S Africa: World must urge Israel to stop ‘crime against humanity’ in Gaza

Top diplomat Nalendi Pandor says she sees ‘very clear similarities’ between Israel’s occupation and system of apartheid.

South Africa's foreign minister
South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor [File: Andrew Harnik/ AP Photo]

The world has seen enough of the tragedy in Gaza and it is time for countries to use their influence over Israel to put a stop to “this real crime against humanity”, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor has said.

South Africa was one of the few countries that cut ties with Israel in response to its attack on the Gaza Strip.

Pandor told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that her government may refer Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as it continues its assault on Gaza.

“We are appalled at how this horror and tragedy that is unfolding continues to get worse and worse. I think the world has seen enough, and it is time for the most powerful in the world to put a stop to this horror that Israel is unfolding against the people of Palestine,” she said.

“It is only countries that have influence over Israel who can stop this real crime against humanity that we are seeing right before our eyes.”

The Palestinian people experience conditions similar to those in apartheid South Africa, she added.

South Africa has been outspoken about the plight of Palestinians and recalled its diplomats from Israel this month, as the death toll from Israel’s bombardment of Gaza continues to climb.

Palestinian authorities have said that more than 11,200 people in Gaza, more than a third of them children, have been killed since Israel began its attack on the Gaza Strip in retaliation for an attack by Hamas that Israeli authorities say killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

While that attack by Hamas was widely condemned, Israel’s response has garnered criticism as a campaign of relentless air strikes has wiped out entire neighbourhoods and as an Israeli siege chokes off access to necessities such as food, fuel and electricity for Gaza’s 2.3 million residents.

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The United Nations has said that about 70 percent of people in Gaza have been displaced, with few options for safe haven as Israeli strikes pound every corner of the Strip, including areas that Israel told Palestinians they should relocate to in order to avoid the fighting.

“We would have anticipated that the ICC would react much earlier because thousands of people have been mowed down,” Pandor said. “And these are innocent Palestinian people who have suffered decades of harassment and occupation.”

That occupation, she said, also has “very, very clear similarities,” to some of the practices that defined apartheid South Africa.

“We know people cannot own property, [and] that property can be seized without any compensation, which is what we experienced in our own country. People have to carry identity documents that reflect your ethnicity rather than citizenship. All of this is part of the apartheid feature,” Pandor told Al Jazeera.

“So, there can be no denial that the corollary between the conduct of the Israeli state against the people of Palestine is so closely aligned to the apartheid conduct.”

Source: Al Jazeera