Mustafa Barghouthi says South Africa familiar with Israel’s apartheid policy 27Oct11 October 27, 2011

Ma’an News Agency – 26 October 2011

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — South Africa’s support of the Palestinian UN bid stems from its familiarity with Israel’s apartheid policy in Palestine, Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouthi said Wednesday.

South Africa on Tuesday threw its weight behind Palestine’s bid to become a full member of the United Nations and called on the international body to settle the bid quickly.

“South Africa looks forward, sooner (rather) than later, to welcoming Palestine as the 194th member of the United Nations,” the government said in a statement.

“South Africa wishes to reaffirm its conviction: that Palestine is a state, that Palestine is a peace-loving state, and that Palestine is willing and able to carry out its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations.”

Barghouthi said: “We appreciate and thank South Africa for its support which is consistent with [...] its realization that the apartheid Israel has created in Palestine is even worse than the apartheid that prevailed at one point of time in South Africa.”

The lawmaker, who heads the Palestinian National Initiative, said he hoped other countries would follow South Africa’s position, particularly the US.

President Mahmoud Abbas made a historic application to join the UN to a standing ovation in the UN General Assembly in September. The 15-member Security Council pushed back the bid to a special membership committee to give its verdict.

The United States and Israel both strongly oppose the bid and say that only direct Israeli-Palestinian talks can create a Palestinian state.

South Africa, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, accused the Council of being “paralyzed by inaction” in resolving conflict in the Middle East while it acted speedily in dealing with the Arab Spring.

South Africa welcomed a proposal for new peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine brokered by the Mideast Quartet — a group comprising the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — and called for an agreement before the proposed deadline of end 2012.

Barghouthi noted that each time the Quartet met, Israel declared new settlements.

The South African government condemned Israel’s recent plan to build 1,100 houses in occupied territories.

“The single major obstacle to the negotiations is clearly the incessant building of illegal settlements by Israel,” the government statement read.

Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Tuesday said he planned to build one million new housing units over the next decade, an announcement Barghouthi described as “the death toll to two states.”

Barghouthi added: “We need not only condemnation but an immediate act of sanctions by the international community similar to what was done during apartheid in South Africa.”

South Africa is a long-time supporter of Palestinian rights, and its government has said Israel’s policies are reminiscent of apartheid.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many other veterans of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid have drawn parallels between Israel’s government and that of apartheid South Africa.

In 2009, Tutu compared Israel’s refusal to negotiate with Hamas with the South African government’s refusal to talk to Nelson Mandela.

“It’s the same thing that happened in South Africa for a very long time,” he told Ma’an during a visit to the West Bank. “The apartheid government said they wouldn’t negotiate with Nelson Mandela, and so on – and they had to.”

Palestine also enjoys support on a grass-roots level in South Africa.

In September, Ameera Allie, a student in Cape Town, wrote to US President Barack Obama in response to his speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

In her letter, Allie acknowledged Obama’s insistence that “peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN” but asked the president what strategies he believed would bring peace to Palestine.

“The Palestinians have seen their vision and dream of statehood delayed for too long,” she wrote.

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