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Israel is an apartheid state: former South African cabinet minister

by Archives March 10, 2009

Criticism of Israel can’t be equated with anti-Semitism, said Ronnie Kasrils, a leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and a former member of Nelson Mandela’s cabinet.
“There might be genuinely anti-Semitic people in the movement, but to equate a critique of Zionism as anti-Semitism is wrong and it’s false, and we can’t allow ourselves to be blackmailed,” he said.
Born in South Africa in 1938 to Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, Kasrils has become one of the most prominent members of the Israeli Apartheid movement and is frequent critic of the country. He was an important leader of the military wing of the African National Congress. After Mandela’s rise to power, he served in several cabinet posts, including Deputy Defence Minister and Minister of Intelligence, a post he held until last September.
Kasrils, who spoke Wednesday at McGill as part of Israeli Apartheid Week, stressed the similarities between what he witnessed in South Africa and the current situation in Israel and Palestinian territories.
“Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state,” Kasrils said. “It’s something you can see from afar. You can’t argue that to establish a state exclusively on race isn’t Apartheid. The ideology underpins all the laws they establish, and the measures, no matter how brutal.”
He also compared the founding of Israel to the colonization of South Africa and America. “The [South African] settlers from Europe tended to be Germans, Dutch, and Huguenots from France. Like American settlers, and Israelis, they used the Bible and the gun.”
When asked why he chose to campaign against Israel, rather than nations such as North Korea or Saudi Arabia, Kasrils said “people have a right to choose from their own perspective what rankles them the most. There’s something about apartheid that rankles people. Israeli policy is absolutely obnoxious and revolting. That kind of hypocrisy stinks more than a feudal state or an African or Latino State. I can’t take up every single issue, but when any member of the human race is oppressed, the whole is in pain.”
Hillel Montreal, a Jewish organization that supports Israel, released a statement condemning both Israeli Apartheid Week and Kasrils’ participation. “Hillel Montreal condemns both the gross mischaracterization of Israel and the systematic trivialization of the horrors of South African Apartheid. Considering Kasrils’ silence on the role of Hamas and Fatah, his defence of Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe, and his complicity in causing the Bisho Massacre of 1992, Hillel does not believe this speaker’s presence on campus serves any benefit to McGill students. In his attempt to apply the struggles of his younger years to a completely dissimilar topic, Kasrils has demonstrated a very limited understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said the statement.
Kasrils was leading a protest in the South African town of Bisho when security forces opened fire, killing at least 28 people. An inquiry into the massacre later criticized Kasrils for leading the protesters through barricades, which lead to the shootings.

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