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Israel is Not an Apartheid State

06/10/2021 08:36:31 AM


I know that I am not the first to decry this phrase but occasionally it needs to be done: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  There is so much wrong with this aphorism, both in terms of the far too common way in which mean and nasty words always carry the undeniable potential for the hurling of sticks and stones, not to mention the fact that a significant portion of the “oeuvre” of psychologists, therapists, gurus and coaches is built upon the pain and suffering inflicted by words themselves.  I cannot assign intention to every individual, who denounces in public spheres, other individuals and groups, with language and terminology that is at least misguided or uncharacteristic, if not just plain wrong. However, what bothers me most about the use of these inaccurate claims, is that they are just a strident sign of that speaker’s laziness. 

“Apartheid” is one term used of late that comes to mind.  As many of you are aware, “Apartheid” is a term used to denounce the state of Israel.  Now I know that there are some who would claim that the use of the term is justified, even if it does not directly apply, even if it is meant to just grab attention and shine a light.  I appreciate that kind of artistry.  Even so, this is such an outlier that it defies common sense.  Does anyone find it odd that Israel’s biggest critics in the west don’t as well call out against the US government, with the same accusation of “Apartheid,” in the face, for example, of “Red-lining?” (One of the best known and recent examples of “Redlining” is the systematic and legalized effort to deny black people access to purchasing homes in large swaths of US cities, making them untouchable, through the denial of access, loans and services.) And while I hate “whataboutism,”  it is just so atrocious to me that Israel is accused of Apartheid, while China imprisons, kills and “ethnically cleanses” the Uighurs.   

And what’s that?  Any blowback??? No?...crickets…got it.“ 

Did you know that China holds a seat on the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations?”  China???!!!   Did you know that in 2020 alone, the United Nations General Assembly adopted 17 resolutions against Israel, while in that same year, just six targeted all other countries combined?  One each condemned the regimes of North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Myanmar, and two were on Crimea, which was seized in 2014 by Russia.

“Apartheid” was a state policy of South Africa from 1948 – 1994 that systematically, and officially and legally, stripped black Africans of South African citizenship and denied their basic human rights, as well as any and all political representation.  Today, in Israel, it is BECAUSE of an Arab political party that the anti-BB Netanyahu coalition is coalescing.  In Israel, by law, all people, including non-Jews and non-Whites, can serve as Members of Knesset, Supreme Court Justices, and even become valedictorians – none of which (and so much more) could ever happen, by law, under a regime of Apartheid.

Can you actually have a political state that guarantees the political rights of the non-majority up to and including full political representation in the highest seats of government and still call it Apartheid?  No.  But here’s what you CAN call Israel:

  • You can call it a state that has yet to equalize access for all. 
  • You can call it a state that has fallen short of its promises. 
  • You can call it a state that is still working through the seemingly politically impossible task of becoming a Jewish and a Democratic state. 
  • You can call it a state that suffers from an intractable situation of living next door to self-induced slums, whose “landlords” and “friends” have regularly and continually refused to help, whose residents have deservedly developed generations of rage, resentment and hopelessness, against which Israel has indeed required defense, as it does not want to be collateral damage.  Does anyone who calls Israel Apartheid, say it with the understanding that Egypt, as well, has had to exercise its own defenses by controlling the guarded and blocked Southern border to Gaza?
  • And you can call Israel the one Jewish state in the world that has from its very genesis, lived in a state of war, trying desperately to hang on to a sliver of land, promised for thousands of years and guaranteed by the United Nations in 1948, that is 1/40th the size in population and 1/500th the size in land mass of all Arab countries. 

But you cannot call Israel Apartheid.  Words have meaning.  That meaning is steeped in history, story, nuance, symbolism, and most importantly, context. Context is everything when it comes to a word’s meaning.  Start here with an easy one.  There is no place in Israel where this South African Apartheid era sign installed by the Provincial Secretary (i.e. the government) is legal.  Never has been, never will be. 

If you wish to have an intelligent, and a decidedly not lazy conversation about Israel, with the many bright, sensitive and visionary American Jews, who love Israel so much that we are willing to hold her accountable to her promises, just as we seek to do in America, there are lots of people willing and able.  But, we will never abandon the firm and solid belief that drove Israel’s coming into being in the first place – we also deserve a place to call home. 

Wed, August 17 2022 20 Av 5782