The false, defamatory and bigoted lie that Israel is an apartheid state is part of a long-standing conspiratorial effort by countries of the Arab League, the Palestine Liberation Organization (a designated foreign terrorist organization), the Palestinian Authority and various governments and organizations to bring down Israel.
This conspiracy of defamation has received increasing support, including at the U.N., where an open-ended “Commission of Inquiry” stated that it will “investigate” apartheid charges against Israel. The rhetoric surrounding this announcement suggests that the Commission has already predetermined the outcome of its “investigation.”
These efforts are a bad faith attempt to turn public opinion against Israel, pit Jewish people against one another and embed defamatory lies in the minds of college students, community members, congresspeople, opinion-makers and influencers.
The demonizing accusation that Israel is an “apartheid” state is a spurious and baseless claim rooted in the very bigotry that the accusers purport to stand against. The comparison between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and apartheid in South Africa can be traced back to the “Zionism is a form of racism” resolution. U.N. Resolution 3379 stated that “the racist regime [Israel] in occupied Palestine and the racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin, forming a whole and having the same racist structure and being organically linked in their policy aimed at repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being.”
Thus, the notion that Zionism is racism and Israel is an apartheid state stem from an erroneous and malicious claim that is simply not based in fact, law or reality.
Israel has long been a haven for refugees of Jewish descent since its founding, and the Jewish people have been and remain committed to social justice, equality and due process of law for people from all walks of life. Israel has guaranteed freedom of access for peoples of all religions to all the holy places in Jerusalem and throughout Israel.
Clearly, as stated in paragraph 13 of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, it was pronounced and has been practiced throughout Israel’s history that the state would “be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
This commitment is in sharp contrast to that of South Africa, which was under the dominion of the British empire. Neighboring Zimbabwe, then known as Southern Rhodesia, was under the control of Cecil Rhodes and the British South Africa Company. The colonization efforts in Zimbabwe and South Africa had nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with exploiting the people and natural resources of these lands.
In 1948, Afrikaner nationalism dominated South African politics, which introduced intentional and explicit racial segregation and white minority rule. The label of apartheid—an Afrikaans word meaning “separateness”—was coined by the National Party government itself in 1948 and remained the practice of the country until the National Party’s fall from power in 1994.
Under the apartheid regime in South Africa, black communities were completely banned and separated from every single aspect of white people’s society. The Group Areas Act of 1950 divided cities into “group areas,” restricting ownership and residences to specific population groups. The Bantu Homelands Citizens Act of 1970 stripped black South Africans of their state citizenship and authorized the forced removal of thousands of African people from their homes in the urban centers. The Native Building Workers Act of 1951 limited the places where black people were permitted to work, while the Native Labour Act of 1953 banned black Africans from organizing a strike. The Bantu Education Act of 1953 was geared towards educating black Africans exclusively for low-skill, low-wage jobs. The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949 and the Immorality Amendment Act of 1950 forbade marital and sexual relationships between white people and people of other races. The Prohibition of Political Interference Act of 1968 prohibited multiracial political parties.
By contrast, in Israel, there is an official policy of affirmative action administered by the Israeli government aimed at including minority Israelis in all aspects of public life. The Arabs who chose to stay in Israel during and following the 1948 war are Israeli citizens and are entitled to the rights granted to all citizens under the law. Arab Israelis serve in public institutions as ministers, Supreme Court judges, parliament members and governmental clerks. Furthermore, the former parties of the Joint List, an Arab-Israeli political bloc, hold seats in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. For the first time, in 2019, the Joint List endorsed a candidate to become prime minister of Israel.
It is also common to find many Arab Israelis holding only Israeli citizenship. Between 2011 and 2013, Professor Sammy Smooha, a researcher from Haifa University, conducted a poll among Arab Israelis, asking if they identify as Israeli or Palestinian. More than 20% responded “Israeli” or “Israeli-Palestinian.” Furthermore, according to his findings, when Arab-Israeli participants were asked if they would move to a Palestinian state if it is formed, 65– 77% percent of them replied that they would not.
A walk through the streets, shopping malls and hospitals of Israel will permit one to see and appreciate the integrated society that exists within all of Israel. People of all religions, all races and all beliefs are treated with respect in all public places; have access to all religious places; are protected in their right of prayer and assembly; have full access to healthcare treatment without regard to their race, religion, sexual orientation or beliefs; and enjoy freedoms not known anywhere else in the Middle East.
Where South Africa intended to and did impose a segregationist regime and called it apartheid, the allegation that Israel is similarly an apartheid state originated not from fact or from governmental policy but from Israel’s enemies as an intentional distortion of her commitment to building a wholesome society where diversity is cherished and rights are protected by the rule of law. Applying the moniker of apartheid to Israel today is another example of an antisemitic double standard applied exclusively to the Jewish state and ignores much greater injustices suffered by minority ethnic and religious groups around the world.
To put it bluntly, the attempt to equate Israel with South Africa is defamatory and disingenuous. Moreover, calling Israel an apartheid state under these circumstances does great injustice to Israel’s vibrant democracy and further disrespects the real and genuine struggle against the racism of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Moreover, the accusers against Israel who are in the Palestinian territories are obligated to look at their own leadership, and to look inward, as they essentially call for the future Palestinian state to be judenrein—free of Jews.
Who is it that is practicing apartheid?