Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Not Like Apartheid, South African Lawmaker Says

October 17, 2003 - 7:14 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Anyone who believes that Israeli-Palestinian relations can be compared to the South Africa's former apartheid system is making a false comparison, a South African legislator said in Jerusalem this week.

Dr. Kenneth Meshoe, a black South African parliament member and leader of the fastest growing political party, the African Christian Democratic Party, said he sees no evidence of apartheid in Israel.

"If anybody says to you that there's apartheid in Israel, tell them that the man that was oppressed under apartheid from South Africa says that's a big lie," said Meshoe.

"Apartheid was based on the color of our skin," Meshoe told CNSNews.com. "Because we are not white we had a law that said we [were] second-class citizens and we [were] denied basic human rights.

"Now it doesn't make sense to try to bring up the issue of apartheid in a country like this [Israel] because to my notice there is no law that discriminates against people on the basis of their color and also there is no law that discriminates against people on the basis of their religion," said Meshoe, who also is a pastor of a large church.

As a Christian, he said, Israel allows him to pray and practice his religion freely as it does also for Muslims.

Last year, Islamic and Arab countries dominated an international conference against racism, held in Durban, South Africa, focusing attention almost entirely on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and winning condemnation for Zionism as racism. Zionism is the national movement through which the State of Israel was founded.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell boycotted the conference because of it.

Palestinians took advantage of the South African venue to explain their cause in terms of apartheid.

"I think it's just a strategy that the Palestinians are using to get sympathy from people," Meshoe said. "Most people in the world were sympathetic to black people in South Africa because of apartheid.

"Now they [the Palestinians] saw the sympathy at that time because of apartheid. Now they think that if they use the same word apartheid that the sympathy that the people had on blacks in South Africa will be upon them also as Palestinians," he said.

According to Meshoe, it is unfair to call Israel an apartheid state and accuse it of being oppressive because of its war against terrorism.

"We believe that every responsible government must ensure that their citizens are living [in] safety and security," he said. "So if there is a threat of terror, government has got a God-given responsibility to protect and defend their members. They can use whatever force they have to use in order to crush terrorism."

Meshoe was in Jerusalem to attend the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem's 24th annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration. More than 3,600 Christian Zionists from more than 60 countries attended the weeklong conference this year, which coincides with the Biblical Feast of Succoth.

Christian Zionists believe the Bible teaches that the Holy Land was bequeathed to the Jewish people as an eternal inheritance, which is the modern day State of Israel.

While many are sympathetic to the real hardships of Palestinians, they believe that the Land of Israel includes all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where Palestinians hope to have a state.

David Parsons, media spokesman of the ICEJ, said it is not just Evangelical Christians but other Christians, too, that believe this.

"We always have Catholics in this event, its not just Protestant, Evangelical Christians from America," Parsons said.

"It's all streams of Christianity because they are reading their Bible [and] they are coming to understand its significance and the modern rebirth of Israel," he added.

Also attending the conference for the first time this year was a high-level delegation of Russian-Orthodox Christians.

Leading the delegation of priests, theologians, philosophers and politicians was Father Joseph Kuperman, a Russian Orthodox priest.

Father Joseph told reporters at a press conference that many people in the Russian Orthodox Church had never read what Christians call the Old Testament part of the Bible and didn't know anything about Israel. Some Russian peasants even believe that Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, was born in Siberia, he said.

This visit to Israel was the beginning of trying to change attitudes towards Israel in Russia, Father Joseph said, and the beginning of a movement in Russia for the support of Israel.