Monday, March 5, 2012

Let's Accept the Fact that Israel Is Not an Apartheid State

There is a certain point where you get fed up with the hyperbolic, inaccurate slogan of "Israel is an apartheid state" and the ridiculous Israel Apartheid Week events held on college campuses. With such tomfoolery, I have to begin to wonder if these anti-Israel activists actually know what the definition of apartheid is.

What is apartheid? According to the Rome Statute of International Criminal Court of 1998 (Article 7, Section 2h), apartheid is defined as "inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime." The 1973 United Nations General Assembly defined it as "inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them."

In short, apartheid is a de jure racial discrimination that segregates one race from another. That would mean such policies as denying a certain race to vote, making interracial marriage illegal, or barring the oppressed race from holding public office, all of which took place in South Africa. 

To say the least, comparing Israel to South Africa's past policies is intellectually dishonest to the point where it can be defined as slander. Arabs in Israel can vote, own property, be members in the Knesset (Israel's legislative branch), serve on the Israeli Supreme Court (e.g., Salim Joubran), share the same public facilities, receive health care and assistance from other state-sponsored programs, and what's more, Arabic is an official language of Israel. Judge Richard Goldstone, who was infamous for the Goldstone Commission, points out in his New York Times op-ed entitled Israel and the Apartheid Slander that much of the de facto separation amongst communities is primarily chosen by the communities themselves, and continues to say "In Israel, equal rights are the law, the aspiration and the ideal; inequities are often successfully challenged in court."   

Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, an Israeli that is critical of the Israeli government, like so many other Israelis, said "to say that Israel is an apartheid state is a big exaggeration" and "I would rather live in Israel as a second-class citizen than as a first-class citizen in Cairo, Gaza, Amman, or Ramallah." The South African Interior Minister realizes that Israel is not an apartheid state. Looking at a recent poll brought to my attention by the Brookings Institute, a centrist think-tank, only 36% of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs analogizes Israel's policies to apartheid. You had a majority that were worried about discrimination in some form, which given the political climate, is to be expected. However, you couldn't even get a majority of Israeli Arabs, a people who are not happy with Israel by any means, to say that Israel is an apartheid state. 

Why can't these rabidly anti-Israeli activists in the West realize that although Israel has its own societal and institutional issues that it needs to get through, just like any other nation-state, Israel is still a liberal democracy with a free press, independent judiciary, religious freedoms, and civil and political liberties? 

I'll leave that question as a rhetorical one, at least for now. If you have issues with Israel's policies, I ask two things. First, if you are going to hold Israel to such high standards (which you shouldn't do in the first place because they are of mythical proportions), be consistent and apply those standards to every nation. Don't single out Israel because doing so reeks of anti-Semitic overtones. Second, keep Israel's policies in context, not simply in terms of the tumultuous situation in the Middle East, but in terms of what apartheid actually is. I don't mind a healthy dose of criticism, but leave the fallacious emotionalism of out the discussion; it only serves as a counterproductive force.

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