Israel Is Not an ‘Apartheid’ State — Here’s the Proof
Since the claim that Israel is an apartheid state was broadcast in 2001 in Durban, South Africa — the land where I was born and raised — pro-BDS scholars have purposefully misused the word to describe Israeli society. As a result, we are seeing growing numbers of professors and policymakers who have been subjected to this educational malpractice, and who are now influencing the next generation with these lies about the Jewish state.
In an effort to stop the proliferation of the “Israeli apartheid” myth, here are some corrective facts:
1. Two million Arab Israelis are citizens of Israel, with full rights as citizens. There are Israeli Arabs in the Knesset and on Israel’s Supreme Court. Arab and Jewish professors work side by side in Israeli universities, and doctors and nurses work in integrated settings in Israel’s hospitals, including the world-famous Hadassah Hospital. The same is true of every business and profession in Israel.
2. Most Palestinians living in the disputed territories do not wish to become Israeli citizens.
According to a 2017 poll by The Washington Institute, there has been a dramatic drop in the proportion of Palestinians in East Jerusalem who say they would choose Israeli citizenship over Palestinian citizenship. Furthermore, many Palestinians do not want their own state alongside Israel, but an independent state that includes the land comprised of present-day Israel.
Dr. Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, reports that Palestinian support for a two-state solution is at its lowest since the Oslo Accords in 1993, with only 43 percent of Palestinians living in the West Bank endorsing the idea, and violence against Israel being viewed as appropriate by more and more younger Palestinians.
Indeed, based on data gathered by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Since September 2015, Israel has experienced a wave of terror perpetrated by individuals, many of them very young.” The Ministry cites 76 Israelis killed and 1,187 wounded by Palestinian terrorists since September 2015 in stabbings, shootings, and vehicular attacks.
3. BDS proponents describe the checkpoints and the wall/fence dividing the West Bank from Israel as an “apartheid wall.” However, unlike the apartheid era Group Areas Act, which kept black South Africans separate from white citizens as a means of oppressing them, the wall/fence was not built to serve as a structure of oppression.
Instead, it was created as an act of self-defense and containment against Palestinian terrorism. Israel constructed the barrier only after several years of suicide and mass murder bombings killed more than 1,000 Israelis in restaurants, hotels, teenage nightclubs, and synagogues. The structure has succeeded in reducing the number of mass murders of Israeli civilians by approximately 96 percent.
4. Despite their fear and understandable bitterness toward Palestinians — many of whom wish to see them destroyed — most Israelis continue to seek ways to ease the suffering of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. For example, tens of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals each year. In most cases, they are cancer or heart patients, and often, they are children.
To help facilitate their medical treatment, more than 1,000 Israeli volunteers transport patients and their family members from border checkpoints in Gaza and the West Bank to Israeli hospitals. Israel also helps Palestinians with basic needs, such as electricity and water.
5. Israel provides its Palestinian citizens with freedom of speech and freedom of movement. Whereas black South African students were shot in the streets of Soweto, and Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) arrest Palestinian students for speaking out, Palestinians in Israel can peacefully protest against the government without fear of violent reprisal or other punishment.
And, as in all democracies, real incidents of discrimination can be challenged effectively in the courts. For example, in 2013, when Palestinians from the village of Burka petitioned the courts to reclaim land they had lost to Israeli settlers in the West Bank, the courts ruled in their favor.
6. In South Africa, blacks, whites, and all other designated racial groups were forced to live in assigned segregated areas. In Israel, residential segregation is a result of language, culture, religion, and economic and educational disparities between Jews and Arabs — not a reflection of the law. In fact, over the last two decades, there has been an increase in “mixed” cities, which, based on the definition established by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, is one where at least 10 percent of the residents identify as Arabs. In Beersheva, the population of Arabs is 15 percent. Other cities considered mixed include Haifa and Jaffa.
7. Unlike in South Africa, where black children were confined to segregated schooling that ensured their continued subjugation under apartheid, there are schools in Israel that serve both Arab and Jewish children. However, most schools serve either one group or the other, because most Arab Israelis choose for their children to learn in Arabic and within an environment reflecting their culture at home. As a result, universities across Israel offer Hebrew instruction for first year Palestinian students to help them prepare for their coursework in Hebrew — one of several initiatives implemented in recent years to help enroll larger percentages of Arab students in these institutions.
8. Whereas South African apartheid laws were designed to oppress black South Africans and prevent their social upward mobility by ensuring that only a tiny percentage of blacks attended low quality “tribal” universities, one can find numerous examples and educational initiatives in Israel aimed at improving opportunities for Arab Israelis.
For example, before the State of Israel was established in 1948, only 25 percent of the Arab population of Palestine was literate. As of today, the vast majority of the Arab population is literate. Another major improvement in the lives of Palestinians has occurred since 1967, involving the creation of large public universities in areas controlled by the PA.
Twenty-two percent of all medical students in Israel are Palestinian, which is equal to their proportion of Israel’s total population, and Palestinians chair academic departments in universities across the country.
People who promote the “apartheid” lie rely heavily on the ignorance of most Americans, who know little about South Africa and remarkably little about Israel. It is time we start changing that by presenting the truth about both countries.
Melissa Landa PhD has been addressing the pernicious tactics and goals of the BDS campaign for four years. Most recently, she founded and directs the new anti-BDS organization Alliance for Israel.