Apartheid Israel has become a rallying cry of the Christian left on college campuses and other forums, as a way demonizing Israel. The underlying claim is the Christian left’s passionate concern for how Palestinians are treated by Israel. That is, not by Israel per se, but by the Jews of Israel: no one in the Christian left is accusing Israeli Arabs of apartheid. The claim is that criticism of Israeli Jews isn’t based on bigotry of the Jewish identity, but of their behavior towards Arabs in Israel and the occupied territories. Herein are two lies.
The first lie is the claim that the Christian left is concerned with the fate and condition of Palestinians, and their abuse by Israel. If you search “Palestinians in Lebanon” you will understand that this claim is a lie. Following the War of 1948 and the Arab loss in their effort to prevent the establishment of Israel, some 100,000 Palestinians fled to Lebanon, where they were placed in UN refugee camps. The camps today are managed by the UN agency, UN Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA). Estimates of the Palestinian population in Lebanon today range from 250,000 to 400,000, roughly 10% of Lebanon’s population. While UNRWA estimates that there are only about 250,000 Palestinians in Lebanon, 489,292 are registered with it.
Palestinians in Lebanon are barred from citizenship and regarded as foreign nationals, including those born in Lebanon to parents born in Lebanon, born to parents born in Lebanon. Fourth generation Palestinians born in Lebanon cannot acquire citizenship and are considered “stateless” by Lebanese and UN authorities. Given that they are barred from citizenship, they cannot hold public office or other jobs that require citizenship. Their rights to travel from and back to Lebanon are also severally restricted, requiring special permits to return if they travel outside the country (Decree No. 17561 of 18/9/1962).
Per Lebanese law, Palestinians may not work in most academic professions: they are barred from working in 39 professions, such as medicine, law and engineering. In other professions where they are legally allowed to work, the local norm requires vocational professionals to belong to the relevant professional syndication. The professional syndications don’t accept Palestinians as members, and Lebanese labor law doesn’t prohibit such discrimination. The result is that most Palestinians work in the informal labor market (paid off the books). For those employed legally, the International Labor Organization reports: “Although they make full contributions to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Palestinian refugees working in the formal economy and registered with the NSSF are excluded from the sickness, maternity and family allowances benefits under the “policy of reciprocity of treatment”, notwithstanding their exemption from the reciprocity injunction under the Social Security Law, as amended in August 2010.” Palestinian wage earners and their employers continued to pay full contributions to the NSSF (23.5%). Similarly, legally employed Palestinians must pay a National Health Insurance tax, but are generally barred from benefiting from it. Per the ILO, only 5.3% of Palestinians in Lebanon have health care coverage by the country’s national health insurance. The Lebanese “policy of reciprocity of treatment” states that foreign nationals resident in Lebanon are eligible for Lebanese benefits only if Lebanese nationals resident in the foreign national’s home country extends such benefits to Lebanese nationals resident in that country. Since Palestinians are considered to be “stateless”, they don’t have a country that can reciprocate and therefore don’t meet the reciprocity requirement. Go figure.
Similarly, per Amnesty International, Palestinians are barred from owning land or other real estate (Law 296). They are also barred from improving their housing conditions within the camps, with any improvements violating a written law and subjecting the Palestinian to arrest. Bassam Tawil writes about the arrest and jailing of Um Wissam, 64 years old, by Lebanese police for bringing building materials into her refugee camp to repair her home:
The case of Um Wissam not only exposes the mistreatment of Palestinians at the hands of an Arab country but also the double standards of the international community and all the so-called pro-Palestinian individuals and groups.
Had Um Wissam been arrested by the Israeli authorities, her story would have made headlines on the front page of every major media outlet in the West. Her plight would have been highlighted by the United Nations, by every so-called human rights organization, and by every anti-Israel group on university campuses across the United States and the West. Foreign journalists would have been standing in line outside her family’s home while hoping to further trash Israel by using the details of her case. But as Um Wissam had the misfortune of being imprisoned by Lebanese authorities, her case holds no interest for the West.
Lebanese children are generally prohibited from attending Lebanese public school. That is, while public school is free to Lebanese children (Law No. 686 of 1998), Palestinians must pay for their children to attend private schools. Since most cannot afford the fees, most Palestinian children drop out before finishing high school and end up working in the informal economy.
In short, Palestinians in Lebanon are barred from citizenship, from working in most academic professions (both by law and by discrimination by the professional syndications), from owning land or homes, from benefiting from social security and national health coverage even though they pay taxes to these programs, from attending public schools, or even repairing their homes in the refugee camps.
The second lie is Apartheid Israel. To understand the lie, let’s first understand what apartheid is. Per Article Two of the UN’s International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid:
(a) Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person:
(i) By murder of members of a racial group or groups;
(ii) By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
(iii) By arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups;
(b) Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part;
(c) Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognized trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;
d) Any measures including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof;
(e) Exploitation of the labour of the members of a racial group or groups, in particular by submitting them to forced labour;
(f) Persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid.
If we examine the above conditions in Lebanon, we see that they clearly violate Article a. IIc of the UN definition of apartheid. The above limitations on Palestinian integration, after four generations, limits their ability to integrate or participate in Lebanese society. Similarly with limitations on their leave and return to the country of their birth, right to a nationality (citizenship), freedom of movement and residence in Lebanon, etc. Limitations on their residence to the UN refugee camps violates Article a. IId, turning the camps into ghettos and reserves. The prohibition by law of Palestinian making their camps livable can be seen as a violation of Article a. IIb. The law prohibiting them from working in a list of 39 professions is clearly a violation of Article a. IIe, with Lebanese law forcing most Palestinians to work in the informal economy at wages well below the country’s minimum wage, and without the various social benefits that Lebanese citizens enjoy. And if a Palestinian does work in the formal economy and pays social security and national health insurance taxes, they are limited in their rights to benefit from those programs.
The prohibition of bringing building materials into the UNRWA refugee camps clearly violates ArticleII b. The refugee camps were built when the population was 100,000. Today there are two to three times the population in the same living quarters built for 100,000, but Lebanese law prohibits UNRWA from expanding the camps to accommodate the larger population.
Clearly, these laws combine to create an apartheid regime against the Palestinians living in Lebanon. And yet, as Basal Tawil points out, the west isn’t interested. The oppression of Palestinians by fellow Arabs or others simply doesn’t interest those claiming to struggle for Palestinian human rights. Lie number 1.
The second lie is Apartheid Israel. Following the 1948 War (which ended in March 1949), Israel found herself with new borders and approximately 160,000 Palestinian residents (who had not left their homes). In the first session of the Knesset following the war, the government of Israel recognized the Palestinian residents as citizens of the country, Arabic as an official language of the country, Islam as an official religion, Sharia courts for family law and civil disputes for Muslims (similar to Rabbinical courts for Jews). Sharia courts were originally placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Religious Affairs but later moved to the Ministry of Justice. Similarly, Arab land titles (from the Ottoman and Mandate periods) were recognized. All Israeli government web sites are available in Arabic as well as Hebrew, English and Russian. Highway and city street signs are generally in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Arabic appears on Israel’s currency and postage stamps. 74% of Jews own their homes, 90% of Israeli Arabs own their homes.
Arabs sit the Parliament, sit on the Courts (including the Supreme Court), and the Executive (including as heads of Ministries) and the military. Arabs in the Knesset are members of Arab ethnic parties while some are members of Zionists parties. In 2011 George Karra, a Christian Arab, was appointed to the Supreme Court; later in 2022 Khaled Kabub, a Muslim Arab, was appointed to the Supreme Court. For a brief period (February to May 2022) two Arabs sat on the Supreme Court together. Ayoob Kara, a Druze Arab and a member of the Likud party, served in Parliament, was Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and later Minister of Communications (2017-2019). Majalli Wahabi, who served as a Deputy Brigade Commander in the Golani infantry brigade and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, served as Israel’s Acting President in 2007 when the current President had to take a leave of absence.
|Druze Arab, Brig. General, commander of Givati Brigade 2001-2003. commander of 91st Division (Lebanese Front)
|Druze Arab, Brig. General, commander of Golani Brigade. Commanded the Brigade during Operation Protective Edge
|Dr. Badar Tarif
|Druze Arab, Brigadier General and IDF Chief Medical Officer.
|Dr. Mansour Abbas,
|Muslim, studied dentistry at Hebrew University and leads the political party United Arab List (UAL) and is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. In the 2021 election, the two major factions were tied at 58 seats each, each side lacking three votes to form a majority coalition. The UAL had four seats, negotiated with the two factions about who to support for Prime Minister. In deciding to support Naftali Bennit as Prime Minister. In the “Apartheid” state of Israel, four Arabs decided who would be Israel’s Prime Minister.
|Samer Haj Yehia
|An Israeli Arab and graduate of Hebrew University and MIT, is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bank Leumi, Israel’s largest bank, as of 2014. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Reichman University, located at Herzliya
|Prof. Salman Zarka
|Druze Arab, Coronavirus Commissioner July 2021. Currently Director of Ziv Medical Centre in Safed.
|Christian Arab, Miss Israel 1999. Following her crowning as national beauty queen, Raslan represented Israel at Miss Universe that same year.
|Muslim, Second Place, Master Chef Third Season
|Muslim, First Place, Master Chef Fourth Season
|Muslim, An Arab-Israeli actor, director in cinema, theatre and television. He is married to Jewish-Israeli playwright Gidona Raz, with whom he has three sons
At this time, 35% of Israel’s doctors, 24% of her nurses and 40% of her pharmacist are Arabs. At this time, 48% of the medical students at Hebrew University Medical School are Arabs. The family doctor of two of my sons is Arab and a Professor of Family Medicine at Hebrew University.
And so, the list goes on. Arabs in Israel are protected by her Equal Protection law, and are fully integrated into Israel’s social, political, legal and artistic environments.
Either Israel isn’t an apartheid state, or we Jews just don’t know how to set up an apartheid regime. Or, the accusation is simply a typical Christian lie about Jews. What is clear is that the Christian left, ignoring the Apartheid regime in Lebanon, doesn’t care about Palestinians except to use them as a club to beat up Jews with.