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The following statement is an excerpt from a speech made by Jean-Paul Sartre at a press conference of the French Liaison Committee against Apartheid on 9 November 1966 in Paris. Sartre's words are still relevant today and could very well be used to describe the conditions of the Palestinians, who live segregated, under a brutal Israeli military occupation.

Today there is in Africa a cancer that could quickly spread all over. It is Apartheid, a policy systematically practised by the Government of South Africa.

Apartheid is both a practice and a theory. The practice is known euphemistically as "separate development". In other words, it is the enforcement by a minority of three million people of European origin of a policy designed to keep in slavery (the term is not too strong) 14 million inhabitants of African or Asian origin or of mixed descent.

These 14 million inhabitants have no political rights. They cannot vote, hold meetings or belong to trade unions. They are obliged to carry on their person passbooks to justify their presence in various places, passbooks so demanding that they cannot comply with all the requirements and are always potential candidates for arrest. At the same time, they are the focus of a "separate development" or tribalism policy designed by the central Government to prevent the awakening of a national consciousness.

They have no economic rights and no rights of ownership: 75 percent of the population is confined or is supposed to be confined to 12 percent of the land (86 percent for whites). Even so, in the Bantustans - the areas where they are brought together - they are mere tenants on the precious little land allotted to them, which actually belongs to the Government. Elsewhere, they are concentrated, cooped up in townships, which are part shanty town, part concentration camp; they are let out, only with the pass, to go and work in the white city and get out again. This is a rejection of urbanisation. They are denied the right to live in the city even though they are city workers. They find too that their professional qualifications are rejected; in other words, the Job Reservation Act reserving skilled occupations for whites prohibits non-whites from moving beyond the status of manual or semi-skilled workers. A few Coloureds get round this rule because that is in the interests of the large companies, but in general the white working class makes advancement impossible.

The blacks have no cultural rights. True, the Government of South Africa boasts a 70 percent school enrolment ratio for Africans, but in fact, according to the former Prime Minister Mr. Verwoerd, they are taught what befits their status: first, that a black is inferior to a white, which means that a black is inferior to a man, which means that blacks are subhuman. That is what they are taught in an educational system for which they are charged to boot. They pay to learn that they are subhuman and in return are given the Bible to read. The result is that by the second year, only 20 percent of the pupils are still attending school, and by the third year, only 2 percent.

1st July 2007
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Jean-Paul Sartre
Apartheid