South Africa welcomes Hamas official sanctioned by US

Khaled Qaddoumi is a liaison between Hamas and the Iranian government.

By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner

A spokesperson for South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has defended the presence of two Hamas officials at a meeting in Johannesburg last week, one of whom was sanctioned by the US government following the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in southern Israel in which over 1,200 people were murdered and more than 200 seized as hostages.

The two officials — Bassem Naim, a former Hamas minister, and Khaled Qaddoumi, the terrorist organization’s official representative in Iran — arrived in South Africa in early December and spent several days there, attending an ANC-sponsored conference in solidarity with the Palestinians as well as ceremonies commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who led the ANC in its struggle against apartheid.

Qaddoumi was included in a list of eight Hamas-linked individuals who were sanctioned by the US Treasury Department on Oct. 27, less than three weeks after the Hamas atrocities. An official statement accompanying the announcement noted that Qaddoumi is a “Jordanian national and longtime Hamas member who currently lives in Tehran serving as Hamas’ representative to Iran, and acting as a liaison between Hamas and the Iranian government.”

It added that Qaddoumi “works to maintain strong relationships with Iran by attending delegation meetings with high-ranking Iranian officials and praising Iranian support for Hamas, including its provision of weapons.”

Read  Anti-Israel protesters removed from Columbia building, ending stand-off

However, on Tuesday, an ANC representative defended the presence of the Hamas delegation at the Dec. 3 “Palestinian Solidarity Forum” held at the ANC’s Johannesburg headquarters, which also included representatives of Hamas’ putative rival, Fatah.

While stressing that the ANC remains committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the spokesperson, Obed Bapela, sympathetically summarized Hamas’ official position in an interview with the Daily Maverick news outlet.

In what appeared to be a reference to UN Security Council resolution 242 following the Six Day War of 1967 — which did not mention the Palestinians but called for Israeli withdrawal from territories captured during the conflict — Bapela said that “Hamas said they had been disappointed by the lack of the implementation of the agreement.”

He continued: “As a result, their view is that the entire Palestine be liberated, from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea. They can then look at modalities on how to accommodate who is there, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Palestinians.”

Bapela then accused Israel of having “put itself into a corner.”

“Should they have implemented the 1967 resolution we would not be where we are now,” he said. He added that the ANC had assured the Hamas and other Palestinian delegates that South Africa had “approached the ICC [International Criminal Court] on the issuing of an indictment of [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to be charged for those three elements: genocide, violation of human rights, and war crimes.”

Read  WATCH: IDF bulldozers map and destroy massive Hamas tunnels

Bapela’s remarks drew a strong rebuke from the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), which has long battled the ANC’s pro-Palestinian sympathies while facing a fresh upsurge in domestic antisemitism since Oct. 7.

“Hamas made it clear to deputy minister Obed Bapela that it rejects the ANC’s policy of a two-state solution and supports the genocidal notion of ‘from the river to the sea,’” Benji Shulman — the SAZF’s director of public policy — told The Algemeiner. “Such sentiments ought to have been refuted by the organization.”

Shulman expressed concern that the ANC’s feting of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups could jeopardize South Africa’s trade agreements with the US and other countries. “Our alliance with Hamas puts trade relations with democracies at risk, including the US African Growth and Opportunity Act which provides jobs for thousands of South Africans,” he said.

Some US legislators have already expressed disquiet at the ANC’s stance. “South Africa’s ruling government stands in solidarity with Hamas — an Iranian-backed, US-designated terror group,” Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated in a Dec. 6 post on X/Twitter.

Risch went on to ask why US President Joe Biden’s administration “persists with its embrace of this same South African government. What is the US gaining from this policy of appeasement?”

Read  U. Maryland Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies: A case study in ‘Jew hatred’

The Johannesburg conference was addressed by Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Nkosi Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela, a convert to Islam who is one of South Africa’s most outspoken anti-Zionist activists. According to a report of his remarks carried by the pro-Iranian Lebanese broadcaster Al Mayadeen, the younger Mandela “extensively discussed the current plight of Palestinians, emphasizing the ongoing genocide perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces” and “continuously called for the liberation of all Palestinian lands.”

While the ANC is one of the most vocal backers of Hamas among the world’s governments, Nelson Mandela himself was a stalwart supporter of Israel’s right to exist in security. An Oct. 2021 billboard campaign organized by South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) included a poster displaying a photograph of Mandela alongside a quote taken from a speech he delivered to the South African Jewish community in August 1993 that stated: “We insist on the right of the State of Israel to exist.”