Robby Berman

NYU grad needs to buy a dictionary

I have lived in Israel for more than 30 years and I can testify there is racism in this country that manifests itself as discrimination against Russians, Ethiopians, and Sephardim with the bulk of it directed at Arabs.

I also feel – subjectively and anecdotally – that over the past two decades racism against Arabs is spreading and intensifying among the Israeli public. A recent survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute showed strong anti-Arab sentiment, particularly among religious Jews.

Yes, I am truly worried about the growing nationalistic, dare I say jingoistic, feelings on the streets of this country. I myself was physically assaulted for being mistakenly identified as an Arab. (I tan very easily.)

Moreover, since the Israeli government has shifted significantly to the right and the political left has all but evaporated, I’m concerned about laws the government has passed and laws certain parties propose to pass.

With all that being said for this NYU graduate to call Israel an Apartheid State is simply moronic. First of all, such a statement is an insult to what blacks endured in South Africa under Apartheid. Read the history books describing that period. In Israel, there are no separate water fountains, no separate bathrooms, no forced segregated schooling, no forced segregated buses, no forced segregated trains, and no forced segregated hospitals.

Second, the definition of Apartheid is a government enforced system of segregation or discrimination on the grounds of race. Most, if not all, of the discrimination is directed towards Arabs from the hoi polloi, not a system imposed by the government.

Moreover, one needs to take note that there is much less discrimination against Christian Arabs than Muslim Arabs. Why? Because it is not directed against a race. Not all Muslims are terrorists but unfortunately, in Israel, the overwhelming percentage of terrorists are Muslim. So justified or not (I think not) Jews are afraid of – and angry at – Muslim Arabs. Stereotypes and generalizations loom large in the minds of humans and we Jews are not immune to it. (I have even met Christian Arabs who are afraid of Muslim Arabs.)

Third, in glaring contradistinction to an Apartheid State Israeli Arabs have equal access to education and jobs. They become doctors and pharmacists and lawyers and judges. Israeli hospitals are filled with Jewish and Arab doctors working side by side tending to Jewish and Arab patients who lay side by side. Israeli Arabs vote Arab representatives into the Knesset, and an Israeli Arab judge sitting on the Israeli Supreme Court no less put our Orthodox Jewish Israeli president into prison. So to call Israel an Apartheid State simply doesn’t fit the dictionary definition. Every country (Israel, America, England, etc.) has racism and discrimination that needs to be fought against. But that is not Apartheid.

Yes, Israel encourages and makes it easy for Jews (over non-Jews) to immigrate. But if you feel Jews don’t deserve or need a State of their own, I recommend you open a history book of the past or a newspaper of today. And while we are at it, if you think Israel shouldn’t be a Jewish State then why are you not also protesting against and BDSing the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Mauritania?

Palestinian Arabs are a different story. They indeed get a raw deal. These poor souls have no work, no quality healthcare, have limited rights to movement and residence, and are abused by the corrupt Palestinian Authority in the West Bank not to mention by the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza.

I think it is wrong to settle Jews in a territory that Israel doesn’t own and there is a terrible whiff of Apartheid when you apply Israeli laws to Jews in the West Bank while applying military laws to Arabs in the West Bank. It is problematic. But Israel has attempted to rectify this situation for decades. It has offered a two-State solution to the Arabs many times only to be met with Arab silence and terrorism. The facts are Israel has legitimate security concerns that cause it to do things to protect its citizens that deprive Palestinians full civil rights. I’m not happy about it but we are not to blame for it.

Could Israel do more in giving Palestinian Arabs more rights, more freedom of movement, without sacrificing its own security? I believe yes. Many would disagree with me. Are we an Apartheid State for trying to protect (or over-protect) our Jewish and Israeli Arab population from Palestinian terror attacks? No. That is not the definition of Apartheid.

The next time an NYU student wants to graduate, instead of worrying about what color cap goes on his head he should be more concerned about the thoughts he has cultivated in his mind. This student would have been better off using part of his tuition money to buy a dictionary in order to look up words like Apartheid and nuance.

About the Author
Robby Berman is a tour guide and journalist living in Israel for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of Harvard University (Kennedy School of Government, MPA), Baruch College (MBA) and Yeshiva University (BA). He is also the author of the book Min Taq Taq: A Collection of Arabic Idioms and Expressions in the Palestinian Dialect.