The relationship between South Africa and Israel has been a topic of intense debate and scrutiny, with both countries navigating a complex web of historical, political, and ideological factors. This comprehensive article delves into the nuances of South Africa’s stance towards Israel, examining the historical context, current diplomatic ties, and the various perspectives that shape this intricate dynamic.

Historical Background

The Legacy of Apartheid and the Palestinian Struggle

South Africa’s apartheid regime, a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination, had a profound impact on the country’s foreign policy. The anti-apartheid movement drew parallels with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, and the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, has historically supported the Palestinian cause.

During the apartheid era, the ANC and other anti-apartheid organizations saw similarities between the oppression of black South Africans and the plight of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation. This shared experience of marginalization and dispossession fostered a strong sense of solidarity between the two movements.

Israel’s Complicated Relationship with South Africa

Israel’s relationship with South Africa has been marked by shifts and complexities. Initially, Israel supported the apartheid regime, primarily due to strategic considerations and the desire to maintain ties with a regional ally. However, as international pressure mounted and the moral implications of apartheid became increasingly apparent, Israel’s stance gradually shifted.

The Arab-Israeli conflict also played a role in shaping South Africa’s position. Some African countries, including South Africa, viewed Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territories as a form of colonialism and oppression, further straining relations.

The Jewish community in South Africa, while relatively small, has had a significant influence on the country’s relationship with Israel. This community has often advocated for stronger ties between the two nations, creating a complex dynamic within South Africa’s domestic politics.

Current Diplomatic Ties

South Africa’s Official Stance on Israel

South Africa’s current diplomatic relations with Israel are shaped by the country’s historical experience with apartheid and its support for the Palestinian cause. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories, has gained traction in South Africa and influenced the government’s policies.

South Africa has consistently advocated for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. The country has also been critical of Israel’s settlement expansion in the occupied territories, viewing it as a major obstacle to peace.

Economic and Trade Relations

Despite political tensions, South Africa and Israel maintain economic and trade relations. The two countries cooperate in various sectors, including agriculture, technology, and defense. However, the impact of political tensions on economic relations cannot be ignored, as some South African companies and organizations have faced pressure to boycott or divest from Israeli entities.

Perspectives and Debates

The ANC’s Stance and Internal Divisions

The ANC, South Africa’s ruling party, has historically supported the Palestinian cause and has been critical of Israel’s policies in the occupied territories. However, there have been internal debates and divisions within the party regarding the extent of support for the Palestinian cause and the relationship with Israel.

Some ANC leaders have taken a more hardline stance, advocating for stronger measures against Israel, while others have called for a more balanced approach, recognizing the complexities of the situation and the need for dialogue and engagement.

The Voice of the South African Jewish Community

The South African Jewish community has played a significant role in shaping the country’s relationship with Israel. While not monolithic in its views, many within this community have advocated for stronger ties between South Africa and Israel, citing historical, cultural, and religious connections.

Efforts have been made by various organizations and individuals within the Jewish community to promote dialogue and understanding between different communities in South Africa. However, their advocacy has also faced criticism from those who view Israel’s actions in the occupied territories as a violation of human rights.

Public Opinion and Civil Society

Public opinion in South Africa regarding the relationship with Israel is diverse and often polarized. While some segments of society support stronger ties with Israel, others have been vocal in their criticism of Israel’s policies and have called for boycotts and sanctions.

Civil society organizations, protests, and grassroots movements have played a significant role in shaping public discourse on this issue. The media’s coverage and the public debate have also influenced perceptions and shaped the narrative surrounding South Africa’s relationship with Israel.


The relationship between South Africa and Israel is complex and multifaceted, shaped by historical experiences, political ideologies, and diverse perspectives. While South Africa has been critical of Israel’s policies in the occupied territories and has supported the Palestinian cause, the two countries maintain economic and trade relations.

The debate surrounding South Africa’s stance towards Israel is ongoing, with various stakeholders advocating for different approaches. Ultimately, the path forward will require ongoing dialogue, understanding, and a commitment to finding a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

FAQ: Does South Africa Support Israel?

The South African government has been critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza and has shown support for the Palestinian cause.

What is South Africa’s stance on the conflict between Israel and Palestine?

South Africa has condemned the Israeli government for its actions in Gaza and has expressed support for the Palestinian people.

How does South Africa view the Israeli government?

The South African government views the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza as concerning and has called for an end to the violence.

Is South Africa involved in any legal actions against Israel?

South Africa has not initiated any legal actions against Israel at the international court of justice regarding the conflict in Gaza.

Has South Africa accused Israel of genocide?

Some South African officials and activists have accused Israel of committing acts of genocide in Gaza, but these are not formal accusations by the government.

What is the opinion of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on the conflict?

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed concern over the situation in Gaza and has called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

How does South Africa compare the situation in Gaza to apartheid in South Africa?

Some critics in South Africa have drawn parallels between Israel’s actions in Gaza and the apartheid era in South Africa, citing human rights violations.

Additional Resources

For further reading and information on this topic, here are some reputable sources and organizations:

By exploring these resources, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the various perspectives and complexities surrounding the relationship between South Africa and Israel.