Tue May 3, 2016 2:9PM
Prominent Jewish-American author Michael Chabon
Prominent Jewish-American author Michael Chabon

Prominent Jewish-American author Michael Chabon says the Israeli oppression of Palestinians is worse than the apartheid system in South Africa.

Chabon, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, who accompanied other American authors in a trip to Israel last month, expressed shock over the plight of Palestinians, describing the Israeli occupation as the most “grievous injustice.”

“Part of what makes it uniquely horrible for me and what makes it distinct from apartheid is it is being done by Jews. I am a Jew,” he told AFP by telephone after returning to the United States from Israel.

“[For] a people who went through such a horrific, prolonged persecution, to turn around and eventually oppress another people at such a mass bureaucratic level is somehow to me much more dismaying than apartheid -- as horrible as apartheid was, and I am not trying to diminish it.”

The comments sparked widespread discussion online and criticism from right-wing Israeli media.

Chabon's decision to get involved in the campaign against the Israeli occupation was reportedly steered by his Israeli-born wife and fellow author, Ayelet Waldman.

In an interview with Jewish American publication The Forward after the visit, Chabon, 52, described Israel’s occupation of Palestine as the “most grievous injustice I've ever seen.”

Chabon and Waldman will now edit a book written by 25 prominent authors focusing on different aspects of daily life by Palestinians under the Israeli occupation.

Last month's tour saw Chabon and other writers including Dave Eggers and Pulitzer winner Geraldine Brooks meet Palestinians in East al-Quds (Jerusalem), al-Khalil (Hebron) and villages near Ramallah.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and imposes a wide range of restrictions on its 2.5 million Palestinian residents. Several hundred thousand Israelis have also established unlawful settlements in the West Bank which the United Nations and much of the international community consider illegal.

A picture taken on April 14, 2016 shows a general view of the Israeli settlement of Moddin Elite surrounded by a wall near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP photo)

The latest criticism comes as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, known as BDS, is gaining momentum on US college campuses and in many places in Europe.

The BDS movement seeks to end the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands and respect the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his subordinates have called the BDS campaign a new form of “terrorism” to delegitimize Israel.

Supporters of the movement, including a growing number of American Jews, have described such criticism as a fear-mongering and divisive tactic meant to prevent legitimate debate about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.