South African official calls for Israel to be declared an ‘apartheid state’

Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor evoked comparisons between the Palestinian narrative and South Africa's history of racial segregation this week at the Palestinian Heads of Mission in Africa.

South Africa's Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor (photo credit: GCIS)
South Africa's Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor
(photo credit: GCIS)

South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said Tuesday that Israel should be classified as an apartheid state and that the United Nations General Assembly should establish a committee to verify whether it satisfied its requirements, Al Jazeera reported. 

"The Palestinian narrative evokes experiences of South Africa's own history of racial segregation and oppression," she added. The comments and accusations were reportedly made at the second meeting of the Palestinian Heads of Mission in Africa, held in Pretoria, one of South Africa's capital cities.

Long-term ties 

The first Palestinian embassy in South Africa opened in 1995. A statement on the South African government website echoes Pandor's statement: "Since the dawn of democracy in 1994, South Africa has always been an ally of Palestine and has constantly highlighted the struggles of the Palestinian people, supported them on international platforms, and offered material assistance within its capacity." 

"The Palestinian narrative evokes experiences of South Africa's own history of racial segregation and oppression."

Naledi Pandor, South Africas Foreign Minister

Pandor was the first representative of the government to denounce the killing of Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May during a raid in the West Bank. At the time, she compared the violent disruption at Abu Akleh's funeral procession by Israeli police to the brutality of the South African apartheid military. 

 Palestinians protest in support of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, as US President Joe Biden visits Augusta Victoria Hospital, in Jerusalem July 15, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD) Palestinians protest in support of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, as US President Joe Biden visits Augusta Victoria Hospital, in Jerusalem July 15, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

Apartheid charge 

Pandor’s claim of Israeli apartheid comes in the aftermath of three human rights reports earlier this year which charged that Israel – in its control of the territory from the river to the sea, including the West Bank and Gaza – should be considered a regime that committed the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people.

The latest report in February by Amnesty International alleged that the Jewish state has been guilty of this crime since its inception in 1948, based on its independent legal analysis. Amnesty rejected charges that in so doing it was criminalizing Israel’s identity as an ethnic nationalist state.

The strong responses from countries like the United States and Germany denouncing an apartheid branding against Israel have not eased concerns in Jerusalem or among the advocates of the Jewish state with regard to the dangers of a growing push by the Palestinian Authority and its supporters to find Israel guilty of apartheid, including through a new UN Human Right Council investigation and the International Criminal Court.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.