July 20, 2013
As the world has reflected on Nelson Mandela's legacy and his fight against apartheid in South Africa, some have recalled his famous observation: "We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."
That special bond between two peoples and their national struggles has in recent times contributed to increasing South African efforts to challenge continuing Israeli human-rights abuses and systematic discrimination.
A few weeks ago, the outgoing South African ambassador to Israel used the opportunity of his departure to make striking criticism of Israeli policies, calling them a "replication of apartheid". Ismail Coovadia also rejected a gift of 18 trees planted in his name by the Jewish National Fund, a body that has played an important role in the displacement of Palestinians.
Not many countries find ambassadors talking of their policies in terms of apartheid, but coming from a senior South African diplomat, the charge stings all the more. It is a reflection of how South African politicians and civil society have increasingly embraced solidarity with Palestinians and taken the lead with regards to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)-related initiatives.