South Africa votes to limit diplomatic ties with 'apartheid Israel'

South Africa votes to limit diplomatic ties with 'apartheid Israel'
The former apartheid nation's support for Palestine remains unswayed while Israeli violence continues to rise.
2 min read
08 March, 2023
Both grassroots and high-level support for Palestine has continued to grow in South Africa [Getty images]

South Africa's parliament voted on Tuesday in favour of limiting diplomatic relations with Israel over growing deadly violence and repression against Palestinians. 

Lawmakers mandated the downgrading of South Africa's embassy in Tel Aviv to a 'liaison office', after a wave of raids by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank so far this year killed at least 68 Palestinians.

Israel has been described as an apartheid state by leading independent NGOs.

"As South Africans, we refuse to stand by while apartheid is being perpetrated again," said the National Freedom Party in a statement released on Tuesday following the landmark vote. 

Israel faces a fractured picture over its foreign policy in Africa after a decades-long attempt at outreach, to bolster its international standing and thwart support for the Palestinian cause.

While the Sudan government has normalised ties with Israel, support for Palestinians remains strong across the continent. 

In late February, Israel’s representative to the African Union was summarily expelled from the bloc’s meeting in Addis Ababa. 

Israel’s presence as an official observer at the African Union in 2021, despite widespread support for Palestinians among member states, has spread increasing rancour among in the bloc. 

At the time Israel’s foreign ministry described South Africa and Algeria as "extremist countries" for allegedly leading the move to remove Israel’s observer status. 

Black South Africans were subject to horrifying treatment and oppression by the country's white minority under apartheid, a system that leading South African freedom fighters have said is being replicated now by Israel against Palestinians.

In recent years, South Africa has shown itself willing to pull diplomatic levers in support of Palestinian rights - having recalled its ambassador in 2018 over Israel’s massacre of 60 Gazans during the Great Return March

The former apartheid state has also been highly vocal at the UN Security Council, lambasting member states for its failure to end Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, describing it as "a profound stain" against the mission of the body.