CAPE TOWN — An international campaign launched in Cape Town to free Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails has been condemned by the South African Zionist Federation.

Launched late last month by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 of his 27 years’ imprisonment by the apartheid government, the Free Marwan Barghouti campaign’s support committee includes five Nobel Peace laureates, among them Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

The South African Zionist Federation, or SAZF, said in a statement that Barghouti had been jailed for terrorism and the murder of Israeli civilians and it was an insult to struggle leaders such as Mandela to compare him with them, the daily Cape Times reported.

“Barghouti is not a political prisoner, but a terrorist guilty of multiple crimes against humanity” said the SAZF. “As a leader of the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, he was responsible for dozens of terrorist acts over a number of years.”

A campaign to free Palestinian prisoners is launched at Robben Island (Photo credit: YouTube screenshot)

A campaign to free Palestinian prisoners is launched at Robben Island (Photo credit: YouTube screenshot)

Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, and Kathrada, who was incarcerated with Mandela on the Island, visited Mandela’s cell to mark the launch. Kathrada expressed the wish that the campaign would “surpass the Release Mandela campaign.”

“Just as apartheid South Africa was isolated, we want Israel to be isolated from the civil world. That is what we aim to do,” he said.

Kathrada, who spent a week in the Palestinian territories earlier this year, said that “in some ways (the situation) was worse than apartheid.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks during a press conference in Gaza City, 2008 (photo credit: Wissam Nassar/Flash 90)

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks during a press conference in Gaza City, 2008 (photo credit: Wissam Nassar/Flash 90)

Local Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign spokesman, Muhammed Desai, said the SAZF was not qualified to talk about the anti-apartheid movement as it had officially supported the apartheid regime.
“The federation was on the wrong side of history when it supported apartheid South Africa. It’s a pity it is now, again, on the wrong side of history by supporting apartheid Israel,” Desai said.