Although much has been written about South African foreign policy very little focus has been on the African perspective in analysing policy actions. Furthermore, South Africa has regularly been criticised for being consistent in its criticism of Israel but inconsistent in other human rights issues. This so-called contradiction in South Africa’s foreign policy on Israel in relation to the Palestinian question, when compared to other human rights’ issues, demands an in-depth analysis of the decisions taken by the South African government that is not limited to rigid, pro-West paradigms. South Africa post-1994 is characterised by a context that includes historical experiences of injustice, abuse, apartheid, colonialism, racial discrimination and racial subjugation. It is a country whose leaders and people understand the notion of human indignity because of the impact of supremacist ideologies.
The South African government, based on historical, practical and moral (human rights) grounds has indicated its committed support for the Palestinian struggle against Israeli apartheid and occupation. Accordingly, South Africa’s foreign policy stance on Israel has been consistent since 1994, although until 2008, it offered little in terms of real (punitive or sanctioning) action against Israel. Although the focus of this paper is on the Zuma government’s foreign policy on Israel in relation to the Palestinian question, a discussion on pre-1994 South Africa’s symbiotic relations with Israel is included considering the impact of historical experiences in decision making. This study also considers the foreign policy of the Mandela and Mbeki governments on the Palestinian issue which is important in providing a context to the understanding regarding the purported shift and contestation in the Zuma government’s foreign policy on Israel in relation to the Palestinian question. This shift is analysed by highlighting specific foreign policy actions and the role of key actors in attempting to influence those policy actions.
From an academic perspective, the author considers four key areas which include a) human rights, b) foreign policy, c) human rights and ethics in foreign policy and d) global apartheid, foreign policy and human rights which are integrated within the structures of analytic eclecticism allowing for multiple levels of analysis.