Letters | Israel is not an apartheid state: An open letter to Reverend Frank Chikane

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Reverend Frank Chikane. Photo: Elizabeth Sejake
Reverend Frank Chikane. Photo: Elizabeth Sejake


Reverend Frank Chikane’s article on Palestine/Israel (55 years without resolution | Israel worse than apartheid SA, City Press June 12) refers.

I grew up loving and respecting you as a pastor of the Apostolic Faith Mission where I was brought up by my parents. You had a huge influence on my life and would like to thank you for that. Your wife Mme Kagiso Chikane played an important role in my life as she was my lecturer at the university in Soweto where I obtained my degree in 1994. I will always be grateful for your contribution to my upbringing.

Having said that, I am perturbed by your narrow perspective and untruthful statements that you uttered in the media after your visit to Palestine/Israel.

READ: Mondli Makhanya | Now, what about Israel?

My pastor, some of your uncalculated statements are deceptive and a stumbling block to the peace process in that region. The following are a few of the inaccurate and counterfactual claims you have made:

You say Israel is an apartheid state. That is a lie. On the two occasions that I have visited that country, I went to schools, hospitals, and hotels, and I never saw any sign of apartheid. All the races are accepted in any government institution. Schools and all the centres of learning are multiracial. There are even black refugees from Africa that are attending schools in Israel.

Hospitals are full of all kinds of people, including those who are from as far as Kenya, who are seeking medical help. Sometimes this help is offered for free.

READ: Apartheid Israel is no different from South Africa’s historical oppression

The military has Jews, Muslims and Christians as well as other religions that make up the demographics of Israel. The Israeli Parliament (Knesset) is made of political parties representing all races, religions and creeds.

Israeli hotels are for everybody, including Arabs and tourists from all over the world. Public transport is for everybody. Entertainment events are attended by both Israelis and Palestinians.

Is this apartheid, reverend? Is this what happened in South Africa? It is a lie to say Israel is an apartheid state. Please refrain from using the mishaps of our country to entertain the world. Former president Nelson Mandela visited that region and never called it by that name.

Furthermore, when you pronounce that the president of Palestine cannot move freely in his state, you have been misinformed.

READ: Tutu: The voice of conscience from apartheid to democracy and beyond

One of the reasons President Mahmoud Abbas can’t move freely is because of the differences that his political party the Palestine Liberation Organisation has with Hamas, which runs Gaza.

Did Abbas tell you that the Palestinian people are accusing him of corruption? Did president Abbas tell you he has not had an election in 15 years and that he cancelled the last Palestinian election that was supposed to be held last year?

Your cake seems to be half-baked, reverend. Please do more research on Israel and Palestine.

One of the statements you made, that I feel is completely incorrect and with due respect to you, servant of the highest God, you must be ashamed of, is comparing Israel/Palestine with Russia/Ukraine. Innocent women and children in Ukraine are killed for no reason. More than 6 million people are displaced, houses and factories are destroyed, men and women are buried in mass graves, people’s hard-earned wealth is destroyed, bombs and fighter jets are killing people of Ukraine.

This is why the world is boycotting Russia. This is not the same as a country such as Israel that must defend itself against the rockets of Hamas against civilian targets. Surely you owe the people of Palestine, Israel and Ukraine an apology for uttering such careless words.

I had hoped you would promote negotiations as a solution to peace, and condemn Abbas who continually says weapons must be turned towards the enemy.

But this is not the way, perhaps you could have encouraged the leaders in both states to stop any form of violence and follow what South Africa did during our difficult time. This was to encourage ordinary people on the ground to engage and find a way forward.

In conclusion, my advice to you, Reverend Chikane is that the Bible that you and I are preaching from every Sunday says: 

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Pastor Tom Mofokeng is chairperson of COPE in Gauteng


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