What Israeli Apartheid means to me

For me, Israeli Apartheid is Dr. Samer Haj Yehia, the Arab CEO of Israel’s largest bank, Leumi
Israeli Apartheid is Reda Masarwa, Intel Israel’s first Arab VP
Apartheid is my Arab pharmacist who hails from East Jerusalem and who’s been handing me meds for the last 6 years
And it’s my Arab rheumatologist
As well as my Arab taxi driver that takes me back from the airport
Apartheid is the Arab basta [market stall] owner that I regularly buy my leafy greens from at Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehudah Shuk every Friday before Shabbat
.. and it’s me sitting on the Jerusalem light rail every morning sandwiched between women wearing hijabs and men speaking loudly and confidently in Arabic
Israeli Apartheid is my fellow Arab co-workers in Hi Tech: talented Software Engineers and Data Scientists in lucrative Tel Aviv-based roles who get paid the same salary I do (and in some cases more)
And it’s my Arab co-worker from the Israeli newspaper who spearheaded the Arabic version of news site and went on to collaborate with one of the Jewish journalists on a Youtube series to explain Judaism in Arabic
Apartheid is the Israeli Government’s “Takadoum” plan which earmarked $200 million to boost tech in Israeli-Arab society
It’s the Mellanox Ramallah office, which has hired over 100 Palestinian engineers
And it’s the Tel Aviv offices of the major big-tech companies such as Google and Meta spearheading D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) efforts to hire Arab employees
Apartheid is George Karra, the Christian Arab justice who serves on Israel’s highest court – the Supreme Court, and who convicted and sent to jail the country’s Jewish president, Moshe Katzav
And it’s Israel’s Bedouin-Muslim ambassador to Eritrea, Ishmael Khaldi
Israeli Apartheid is the 14 Arab members of Israel’s Knesset – including the Islamist Ra’am party led by Mansour Abbas that currently forms the governing coalition
And it’s the Joint Arab List party led by Ayman Odeh whose members are free to publicly dissent and even go so far as to routinely champion the Palestinian cause while delegitimizing the Jewish state
Apartheid is mixed Jewish-Arab cities within Israel: Akko, Haifa, Lod, Yafo, Ramle and Jerusalem to name a few
Apartheid is Arabs being able to buy property and move in to Jewish cities such as Nazareth Illit and Karmiel as well as Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem such as Pisgat Ze’ev and French Hill
And it’s the fact that no Jews live in Arab cities or towns in Israel, with the exception of Abu Ghosh
Apartheid is my Arab study partners at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. B. a Muslim-Arab from Umm El Fahm and N. a Christian-Arab from Sakhnin. We got through our Computer Science degrees together thanks to some of our routine study sessions
Apartheid is a fellow student in my Liberal Arts class @ Hebrew U. She hailed from the Golan Heights Druze village of Majdal Shams – where most residents don’t recognize Israeli sovereignty – and yet here she was, with fluent English, Arabic and Hebrew, excelling in her studies at a top Israeli university
Apartheid is the 50,000 Arab Uni students across Israel (17% of total)
…and the exactly 0 Jewish Israeli students in Palestinian universities
Apartheid is Yoseph Haddad, a Christian Arab from Nazareth that was injured in the Second Lebanon War during his IDF service and that has dedicated himself to telling Israel’s story abroad
and it’s the thousands of Arabs and Beduins, both Christian and Muslim, that enlist in the IDF and Border Police each year
.. alongside tens of thousands of Druze and other minority groups
Apartheid is my Druze commanding officer (skip) Lt Col A. who once gave me a lift up north and spent the entire drive speaking in Arabic to his wife on the phone while I sat astonished beside him not understanding a word. He had an illustrious military career and eventually went on to lead the unit
Apartheid is the anticipation of going into Gaza with your team, knowing that you’ve given up on the element of surprise while millions of leaflets are airdropped by the Israeli Air Force over Shejaiya – in order to inform Palestinian to evacuate and thereby minimize civilian casualties
Apartheid is going for a run along the beach promenade in Yafo during a hot summer afternoon and seeing thousands of Palestinian families enjoying the beach as well
Apartheid is being the only Jewish Israeli on a flight full of Arab Israelis from Tel Aviv to Istanbul
Apartheid is the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian day-laborers that cross into Israel for work, even though they aren’t Israeli citizens
… and the exactly 0 Jewish Israelis who do the opposite, since entering Palestinian areas is illegal for Jewish-Israelis due to the danger involved
Apartheid is my Palestinian apartment movers
The construction workers renovating the apartment next door
My Arab customer service representative for home internet
The Palestinian clerk at the gas station
The Israeli-Arab policeman
The women I’m waiting behind in line right now in an Israeli supermarket
Apartheid is getting invited for a Muslim Aqiqah ceremony in Abu Ghosh by a guy I bonded with at the Sha’are Tzedek’s maternity ward while our wives were giving birth at the same time beside each other
Apartheid is Arab doctors treating Jewish terror-attack victims and Jewish doctors treating Palestinian militants that committed the terror attack – sometimes lying side by side in an Israeli hospital
.. and it’s my wife working as a nurse in a downtown Jerusalem clinic alongside an Arab nurse from East Jerusalem’s Issawiya neighborhood
Apartheid is Israeli NGO Save a Child’s Heart Foundation that brings Palestinian children from Gaza into Israel and pays for their medical care
It’s the dozens of European NGOs that operate out of East Jerusalem, enjoying the security and Western comforts that Israel offers, while slamming the country at the same time
And it’s Palestinian and left-leaning Israeli NGOs that petition the Israeli Supreme court to evict Jewish homes built on disputed lands in Judea and Samaria – and win
Apartheid is the Separation Barrier that I’m thankful for every day, as I look back at the bloody suicide bombings that marked the Second Intifada
… and it’s the tens of thousands of Palestinians (non-Israeli citizens) that enter Jerusalem every Friday from Bethlehem in the South and Qalandiya in the north to pray at Al Aqsa
Apartheid is Judaism’s holiest site being administered by the Muslim Waqf as official Israeli policy
and it’s the multiple Jewish holy sites in Palestinian areas that are largely inaccessible to Jews (Joseph’s tomb, Jericho synagogue, Joshua’s tomb, Altar on Mt Eva to name a few)
It’s the 10 days a year that the Jewish synagogue inside Hebron’s Tomb of Patriach’s is temporarily converted into a mosque in order to accommodate Muslim worshippers. There are also 10 days a year in which Jews are given access to the Muslim side of the Tomb.
Is this “Apartheid”?
Is the complicated dance of Jewish-Arab relations in the most volatile corner of the world “Israeli Apartheid”?
While the countries around us are marked by corruption, bloodbaths and sectarian violence where the powerful rule and the weak perish or go into servitude, Israel is an island of order, freedom of speech and relative tolerance.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews and Arabs share millions of tiny (and sometimes significant) interactions on a daily basis – all of which is made possible *only* due to the stability and rule of law afforded by the Jewish state
It’s not perfect and never will be. But in a violent neighborhood that only understands the language of force, Israeli society is astonishing and unique. You can just ask the 0 Jews that live under the Palestinian Authority or Hamas (or in Jordan or Syria) what they think about it
And Israel is working. And thriving. Despite the problems that may never be solved. And despite the criticism and naysayers.
Is this what Amnesty International had in mind?
About the Author
Avi was formerly a news writer at the Times of Israel. Originally from Australia, he served in the IDF and today works in Software development. He lives in Jerusalem with wife and 2 kids