This week, anti-Israel activists across the globe are gearing up for or hosting Israel Apartheid Weeks on various college campuses, with the goal of delegitimizing the State of Israel. As an anti-Israel student group at American University announced, “The aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.” While anti-Israel student groups like the Students for Justice in Palestine frequently make such statements, it is critical to remember that such assertions are nothing more than slander designed to harm Israel.
Many of the young anti-Israel activists who claim that Israel is an apartheid state don’t understand what the definition of apartheid truly is. According to Merriam Webster’s English dictionary, apartheid is “racial segregation: specifically, a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa.” A report published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on the subject claimed that among the policies that were implemented in apartheid South Africa were legal prohibitions on sexual relations between different races; forced physical separations between races, in restaurants, neighborhoods, swimming pools, public transport, etc.; restricting members of the black community to unskilled labor in urban areas; forbidding blacks from voting; educational restrictions for blacks, etc.
Benjamin Pogrund is a former deputy editor of the South African Rand Daily who reported on apartheid for 26 years and was an anti-apartheid activist himself. After his newspaper was shut down by the apartheid government, he made Aliyah to Israel. Pogrund, as someone who is familiar with both South African apartheid and Israel, claimed that these conditions listed above do not exist in Israel. He asserted in the Guardian, “Arabs have the vote, which in itself makes them fundamentally different from South Africa’s black population under apartheid. And even the current right wing government says that it wants to overcome Arab disadvantage and promises action to upgrade education and housing and increase job opportunities.”
Upon witnessing how both Arabs and Jews worked together and were treated in Israeli hospitals, Pogrund claimed, “What I saw in the Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital was inconceivable in South Africa where I spent most of my life, growing up then and working as a journalist who specialized in apartheid.” Yet the existence of Arab voting rights, government initiatives to decrease gaps between Jews and Arabs, and coexistence in hospitals are not the only aspects of Israeli society that prove that Israel is not an apartheid state, for incitement to racism is a criminal offense in Israel, as is discrimination based on race or religion, implying that the Israeli legal system fundamentally rejects apartheid ideology.
In fact, Israel is a liberal democracy and an open society, where the Arab minority actively participates in the political process. Arabs like Major General Hussain Fares, Major General Yosef Mishlav, and Lieutenant Colonel Amos Yarkoni have served prominently in the IDF, while Arabs such as Ali Yahya, Walid Mansour, and Reda Mansour served as Israeli Ambassadors. Salim Joubran sits on the Israeli Supreme Court, while Nawwaf Massalha and Raleb Majadele were members of the Israeli Cabinet. Arabs have also served as university professors, heads of hospital departments, management level positions in various businesses, and in senior level positions in the Israeli Police. Indeed, Israeli Arabs have reached positions that blacks in apartheid South Africa could only dream of. Thus, Israel is the polar opposite of being an apartheid state.
By Rachel Avraham