Agence France-Presse reports
South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane was reacting to Israel's recent approval
of 1,500 new settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem.
"The arrangement there in Palestine keeps us awake," said Nkoana-Mashabane, who was addressing members of Cosatu, the nation's largest trade union and an ally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
"The last time I looked at the map of Palestine, I could not go to sleep. Its dots, [they're] smaller than those of the homelands," Nkoana-Mashabane added, referring to the former Bantustans
, tiny territorial enclaves where millions of black South Africans were forced to live during the racial segregation of apartheid.
It's not the first time that the Bantustan analogy has been used to describe what former US President George W. Bush warned could be a "Swiss cheese state"
in Palestine-- an economically unviable scattering of isolated enclaves surrounded by Israeli troops, territory and settlements. Former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema claims
then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon actually told him that the "bantustan model" was the best solution to the Palestine problem.
It's also not the first time prominent South Africans have spoken out strongly against Israeli policies and actions in Palestine.
Former South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his anti-apartheid work, has accused
Israel of practicing "apartheid," lamenting "the humiliation of Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about." Tutu was called an anti-Semite, something former Israeli education minister Shulamit Aloni says
is a "trick" Zionists use to delegitimize critics, and was subjected to racist abuse, including being called a "black Nazi pig,"
when he visited Jerusalem in 1989.
ANC Chairwoman Baleka Mbete, who has also visited Palestine, condemned
a situation she called "far worse than apartheid in South Africa."
Former US President Jimmy Carter has also embraced the 'apartheid' analogy. In 2006, Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering
the historic Israel-Egypt peace deal at Camp David in 1978, echoed Mbete and said that Israel's apartheid is worse
than South Africa's was.
"When Israel [occupies] territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200 or so settlements with each other with a road and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing that road, this perpetuates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa."
Israeli settlements are illegal
under international law, as the Fourth Geneva Convention expressly states that "shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territory it occupies." But many Israelis believe that 'God' promised
them, ''His' chosen people,' all of Palestine, which was the site of ancient Jewish kingdoms. But from biblical times until the early 20th century, Jews never numbered more than 10 percent
of the population of the territory that would become the modern Jewish state of Israel.
According to the United Nations, Israel has established around 150 official settler colonies, as well as another 100 or so unapproved outposts, since conquering and illegally occupying
the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six Day War. In 1972, there were some 10,000 Jews living in settlements. By 2008, there were more than 500,000,
with thousands more Jews settling on Palestinian land each year.
United Nations human rights official Richard Falk, an American, said in 2011 that Israeli settlement expansion is a "form of ethnic cleansing."