B’Tselem, which is an anti-Israel, Israeli organization dedicated to erasing Israel from the map (btselem.org), has once again accused Israel of being an apartheid state and unequivocally demands an end to Israeli occupation (sic) of the State of Palestine (see below). B’Tselem raises the question, “Is Israel an apartheid state?” and vehemently declares, “Yes.” This is akin to asking: Are you still beating your wife? In both cases, the question is illegitimate and answering it only gives it legitimacy. Because I like to contest defamation like this, I offer the following.
Have you seen the film, Green Book? Set in America of the 1960s, it portrays the journey of a sophisticated black concert pianist on a tour of the South, accompanied by a working-class Italian-American driver (and bodyguard). Suffice it to say that what this duo encounters on their trip surprised and infuriated me.
As portrayed in the film, which appears to be quite accurate, even in the 1960s American blacks were subject to intense separation in the South, which included such things as white only and black only entrances, water fountains, bathrooms, hotels, restaurants, and much more. There were also laws, or the misapplication of laws, which greatly disenfranchised blacks from voting, holding political office, gaining admittance to non-black schools, and much, much more.
However, when one talks about apartheid, it’s a whole different animal. Apartheid, which was official government policy in South Africa from 1948 until the early ‘90s, is a legal program which “legally” mistreated blacks as a wholly inferior race and brutally repressed black advancement. There was no ability to excise the apartheid laws except by violent resistance, which is what eventually helped to end it. In the American South, the federal government changed segregationist laws with the stroke of a pen in the 1960s, though it took years for integration to be enforced in some areas. According to many people in the US, there is still discrimination against “people of color” and others, but that is not the subject of this article.
Accusing Israel of apartheid is a red herring. If one is talking about Israeli Arabs, the accusation is ridiculous on its face. Israeli Arabs are citizens of Israel with all the rights, but not all the obligations (mainly army service), of Jewish or other non-Muslim Israelis. Israeli Arabs vote in all elections, attend all the universities, have political parties in the Knesset, are a major force in the medical and health services in particular, and can live where they want (with very few exceptions which also apply to non-Arabs). They arguably are the most free Arabs in the Middle East.
Since Israel’s government has no laws even vaguely similar to the former apartheid regime of South Africa, the argument that Israel is an “apartheid state” must refer to non-Israeli Arabs, who live either in parts of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (they call it Palestine), or in Gaza. In Jerusalem, where more than 330,000 Arabs reside, the vast majority of Arabs have not taken Israeli citizenship, which is available. Their status as permanent residents gives them all the rights of Israeli citizenship except for voting in national elections. Refuting fake news, Arab residents of Jerusalem, regardless of citizenship, are being vaccinated against the corona virus like all Israeli citizens.
But what about Arabs who reside in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Gaza? The PA is in charge of its citizens; Jews are verboten. (Compare: 20% of Israel’s citizenry is Muslim.) According to the Oslo Agreement, which the PA signed with Israel in 1993, the PA is in charge of its own citizens and has full civil administrative responsibilities in “Area A and Area B,” such as running courts, schools, municipal governments, and other services, especially the health system.
“In 1988, the Palestinian Declaration of Independence proclaimed the establishment of the State of Palestine. The Declaration was recognized by several countries shortly after. In 1993 and 1995, the Oslo Accords were signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization to resolve the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including establishing the Palestinian National Authority as a self-governing interim administration in areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip…. As of July 2019, 138 of the 193 United Nations (UN) members have recognized Palestine.” (https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/countries-that-recognize-palestine)
Only one election has been held there, in 2006, supposedly for a 4-year term of office.
The Oslo Accords divided the contested area into three parts. Area A: PA control; Area B: dual control; Area C: Israeli control. Israelis living in Area C can vote in Israeli elections, but they are governed by Israeli military, not civil, law. The minority of Arabs residing in Area C are full Palestinian citizens, governed by PA law, not Israeli law.
No Israelis live in Gaza. The terror party Hamas rules Gaza, having overthrown the PA in 2007. Mahmoud Abbas recently celebrated his 14-year anniversary as president of the PA, which remains locked in conflict with Hamas. He’s still promising a second election. Arab leadership in the Palestinian Authority and in Gaza has failed to improve the lives of Palestinian Arab citizens.
Yes, calling Israel an apartheid state is a red herring. It’s the Arabs holding PA citizenship who suffer from non-democratic leadership, not Israeli Arabs. Israel extends civil and political rights to all its citizens, regardless of race, color, or religion. It has no laws which deny liberties that residents of democracies cherish. B’tselem’s “apartheid” calumny is but one arrow in its quiver. Fifteen initiatives against Israel are described on its website!
To make things worse, in 2017 B’tselem had at least 24 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) supporting it. If you a donor to the New Israel Fund, the Moriah Fund, Open Society Foundations, UNICEF, or UNWomen, you’re supporting these vilifiers of Israel. (https://www.btselem.org/about_btselem/donors)
Organizations fighting against the Arab lies include: honestreporting.com, camera.org, standwithus.com, ngomonitor.org, adl.org, ajc.org and many more. Support one or more of them to help combat the lies against Israel.