We are an apartheid state.

I don’t know why people get all upset when people say Israel is an apartheid state. Like it’s some kind of curse or something. It’s just a word, and it has a specific meaning. Come to think of it, that’s how it is with curse words, right? If someone uses the correct terminology for a person born out of wedlock, the person will most certainly feel offended, whether or not they were born out of wedlock.

Why do people say that about us?

So what is apartheid? I looked it up. As the word is used today, it means a state under which there are separate judicial systems for different groups in the population.

That sounds right to me.

If you are a Jew or you live inside the Green Line, you are subject to a court system for citizens of Israel. If you are an Arab and you live on the West Bank, you are subject to a completely different judicial system, which is fundamentally a military court system.

Nobody would argue with that, because it is the simple truth. Depending on your circumstances, you are subject to different laws.

The fact that an Arab became the Israeli beauty queen is irrelevant. She is subject to one judicial system and a different group of Arabs is subject to a different judicial system. The fact that we give medical treatment to Syrian refugees is irrelevant. If a refugee commits a crime, well, I won’t go into that, but let’s just say that the Syrian refugees would probably be subject to the civil judicial system but a fair number of the African refugees end up subject to a military court system.

Separate judicial systems for separate people. The accurate current terminology for that specific situation is “apartheid.”

It’s ironic, really, that the people who are offended by the word are the same people who honestly and truly believe that these separate judicial systems must be perpetuated. These are often the same people who do not support a free Palestinian state. They think the current situation is the best we can do under the circumstances. I’m not going to argue about that (today). All I’m saying is that if you believe we need a separate set of laws for non-Israeli Arabs, and if you believe that we should not grant all those people citizenship, then you should not be offended that you are called an apartheid state. That’s what you are. It’s accurate.

If you are called the word for an out-of-wedlock child, people probably are not referring to your parentage, so go ahead and be offended if you want. It won’t do you any good, but at the very least you would be correct in assuming someone was trying to offend you.

But we do believe in freedom and equality.

The assistance we give to Syrian refugees, the number of high-tech companies in Nazareth, the rights of Muslims at the Dome of the Rock, and various other rights and privileges, however, do point to something else.

They point to the fact that despite a certain level of racism, Israelis do fundamentally believe in equality. It might be strange to say this, because it seems there is a conflict. Most Israelis have a bit of a racist streak (probably most people do) but also most Israelis believe, fundamentally, in equality and human rights.

I’m old enough to know that I hold a lot of conflicting beliefs, for example, that my religion is correct, but also that those other people’s religions are right (for them). I don’t know how I can believe those two things at once, but I do.

So I feel comfortable saying that Israelis believe in equality, even if they harbor some prejudice. Israelis truly want an open and free state. We want equal rights for gays, women, Arabs, people of different races. Many of our laws and social justice organizations are focused on generating that equality.

Oh, so that’s why you are offended!

Because we fundamentally, as a people, recognize the universal human value of equality, it bothers some of us when we are called an apartheid state. Apartheid state, as it was implemented in South Africa, was justified by a fundamental belief that some people are more equal than other people. That it was justified to have different laws based on the color of one’s skin.

Israelis don’t believe that. The justification for our apartheid system is the belief that the Arabs would kill us and eliminate the Jewish state if they were treated equally under the law. That’s a legitimate fear based both on history and current rhetoric.

And that’s a good thing.

So I would say it’s a good sign that you are offended by the fact that someone is calling you apartheid.

It means that you recognize the universal value of equality of all human beings. It means that you consider apartheid an unacceptable long-term solution.

If you consider apartheid insulting and unacceptable, it’s time to do something about it. Something doesn’t mean hiding the truth. Something doesn’t mean stopping other people from speaking the truth.

If you are against apartheid, speak out against it. It’s our government. If we do not want an apartheid state, let’s stand together to end it. That may mean different things for different people, and that’s the wonderful part about democracy. But first, let’s tell the truth. Only then can we start to solve the problem.