A South African youth leader has strongly rebuked the charge that Israel is an apartheid state and called on activists to stop appropriating the term when describing its conflict with the Palestinians, The Times of Israel reported Monday.
Nkululeko Nkosi, 23, is a member of Africans for Peace, a self-described “collective of independent students, scholars and activists who bring an African lens to the global debate on peace and stability on our continent and around the world,” which includes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Nkosi is also the Wits University Branch Chairman of the African National Congress Youth League, and once believed that Israel was an apartheid state. But after visiting the country and closely studying the issues, he reached the opposite conclusion.
In a briefing published by Africans for Peace last November, Nkosi argued that, as victims of apartheid, black South Africans are the best positioned to determine whether or not Israel qualifies as an apartheid state. His position is unequivocal: “Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the same rights and freedoms as Jewish Israelis. On my last trip to Israel, I found that unlike apartheid South Africa, there is no deliberate effort by the government to segregate a specific group in Israel. In day-to-day discussions with ordinary Israeli citizens, I learned from Arabs and Jews, and I sensed their burning desire to live together as harmonious neighbors. In apartheid South Africa, Afrikaners disdained black South Africans, and these sentiments are still in evidence today.”
In Israel, there is a free press and universal suffrage, unlike in apartheid South Africa, Nkosi noted. “The apartheid government would not have allowed a person of color to hold any position of influence, while in Israel, Arabs are found in the highest ranks of political, civil, and even military life."
“Please – don’t steal the word ‘apartheid’!...Those who apply the term ‘apartheid’ to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse are guilty of perpetuating that same theft, by denying the uniqueness of the racism and hatred that we faced, and which we have overcome with much blood and tears," Nkosi stressed.
Benjamin Pogrund, an activist who was jailed for opposing the apartheid regime in South Africa, wrote in The New York Times last month that Israel "is nothing like South Africa before 1994. Those who accuse Israel of apartheid — some even say, 'worse than apartheid' — have forgotten what actual apartheid was, or are ignorant, or malevolent."
It's either us or them--
Russia must choose between partnering with the United States or the Iranian axis, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a meeting of the G7 nations in Italy on Tuesday. “We want to relieve the suffering of the Syrian people. Russia can be a part of that future and play an important role,” Tillerson explained. “Or Russia can maintain its alliance with this group [Iran, Assad, and Hezbollah], which we believe is not going to serve Russia’s interests longer term.”
The secretary of state blasted Moscow for failing to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from attacking his own people with chemical weapons, claiming it was a result of either Russian incompetence or unwillingness. Either way, he said, the distinction “doesn’t much matter to the dead.” Due to a 2013 agreement, the Syrian regime was supposed to have gotten rid of all of its chemical weapons; Russia was the guarantor of that agreement.
“It is clear to all of us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end,” Tillerson added, although he did not state explicitly how this would happen. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was in agreement: “no future in Syria is possible with Bashar Assad,” he said. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel added, "I think we have to show a united position and that in these negotiations we should do all we can to get Russia out of Assad's corner.”
After the G7 meeting, Tillerson took off for Moscow, where he is scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday and plans to present a united G7 position on Russian involvement in Syria.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that the American strike on the Syrian Shayrat airbase last week took out one-fifth of Assad’s air force. "The Syrian government has lost the ability to refuel or rearm aircraft at Shayrat airfield and at this point, use of the runway is of idle military interest," Mattis said. "The Syrian government would be ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons."
Turkey’s health minister confirmed on Tuesday that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used sarin gas in its recent attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province. The Associated Press reported Recep Akdag’s announcement that “blood and urine samples taken from the victims confirmed that they were subjected to the nerve agent.” Turkey performed autopsies on three Syrians killed in the attack last week.
The Turkish finding corroborates the reports of Syrian doctors on the ground in Khan Sheikhoun in the immediate aftermath of the attack. They observed constricted pupils that did not respond to light, foaming at the mouth, incessant vomiting, uncontrollable spasms, unconsciousness, and paralysis, all of which are consistent with the effects of sarin poisoning. Sarin is the same nerve agent the Assad regime used against civilians in the suburbs of Damascus in an August 2013 attack, which left 1,429 people dead, including 426 children.
“The raid in Khan Sheikhoun indicates Assad’s growing confidence” following the reconquest of Aleppo and other military victories, which have only been possible due to the “unflinching support of Moscow and Shia militias backed by Iran,” Kareem Shaheen of The Guardian wrote last week.
On April 5, 28 Eurovision finalists planted trees in Israel representing their countries during a four-day promotional tour ahead of the 62nd Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev, May 9-13, 2017. The planting was held in the Eurovision Forest, a section of the Keren Kayemet L’Israel-Jewish National Fund Presidents Forest. The artists and accompanying journalists, bloggers and videographers from 28 countries – Armenia to Switzerland, plus Israel — received a guided tour of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Herzliya. On April 5, the contestants performed their songs for local and international media at the Theater Club in Tel Aviv. Eurovision reportedly is viewed live by some 200 million people in Europe, Australia, the United States, China, Canada and other countries. “Israel Calling 2017” marked the second time that the majority of Eurovision Song Contest participants have toured Israel. The project, initiated and produced by Tali Eshkoli, is held in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, the Jewish National Fund, StandWithUs and the Herzliya and Tel Aviv-Yafo municipalities. (via Israel21c)