South Africa likens Israeli restrictions to apartheid

The South African government has compared new Israeli military restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank to apartheid pass laws.

The South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation issued a statement condemning the restrictions as “a gross violation of an individual’s human rights,” saying that the military order “further exacerbates the already fragile situation in Palestine,” according to a report in the daily Cape Times.

Israel has said the newly updated military order, designed to prevent infiltrations into the West Bank by requiring that residents have proper identification, has been in effect for many years. The order was updated recently to require an immediate hearing before a judge for illegal movement.

Avichai Adrai, the Israeli army spokesman for the Arabic media, said last week in a conference call with Palestinian journalists that the order actually will help legalize the presence of Gaza Palestinians who fled the coastal strip and now reside in the West Bank.

Americans for Peace now has charged that the updated order, which went into effect April 13, could lead to the arrest of an unknown number of Palestinian residents of the West Bank, as well as internationals living and working there.

“South Africa, because of its history, is particularly sensitive to the infringement of human rights that the carrying of a permit implies and the unilateral punishments that can be brought to bear on an individual by the state,” the South African statement said. It also said that the provisions were unclear and seemed “to disregard the existence of the Palestinian Authority and the agreements Israel signed with it and the PLO.”