The South African parliament voted this week on a motion to lower the level of that country’s diplomatic relationship with Israel, in line with the complaint that the Executive Branch has been making about the “apartheid system” that has been installed against the Palestinians, especially in the occupied West Bank. by Jewish troops and colonies. Instead of having mutual embassies, they will become liaison offices.
In a statement published by the National Freedom Party – the one that introduced the issue in parliament – it is stated that this initiative would have been supported by the anti-racial leader Nelson Mandela: “he would be proud; he always said that our freedom is incomplete, without that of the Palestinians”.
Although this is a small center-left party with two deputies, the proposal was approved with the votes of other majors, including the historic African National Congress led by Mandela.
In tension since 1995
Relations between South Africa and Israel have been tense in recent years due to the parallels denounced by South African authorities with the system of racial segregation suffered by blacks there. According to Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam -deputy of the National Freedom Party- “we want this to be the first step to pressure Israel to respect human rights, recognize the rights of the Palestinian people -to exist as a State- and to return to the negotiating table. And we call on the government to quickly implement this motion; in fact, our party calls for a total diplomatic, economic and military break”.
South Africa established diplomatic relations with Palestine in 1995, a year after the end of the pro-white segregationist system. Since then the South African government has been criticizing the occupation of “significant portions of the West Bank” and the development of new colonies that are “clear examples of violation of international law.”
According to Naledi Pandor –current South African Minister of International Relations- “the Palestinian narrative evokes the experiences of our own history of racial segregation and oppression; As oppressed, we experience racial inequality and discrimination firsthand.” That is why she considers that Israel should be classified as an apartheid state and the United Nations establish a committee to verify if the situation meets the requirements that define such a concept.
Amnesty International agrees
The human rights NGO Amnesty International agrees with the South African analysis. And in his style, he resorts to specific stories to exemplify it: that of the Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, who arrived there after being forcibly displaced from their homes by the Jewish settlers from Israel in 1948.
In May 2021, the State of Israel again began to pressure them, wanting to take away their houses and land without justification or compensation, to establish new settlers in their place with the aim of displacing as many Palestinians as possible. There, these families suffer permanent harassment from Israeli forces and there is a totally discriminatory legal system with respect to all kinds of rights, including not being displaced from their homes.
According to Amnesty International, this example is representative of a generalized policy of what Palestinians suffer every day: “discrimination, dispossession, repression of dissent, murder and injury, are part of a system created to privilege Jewish Israelis, at the expense of the Palestinians. This is called apartheid.”