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November 6, 2017 12:36 pm

No, Israel Is Not an Apartheid State

avatar by Kevin Budning

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A mock IDF checkpoint set up during a past “Israeli Apartheid Week” at the University of California, Los Angeles campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

On October 24, the CBC published an anti-Israel opinion piece penned by one of its own journalists, Neil Macdonald. The article — which is inherently flawed — accuses Israel of being an apartheid state. In order to prove his point, Macdonald resorts to baseless and emotionally loaded arguments, applies a double standard to Israel, and purposely omits highly relevant facts. 

Israel is not an apartheid state and here is why:

First of all, Macdonald somehow wrote an entire article accusing Israel of apartheid without actually providing a definition for the term. According to the Rome Statute Art.7(2,h), apartheid requires “total systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining the regime.”

Now that we have a working definition, we must ask ourselves, is this a reality in Israel? The answer, of course, is a resounding no.

While Macdonald focuses solely on the Palestinian issue — which I will address later — he fails to mention the roughly two million Arab-Israeli citizens who have full rights under the law. These rights include participation in the political system (including voting for Arab citizens, who represent Arab parties in the Knesset), freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, freedom to own and sell land, freedom of sexual orientation and, basically, every other freedom that was denied to black people under the South African apartheid regime.

These precious freedoms that Israel guarantees to all of its citizens, regardless of religion, are unheard of in almost every other country in the Middle East and in Africa. Yet Macdonald does not explain why he chose to target Israel’s “apartheid” regime, and not those of Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and so on.

Furthermore, Macdonald argues that Israel is an apartheid state simply because many scholars, President Jimmy Carter, the Israeli “news” media (basically only Haaretz, and only then on occasion) and the leaders of extreme right and left-wing Israeli parties have warned that this might be the case.

Once again, we must ask ourselves: are the uses of specific outlier cases and contorted quotes from individuals truly representative of Israel’s policies? Of course not.

When the National Democratic Party of Germany gains seats in the Bundestag and advocates for anti-immigration and fascist policies, do I automatically assume that Germany is once again supporting Nazism? No, I do not. I do my research. 

Yet if we dig a little deeper, we can see that Macdonald tends to blame Israel for everything  — regardless of how obtuse the claim may be.

In another attempt to support his argument, Macdonald goes after Israel’s settlement policy. While I am certainly not a supporter of the settlements or the discrimination that many Palestinians face, I cannot acquiesce that this constitutes apartheid.  

And Macdonald fails to mention the administrative responsibility that Fatah and Hamas have over the Palestinians residing in these territories. The population in Gaza and in the West Bank are not Israeli citizens, they do not pay Israeli taxes, they rarely contribute to the economy, and — like every other country in the world – they should not be entitled to the same rights as another country’s citizens.

Macdonald also fails to mention why so many of these discriminatory laws exist. Mainly, he omits the short history Palestinian terrorism, antisemitism and how Hamas’ charter literally calls for the destruction of the Jewish people. These are some of the many difficult cleavages that Macdonald deliberately chooses to ignore.

If we return to the aforementioned definition of apartheid, we can see that Israel’s main goal is not to oppress and dominate the Palestinians, with the sole objective of maintaining a hegemonic regime. If that were the case, Arab-Israelis would not be amongst the happiest, freest, wealthiest, most educated and healthiest people in the region.

In Israel, there are no separate water fountains for Arabs and for Jews; there are no “Muslim only” hospitals; there is no distinct university for minorities; and there are no “pass books” for Arabs to show the IDF as they walk down the streets of Jerusalem. That is apartheid. 

And Mr. Macdonald, if you’re still convinced that Israel is an apartheid state, then I’m afraid you’ve fallen down the “slippery slope” of bad journalism. 

Kevin Budning is pursuing his masters in political science at the University of Toronto.

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