News Release

Israel, Apartheid and Boycott Movements

Share Mandela is scheduled to lie in state before his funeral on Sunday.

BILL FLETCHER, billfletcherjr at
Fletcher is a columnist for and a former president of TransAfrica Forum. He just wrote: “We Must Celebrate the Life and Work of Nelson Mandela.” Last year, he wrote the piece “Why Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Should Be Used to Target Israeli Apartheid.” This BDS approach has been endorsed by retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who wrote last year: “A quarter-century ago I barnstormed around the United States encouraging Americans, particularly students, to press for divestment from South Africa. Today, regrettably, the time has come for similar action to force an end to Israel’s long-standing occupation of Palestinian territory and refusal to extend equal rights to Palestinian citizens…”

SURAYA DADOO, suraya_dadoo at, @MRN1SA
Dadoo author of Why Israel? The Anatomy of Zionist Apartheid: A South African Perspective. She is also a researcher with the Media Review Network in Johannesburg.

MTHUNZI MBULI, MUHAMMED DESAI, mdesai at, @BDSsouthafrica
Mbuli and Desai are members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Against Israel in South Africa. Desai said today: “Israel was one of the staunchest and longest standing allies of white-ruled Apartheid South Africa. After his release from prison in 1990 Nelson Mandela commented how he had received invites to visit ‘almost every country in the world, except Israel.'”

Mbuli added: “It’s ludicrous that [Israel Prime Minister] Netanyahu [claimed] that his flight to South Africa is too expensive.” The group cites the likelihood of protests and even the possibility of arrest. “Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, cancelled her trip to South Africa in 2011 due to threats of arrest,” says Mbuli; see “Livni Cancels SA Trip After Arrest Threats.”

Mbuli added: “Upon meeting with Palestine’s Yasser Arafat in 1990, Nelson Mandela said: ‘I sincerely believe that there are many similarities between our struggle and that of the Palestine Liberation Organization. We [South Africans and Palestinians respectively] live under a unique form of colonialism in South Africa, as well as in Israel, and a lot flows from that.’ … In September 2002, Mandela said of Israel: ‘What we know is that Israel has weapons of mass destruction. Nobody talks about that.’

“Earlier this year, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane publicly criticized Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine saying: ‘Ministers of South Africa do not visit Israel currently … our Palestinian friends have asked us in formal meetings to not engage with the [Israeli] regime. We have agreed to slow down and curtail senior leadership contact with that regime until things begin to look better.”

See: NBC News report on Israeli President Shimon Peres: “Israeli Leader Who Mourned Mandela’s Death Helped White Regime Get Missiles.” From the Guardian in 2010: “Revealed: How Israel Offered to Sell South Africa Nuclear Weapons.”

When Mandela visited the U.S. in 1990, his expressions of support of the Palestinians caused a major controversy; see: Los Angles Times: “Mandela Defends Ties to Arafat, Kadafi.” See video of his Nightline “town hall” interview with Ted Koppel.