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South African foreign minister: our ministers will not visit Israel

On Friday the South African foreign minister criticised the Israeli occupation of Palestine and said that it reminded her of the era of racial discrimination in her country, news agencies reported.


"The Palestinians' struggle is our struggle," international relations minister of South Africa Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said. "The last time I saw the map of Palestine, I could not sleep."

To show a sign of solidarity with the Palestinians, the minister said that her colleagues in the South African ministerial council would not visit Israel. But she affirmed that her country had not severed relations with the occupation.

Speaking to the local South African news agency, SAPA, the minister said: "we have agreed to slow down and curtail senior leadership contact with that regime until things begin to look better."

The minister also said that the leading Israeli organisation in her country knows that there are no high level contacts with Israel. The Jewish Board of Deputies "knows why our ministers are not going to Israel."

On the issue of settlements, Agence France Press reported her criticising the building of more settlement units in east Jerusalem. She was reported saying: "The last time I saw a map of Palestine, I could not go to sleep. It is just dots, smaller than those of the homelands, and that broke my heart."

Israeli media explained the meaning of "homelands" uttered by the South African minister as referring to "the Bantustans" – ten states set aside by the apartheid regime in South Africa for the black inhabitants.

In a letter last June, retired South African ambassador to Israel, Ismail Coovadia, described the Israeli occupation's attitude towards Palestinians as reminiscent of the "apartheid era."

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