Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former president of the African National Congress Women's League, said on Thursday: "Apartheid Israel can be defeated, just as apartheid in South Africa was defeated."
Madikizela-Mandela was addressing a meeting arranged by the Palestine Solidarity organisation in Lenasia, Johannesburg, to protest against the recent assassination by the Israeli state of the leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
She described the killing of Yassin - who inspired a campaign of suicide bombings in Israel - as a "cowardly act that took the life of a brave hero".
Madikizela-Mandela said the United States government's response to the killing was "wishy washy", and she criticised the US for not describing Israel as a terrorist state.
The Palestinian ambassador to South Africa, Salman Eiherfi, greeted the crowd with a shout of "Viva, Palestine, viva!"
Eiherfi said: "They kill our sons, but they will never kill the spirit of our people. Although they have killed Yassin, other Yassins have been born."
He said the security wall being built by Israel was aimed at "killing the spirit of the Palestinian people, and hope for an independent Palestinian state".
He said the first prime minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, once described Ariel Sharon, the current prime minister who ordered the assassination of Yassin, as "thirsty for blood".
Among the posters that were displayed read: "Ariel Sharon is a mass murderer", "Zionism equals to Nazism", "Apartheid Israel has weapons of mass destruction", "What's wrong with the single state solution?" and "Expel Israel from South Africa".
Palestine Solidarity chairman Naazim Adam said the organisation strongly condemned the killing of Yassin. He urged the South African government to show more support for the Palestinians.
He said many South African Muslims expected the government to understand the plight of the Palestinians because there were many similarities between apartheid and the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
He said Sharon had turned the Middle East issue into a religious one, but that it was about land.
Ebrahim Fakude of Palestine Solidarity described Yassin as a humble man, who internationalised the struggle of the Palestine people. He told the crowd that those who belonged to Hamas did not need to be ashamed as the movement was not terrorist.
"We need to be careful not to label Muslims organisations as terrorist because the United States has declared them terrorists".
Palestine Solidarity will hold a vigil at the US consulate in Killarney, Johannesburg from noon to 11pm on Friday. - Sapa