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April 20, 2015 6:05 pm

The Lie of Israeli Apartheid

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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Nelson Mandela in 2008. Photo: South Africa The Good News.

Last week I received a call from Washington Square News, NYU’s student newspaper, asking me to respond to the charges of 130 New York University professors who signed a petition calling for a boycott of companies doing business with Israel, since the Jewish State has now become apartheid South Africa.

I gave them the following quote: “Any professor who calls Israel an apartheid state is guilty of ignorance, moral blindness, and an assault on the sacred memory of Nelson Mandela, who they are of necessity comparing to Yasser Arafat. Mandela was a man of peace who brought together people of different races in harmony and equality. Arafat is the father of modern international terrorism. And Hamas, whom polls show would win an election in the West bank, is dedicated in their charter to the genocide of Jewish people wherever they may be found.

The comparison of the Palestinians, rather than the Jews, to black South Africans, has become a regular and deliberate distortion that degrades the peace, harmony, and reconciliation that black South Africans have shown in comparison with innumerable Palestinian terror groups committed to Israel’s annihilation.

On May 28, my organization The World Values Network will host The Third Annual Champion of Jewish Values International Awards Gala in Times Square. The dinner will honor courageous fighters for Israel, like Senators Bob Menendez and Ted Cruz as well as Newt Gingrich and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. It will also commemorate those who perpetuate Holocaust memory, foremost among them Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel and Anne Frank’s best friend Jacqueline Van Maarsen, who is making the journey from Amsterdam by ship at the age of 86. It seems incredible to me that just 70 years after the Holocaust, the Jews are being maliciously portrayed not as victims but culprits, not as a nation defending its existence but as a people hell-bent on viciously degrading others for reasons of racial superiority.

The truth, of course, is that in Israel today there are 1.6 million Arab citizens who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population. These Arabs enjoy the same rights as their fellow Jewish citizens. They, along with Christians, Druze, Baha’i, Hindus, women and homosexuals all have equal rights to live their lives in freedom and safety. As my friend Mitchell Bard argues to rebut the Israel-is-apartheid lie, among the many notable Israeli Arabs there are two Supreme Court justices, the captain of the Israeli soccer team Hapoel, the Israeli ambassador to Ecuador 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. Two Arab women, Angelina Feres and Rana Reslan, were crowned Miss Israel.

Contrast with the treatment of Palestinians in Arab countries where they are denied citizenship and often persecuted. In Lebanon, for example, 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.

The obscene comparison of Israel with South Africa also ignores the fact that Israel is a multicultural society with people from more than 100 countries and many of them are people of color. Israel is also the first country in history to airlift tens of thousands of black men, women, and children from Africa and give them citizenship rather than enslave them. 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 contest.

When asked whether they would prefer to live in Israel or the Palestinian Authority, 77 percent of Israeli Arabs chose Israel. Furthermore, 64 percent of Israeli Arabs said that Israel was a good country to live, even as they voice other complaints, all part of being in a democratic society where they can fearlessly criticize their government.

In South Africa, skin color determined every aspect of your life from birth until death. Black South Africans could not vote and were not citizens of the country in which they formed the overwhelming majority of the population. Laws dictated where they could live, work, go to school, and travel. And, in South Africa, the government killed blacks who protested against its policies. By contrast, Israel allows freedom of movement, assembly and speech. Some of the government’s harshest critics are Israeli Arabs who are members of the Knesset.

In the West Bank Israeli policy is obviously not based on race but is a result of Palestinian terror attacks against Israel’s population. Since the signing of the Oslo agreements in the 1990s, 97 percent of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria have been governed by the Palestinian Authority and, following Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, 100 percent of the Palestinians there have been ruled by first the Palestinian Authority and now, sadly, Hamas. The denial of basic freedoms these Palestinians face – such as freedom of assembly, speech, and the press – are attributable to Palestinian, not Israeli policies. The serious offers of peace which Israel made under Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert to resolve all issues relating to the West Bank were rebuffed first by Yasser Arafat and then by his successor Mahmoud Abbas.

Far from being a white, colonial settlement, the establishment of the State of Israel is analogous to African-Americans who had been forcibly removed from Africa returning to create, say, the country of Liberia. The Jews too were forcibly removed from the Land of Israel by the Babylonians and then the Romans to be slaves and vassals. But they thirsted for freedom and therefore returned in great throngs, joining a smaller number of their people who had always remained in the Holy land. Together, they rebuilt their ruined country.

The comparison of the Palestinians, rather than the Jews, to black South Africans, is unfortunate and misdirected. Whereas Black South Africans inspired the world with their decency and humane capacity for peaceful coexistence with their white brethren even after having been so grievously wronged, our Palestinians brothers have tragically embraced hatred, terror, and racism. Arab newspapers are filled with grotesque caricatures of ethnic characteristics of Jews. Innocent Palestinian youth are brainwashed by the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah to grow up and blow up Israeli buses.

Nelson Mandela rose to become the foremost statesman of the world by preaching forgiveness and reconciliation. Yasser Arafat ushered in modern terrorism and then stole hundreds of millions of dollars from his own people who continue to live in abject poverty despite being the largest per capita recipients of international aid in the world.

Apartheid is one of the greatest moral abominations of modern times and directly contravenes the greatest of all Biblical teachings, that every human being is created equally in the image of G0d. Racism is not only disgusting. It is profoundly heretical, denying as it does a common heavenly father to the human family. It was the Hebrew Bible that taught us, in its very first chapter, that all humanity reflects the divine countenance in every color and in every shade.

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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  • flip it on it’s head

    Hey Rabbi – Flip it on it’s Head

    Start publishing articles on Palestinian Apartheid. Start Reporting on Crimes committed by the palestinian people. Start Getting condemnations of the PA in the ICC and UNRWA.
    Take the campaign from self defense to offense. scrap publishing op-eds on how israel “isn’t apartheid” – a mere comment should be enough to dismiss those. start a PR campaign to show the PA and hamas true colors.
    We never hear about the PA except in complaints against israel- as israel responds.
    This method will not enable pro-palestinians to retain credibility re human rights.

  • Isaac Brajtman

    Print this in every major newspaper and student papers.. Its use printing it in a Jewish paper. We already know this.

  • Paul

    Rabbi Shmuley is so obviously a well-meaning person, writing about something he really believes in, that it is very frustrating to see him totally miss the point.
    People talk about Israel being an apartheid state for reasons the Rabbi does NOT address.
    Apartheid refers to giving citizens unequal rights – giving more rights to some than to others, divided by some ethnic consideration.
    The good Rabbi talks of the equality of rights for ISRAELI ARABS. He also bring many examples (true ones) of how bad the OTHER guys are.
    The actual problem is that Israel wants to be regarded as a democratic state giving equal rights to all – but at the same time wants to impose civilian settlements in the West Bank by strength of arms, totally against the will of the people living there (the palestinians). On the West bank, Israel rules by force of arms, imposes curfews, roadblocks etc – which do NOT respect the human rights of the palestinians. So the west Bank has palestinians WITHOUT rights, and Jewish Setllers WITH rights. THIS IS WHAT MAKES ACCUSATIONS OF APARTHEID VALID.
    If only the Israeli Army was there, for SECURITY reasons alone, with no Jewish civilians enforcing themselves on the palestinians by force of arms, it would be understood. There is no reasonable, acceptable explanation or legal justification that THE WORLD WILL ACCEPT, for colonising the West Bank by Jewish civilians, by force of arms.
    So if the Rabbi thinks accusations of apartheid are a lie, why does he not address the the REAL reason we are being accused of apartheid – uneven treatment of Palestinian and Jewish west bank dwellers. Instead of defending the areas where there is no apartheid (e.g. for Israeli Arabs).
    The Rabbi may feel there is justification for Jews settling by force of arms in the West Bank – but the unequal legal standing and rights practised there is the meaning of apartheid. Do we want to practice apartheid but indignantly object to the use of the term ?

    I believe the justification given by right-wing jews to jewish forced settlement of the west bank is due to the promise God gave to Abraham, to give the land to Abrahams seed.
    Do the Jews really have the moral right to the West Bank ?
    Right wingers like to justify this by reference to God’s promise to Abraham. (Not necesary a MORAL decision, more like as HOLY one).
    But here is what the bible actually says:
    If you obey me and always do right, 2 I will keep my solemn promise to you and give you more descendants than can be counted.” 3 Abram bowed with his face to the ground, and God said:

    4-5 I promise that you will be the father of many nations. That’s why I now change your name from Abram to Abraham.[a] 6 I will give you a lot of descendants, and in the future they will become great nations. Some of them will even be kings.

    7 I will always keep the promise I have made to you and your descendants, because I am your God and their God. 8 I will give you and them the land in which you are now a foreigner. I will give the whole land of Canaan to your family forever, and I will be their God.

    Since Ishmael was one of Abrahams sons – it looks like the arabs have the same promise from the same God, given to the same fathyer. It was not only given to the Jews. And there was the stipulation “If you obey me and always do right”. He did NOT say “Its yours, no matter what you do”.

    • The Islamic Holy Koran, recites explicit orders from the Islamic prophet Musa, Arabic for Moshe! Prophet Musa is told by Allah to lay down the law! The nation of Israel, is required by Allah, to take firm hold of the Holy land ,Allah bestowed on Moshe’s people, the nation of Israel! Allah regards all Israelis not doing this work as violating Allah’s direct plan! The nation of Israel must make the Holy land free of opposing enemies! All folks, helping this process of Allah’s commanding the nation of Israel, to ingather like modern Zionism, are friends of Allah! All opposing or blocking Zionism, are enemies of Allah! 1900-200 PalestineArabs serving in Israeli Defense Forces are real Muslims, as well as all the pro Zionist Muslims & Arabs, or anybody else, outside PalestineArab culture! The only point ever made of any substance against Zionism,is that JudaeanHebrews are not JudaeanHebrews! Anti Zionism’s only argument is racist against all logic, genographics & history!

  • Debra Michels

    Thank you, Rabbi Shmuley! I’m going to print this out and share it with certain people – your eloquence and your knowledge are so very helpful. Please continue to write!

    • The Koran recites, that Zionism, is the kind of thing predicted & demanded, of the nation of Israel! The Koran says the Nation of Israel, must do like Zionism did, from the 1900s-2000s AD(ACE)!The Zion,Israel ingathering, is ordered by Allah & predicted for the future fulfillment of ALLAH’S WILL! Nothing could be more crystal clear, than the Holy Koran! The Holy Koran, is the Islamic world’s primary holy scripture! The Islamic Koran, recites the Biblical Zionist mandate! The Koran recites, Allah’s demand to the nation of Israel, to fulfill the Koranic recital of the Biblical mandate, on the nation of Israel! Only racial Arabist empire, reasons, are used, against the ethnic Zionist roots! Anti-Zionism claims, non JudaeanHebrew roots of 19th-20th century JudaeanHebrews’ Zionism! The 19th-29th century Zionists, not real JudaeanHebrews, is the anti Zionist, anti Israel party line!! Anti-Israel folks’ racism, claims that real Jews are just lowly humble Arab Jews or JudaeaoArabs! Today’s Zionists are, not just real ethnic Jews, but some lowly converts, ethnically! These ethnic notions of JudaeanHebrew roots, exclusively embodied in JudaeaoArabs, is racist garbage! First of all, Genographics does not reign in Judaism! But, for sure, Patrilineal roots are relevant for immediate acceptance as a Jew! But the real question is are you raised a Jew, if your matrilineal roots are not Jewish!! The anti Israel argument of questionable ethnic roots, is purely racist, against JudaeanHebrew,Zion,Israel ! None of this even touches the racist qualities of Arabist empire colonialism! Arabist empire racism, rapes, does genocide & enslavement of all kinds! Arabist empire states & stateless Arab fighters, over run the Arabist empire’s, confederated states! This Arabist empire racism attacks pro-Israel Arabs.serving in Israel’s government, Armed forces & police! Arabist empire states , colonies & sphere of influence, is at least 50& greater than all the USA, including Alaska! That is only the Arab League states proper! The Arab League is 40% greater in size, than al of Canada! So, let’s talk about the real root cause of Arabist empire racist greed as compared with the Koran reciting the Mandate of Allah’s assignment of the Holy Land to the Nation of Israel! Then compare the racist Arabist empire genocide, as in Darfur, or AramaicAssyria & Kurdistan! Now recall The Koranic recital of the Mandate of the nation of Israel, in the Holy land! The only reason for alleged friends of Islam or Arabs to oppose Isreal, is 19th-20th century Jews, are not Jews of the old JudaeanHebrew,Zion,Israel!

  • Isaac Bensussen

    I agree with Rabbi Boteach that the 150 New York Professors that signed (if they actually signed )a petition calling for a boycott of the State of Israel and call Israel an apartheid State are guilty of ignorance, moral blindness and an assault on the memory of Nelson Mandela but I would add that no educated human being could go along with a boycott, so maybe, calling them Anti-Semitic would not be out of the question.


  • Eve Laing