Israel’s ‘aparthood’

Israel is an apartheid state. Coming from the director of Europe Israel Public Affairs here in Brussels and a proud Zionist and Jew, that’s an odd statement to make. The literal translation of Apartheid is aparthood. Kept separate. And after some 200 rockets fired at Israel last night, and listening to the BBC world service, then reading the statement from the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell, it isn’t such an odd leap to make after all.

Let’s deal with Borrell first. What sage words of wisdom did he impart to the league of nations, on behalf of the defenders of Western Liberal democracy? This: “It is clear that all sides must uphold and fully respect the status quo of the holy sites”… “And we note that the decision to stop Jewish worshippers from accessing the esplanade is a positive one that can calm the situation.”

So, there you have it. Status-quo good, it keeps the Palestinians happy. Jews not praying at the site of their temple, positive.

Then the BBC world service. An interview with a ‘human rights activist’ accusing Israel of Fascism and defending the society of Palestinian rock collectors who periodically meet at this holy site, to compare stones then discard the ones they don’t like (I’m being facetious on the last bit, but you take the point).

I’m not here to moan and whine about different treatment, just to state the obvious realisation for millions of Israelis and Jews that support the world’s only Jewish State. Aparthood clearly exists when it comes to Israel.

What other conclusion can be drawn? Last night on Facebook I posted that Belgium was under attack. I drew a parallel story about 150 rockets being fired, some at Brussels. It made the point for me: my Israeli and Jewish friends got it straight away, my Belgian friends said it was a cheap trick. I guess the latter didn’t like it. Israel isn’t the same as any other Liberal democracy after all.

But wait. Free press? Check. Regular parliamentary elections? Check. Equal rights under the law for all Israeli citizens? Check. Freedom to dissent? Check.

But there’s a conflict there… Right. There are conflicts all over the world. The war against terror supported by most western liberal democracies has been on-going for decades. Guantanamo bay, detentions without trials, ‘friendly fire’, Afghanistan. The riches of many of these liberal democratic states are built on the back of abject barbarities. Belgium’s palaces and grandiose places of pride for instance built on rubber exploitation and the maiming and murder of millions black Congolese who slacked on the job. I could go on ad-nauseum. This is the legacy of those that put Israel in the dock in the court of Public opinion.

Israel isn’t perfect. No democracy is. Especially one stuck in a seemingly intractable conflict. But how does one even hope to break the cycle with statements such as Borrell’s? Or reporting like the BBC’s world service? I’ve never heard a Taliban commander who calls for the wholesale removal of opposition there as a “human rights” activist. Or a Farc commander for that matter either.

Yet this kind of language is habitually used when it comes to discussing Israel. When terrorists fire indiscriminate rockets at the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, there isn’t a rally to our side from fellow liberal democrats. Just a “cool it down guys, you are both as bad as each other” monologue. Why?

Aparthood. The world’s only apartheid state is Israel. Kept apart and separated from the league of the ‘worthy’ and the ‘good’ for reasons I cannot fathom, cannot understand and can only guess at.

But when terror acts and liberal democratic response to them are given moral equivalence,  I am ready to put my guess into words. And it’s painful to utter. It’s insulting to have to write given our history. But I’m tired of being judged differently. So I’m going to spit it out. My guess is this. The long arc of History: Aparthood from the church. Aparthood in the Pale. Apartheid in the Shtetl. Aparthood in the camps. Aparthood from the league of nations is just the latest incarnation.

The fate of the Jew since day one continues. Especially the “uppity” ones that had the audacity to call their ancestral home, home. And to defend it. If that’s the price of Aparthood, then I happily swallow it. But I reserve the right to call BS on it. And I’m calling it right now.

About the Author
Alex Benjamin is the director of EIPA, a multi-disciplined pro-Israel advocacy Group based in Brussels, with offices in Paris and Berlin. He is also the Director of Public Affairs for EJA: European Jewish Association, a Brussels based NGO which represents and acts on behalf of Jewish communities across the EU and wider European continent, at the heart of the European Institutions and at bilateral level with Member States.
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