Is Israel an apartheid state?
In the last few years, it’s become common to hear Israel called an “apartheid state” — a label that alleges that Israel maintains an oppressive legal system like the one once used in South Africa that institutionalized segregation, discrimination, and domination based on race.
Is there any truth to the charge? In apartheid-era South Africa, black citizens were totally disenfranchised, subject to oppressive laws that controlled every aspect of their behavior, and completely segregated from the ruling white minority. In Israel, on the other hand, Jewish and Arab citizens have equal protection under the law, enjoy freedom of religion and speech, and possess full voting rights. (In fact, Israel’s 120-member parliament, the Knesset, currently includes 12 Arab Israeli members.)
The Israel-South Africa comparison is so inapt that it would be laughable if it weren’t so insulting. What could possibly motivate those who apply this label and its evil connotations to the only democracy in the Middle East? Benjamin Pogrund, a South African Jew now living in Israel who saw firsthand the oppression and misery caused by the apartheid system in his native country, sums it up: “‘Apartheid’ is a lazy label for the complexities of the Middle East conflict. If it can be made to stick, then Israel can be made to appear to be as vile as was apartheid South Africa and, therefore, seeking its destruction can be presented to the world as an equally moral cause.”
Using human terms, Pogrund describes the vast difference between apartheid-era South Africa and Israel: “Two years ago, I had major surgery in a Jerusalem hospital,” he says. “The surgeon was Jewish, the anesthetist was Arab, the doctors and nurses who looked after me were Jews and Arabs. Jews and Arabs share meals in restaurants and travel on the same trains, buses and taxis, and visit each other’s homes. Could any of this possibly have happened under apartheid? Of course not.”
Those who protest “Israeli apartheid” usually have a noticeable lack of public indignation to express toward those countries and regions where real human rights violations are all too common. In Saudi Arabia, for example, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly simply don’t exist and women are second-class citizens (and that’s being generous). In Iran, politically motivated killings and kidnappings are common, ethnic and religious minorities harshly repressed, and freedom of the press is non-existent. In Zimbabwe, government security forces imprison, torture, and murder opponents. In Hamas-controlled Gaza, as well as parts of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority, a residual community of Christians is regularly harassed, intimidated, and even subject to murder by radical Islamists. During 2009, the regimes in both Gaza and Saudi Arabia expressed their approval of crucifixion as a punishment under the law.
But those who protest “Israeli apartheid” are silent about all that. Why? Because their real agenda is not to improve the plight of Palestinians, but rather to attack Israel. The “apartheid” slur is just another tool for Israel’s enemies to delegitimize and undermine the Jewish state’s right to exist. The comparison of Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy, to the brutal discrimination of a fallen, evil regime is false. Those who offer it simply reveal their own agenda.