We often read in the media about pro-Palestinian organisations and even some Christian ministers branding Israel as an Apartheid state. Can this evaluation of Israel be justified? Or, is it perceived as a convenient and effective tool to further selfish ideological agendas. We need to look at the facts to determine if Israel can be categorised as an Apartheid state or not.
The practice of apartheid cannot be applied to Israel, and to say so is a misuse of the term. War does create unpleasant conditions. Building a security barrier and administering hostile territory until peace is possible is not “apartheid.” It is common sense. Israel’s security fence was built in response to terrorism. Its purpose is not to separate people by race, religion, or nationality but to separate terrorists from their targeted victims. Nor does Israel employ apartheid against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and do not wish to be. They have their own governments, Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Nor does Israel employ anything resembling apartheid within Israel. While Israel, like all multi-ethnic democracies, struggles to integrate its minorities more fully, its laws and programs try to eradicate, not enforce, disadvantages and discrimination. “Apartheid” applies more appropriately to those who dream of a Jew-free state of Palestine.
Israel is a parliamentary democracy represented by a very large number of parties, with universal suffrage for all citizens, regardless of race, religion, or sex, who are of voting age. More than 1.5 million Israeli citizens are not Jews.
Citizens originate from countries including Ethiopia, Morocco, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, India, Turkey, Greece and Russia. Neither colour nor creed is relevant to ones citizenship if there is a compliance with the immigration requirements as in countries all over the world.
No laws on the statute books prescribe living or working areas or movements of people. While segregation was legally enforced in SA there is no Israeli ideology or policy to segregate the Arab population. Arabs choose to live in certain areas and send their children to their own schools according to their religious, linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
Israeli Arabs are full citizens of Israel: they enjoy full political rights; they can vote and stand freely for election and political association; they have free access to the Israeli court system if their rights are being infringed. Arab women in many Muslim countries enjoy no rights at all – in Israel they enjoy full rights.
There is Arab presentation in the Knesset and in the government, and there is an Arab Supreme Court judge. There is complete freedom of expression and a totally free press, used against Israel at times to its detriment.
More than six decades of historical evidence show that settlements have little to do with peace between Israel and the Arabs, including the Gaza disengagement. Today almost 300,000 Israelis live in communities throughout Judea and Samaria.
The call by the US to dismantle the settlements is predicated on the notion that pressuring Israel will change the attitude of the Arabs and that they will abandon six decades of hostility, and that the radical Islamists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah will suddenly accept a Jewish state in the Muslim heartland.
History shows that dismantling settlements and making territorial concessions are proof to the terrorists of signs of weakness on the part of Israel, and could cause them to launch even more terror attacks.
Before Israel offered the Palestinians autonomy in 1978-79, 6,000 Jews lived in the disputed territories. Had the Palestinians accepted even that admittedly limited proposal, they undoubtedly would have had a state within a few years and no more Jews would have moved to the territories. Instead, by the time of the Oslo accords in 1993, 130,000 Jews were living there.
In 1948, 539,000 Arabs left Israel at the urging of 7 Arab armies so that they would not be in the way of their attack. 850,000 Jews were ejected from the Arab countries where they had lived for hundreds of years. Most of the Jewish refugees were immediately accepted by the new State of Israel, provided with shelter (albeit temporary tents) food and clothing.
The Arab refugees who had migrated to various Arab nations were not similarly well received. Squalid refugee camps were set up as showpieces to induce the West’s sympathy and kept that way. The UN through UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency) assisted the camps (when the host country could not or would not) which became a training ground for terrorist youth to be targeted at Israel.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is the only UN body dedicated to a specific refugee group. All other refugees in the world are the responsibility of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. In 1996 the number of Palestinian refugees stood at 3.3 million.
Any Arab who entered Israel up to two years prior to 1948 could claim to be a Palestinian refugee, even if he and his ancestors had lived elsewhere for generations before and he owned no land or property in Palestine. There are still refugees living in refugee camps because the Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel.
From 1948 – 1967 both the West Bank and Gaza were under the direct control of Jordan and Egypt. During this period neither party made any attempt to establish a state for the refugees, nor improve their living conditions.
Under Israeli occupation, Palestinians have the highest percentage of university students, the lowest infant mortality and the longest life expectancy of any front-line Arab state.
When asked what governments they admired most, more than 80 percent of Palestinians consistently chose Israel because they could see up close the thriving democracy in Israel, and the rights the Arab citizens enjoyed there.
A survey released in 2010 showed that 35 percent of Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents would choose Israeli citizenship over Palestinian citizenship. Thirty percent said they preferred Palestinian citizenship, while another 35 percent said they did not know. They cited freedom of movement, higher income and Israeli health insurance as the reasons behind their choice. They also preferred Israeli jobs, schools, health care and welfare benefits to those of a Palestinian state, and their nationalism was not strong enough for them to set aside these advantages in order to live in an Arab country. Those who chose Palestinian citizenship overwhelmingly cited nationalism/patriotism as their primary motivation.
What does citizens in Arab countries in the Arab media said about Israel? Here are a few interesting comments:
Mohammed: “Of course Islam is the best religion. But the regimes that claim to endorse Islam are practicing repression and corruption. Meanwhile, Israel is among the democratic countries and is better than all the Arab and Islamic countries when it comes to respecting its people and combating theft of resources.” (Al-Wasat News)
Adel: “This is the secret to Israel’s success; it has become a symbol of justice because it has made justice one of its major bases of power. We, on the other hand, are doing the opposite. We continue to cover up cases of corruption and do not do anything about them.” (Echorouk Online)
Sami Dirani: “Israel is the enemy of the Arabs…but it practices democracy – something the Arabs do not know. That is why Israel is stronger and more advanced than the Arabs, who are busy slaughtering each other. Some Arabs are dying of starvation, while others are swimming in pools of dollars.” (Al-Hayat)
Abdo Shehatah: “The Jews continue to prove, every day, that they have real democracy in this world.” (CNN – Arabic).
We need to guard against using information for propaganda purposes. It only worsen an already complicated situation.