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June 27, 2017 3:43 pm

The Truth About Israeli ‘Apartheid’

avatar by Michael L. Wise


Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Photo: Itzik Edri via Wikimedia Commons.

Hamas recently accused US President Donald Trump of encouraging apartheid during his speech last month at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. “The speech was racist,” the terror group claimed, “and establishes a new Israeli apartheid regime and encourages hatred towards the Palestinian people.”

To brand Israel as an apartheid state, is — as South Africans other than Desmond Tutu testify — a corruption of the word apartheid, and a distortion of Israeli society and minority rights. The word apartheid was first used in 1947 in South Africa to legislate segregation of whites and blacks. And today, it is not unusual to hear the claim that Jews — in their ancient homeland — are like South African Boer colonialists.

Yet unlike in South Africa, Israel’s Declaration of Independence assured non-Jewish residents of Israel (20% of the population) equal civil and religious rights. The anti-humanitarian crime of apartheid is foreign to the ethos of the racially diverse Jewish nation. In fact, Israel’s diverse population includes more than 100,000 Ethiopian Jews — and more than 1.5 million Arab citizens.

Non-Jews in Israel enjoy genuine freedom — in stark contrast to the status of Jews, Christians and Hindus in much of the Muslim world. And the equal treatment of all of Israel’s citizens can be seen by visiting and traveling the length and breadth of the Jewish state. A visit to any Israeli hospital proves how Arabs and Jews mix freely and equally as patients, attending physicians and administrators.

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For those who do not like hospitals, a visit to the nearest mall will also demonstrate how Jews and Arabs mix freely and easily in full equality. In fact, it is often impossible to distinguish between Jews and Muslims.

Furthermore, Israel’s Muslims are represented in all walks of life — from MKs and government ministers to judges, professors, physicians, entertainers, and senior business and community leaders. Furthermore, the Arab minority in Israel is educated in Arab-speaking public schools administered by Arabs in their own cultural and religious traditions. Israeli Arabs elect Arab MKs — some of whom refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Jewish nation, and advocate for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. Such rights would surely not be available in an apartheid nation.

And what about the status of Arabs living in the West Bank?

The West Bank of the Jordan River was originally part of the Jewish national homeland, per the Mandate for Palestine (1922). Pursuant to the armistice agreements ending Israel’s War of Independence, part of the West Bank was illegally occupied by Jordan. In 1967, Israel defended itself against an Arab war of aggression to destroy the Jewish state, and retook control of the West Bank. In the hope of creating a permanent regional peace immediately after the 1967 war, Israel offered to negotiate modified borders with its neighbors in exchange for permanent peace. The proposal was rejected with the infamous Khartoum pronouncement: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

The rejection of Israeli efforts to seek peace left Israel with little choice but to take the measures necessary to ensure its internal security. In order to prevent further terrorist intifadas, and to protect itself from jihadists, suicide bombers, Molotov cocktails, guns, knives and rocks, Israel has implemented security measures that have sometimes made life harder for West Bank Palestinians. But the fact that Israel employs measures to suppress terrorism and violence has nothing to do with apartheid, racial prejudice — or any effort to extinguish or oppress a minority population. The PLO Charter (1964) and the Hamas Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (1988) — on the other hand — call for the annihilation of the Jewish state (and all Jews in it).

In 1993, Israel hoped to end its involvement in the West Bank, and entered into the Oslo Accords. Oslo created the Palestinian Authority, and led to the West Bank being divided into three areas. Area A, with more than 97% of the Arab population is semi-autonomous, and governed by the Palestinian Authority; Area B is jointly administered; and Area C is under Israeli control. After the failure of the Camp David peace talks in 2000 and the subsequent outbreak of an intifada, Israel implemented security measures including checkpoints and barriers that restricted access to Israel from the West Bank. As a result, suicide bombings and violence were severely curtailed. And still, life for Arabs in the West Bank is safer and more prosperous than in most neighboring Muslim countries.

If you want to find apartheid, however, just travel to the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Authority’s quest to create a “Judenrein” state in the West Bank can be properly branded as apartheid. “No Jews allowed” is the sign blocking Israeli Jews from entering Area A, and even parts of Jerusalem. But when it comes to Arabs in Israel, there is no “apartheid.”

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