The former diplomat rejected an Israeli gesture to plant 18 trees in his honor in a national park named after South Africa.

South Africa’s former Ambassador to Israel, Ismail Coovadia, has described Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people as “a replication of Apartheid” and rejected an Israeli gesture to plant 18 trees in his honor in a national park named after South Africa.

“I have supported the struggle against Apartheid South Africa and now I cannot be a proponent of what I have witnessed in Israel, and that is, a replication of Apartheid!” said Mr. Coovadia in a letter to Palestinian activists.

Mr. Coovadia, who finished his four-year tenure in Jerusalem in January this year, said the Israeli Foreign Ministry had not sought his permission to use his name to plant trees on “usurped land, the rightful land of the Palestinians and Bedouins.”

A spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor, told the Associated Press that Mr. Coovadia did not make any such complaints during his tenure. The Israeli Embassy in Addis Ababa did not answer telephone calls.

Decision hailed

Palestinian activists have hailed Mr. Coovadia’s decision.

“It is a moment of beauty when such personal risks are taken in order to be an instrument of justice for another people,” said Palestinian activist and author, Susan Abulhawa, who visited South Africa this summer on a reading tour of her novel, Mornings in Jenin, “It is my hope that my countrymen will take greater action to move away from our current US - Eurocentric focus, typical of colonized peoples, and realise that our natural allies are in the south.”

The Palestinian cause has found vociferous support amongst sections of civil society in South Africa, who view the movement in terms of their own struggle against the Apartheid regime.

In December last year, the ruling African National Congress voted to support the global Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) campaign targeted at imposing economic costs on Israel, and stated that it was, “unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel.”

In April this year, AFP reported that South Africa had imposed new rules mandating that goods imported from occupied Palestinian territories carry special labels denoting their precise place of origin.

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