised expressed the pain of a people torn between the conflicting emotions of patriotism, and horror at the violence engulfing innocent lives.
The fact that so many feel so strongly about what is happening in Israel, conveys how this conflict in a place no bigger than the Kruger National Park really has repercussions for every human being, everywhere.
Because of this, the Inkatha Freedom Party attended the Solidarity Rally, bringing one clear message: "The Violence Must End". We called for an end to conflict and a genuine embrace of negotiations. We seek an end to the killing, the bloodshed and fear, both in Palestine and Israel.
As we have done so many times in the past, the IFP declared its support for a two-state solution. We recognise the responsibility of our country to foster that solution in the interests of peace throughout the world.
More urgently, we recognise the responsibility of South Africa's Government not to exacerbate the conflict through biased statements that apportion blame. Emotive language such as the likening of Israel to apartheid South Africa is irresponsible, reprehensible and inflammatory.
We call on our country's own leadership to lead by example, taking cognisance of the fear, pain and suffering on both sides of this conflict and acting on the principle that all life is valuable and all loss of life is a tragedy.
The IFP stands in support of every child caught in the grip of fear, grief and confusion, both in Israel and in Palestine. These are the real victims of this conflict and these are the ones who will bear the scars of today's decisions, both on their bodies and their spirits.
They will remember, and they will escalate this conflict in the generation to come if we fail to end it now. History has given us enough evidence of the cycle of violence.
Our only hope of healing the wounds of our children is through our actions now.
If we move now towards a lasting cease-fire, towards negotiations, towards peace and eventually towards reconciliation, we will heal these wounds.
The IFP acknowledges Israel's right to defend herself and her citizens, particularly against terrorism. South Africa would surely do the same. Citizens rightly expect their Government to protect them from attack, defend their lives and secure for them a life free of constant threat.
Still we, like so many throughout the world, are deeply concerned by the toll of suffering and bloodshed exacted by this conflict due to the strategy used by Hamas of deploying weapons and command centres to densely populated, residential areas. In so doing, it is ensuring civilian casualties. This is reprehensible in the extreme.
The death toll among the people of Palestine is aggravating international disapprobation for a nation under siege; the nation of Israel. It is, seemingly, the strategy of Hamas to shake support for Israel by placing civilians in the line of fire. That is the mark of a terrorist organisation and one which the IFP wholly condemns.
The IFP was founded on the principles of non-violence and negotiations. We held fast to these principles throughout both Apartheid and the People's War waged in a costly strategy to liberate our country. The IFP has never wavered from advocating peace and moving towards reconciliation. We condemn violence as a means to resolve conflict.
As a moral imperative, South Africa must join the international call for an end to violence so that the tragedy on both sides might abate.
Rather than taking sides, the IFP positions itself as an advocate of peace. We offer our condolences to every family that has lost sons and daughters, and to all those who continue to experience loss as this conflict persists. We pray for those who have lost their homes, and their sense of security.
Soon after this conflict began, I wrote to His Excellency Ambassador Abdelhafiz Nofal expressing condolences to the bereaved families of Palestine. I recognised the moral demand made on us to support the resolution of this conflict and assured him that the IFP opposes violence anywhere, for any reason. To us, the loss of life on both sides of this conflict is unacceptable and tragic.
We carry this same message into every forum, and we call for peace and an end to conflict whether we are speaking to friends of Israel or supporters of Palestine. In the end, we seek human dignity, respect for life and peaceful co-existence for everyone involved.
Surely wherever we are, whatever our nationality, the peacemakers among us must be the conscience of this generation.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Lyndith Waller on 073 929 1418