Apartheid activist slams 'Israel Apartheid Week'

A renowned anti-apartheid activist has defended Israel against comparisons with racially segregated South Africa.

South African-born Benjamin Pogrund, former deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail in Johannesburg, visited Britain this week as pro-Palestinian groups marked the sixth annual Israeli Apartheid Week.

He said: "I say flatly: Israel within its 1948 borders is not an apartheid state. That is nonsense. Anyone who says it is has either forgotten or does not know what apartheid was."

Israeli Apartheid Week is an international series of events held in more than 40 cities to "build Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns".

Events took place every day this week at Oxford University and included the screening of a documentary filmed with the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, and a panel discussion with Israeli anti-Zionist historian Ilan Pappé.

Universities in Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh are hosting events supported by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Friends of Al-Aqsa group. Each campus will display an exhibition by a photographer who lived in a Bethlehem refugee camp.

Mr Pogrund said: "People who claim Israel is an apartheid state are doing it with a very clear purpose. They are trying to have Israel declared as illegitimate and a pariah state, as much as South Africa was. What the activists are really about is destroying Israel."

The Union of Jewish Students is running Israel Awareness Weeks on four campuses to combat the apartheid events.

A UJS spokeswoman said: "These events are grounded in a disgusting lies, propagated to delegitimise the only liberal democratic state in the Middle East.

"The persistent vilification of Israel at universities is driven by a fringe minority with the intention of alienating and attacking any student who supports the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own."

Last updated: 4:56pm, March 4 2010