By Douglas LeBlanc
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa, echoing Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, has declared its belief that Israel is an apartheid state. The Anglican province’s standing committee also weighs in on pilgrimages to Israel, saying they should “include an interfaith (or at the very least ‘Abrahamic’) component and a discussion regarding the current situation of Christians in the Holy Land.”
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba expressed his support of the two resolutions.
“As people of faith who are distressed by the pain of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza — and who long for security and a just peace for both Palestine and Israel — we can no longer ignore the realities on the ground,” Makgoba wrote on his blog. “We are opposed not to the Jewish people, but to the policies of Israel’s governments, which are becoming ever more extreme.”
He added: “For Christians, the Holy Land is the place where Jesus was born, nurtured, crucified, and raised. Our hearts ache for our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine, whose numbers include Anglicans but are rapidly declining. People of all faiths in South Africa have both a deep understanding of what it is to live under oppression, as well as experience of how to confront and overcome unjust rule by peaceful means. When black South Africans who have lived under apartheid visit Israel, the parallels to apartheid are impossible to ignore. If we stand by and keep quiet, we will be complicit in the continuing oppression of the Palestinians.”
Mosiuoa Lekota, a longtime anti-apartheid activist who served time in Robben Island Prison alongside Nelson Mandela and was South Africa’s minister of defense (1999-2008), disputed efforts to describe Israel as an apartheid state. Lakota left the African National Congress in 2008 to found a new party called the Congress of the People.
“I was in Israel, my brother,” Lekota said on a video interview produced by South African friends of Israel. “There are no buses that are for Jews and these are for other tribes.”
Freedom House in Washington, D.C., describes Israel as a free nation. While also describing Israel’s fraught policies regarding Palestinians, Freedom House rates the nation as scoring 77 on a scale of 100. Its rating system considers multiple points under the headings of political rights and civil liberties.
These are the scores of other nations and territories in the region. Freedom House addresses the roles of Israel, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority in the scores of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.