Recognized officially as the State of Palestine. It is renowned for its religious diversity as Jerusalem which constitutes the capital of the state of Palestine is considered the cradle for the three monotheistic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The City of Bethlehem in the southern part of Palestine is well known for being the Christ birthplace in the Church of Nativity.
Palestine is up to this date suffering from the Israeli Occupation and accordingly it is divided into 3 dynamics: the West Bank (bordering Israel and Jordan) and Gaza Strip (bordering Israel and Egypt) with Jerusalem as the capital. The territory of the State of Palestine has been occupied since 1948 by Israel.
Palestine has a population of 5,051,953 as of February 2020, ranked 121st in the world.
The State of Palestine is recognized by 138 UN members and since 2012 has a status of a non-member observer state in the United Nations
Palestine is a member of the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the G77, the International Olympic Committee, and other international bodies.
We spoke to H.E. HANAN JARRAR, Ambassador of The State of Palestine
- How long have you been the Head of the Palestinian Mission to South Africa?
I arrived in South Africa to assume my duties on 8 January 2019, so I’ve been in South Africa for just over a year now. I’m honoured to serve Palestine in the Republic of South Africa. Palestinians and South Africans share long-standing, strong bonds of friendship based on our respective struggles for freedom, justice and equality. So it is an honour to be in South Africa.
- Are you representing Palestine before any other SADC countries as well?
I am currently non-resident ambassador of the State of Palestine to Namibia and the Kingdom of Lesotho.
I presented my letter of credence to representatives of President Hage Geingob in Namibia on 27 November 2020, and will visit Lesotho to present my credentials as soon as the Covid-19 lockdown in that country has been lifted.
I am excited to working with our SADC partners to strengthen bilateral relations between Palestine and these countries, and to open new horizons in the areas of trade, tourism and investment.
- Is this your first posting as Head of Mission and if not where else have you served as such?
Yes, this is my first posting as a Head of Mission, and it is also the first time that I have been to the African continent.
Previously, I was the Minister Assistant for the Americas and the Caribbean Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates in Ramallah, Palestine. Much of my work focused on Latin American countries, with which Palestinians also share a common history of struggle against colonization.
- What are the main areas of interest between Palestine and South Africa?
We share so many common areas of interest: a history of struggle against colonization; rich cultural and religious diversity; a wealth of natural resources and beauty. Both Palestine and South Africa also have amazing human potential and we both need to harness this to strengthen our economies.
- Can you mention any of the Palestinian companies that operate in South Africa?
Currently, there are a handful of small companies operating in South Africa. However, we are looking forward to carving an easier path for Palestinian companies to come and do business here.
One of the issues we are working on now is to exempt Palestinians from visa requirements when coming to South Africa. Visa-free travel will ease movement between Palestine and South Africa and encourage Palestinians to come to South Africa to work and study.
- What South African brands and companies have a presence in Palestine?
There are very few South African brands available on the Palestinian market. However, this is not by choice. This is due to Israel’s restrictions on and control of Palestine’s borders and economy. As Palestine is militarily occupied by Israel, we have virtually no control over our own economy and imports/exports. As soon as Israel ends its occupation of Palestine, we look forward to expanding trade with South Africa – and, indeed, the rest of the world.
- If someone visiting from Palestine only had time to see one South African destination, which one would you recommend to them and why?
Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. It tells the fascinating story of South Africa’s history of injustice and the long, painful – but inspirational – journey to freedom. The road to South Africa’s freedom comes alive through the many tours and exhibitions on offer. For Palestinians, it will be a reminder that South Africa’s past is our present, and we should never stop fighting for our dignity and liberation.
- Does your country have a Chamber of Commerce, or does your Mission have a Trade Attache? Please share their details, for those readers interested in making contact for business purposes.
Yes, there is an active Palestinian Chamber of Commerce in South Africa, and the Embassy is working with our South African counterparts at establishing stronger trade relations. Ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine remains the top priority and the most important way to strengthen Palestine’s economy. Our South African partners in government and civil society are also working hard on this. For any queries on trade, investment and other economic matters, please call Mr. Hassona Aldramly at the Palestinian Embassy on 073 686 3443.
- Do South African passport holders require a visa to visit your country and if that is the case how can they proceed to apply for one?
South Africans do not require a visa to enter Palestine. However, all access points and Palestinian borders are controlled by the Israeli military, and all visitors to Palestine will have to pass through Israeli military checkpoints and be subject to questioning and checks by the Israeli military. Entry into Palestine is, therefore, controlled by Israel. This is an unfortunate consequence of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
- 2020 was a challenging year for the world. Are you able to share a positive message with Embassy Direct’s readers?
Despite this tough and challenging year for me personally and professionally, I feel honoured and privileged to be in such an inspiring country – a land characterised by the isiZulu expression “Umuntu Ngumuntu ngabantu.” It means “a person is a person through other people.” I believe that hard lockdowns, restrictions and the pandemic have taught us that a common humanity, international solidarity and unity are needed more than ever.