South African Jewish anti-apartheid stalwart Denis Goldberg believes the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the use of separate laws for different groups of people makes Israel an apartheid state.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Israel is an apartheid state,” Goldberg, who fought alongside late South African President Nelson Mandela and other activists against apartheid, told a gathering in Johannesburg.
“Having lived through apartheid in South Africa, I cannot allow in my name the same kind of oppression to go on,” Goldberg said at an event discussing lessons for the Palestine-Israel conflict from those who struggled against apartheid.
The Jewish anti-apartheid activist, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the historic Rivonia Trial during the apartheid era in South Africa in 1964, said he has to speak out against Israel’s segregationist polices.
“When I come across the deliberate exclusion of people from the benefits of their wealthy societies, whether on class, race or religious grounds, I have to speak out,” he said.
Goldberg said he has a responsibility as a human being to uphold justice, truth and righteousness, “just as I did as a first-generation white South African” who opposed apartheid.
He said that he does not oppose Jews, but the Israeli government’s Zionist polices.
“I have to be an opponent of the exclusionist policies of Zionism, but let me say straight away that I have to be opposed to the exclusionary policies of the feudal Arab states of the Middle East as well,” he said.
Goldberg said some people ask why Israel is an apartheid state, when it is not like how South Africa used to be during the apartheid era. They say that in Israel there are some Palestinian members of parliament, and that the Palestinians have equal rights.
“Well I say you don’t need to be like South Africa to be an apartheid state, there is a definition in international law through the UNESCO declaration on apartheid,” he said.
He said what constitutes apartheid is government laws, regulations and policies that distinguish between groups of people on the basis of race or religion.
He also faults Israel for destroying the Palestinians’ livelihood and economy by uprooting their centuries-old olive trees, water and irrigation systems.
Goldberg said the situation in Israel is not as complicated as the Zionist lobby tries to make it seem.
“It’s simple: the dominant group excludes the indigenous people from their equal rights within the borders of Israel itself and in the occupied territories, in breach of international law,” he said.
He said these actions showed an attitude that Palestinians were considered lesser people, which is similar to what happened in South Africa during the apartheid era when blacks were barred from voting.
The anti-apartheid activist added that South Africans have a moral duty to protest what is happening to the Palestinians.
He also advised Israelis and Palestinians to start thinking of how to live together, giving the example of Northern Ireland where Protestants and Catholics learned to live together despite their differences.