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Speakers reject comparison between Israel and Apartheid South Africa

By Ryan Spencer

Section: News

April 8, 2016

Two speakers voiced opposition to the use of the word Apartheid to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after Students for Justice in Palestine’s annual Israel Apartheid week. Klass Mokgomole and Justice Nkomo came from South Africa to speak at an event hosted by Judges for Israel on Monday where they presented contradictions between Apartheid South Africa and Israel and discussed theories of conflict resolution.

Apartheid was a system of race-based repression and segregation which existed in South Africa well into the 1990s. Apartheid was “architected by [The President of South Africa], Botha, who made sure he put laws aside which would discriminate and separate between black and white,” said Mokgomole.

He told the story of how Apartheid affected his mother on a daily basis. “For my mom… to move around town, she needed a letter from a boss stating why she had to go up to town. If she didn’t have that letter or she didn’t have her ID with her, she’d get arrested,” he said. Legislation also restricted blacks from voting, denied blacks entry into most universities and barred blacks and whites from getting married.

Mokgomole said Nelson Mandela and his work combating Apartheid through non-violent measures can be a model for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“[Black South Africans] were about to take our bows and arrows to kill those whites. But we never did that because one man came out,” he said. “The man who stayed in jail for 27 years…he said ‘let’s forgive these people, but let’s not forget.’ And people were able to sit down and talk about the issue.”

Mokgomole suggested that this type of resolution is what is needed in the middle east.

“We need organizations like Hamas and the people saying let’s come together, let’s sit down, let’s discuss the issue,” Mokgomole said.

Moving more into a discussion of the Palestine-Israel conflict, Nkomo stated, “Because this conflict is so commercialized you forget the one thing that is very important: the lives of the people on the ground.”

Despite the harsh conditions of the conflict and his recognition that “it’s not a nice environment to live in,” though, Nkomo stated that, “Israel, as a country, is not an Apartheid state.” Having visited Israel, Nkomo uses his own experience to cite a lack of segregation in Israel.

Last week, Students for Justice in Palestine hung a banner on the Rabb Steps announcing their annual Israel Apartheid Week, but a group of unaffiliated students replied with a banner across the steps that read “No matter how many people believe a lie, that doesn’t make it true.”

According to Nkomo and Mokgomole, the deliberate structural segregation that existed in Apartheid South Africa does not exist in Israel.

“In Israel there are both Arabs and Jews in Parliament, [Apartheid] South Africa never had that. Both Arabs and Jews in Israel vote. [Apartheid] South Africa never had that. Both Arabs and Jews stay in one city; [Apartheid] South Africa never had that,” said Mokgomole.

“Apartheid is that one thing,” says Nkomo, expressing his stance that the word “Apartheid” should not be used to define other conflicts. “Even if tomorrow in Boston I hear that there is Apartheid. Of course I’m going to help because I’m an activist but I’m going to say it’s wrong [to describe the conflict as an Apartheid].”

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