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HomeGeopolitical CompassThe LevantIsrael and Apartheid: Lessons from the South African experience

Israel and Apartheid: Lessons from the South African experience

Author: Ziyad Motala

Affiliation: Howard Law School (Washington, DC) 

Organization/Publisher: TRT World

Date/Place: June 7, 2021/Istanbul, Turkey

Type of Literature: Analogy 

Word Count: 2200 


Keywords: Apartheid, South Africa, Israel


From a South African’s perspective, the state of Israel resembles apartheid South Africa for its colonial and systematic dehumanization of aboriginal people for the benefit of settler populations. The very essence of an apartheid state treats different groups differently based on immutable identities such as race, ethnicity, or religion. The Zionist state of Israel extolls itself as a “Jewish” and “democratic” state, making it a replica of apartheid South Africa when its settler colonialists’ lauded their system of racial segregation as a “white” and “democratic” state. White minorities were entitled to separate rights including superior access to housing, land, education, and a wide range of political and civil rights at the cost of black South Africans, who were even denied access to basic facilities such as water, housing, and electricity. Similarly, the Zionist state of Israel engages in dispossession and exploitation of Palestinian resources including land and water in the occupied territories to benefit Jewish settlers, it segregates infrastructures, and denationalizes and deprives the Palestinians of citizenship rights in addition to committing numerous human rights violations. Because of the accelerated decolonization movements that made apartheid South Africa a pariah state by the international community, apartheid in South Africa was overthrown not by violent confrontations, but by civil uprisings, sanctions, and boycotts that eroded the legitimacy of the racist system. As racist settler colonialism came to be rejected in South Africa, the same standard must be applied to Israel.


By: Jemal Muhamed, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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