The Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) has declared Israel to be an apartheid state, in comments that appear to be a rebuke for Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Last month, the 67-year-old head of the worldwide Anglican communion refused to describe Israel as an apartheid state, brushing aside the broad consensus within the human rights community and a wealth of evidence concerning the occupation state’s practice of apartheid.
“As people of faith who are distressed by the pain of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza — and who long for security and a just peace for both Palestine and Israel — we can no longer ignore the realities on the ground,” said the South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba.
When black South Africans who have lived under apartheid visit Israel, the parallels to apartheid are impossible to ignore
“Our hearts ache for our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine, whose numbers include Anglicans but are rapidly declining. People of all faiths in South Africa have both a deep understanding of what it is to live under oppression, as well as experience of how to confront and overcome unjust rule by peaceful means,” he continued, before comparing Israel to South Africa under apartheid rule.
“When black South Africans who have lived under apartheid visit Israel, the parallels to apartheid are impossible to ignore. If we stand by and keep quiet, we will be complicit in the continuing oppression of the Palestinians.”
Makgoba concluded with a call to end Israel’s “occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and for full recognition of the Palestinians’ inalienable right to self-determination.”
The ACSA brings together over four million Christians from South Africa and four other countries located in the southern part of the continent. The organisation, formerly led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was highly influential in the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa from 1948 to the early 1990s.
Three years ago, the ACSA declared its support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, but its members had refused to declare Israel an apartheid state until now. The latter stance was part of the comprehensive policy of the worldwide Anglican Church. In declaring its support for BDS, the ACSA acknowledged that due to South African’s own experience of apartheid, “Southern Africans have a special responsibility to stand by the oppressed in the same way that others in the international community stood with us during our own oppression.”
Makgoba’s statement comes on the back of comments made by Welby, the highest-ranking figure in the Anglican church. “I don’t want to use the word apartheid because the apartheid regime in South Africa – and I knew Desmond Tutu and listened to him at length on this – the apartheid regime was built on a constitution that in the very fabric of the constitution, set up apartheid,” explained Welby. His reference to Tutu was viewed as an insincere attempt to land weight to his baseless claim. Tutu, a lifelong campaigner against racism and a hero in the campaign against white South-Africa had himself declared his conviction that Israel is an apartheid state.