South Africa Says Palestinians Endure ‘More Extreme Form of Apartheid’


South Africa said Tuesday that Israel’s policies toward Palestinians were “a more extreme form of apartheid,” invoking its own charged history of racial discrimination to add to global pressure on Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The court, the United Nations’ highest judicial body, is hearing six days of arguments over Israel’s “occupation, settlement and annexation” of Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The U.N. General Assembly asked the court to review the legality of Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories more than a year ago, before Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

In the proceedings, which began Monday, more than 50 countries were scheduled to argue before the 15-judge bench over the next week, a level of participation never before seen at the court. The court is expected to issue an advisory opinion that would be nonbinding. Israel has said it will not participate in the oral arguments, saying the questions before the court were biased.

South Africa’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Vusi Madonsela, addressed the judges on Tuesday morning, weeks after his country argued at the court that Israel was committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. In that case, the court ordered Israel, which has denied the charges, to take action to prevent genocide in Gaza, but has not yet ruled on whether one is occurring.

Mr. Madonsela, recalling South Africa’s “painful experience” of decades of apartheid and discrimination, drew parallels with what he called Israel’s colonization of Palestinian territories it seized in 1967. Citing the separate court systems, land zoning rules, roads and housing rights for Palestinians, he said Israel had put in place a “two-tier system of laws, rules and services” that benefit Jewish settlers while “denying Palestinians rights.”

Israel has long denied that it operates an apartheid system, calling such allegations a slur.

South Africans see “an even more extreme form of the apartheid that was institutionalized against Black people in my country,” Mr. Madonsela said. He said that South Africa had a special obligation to call out apartheid practices wherever they occur. He also called on Israel to dismantle the separation wall between Israel and the West Bank, which the court had ordered be removed in 2004 and still stands.

The United States is scheduled to make arguments on Wednesday.


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