Four women on Wednesday morning chained themselves to the doors of a Pretoria building housing the South African headquarters of the United Nations, in support of the Palestinian cause.
The heavy chain around their waists and the padlocks securing it to the door handles were removed more than three hours later after they had read out their memorandum and handed it over to UN resident co-ordinator John Ohiorhenuan.
He said he would make sure that it was faxed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Lou Morgado, one of the four, earlier said they wanted a peacekeeping force to be sent to the area immediately.
“We are tired of the UN giving out resolutions, and all they do, is to stay on paper. Innocent children are dying.”
Morgado, Zabun Mohamed, Ferial Patel and Salomina Mangokoane held posters with the slogans reading: “UN a useless body” and “Rwanda Bosnia yesterday, Palestine today”, as well as a Palestinian flag.
A few other people also protested in the vicinity.
Police maintained a low-profile presence at the scene.
The memorandum, under the name of the organisation SA Women for Palestine and addressed to Annan, pointed out that the world body had taken a number of resolutions over the years regarding the Middle East situation.
“We know also that in the past week, the UN Security Council took two resolutions… which called on Israel to withdraw from Palestinian areas that it has violently occupied.
“Israel… simply snubbed its nose at your organisation and the international community and continued with the occupation… “We ask you to immediately put together a multi-national protection force to be dispatched to Palestine to protect Palestinians from this monstrous military machine.”
As head of the UN, Annan should ensure, by whatever means necessary, that Israel abided by all UN resolutions and international law, the organisation said.
This included the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of the Israeli army from the occupied territories — the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem — and the dismantling of all Jewish settlements in those areas.
A sovereign, independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital must be established and Palestinian refugees must have the right to return, the memorandum read.
“We hope that you will listen to our words, to our plea, and that you will be a source to ease the plight of Palestinians. We hope, Mr Secretary-General, that history does not add Palestine to your list of failures, like Bosnia and Rwanda,” it said.
The Palestine Solidarity Committee said in a statement that Wednesday was chosen for the protest action because it was the 54th anniversary of the massacre at the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin “where women and children were butchered, including pregnant women who were murdered and stuffed down the village well.
“The massacres currently underway are worse!”
It said that each day the Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas continued, more women and children were killed, while the world simply watched.
Morgado said: “We are desperate women who need to do desperate things.”
She called on South African women to support their cause, as South Africans had experienced conditions similar to those to which the Palestinians were subjected to now.
“Please let’s help these people.”
Morgado urged South Africans to stop thinking of the Middle East conflict as a Muslim war.
“We see it as a human rights struggle.”