South African MP and the grandson of Nelson Mandela, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, addressed a sold out crowd at the Palestine Expo in London over the weekend. During the opening session of the conference Mandela spoke of the “moral duty to support the BDS and to support the Palestinian struggle”.
The chosen successor of Nelson Mandela also gave a lecture in which he compared the experience of black South Africans living under white apartheid rule and Palestinians subjected to a similar apartheid regime under Israel’s brutal occupation.
The following is the text from Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela’s first speech.
On the 19th July 2018 the Knesset passed into law what we have always known to be the true character and reality of Israel: Israel is an apartheid state, period. For us as South Africans our experience of apartheid was defined by the following key defining characteristics:
- statutory discrimination
- pass laws
- group areas
- labour reservation
- separate and unequal development
- land expropriation
- movement restrictions: the wall
- military state: road blocks and random searches
- assault on dignity and human rights
All these characteristics were present in Apartheid Israel since its inception but have now been codified and given constitutional status and expression by the Nation-State Law.
Apartheid Israel perpetuates statutory discrimination through the very definition by the Nation-State Law as a Jewish State. By doing so it renders non-Jews as secondary citizens alternatively as foreigners in the land of their birth by virtue of who they are and who they are not.
Although Israeli Jews and Arab Israelis already had different national identity documents that defined them as such, the Nation-State Law further emphasises that differentiation. Even “Arab Israelis” and I say that in inverted commas because it’s the original sin of stripping Palestinians of their historic roots, have to apply to go to their ancestral homes once exiled to the West Bank and many horrific stories of students from Gaza who have gone abroad to study and have been denied the right of return or they have to go through virtually impossible hurdles to obtain permission to return home. In some cases people wait as long as eight years for responses to an application and many are still denied.
In defining the Zionist character of Apartheid Israel the Nation-State Law affirms the large-scale theft of land, farms and homes from Palestinians who were forced into exile by programs and wave after wave of massacres since 1948. Such actions merited Nuremberg in the aftermath of Nazi Germany and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after Apartheid. Entire towns, villages and neighbourhoods have been stolen and usurped and stripped of its ownership, character, culture and language. These are now defined as Jewish Areas in the same way that Apartheid South Africa attempted to redefine District Six, Feitas, and Sophiatown under the pernicious Group Areas Act.
Through defining, restricting and reserving the Jewish character of occupied Palestine, the Nation-State Law therefore reserves all economic opportunity, trade and work opportunities in such areas and hence is no different from Apartheid South Africa’s labour reservation policies that perpetuates unemployment, economic hardship and suffering for Palestinians.
The Nation-State Law unapologetically advances the separate and unequal development of Jews and Palestinians in Israel. The practice of Afropobia even for Jews of African descent is a matter of public record.
The Nation-State Law provides legal and statutory justification for land expropriation which has continued unabated since 1948 and in fact lays the groundwork for the annexation of the West Bank and the total usurpation of the entire city of Jerusalem as the capital of Apartheid Israel.
The South African Apartheid state developed the Bantustans to advance movement restrictions by Blacks and pass laws to limit their entry into urban towns. In the cold war era the Berlin Wall was a symbol of similar movement restriction. Apartheid Israel’s grotesque wall took this to another level cutting into huge swathes of Palestinian land, dividing homesteads, separating families, destroying productive farms, uprooting agricultural stock with olive tree groves hundreds of years old being decimated all in the name of movement restriction and separate development under the guise of safety and security.
With six million refugees, thousands of political prisoners and a growing internal popular protest the Nation-State Law provides further ammunition to Apartheid Israel’s character as a military state. The final dream of Israeli Zionism can only be achieved through what we called state brutality, road blocks and random searches.
Even accounts by Israeli opposition, academics and the Jewish left regard the Nation-State Law as an assault on dignity and human rights of not only Palestinians but other minorities.
The Nation-State Law is an expression of the Arab-Israeli conflict which remains unresolved to this day. At its most fundamental expression it is about the colonial character of Israel. It perpetuates the myth of “land without people for a people without land”. It is for this reason that Section 1 of the law, which defines Israel as the historical homeland of the Jewish people and exclusively grants the Jewish people the right to national self-determination in the country.
The Nation-State Law affirms what we have always said: In reality Israel is an Apartheid State.
When one examines the reactions to the Nation-State Law, it is clear that there are a divergence of views: “For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the law takes Israel to its historical destiny – fulfilling the tenets of Zionism. Some Arab Members of the Knesset, on the other hand, ripped up copies of the law as it was adopted and repeatedly shouted “apartheid” at its supporters. In addition, the Jewish opposition, many civil society organisations and even President Reuven Rivlin denounced the law as being discriminatory, unnecessary and flawed.
This divergency of views is inconsequential and will not change the defining characteristic of Israel as an Apartheid State.
The distinguishing features of the Nation-State Law is that it is racist, non-democratic, ethnic and discriminatory. Section 7 of the Nation-State Law says: “The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value, and shall act to encourage and promote its establishment and strengthening.” In practice it is directed at the following:
- Affirming Israel’s colonial character
- Confirming the Apartheid reality of inequality, discrimination and separate development
- Liquidation of what remains of the Palestinian State including annexation of the West Bank
- Legitimising illegal settlements and continued expansion
- Liquidation of any remaining Arab majorities in Israel
- Usurping the entire Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish State
- Encouraging further worldwide migration of Jews to Israel
- Outlaw any possibility of the return of six million Palestinian refugees
Israel is an Apartheid State and to us who experienced Apartheid South Africa, we regard Apartheid Israel to be the worst form of Apartheid.
Finally, the motivation for the Nation-State Law is mainly fuelled by three developments:
Firstly, stagnation in the peace process with the Palestinians has meant that, for the majority of Israelis, the most important social goal is no longer a peace agreement, but the preservation of Israel as a Jewish state.
Secondly, to reject the demands of post-Zionists and the Arab minority in the country who want to define Israel as a neutral rather than a Jewish state.
Thirdly, the Nation-State Law serves as a proactive statement against attempts to de-legitimise Israel, in particular by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is campaigning internationally for economic, political and cultural sanctions against Israel.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.