South Africa's former President, Thabo Mbeki, has called for a boycott of Israeli goods to show solidarity with Palestinian Arabs, the BBC reported on Tuesday.
The public should mobilize against Israel so that it "does pay a price for the position that it is taking", Mbeki was quoted as having said in the capital, Pretoria.
Mbeki, in an address to students at the University of South Africa, rejected calls for the government to recall its ambassador to Tel Aviv, saying South Africa needed to "engage" with Israel to find a "just solution" to the conflict.
At the same time, South Africa's political parties, trade unions and religious groups should mobilize for a boycott of Israeli goods and "divesting" from Israeli companies, he said, according to the BBC.
"It is not the responsibility of government to mobilize people. We must mobilize ourselves," declared Mbeki.
The comments come a week after South Africa’s current President, Jacob Zuma, voiced outrage over civilian deaths in Israel's campaign in Gaza but distanced himself from calls to expel the Israeli ambassador.
"We are outraged by the killing of civilians by Israel, some in United Nations shelters," Zuma said.
"We call upon all sides to lay down arms and work towards a negotiated solution that will lead to an internationally recognized and supported two-state solution," he said.
Zuma, without explicitly ruling out the expulsion of the ambassador, said that South Africa needed to act in a way "that will benefit both countries of the Middle East in the long end, and as a country we do have to take a bigger picture."
South Africa has frequently been critical of Israel and has claimed that it is applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Palestinian Arabs. Last June, the former South African ambassador to Israel rejected a symbolic gift from the Israeli government, planting trees in his honor in a national park named after South Africa.
He explained that Israeli policies which, he claims, discriminate against Arabs appeared to be reminiscent of his experiences under South Africa's apartheid system.
South Africa's Foreign Minister has in the past slammed Israel's plans to build new homes in Jerusalem, saying she was “losing sleep” over the size of “Palestine”.
Most recently, Zuma’s party compared Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza to the actions of the Nazis during World War II, evoking outrage from Jewish groups in the country.
South Africa has also imposed rules requiring that goods imported from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem display special labels.