Mbeki Says Israel Is Repeating
Apartheid Mistakes


CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Israel is repeating the mistakes of South Africa's apartheid rulers in its effort to crush a popular rebellion, South African President Thabo Mbeki said on Friday.
Mbeki said in a weekly online letter that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was wrong to demand an end to Palestinian violence as a pre-condition for talks.
South Africa has consistently criticized Israel's handling of the crisis, but Mbeki said he was equally concerned about the rights and the losses of both Israelis and Palestinians.
"When we call for respect for life, we must state firmly that we refer both to Israelis and Palestinians," he said.
"However...we must proceed from the concrete reality that the Israelis have their own independent state and homeland. The Palestinians do not."
Israeli forces launched a military offensive in the West Bank two weeks ago to try to crush Palestinian militants blamed for a series of suicide attacks that killed dozens of Israelis.
Mbeki said South Africa's own experience, in which tens of thousands of people died in the uprising against white minority rule, had shown that an oppressed people fought because they had "nothing to lose but their servitude", not because they were told to fight.
South Africa's white rulers, who negotiated themselves out of power between 1990 and 1994, fought for 30 years to maintain their exclusive hold on power.
Police and government agents shot protesters, assassinated civic leaders, jailed activists and banished high-profile opponents in a bid to break the uprising that eventually forced them into talks.
"The rulers of Israel are repeating the costly mistakes made by the captains of apartheid in our country," Mbeki said.
"Everything that has happened in the Palestinian territories in almost two years says, in action, that the Palestinians and especially the youth are ready to march against tanks and armoured cars because it is no longer possible for them to live as a dispossessed people.
"The attempt to search and destroy so-called agitators and terrorists in their midst, in the belief that these are the instigators of the rebellion, without whom the rebellion would cease, is to live in worse than a fool's paradise," he said.
Welcoming U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's peace mission, he said "The leaders of both the people of Israel and Palestine have a common responsibility to take advantage of the presence of the Secretary of State to break the chain of violence."
Powell, on a Middle East peace mission, is due to hold talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat on Saturday at Arafat's offices in Ramallah, besieged by Israeli forces.

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