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April 20, 2017 5:31 pm

Opposing Narrative of Israeli Apartheid ‘Personal for Us,’ Say Zionist South African Representatives

avatar by Rachel Frommer

Neo Mangope (third from left) and Tshepo Ndlovu (fifth from left) at University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Hillel as part of their campus tour. Photo: UMass-Amherst Hillel Instagram.

Opposing the narrative of Israeli apartheid is personal for two Zionist South Africans who spoke with The Algemeiner last month as they embarked on a tour of US universities.

Tshepo Ndlovu and Neo Mangope — who traveled to six East Coast campuses from March 27 to April 7 as part of a diverse delegation of pro-Israel leaders sponsored by educational group StandWithUs — said South Africans’ history with apartheid can have a profound impact on their understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“In the US, there is a misconception about the word ‘apartheid,’ because they don’t know the deeper meaning,” said Mangope, a lawyer who first learned about Israel when she participated in a tour with Africans for Peace, an independent academic group. “But South Africans should know better. We know what real apartheid looks like, and we should know that you can’t compare that to Israel.”

But Ndlovu, who heads public diplomacy for the South African Zionist Federation, explained that it was precisely because of South Africans’ intimate experience with apartheid that they can be “very receptive” to the Palestinian narrative of Israel being another iteration of colonialist oppression of an indigenous people.

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“From a young age, in the media, at home, in school, we are taught to label Israel as the enemy,” he said, adding he has seen educational intervention as early as high school can have a deep effect on students’ involvement in activities surrounding the conflict once they reach university.

Mangope and Ndlovu said they believed US college students who are similarly misinformed about Israel would be more receptive to discussing the Jewish state with individuals who have an outsider’s perspective.

During their stop at Columbia University, Ndlovu said a South African professor began attacking them as “Zionist mascots who are paid by the Israeli state to parade around the world, with no real credibility to speak to an audience [about the conflict].”

“I shamelessly confronted him,” Ndlovu said proudly, noting his nearly decade-long work in politics and Israel activism. “And I think I managed to counter the arguments he made, and maybe I even convinced some people.”

Mangope said that such experiences can be useful for students.

“I encourage people with diverse perspectives to come out and talk with us,” she said. “I respect each and every person’s point of view, and hope I can add something to the way they think about these issues.”

StandWithUs also sent two South African representatives to the West Coast as part of its national “Reclaiming Our Narrative” tour.

Lats month, as The Algemeiner reported, activists leading Israeli Apartheid Week at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand seemed to abandon their efforts after they were met by a strong pro-Israel presence on campus.

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