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Abstract

South African support for Palestine received a compelling articulation in 1990 by the late President Nelson Mandela. This article examines a more recent grassroots activism by South Africans for Palestinian self-determination. It discusses the historical legacy of anti-apartheid resistance as well as current economic and political realities within South Africa that have led to the emergence of a robust popular movement for Palestinian rights since 2005. Both South African civil society organizations and the ANC-led government have responded to the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society for a boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against the state of Israel. The article discusses the different motivations of these two groups for participating in the BDS movement, presents the scope of BDS within South Africa, and analyzes its symbolic, economic, and political impact for South Africans and Palestinians, in the near and long term. Finally, it addresses the question of why South Africans consider themselves to be central participants in the Palestinian struggle.

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