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South Africa lawmakers pass motion to downgrade embassy in Israel

South Africa’s parliament has voted in favour of a motion that will downgrade its embassy in Israel into a liaison office, following endless abuses against Palestinians, local media have reported.

“We’re hoping that this is going to be the first step in putting pressure on Israel to comply with human rights, recognise the rights of the Palestinian people, their right to exist, and also go back to the negotiating table,” the National Freedom Party’s (NFP) Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam who introduced the motion was quoted by local media.

The motion was passed by 208 votes against 94.

Advocacy group Media Review Network (MRN) lauded Shaik Emam and the NFP for tabling what they described as a brave and crucial motion in solidarity with Palestine.

“We also call upon the government to swiftly implement this important motion. In fact, MRN calls upon the government to go a step further and break off all diplomatic, economic and military ties with the cancerous Zionist regime occupying Historic Palestine,” Ahmed Haroon Jazbhay, an MRN executive member, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Welcomed by rights groups 
Several civil rights groups have welcomed the move.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry is yet to respond to South Africa’s move.

Many South Africans, including the ruling African National Congress party (ANC), support the Palestinian struggle because they believe what is happening to Palestinians under Israeli occupation is similar to what they experienced in the apartheid era.

South Africa established diplomatic relations with Palestine in 1995 – a year after the end of white-minority rule.

Ever since, Pretoria has remained highly critical of Israel’s continued mistreatment of the Palestinians, including its longstanding policy of building illegal Jewish settlements on Arab land in the occupied West Bank.

READ MORE: UN ‘alarmed’ at West Bank violence after Israel murders six Palestinians

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