Apr. 12, 2017
New African Perspectives on Israel and the Palestinians (Africans for Peace)
Zenobia Ravji: As a Kenyan, I saw how the voices of Africans were exploited by the widespread and false comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa. The unfortunate circumstances and struggles of the Palestinian people are largely perpetuated by their own leaders, whose political strategy determines that the worse things are for Palestinians on the ground, the more convincing their case against Israel. These are the same leaders who compare the Palestinian people’s situation to apartheid South Africa, robbing South Africans of their history and cheapening it, in order to gain sympathy and financing from the international community.
Lesiba Bapela: As a social justice activist from South Africa, I was part of a group that went to Israel in January 2016. We saw that in the West Bank, the Palestinians were more hardline. They don’t believe in a two-state coexistence. They want to govern themselves according to Islamic law, and they don’t believe in Israelis having their own territories. However, on the Israeli side, I heard talk of cooperation. The Israelis have been inviting the Palestinians to create peaceful coexistence. But the Palestinian Authority has this all-or-nothing mentality and doesn’t truly believe in a two-state solution. There is nothing in this conflict that I can associate with apartheid. This is a religious conflict.
Nkululeko Nkosi: The comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa has been around for more than 50 years. Its originators were not black South Africans or even Palestinians, but the Soviet Union. But apartheid was about race, not religion or nationality. Unlike black people in apartheid South Africa, Arabs in Israel are entitled to vote in national elections, elect their own representatives, and have their interests represented in political deliberations. In 2015, the predominantly Arab party, the Joint List, won 15 parliamentary seats. This party is one of the harshest critics of the Israeli government. The point here is that Israeli policy and law allow dissent and opposition without instilling fear of banishment or imprisonment.
Tshediso Mangope: As a black South African and member of the ANC, I reject both the analysis that Israel practices apartheid and the demand that Israel should be dismantled and replaced with a single state of Palestine. After actually visiting Israel, my views on BDS have changed drastically. I am no longer involved in the BDS movement and don’t believe it to be a legitimate cause. The insistence of the Arab world on denying Jewish people, the indigenous people of Israel, the right to sovereign existence is a main reason this conflict has lasted for so long. There is no self-respecting, sober intellectual who will argue that returning to your ancestral homeland from whence you were displaced makes you a settler.
Klaas Mokgomole: In 2013, I was one of the BDS protestors who disrupted a piano recital which featured an Israeli pianist at the University of Witwatersrand. But I came to understand that the analogy of apartheid in Israel was an abuse of the memory of apartheid. South Africans involved in BDS need to be given the opportunity to understand that this is a conflict in which both sides have legitimate rights. As a former BDS activist, I encourage those involved in BDS to not blindly believe everything the movement says – because if you accept their propaganda uncritically, you are not contributing to peace, but to further needless bloodshed.