Pretoria says Israel 'apartheid' against Palestinians worse than in S.Africa

AFP , Ahram Online , Tuesday 20 Feb 2024

Israel is applying an even more extreme version of apartheid in the Palestinian territories than experienced in South Africa before 1994, Pretoria told the world's top court on Tuesday.

South African Ambassador to the Netherlands
South African Ambassador to the Netherlands Vusimuzi Madonsela presents at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) public hearings in the case South Africa v. Israel. Photo courtesy ICJ


"We as South Africans sense, see, hear and feel to our core the inhumane discriminatory policies and practices of the Israeli regime as an even more extreme form of the apartheid that was institutionalised against black people in my country," said Vusimuzi Madonsela, South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands, where the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is based.

An unprecedented 52 countries are taking the stand at the ICJ, which has been asked to provide a non-binding "advisory opinion" on the legal implications of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

"It is clear that Israel's illegal occupation is also being administered in breach of the crime of apartheid... It is indistinguishable from settler colonialism. Israel's apartheid must end," said Madonsela.

He said South Africa had a "special obligation" to call out apartheid wherever it occurs and ensure it is "brought to an immediate end."

South African police beating Black women with clubs after they raided and set a beer hall on fire in protest against apartheid, Durban, South Africa, 1959. Courtesy of

The case is separate from a high-profile case brought by Pretoria charging Israel of carrying out genocide against Palestinians during its current war on Gaza.

In that case, the ICJ ruled that Israel should do everything in its power to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza and allow humanitarian aid access for 2.3 million Palestinians.

The hearings kicked off on Monday with three hours of testimony from Palestinian officials, who accused the Israeli occupiers of running a system of "colonialism and apartheid".

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki urged the judges to call for an end to the occupation "immediately, totally and unconditionally," stressing that Israel's open-ended occupation of the Palestinian territories, has left Palestinians with only three choices, "displacement, subjugation, or death. These are the choices, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, or genocide."

The ICJ rules in disputes between states. However, it can also be asked to provide a legal opinion on a topic of international law.

The United Nations asked it in December 2022 to provide guidance on the "legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem".

When the ICJ rules in contentious cases between states, its judgement is binding but it has little means of enforcement.

In contrast, an advisory opinion is completely non-binding but would likely add to the mounting international pressure on Israel to halt its war on Gaza.

The court will rule "urgently" on the affair, probably by the end of the year.

Israel has boycotted the proceedings, arguing the court has no authority on the issue.

In early November, South Africa recalled its diplomatic mission to Tel Aviv in protest against the continued Israeli killing of innocent civilians.

"We are extremely concerned at the continued killing of children and innocent civilians in the Palestinian territories and we believe the nature of the response by Israel has become one of collective punishment," Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said at the time.

On Sunday, Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose country supports the South Africa genocide case against Israel at the ICJ, reaffirmed his condemnation of what many are describing as the Israeli genocide in Gaza.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, where multiple AU officials condemned Israeli war crimes, President Lula da Silva said what was happening in the Gaza Strip "isn't a war, it's a genocide."

"It's not a war of soldiers against soldiers. It's a war between a highly prepared army and women and children," added Lula.

"What's happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people hasn't happened at any other moment in history. Actually, it has happened: when Hitler decided to kill the Jews," he noted.

The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said Tuesday that at least 29,195 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory during the Israel war on Gaza, the majority women and children.

A ministry statement said a total of 103 people died in the past 24 hours, while another 69,170 people have been wounded since the war erupted on October 7.

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