26 November 2009
The South African government urged Israel on Tuesday to end practices toward Palestinians that it said were reminiscent of its own history of apartheid.
“We call upon the Israeli government to cease their activities that are reminiscent of apartheid forced removals and resume negotiations immediately,” the government said in a statement.
The unusually strong statement criticized the demolition of Palestinian houses and the expansion of Jewish-only settlement on land taken from Palestinians.
“We condemn the fact that Israeli settlement expansion in East Jerusalem is coupled with Israel’s campaign to evict and displace the original Palestinian residents from the City,” the statement read.
The statement also took note of US and European condemnations of Israel’s latest plan to expand by 900 units the settlement of Gilo on Palestinian land south of Jerusalem.
“South Africa maintains that these attempts by Israel to create facts on the ground imperil attempts to achieve a negotiated solution to the conflict, namely that of two states, Israel and Palestine existing side by side in peace within internationally recognised borders,” the statement also said.
While individual South Africans have made the apartheid comparison, it is rare for the government to do so.
In August South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu drew parallels between Israel and apartheid South Africa during an interview with Ma’an.
“It’s the same thing that happened in South Africa for a very long time,” he said, referring to Israel’s refusal to negotiate with Hamas. “The apartheid government said they wouldn’t negotiate with Nelson Mandela, and so on – and they had to.”
In July academics released a report finding Israel in breach of international legal prohibitions on apartheid and colonialism.
The report was written by British, Irish, South African and Palestinian legal experts under the auspices of the South African Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). The report finds Israel is committing crimes against humanity, which should trigger legal sanctions.