Politics, World, Middle East

'Israeli apartheid far more brutal than anything we saw in South Africa,' says former politician

Former South African politician Andrew Feinstein explains to Anadolu why South Africa is bringing Israel to International Court of Justice

Aysu Bicer, Behlul Cetinkaya  | 07.01.2024 - Update : 08.01.2024
'Israeli apartheid far more brutal than anything we saw in South Africa,' says former politician


A former colleague of South African human rights icons Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu expressed strong support for his country’s decision to take Israel to the International Court of Justice, condemning the months-long siege and blockade of Gaza as nothing short of a genocide against Palestinians.

Speaking to Anadolu, Andrew Feinstein, a onetime key figure in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) who now lives in Britain, emphasized his unique perspective as a Jewish son of a Holocaust survivor.

"My mother survived the war in occupied Vienna itself. She lost dozens of members of her family, mainly in the death camp of Auschwitz, where I've lectured on genocide prevention,” he explained.

“I am here today to talk about why it is that South Africa have taken Israel to the International Court of Justice, because I think it's particularly symbolic because South Africa knows what apartheid it is.”

Feinstein pointed to a legal document from South Africa presenting evidence of Israeli actions in Gaza as genocidal in both conduct and intent.

"So, I think it's incredibly important that South Africa has brought this case to the International Court of Justice describing what is happening in Gaza as a genocide of the Palestinian people," he said.

"And it's absolutely clear from the South African document, which is an extraordinary legal document, that this is a genocide, both in terms of the conduct of the Israeli operation in Gaza, and because of the intent that has been voiced by Israeli politicians to remove all Palestinians from Gaza and for Israel to effectively take over Gaza completely," said Feinstein.

'Israeli apartheid far more brutal than anything we saw in South Africa'

While acknowledging differences between the situations in South Africa and Israel, Feinstein underscored the shared elements of racial discrimination, the creation of separate territories, and the use of brutal force against oppressed populations.

Feinstein began by highlighting the discrimination faced by the Palestinian population in Israel, drawing a parallel with the decades of mistreatment of black Africans in South Africa.

He argued that even Palestinian citizens of Israel are relegated to lesser rights than even their Jewish counterparts – a stark violation of principles of equality under the law based on race, ethnicity, or religion.

On the apartheid-era strategy of creating “little homelands,” or Bantustans, in South Africa, he compared it to Israel's insertion of settlements and separation of territories in Gaza, the West Bank, Hebron, and Ramallah.

Feinstein said the deliberate division hinders the possibility of a two-state solution, echoing oppressive tactics seen in the apartheid system.

"And then most importantly, both Israel and South Africa have used brutal military force to oppress those populations that they see as somehow inferior to themselves, which is a system of racism. So, by all of those similarities, Israel is an apartheid system, according to the Rome statute of international law," he said.

"My former boss, Nelson Mandela, and my friend and political mentor Archbishop Desmond Tutu, they knew better than anyone I've ever met what an apartheid state is. And they were very critical of apartheid because apartheid Israel was a very close ally of apartheid South Africa –they helped each other become nuclear powers, to develop nuclear weapons," said Feinstein.

Israel has never acknowledged its status as a nuclear power, while South Africa officially abandoned its nuclear arms development program in 1989.

While recognizing the significant similarities in the two situations, Feinstein did underscore one crucial difference.

Unlike South Africa, which heavily relied on the black African community for its economy and workforce, Israel is less dependent on Palestinians for its economic stability, he said.

"And that is one of the reasons why Israel has killed tens of thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians. They don't want them, they don't need them. And that has made Israeli apartheid far more brutal than anything we saw or experienced in South Africa," he said.

Feinstein also blasted Keir Starmer, the leader of the UK Labour Party and good prospect for possible future prime minister, for refusing to support a cease-fire in Gaza.

"Starmer, who claims have been a human rights lawyer, will not support a cease-fire in Gaza. And when asked whether he thinks Israel is violating international law, his response was to say: ‘I'm a politician. I can't comment on that’,” said Feinstein.

“So we’re saying to him that he doesn't represent us and we will refuse to vote for him at the next election. Because he has turned his back on the awful suffering of innocent civilians in Gaza and across the occupied Palestinian territories.”

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