Every year the event “Israel Apartheid Week” begins to rear its ugly head in college campuses across the US and the world. The organizers of this event would like for the uneducated and unwary to believe their narrative that Israel is an apartheid state in the same mold as South Africa. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth – in fact its an outright lie. The information below will explain exactly why Israel IS NOT an apartheid state.
The definition of apartheid according to Merriam-Webster is “racial segregation; specifically : a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa.”
“Apartheid”, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apartheid, accessed February 23, 2016)
In Israel today there are 1.7 million Arab citizens who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population. These Arabs are full citizens and enjoy the same rights as their fellow Jewish citizens. The Arab citizens of Israel are able to pursue careers in any field they wish – actors, singers, models, news anchors, soldiers, politicians, athletes, etc.
They, along with Christians, Druze, Baha’i, Hindus, and others all have equal rights to live their lives in freedom and safety. All of Israel’s citizens enjoy freedom of religion as well as equal rights for genders and sexual orientation. Among the many notable Israeli Arabs there are two Supreme Court justices, the captain of the Israeli Hapoel soccer team, the Israeli ambassador to Ecuador, the mayor of Nazareth and a general in the Israel Defense Forces. Arabs have their own political parties and have served in the Knesset as members of their own parties as well as the non-Arab parties. Today there are currently 17 members of the Israeli Knesset who belong to the Arab political parties – many of whom actively work against the state of Israel while enjoying all of the benefits!
Israel does not have separate water fountains, toilets or public transportation systems which is typically seen in countries with racial or ethnic segregation. During the apartheid regime in South Africa laws dictated where Black South Africans could live, work, go to school and travel. They were completely disenfranchised and were not even considered citizens of South Africa even though they formed the overwhelming majority of the population.
Contrast this situation with the treatment of Palestinians, women and homosexuals in Arab countries.
In Lebanon Palestinians are banned from owning property or passing it on to their descendants, and they are also barred from employment as lawyers, doctors and more than 20 other professions. (Amnesty International, “Annual Report: Lebanon 2013”, http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/annual-report-lebanon-2013?page=show and “Lebanon’s Apartheid Laws”, The Gatestone Institute, July 21, 2013, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3770/lebanon-apartheid-laws)
In Saudi Arabia women are banned from walking without a chaperone, driving a car, going for a swim, or even interacting with men. During the recent renovation of a Starbuck’s in Riyadh the owner asked that women send their drivers in to place an order to avoid the possibility of interaction between men and women. (“Eleven Things Women in Saudi Arabia Cannot Do”, The Week, February 4, 2016, http://www.theweek.co.uk/60339/eleven-things-women-in-saudi-arabia-cant-do)
In Iran Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged in 2014 for killing the man who was in trying to rape her while he was in the act of assaulting her. (“Iran’s Hanging of Reyhaneh Jabbari Condemned”, BBC, October 25, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29769468)
The obsession which the organizers of the Israel Apartheid Week completely ignores the fact that Israel is a democratic, multicultural, multiracial society. Israel airlifted tens of thousands of black men, women and children from Africa and gave them citizenship. Today, more than 130,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel and have served in the Knesset, achieved high ranks in the military, served as an ambassador and won the Miss Israel.
In a 2014 poll of Arabs 77 percent of Israeli Arabs prefer to live in Israel – not under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority. (“Poll: Arabs Prefer to Live in Israel – Not ‘Palestine'”, United With Israel, December 22, 2014, http://unitedwithisrael.org/palestinians-want-to-live-in-israel-not-under-the-pa/)
The Israel Apartheid Week organizers prefer to ignore the above facts and prefer to falsely claim that Israeli “apartheid” drives the Palestinian situation in the West Bank. However that’s completely incorrect. Israel’s policy in the West Bank is driven not by racial or ethnic discrimination but rather by the security needs of Israel. The Palestinians have had multiple opportunities to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel – most notably in 2000 with Ehud Barak’s offer at the Wye River Plantation talks and more recently in 2008 with Ehud Olmert’s peace proposal which Abu Mazen dismissed outright because, as he claimed, he didn’t have access to a map at the time!
95% of all Palestinians in the West Bank live under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority and have been doing so since the implementation of the Oslo agreements over 20 years ago. Israel withdrew from Gaza back in 2005 and since then has lived under the constant threat of rockets, mortar, gun fire and now terror tunnels. Gaza is 100% ruled by Hamas – an organization that is not only dedicated to the destruction of Israel but in the genocide of the Jewish people as a whole. In the West Bank the denial of basic freedoms such as the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom of assembly comes from the Palestinian Authority itself (“Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories”, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_the_Palestinian_territories).
Israel Apartheid Week is a out and out lie. Israeli Arabs enjoy a standard of living that ranks among the highest in the Middle East and, to some extent, the world. They are able to live, work, and enjoy all of the benefits of an open, pluralistic society which is exactly what was denied to Black South Africans under the apartheid regime. Israelis come from a wide range of backgrounds – racial, ethnic, and religious – and all of them enjoy the freedoms that many in the West enjoy as well. One day the Palestinians in the West Bank (and hopefully Gaza) will also be able to enjoy such freedoms – but they will have to choose leaders who truly embrace those freedoms and be willing to achieve an honest peace with Israel.