The first month of Israel Apartheid Week has ended (that is not a typo) and a new threat of the Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ) is looming. The comparison of the Arab situation in Jerusalem to that of the blacks in the southern United States is now becoming the most dangerous Israel de-legitimization technique. It is a slur much more subtle than apartheid and BDS, so easier to promote. It firmly sets the Israelis as “white, colonial occupiers” over the “oppressed, black underclass” in the minds of the masses.
Black slavery in the United States ended in 1865 after the Civil War; however, the Civil Rights Act, which guaranteed equal rights, was only passed into law in 1964, almost 100 years later. The real Freedom Riders, civil rights activists (including blacks and Jews), rode the interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961. Martin Luther King Jr. led his famous March on Washington in 1963. I do not vividly recall those events, but I grew up in the South as segregation was ending and I want to share with y’all five reasons why segregation in Jerusalem is not the same. Please see for yourself.
1. All races, all creeds
True story: In the 1950s a New York man travelling with his business group checked into a motel for the night in a small Alabama town. In the middle of the night someone began pounding on the door. It was the proprietor of the establishment who called out a very Jewish- sounding name. “Yes, that is me”, the surprised man answered. “Well,” said the owner, “didn’t you see the sign, ‘No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs?’ Get your things and get out!” The man’s widow does not know if he got his money back, but he did change his name to a less Jewish-sounding one before his next trip south.
In Jerusalem there are signs on some stores that say “MEN”
and some store signs say “WOMEN.”
the sign at the entrance of the old Hadassah Hospital is written in stone:
In English, Hebrew and Arabic, “FOR ALL RACES AND CREEDS.”
2. In sickness and in health
Today there is no sign needed at Shaare Zedek Hospital or any other
Israeli hospital. There is no sign of segregation in staff or with patients.
3. Front-row seats
In the Old South, blacks had to sit in the back of the bus by law.
Arab women in Jerusalem today seem to prefer to sit in the front of bus, and they do so on a regular basis, for there are no “white-only” buses.
There may be plenty of problems with the new Jerusalem light rail trains and system, but they are certainly not segregated.
4. Going together
Public places and parks are not segregated like in the Old South.
The public toilets in the parks are not segregated either, but they are difficult for the disabled to use and definitely could use improvement.
5. Israeli salad
In the Old South, blacks were not allowed to eat in a white eating establishment. You could never expect to see a black person
sitting at a street cafe,
eating at a table in Malha Mall,
a restaurant on a popular street,
a food court in Malha Mall,
or standing and eating sandwiches at the Mishkenot Sha’ananim Conference Center during a conference lunch break.
We may not live in the Utopian world the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development strives to promote. But to compare Israel to the Old South is a dangerous distortion that must be strongly refuted and now.