Conversations about Apartheid: from South Africa to Palestine
Action for Peace #39
On March 19, the conference “Conversations on apartheid with Mandla Mandela and Desirée Bela” was held by videoconference, due to the recommended security measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19. The South African leader, grandson of Nelson Mandela, discussed through video conference the similarities between Israeli and South African apartheid. The event, part of Anti-Apartheid Week, coincides with the International Day Against Racism on March 21st, which this year commemorates the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa when police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration protesting against apartheid, killing 69 black people and injuring 180 others.
A dialogue took place with the anti-racist and afro-feminist speaker Desirée Bela. The event was also presented by Natàlia Abu Sharar, President of the Palestinian Community of Catalonia. The event was organised in coordination with organisations from Rome, Paris and London, as Mandla Mandela was unable to make his European tour due to the current Corvid-19 situation; BDS Italia, Solidarita por la Palestina, BDS France and Palestine Solidarity Campaign were some of them.
More than 1,000 people from 38 countries participated and more than 8,000 have already visited it online. The dialogue with Mandela began by asking him whether Israel is behaving like a racist state. In this regard, Mandela noted that there is indeed institutionalised racism, systematic control of Palestinian life, theft of crops, restrictions on agricultural and productive life and illegal annexations of Palestinian land. Mandla highlighted obvious parallels with South African apartheid, in a state that declares itself to be “the only democracy in the Middle East,” yet denies Palestinian people access to political power in order to change the status quo (Israel is defined as a Jewish state, automatically denying rights to the non-Jewish population), while ignoring UN resolutions.
Mandla ended with a strong message: “Apartheid is a crime against humanity”. And he appealed to the unity of the people, to the role of Africans and their ability to connect to Palestinian suffering from their own experience with colonialism and from the struggle against brutal and oppressive regimes, a fight that is not possible without the support of other peoples. “We must not rest until we achieve a free Palestine as well”.