After Visiting Israel, a South African Activist No Longer Thinks it’s an Apartheid State

December 19, 2016 | Tshediso Mangope
About the author:

Tshediso Mangope, a black South African human-rights activist, grew up under apartheid watching his parents being humiliated and believing that the situation for Palestinians in Israel was much the same. But after a recent visit he has come to reject “the analysis that Israel practices apartheid and the demand that Israel should be dismantled and replaced with a single state of Palestine.” He cites three reasons for his change of mind.


apartheid in South Africa was designed by white settlers who had moved from the Netherlands and Britain to conquer African land and turn the indigenous people into virtual slaves.

However, Israel is not a settler state. The Jewish people are indigenous to Israel, including the contested West Bank and the holy city of Jerusalem. [Modern Israelis] are descendants of Jewish refugees who were displaced centuries ago and they are back to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination. There is no self-respecting, sober intellectual who will argue that returning to your ancestral homeland from which you were displaced makes you a settler.


the oppressed black people in South Africa were the overwhelming majority [in the area] and could, therefore, still mobilize themselves even after suffering multiple defeats. We could also rely on the support of other neighboring African countries, which had gained independence before us and helped us to the democratic victory of 1994.

Jewish people, on the other hand, are a religious and cultural minority in the middle of the Arab world. All neighboring countries have fought against the state of Israel in one way or another since 1948. Each of these countries has at some point vowed to wipe Israel off the map.


the oppressed black majority of South Africa made it expressly clear that the content of our struggle was not to annihilate the white minority, who designed and were profiting from apartheid. The history of all black struggles in South Africa is the striving for peace and reconciliation. . . .

However, the situation is different in Israel. Despite the fact that Jewish people have a legitimate claim to Jewish land, most Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist. They have essentially supported [a] call for the genocide of Jewish people—and, indeed, a single state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River could only be achieved by killing and expelling the majority of Jews currently living there.

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