South Africa recalls all diplomats from Tel Aviv, threatens action against Israel envoy

"Another holocaust in the history of humankind is not acceptable", said South Africa minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

Representative image of South Africa flag (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)
Representative image of South Africa flag (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)


South Africa on Monday, 6 November, recalled all its diplomats from Israel in condemnation of the bombardment of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and threatened to take action against the Israeli Ambassador in the country.

In a media briefing, Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the South African Cabinet had decided on these measures at its latest meeting in view of the continuing bombing of schools and clinics in Gaza and the closure of borders for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza.

"A genocide under the watch of the international community cannot be tolerated. The Cabinet has decided to recall all South African diplomats from Tel Aviv for consultation. Another holocaust in the history of humankind is not acceptable," Ntshavheni said.

She confirmed that the South African government has decided to recall all its diplomats in Tel Aviv “for consultation.” “Cabinet is disappointed by the refusal of the Israeli government to respect international law and its continued undermining of the United Nations resolutions for the implementation of a ceasefire with impunity,” she added.

South Africa, a staunch supporter of Palestine since Nelson Mandela first ascended to power in 1994, had downgraded its mission in Israel to a liaison office in 2018 when it also withdrew its ambassador to Israel.

Mandela had famously said that South Africa's freedom from decades of white minority rule would not be complete without the freedom of the people of Palestine.

South Africa is also unhappy about the remarks made by the Israeli Ambassador to the African nation, Eliav Belotsercovsky.

"The position of the Israeli ambassador in South Africa is becoming very untenable. The cabinet has decided to instruct the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to take the necessary measures within the diplomatic channels and protocols to deal with the conduct of the ambassador of Israel to South Africa,” Ntshavheni said.

"The disparaging remarks against those (South Africans who are) speaking up against the atrocities and the country’s leaders make Ambassador Eliav Belotsercovsky's position more and more untenable,” the minister said.

The human rights NGO Africa4Palestine (A4P) welcomed the South African government’s decision to recall all remaining South African diplomats from Israel.

"In the last month, communities across South Africa as well as political parties, (including the ruling ANC, and most opposition parties) have all come out in unison against Israel's attacks on the Palestinian people. The move today by the South African government is a reflection of the South African peoples' support for the Palestinians, for human rights and for international law,” said A4P representative Tisetso Magama.

South Africa has now joined countries including Colombia, Turkiye, Bahrain, Honduras, Bolivia, Chad and others who have taken similar diplomatic moves in the past week in protest against Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

"South Africa, together with these countries, are on the right side of history. More countries of conscience should follow,” Magama said.

The war between Israel and Hamas broke out after the Palestinian militant group attacked Israel on October 7, leaving over 1,400 people dead.

More than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's military offensive in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. 

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