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Joint List head Ayman Odeh and politician and water expert Mustafa Abu Raiya called Israel’s policies toward Palestinians apartheid, during several interviews with South African media while on a visit to the country over this week and last.

“We are fighting for the freedom of our people,” Odeh told Radio Islam on Monday. “You have to ask – a country that practices apartheid, does it have any loyalty to its Arab citizens? A country that committed Nakba, does it have any loyalty to its Arab citizens? How do you expect Arab citizens to be loyal? Instead of asking about loyalty, it should be a question of citizenship – put an end to the occupation and give equality to all.”

The two were hosted by the Johannesburg-based Afro-Middle East Center and their main goal, as Odeh explained, was to focus on Palestinian-South African relations and to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people. “We have come to spread our cause in South Africa because South Africa has experienced apartheid, it has a conscience, and we need its solidarity.”

Odeh told online publication The Daily Vox that “in [Israel’s] infrastructure and… law there is apartheid toward the Palestinian citizens [Israeli Arabs]. It is important to tell you two-thirds of children in Israel that live under poverty are Arab children. We are victims but we know our rights.”

Raiya, who is a member of the Israeli Communist Party (Maki), which is part of Odeh’s Hadash and falls under the Joint List – the Knesset’s third largest faction – said: “We [as Israeli Arabs and Palestinians] are not treated equally and we are fighting for our rights – we have stages and steps by Israeli government that looks like apartheid and what happened in South Africa. We need to learn from the ANC and their struggle about how to overcome the apartheid regime… and also learn from the legacy of Nelson Mandela about how to lead the people to their freedom and at the same time to make reconciliation… to live together in peace and a democratic state.”

Raiya added said there are many similarities between the struggles of Palestinians and that which South Africans faced during apartheid.

This article first appeared on Jerusalem Post and can be accessed here.

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