Irene Rabinowitz
New Englander by birth, Israeli by choice.

Apartheid follies

Being a very bad housekeeper, I have never been one to turn up my nose at other folks’ housecleaning skills. Dust in the corner? Yup, I’ve got that and more than that in the corners. Soon I will be in Israel for a month and will act as a guest and not criticize the internal workings of a country I have grown to love. As my feelings of “being home” increase with every visit, the reality is that it is not yet “my country” and until it is, I will cease and desist from taking sides in Israel’s internal political skirmishes. But, and big but here, I will defend Israel’s place on the planet as a Jewish homeland, especially with my fellow Americans, some of whom bandy about the term “apartheid” whenever they see anything about Israel. And there are quite a few. Rather than just calling them morons (which is what I think when I see or hear it), I will just recommend that they look at the dust bunnies in their own homes. One FB friend (there is a real connection there, not just a cyber one) wrote something about apartheid in his comments after I shared an article about Cyndi Lauper being in Israel. When I chided him (reminding him that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism), I got a message from him denying that he is an anti-Semite, he just believes Israel is an apartheid state. He was offended. The following is what I wanted to say to him, but I took the easy way out, blocked him and ignored his whiny follow up message. Maybe he will read this somewhat pissed off rant. Maybe not but at least I will feel better after writing it.

We Americans often pride ourselves on the fact that our democracy provides equal treatment under the law for all citizens. Bull. If you want to talk about apartheid, our indigenous people were crowded into reservations, sometimes not on their historic homelands, and treated as a throw away population. Sometimes slaughtered with tribal remnants forced to move hundreds of miles with no food or shelter. Poverty, lack of opportunity, limited health care, and poor nutrition for kids plague many tribes. The recent cold snap endangered many on reservations who had few resources to counter the frigid temperatures in Minnesota and the Dakotas. An interesting movement is beginning in some tribes; support for Israel based on the belief that indigenous populations must be respected within their own lands. Snap.

African-Americans make up 40% of the prison population in the United States. Only 13% of the population is African-American. You can steal millions from investors or snort powder cocaine and receive a lesser sentence that a young black guy charged with drug offenses or petty burglaries. Apartheid? My country is not that far away from slavery. I am old enough to have gone to school with kids who had grandparents who were born not long after emancipation.

The United States Congress has never really been representative of the population. 10% of the members of the House of Representatives are African-Americans; 1% of the US Senate. Last time I checked, 10% of the members of the Knesset are Arabs. Apartheid?

The funny thing is that I have not heard anti-American slurs about racism and apartheid leveled at the United States by Israelis although there is plenty of ammunition. I am not saying that it does not happen, just that I have not heard it. But so often I hear those accusations tossed around at Israel by Americans, many of whom have never been there and feel free to offer reasons why Zionism is bad. To them I say, yes, anti-Zionism is the denial of the right of Jews to have a homeland, and yes, it is anti-Semitism.

And to my friends on the American left (to which I still belong as long as you are talking about government providing for those who can’t provide for themselves) who are so quick to brand Israel as a racist apartheid country, check out your own house first. There is a lot of crap in the corners that needs to be cleaned out.

About the Author
Irene Rabinowitz made aliyah in November 2014 and lives in Jerusalem. Prior to making aliyah, she lived in a small odd town at the tip of Cape Cod for 28 years. She lived in New York City for 16 years as a young adult (or old child), but is a Rhode Islander by birth. Irene has served as a local elected official and retired from a long career in non-profit management at the end of 2013, after serving as the Executive Director of Helping Our Women for 18 years. While still consulting with NGOs in both Israel and abroad, she has most recently been the Director of Development at Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance.
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