One nation inhabiting another's homeland; two peoples dwelling together under segregated conditions, breeding resentments and explosive acts of violence that would seem to have no workable solution in sight. The preceding description undoubtedly relates to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Yet it could also describe our own nation at one time - a South Africa bifurcated by racial separation under the system of Apartheid, seemingly unable to find a way to achieve reconciliation within its own borders.
In fact, the resemblances between the countries are more than superficial. South Africa and Israel have a strong legacy of relations dating back to the 1940s. It is a history sometimes ignominious with stories of collaboration over weapons development and trading; sometimes critical of one another's political situations; and sometimes ambassadorial - as Nelson Mandela's efforts post-apartheid evidenced.
Mandela's words during his 1999 visit explicated the links between the histories of South Africa and Israel: "To the many people who have questioned why I came, I say: Israel worked very closely with the Apartheid regime. I say: I've made peace with many men who slaughtered our people like animals. Israel cooperated with the apartheid regime, but it did not participate in any atrocities".
Clearly Mandela realised that the history of South Africa's struggle for peace in many ways mirrors that of Israel, and that the lessons learned by those who fought to achieve our current democracy could provide an invaluable template for the Middle East.
Where South Africa emerged from the reconciliation process as a unified, strengthened international force, an emblem of democratic success, the A Party believes that those same processes can be brought to bear on the Israeli/Palestinian situation, to bring about a true nonviolent unification.
The A Party would urge the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian factions to come together - realising that a lasting, worthwhile legacy cannot be won cheaply, that historical offences must be allowed to rest and cultural and religious differences laid aside.
South Africans have seen how the Truth and Reconciliation Commission achieved the unthinkable, in facilitating transparent communication and burying the spectre of dark oppression.
We believe that affirmative action, though flawed in its execution, has greatly succeeded in empowering South Africa's disenfranchised black people economically and socially. While we would hesitate to as Mandela is attributed draw explicit parallels between Apartheid and the Israeli-Palestinian State, we nevertheless recognise that the same barriers to peace operate in both situations. And we also believe that unification is possible through the same healing process of sincere, open communication.
The writer, A Party founder, spent six years of his life working in Dubai, so his perspective on the Middle Eastern situation is uniquely personal amongst South Africans.
He has worked closely with Arabian, Palestinian and colleagues from other nationalities, so he understands that a prescriptive approach will only breed resentment. And he firmly believes that peace and tolerance can be achieved. It is time for South Africa to achieve its true potential on the world stage - as emissaries of racial unity, of a peaceful end to centuries-old conflicts.
For too long the Middle East has been devastated by the irreconcilable wars between Israelis and Arabs - families have been shattered, once prosperous economies such as Lebanon ruined.
It is our responsibility to offer whatever advice we can, borne out of hard experience, to enable them to have a real future.
Anthony Penderis is a former Dubai expatriate who started his own political party, A Party, to take part in the 2009 General Election in South Africa.