17 February 2007 - Brainstorming the debate
On Thursday, I spent some time brainstorming several reasons why Israel is not an apartheid state:
1. The argument that Israeli is an Apartheid state suggests that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be the same as the solution to Apartheid: namely, the creation of a new, unitary state, whether binational or simply Palestinian. This is contrary to the will of both the Palestinian and Israeli people, will lead to war in the long term and the further isolation of the Palestinians in the short term.
2. Unlike Apartheid South Africa, the creation of the State of Israel was not a settler-colonialist enterprise, since Jews did not arrive representing a foreign power, bought the land they worked, and did not seek to exploit local labor.
3. Israel is not an apartheid state because the roots of Jewish civilization in the area did not have to be invented; there had been a continuous Jewish presence in the area for millennia, and a constant Jewish cultural connection to the land.
4. Those who claim Israel is an Apartheid state rarely consider the practices of neighboring states, which more closely resemble the practices of Apartheid South Africa in their outright discrimination in law against various groups of people, including Jews (who are barred from citizenship in some countries; are refused mere entry, even as tourists, in others; and are the targets of official antisemitism).
5. Allegations of imperial or genocidal designs attributed to Israel’s founding fathers are destroyed by the overwhelming weight of evidence that Zionists hoped to achieve some kind of coexistence with the Arab and Muslim inhabitants of the area.
6. At several points in the past century, the Palestinian Arabs were offered either a unitary state or a partition heavily in their favor, and rejected it every time because of their insistence that Palestine be Judenrein – a logic similar to that of Apartheid.
7. Those who argue that Israel is an Apartheid state ignore the consensus among an emerging group of Arab states that who are prepared to recognize Israel if outstanding issues such as borders, Jerusalem and refugees are finally settled.
8. Unlike Apartheid South Africa, human rights violations in Israel and Palestine occur because of an ongoing conflict over land, not because of the attempts of a minority to subjugate a majority that had done nothing to initiate the conflict.
9. None of the alleged Israeli violations of human rights—not settlements, or checkpoints, or other actions—is done for its own sake; all are a response to continued Arab rejectionism, and more recently, Palestinian terrorism.
10. Far from Israel being an Apartheid state, it is subjected to a form of apartheid in that it is singled out for condemnation and is denied any meaningful representation in the committees of the UN because of bloc voting by Arab states.
11. Attempts to isolate Israel as Apartheid South Africa was isolated have only caused the Palestinian Authority to be so isolated, because such attempts encourage Palestinian extremists and the Hamas government to continue a strategy of terror.
12. The question of whether Israel is an Apartheid state shifts focus away from where such an inquiry might be more important—such as whether, with its covenant of hatred against Jews, the Palestinian government is a genocidal one.
13. Israel itself is not an Apartheid state because it does not have a body of legislated discrimination, as Apartheid South Africa did, and in fact it even has affirmative action programs aimed at assisting Arabs and other minority groups.
14. Israel itself is not an Apartheid state because it does not have separate public amenities, spaces and rules for people depending on their race or religion; such features were omnipresent in Apartheid South Africa and the defining fact of life.
15. It is the right of Israel to discriminate in its immigration and citizenship laws, just as Arab states discriminate in favor of Arabs and Muslims, African states discriminate in favor of blacks, and European states in favor of Europeans. These laws may fall short of a universalist standard, but they are not based on race and they are subject to change through a democratic process that includes Arabs.
16. Israel recently named Raleb Majadele MK to be the first Arab minister in an Israeli government; such an act would have been unthinkable under the Apartheid laws in South Africa and has no parallel in the Arab world or almost anywhere else.
17. Israel is not an Apartheid state because the system of Apartheid in South Africa referred to skin color, and there is no discrimination in Israel based on color; in fact, Israel went out of its way to rescue Ethiopian Jews and admit them as full citizens.
18. Israel is unlike apartheid South Africa in that Arabs have the vote and have equal access to the legal system, as blacks and other “non-whites” in South Africa did not; this means that Arabs have the power of political change, too.
19. Unlike apartheid South Africa, which used official censorship to control news reports about the townships and about the border wars, Israeli media are inundated by stories of conditions in the West Bank and Gaza; there is no official censorship.
20. As Adalah recently , Israel has severe problems with de facto discrimination against Arabs, but in Apartheid South Africa Adalah would have been banned and its leaders arrested merely for publishing such findings.
21. The Palestinian areas are not Bantustans because the Bantustans were created to provide a supply of cheap labor to South African industry, whereas Israel is not economically dependent on the occupied territories and want to sever its ties.
22. The Palestinian areas are not Bantustans because their borders were created as the result of military conflict with Israel in wars that were initiated by the Palestinians and the Arab states as an alternative to declaring statehood.
23. The Palestinian areas are not Bantustans any more than the areas offered to Jews by the Peel Commission and the United Nations were Bantustans, and yet Israel was prepared to accept these unfavorable partitions to achieve sovereignty.
24. Separate public services and road in the occupied territories are the outcome of the intifada, because these did not exist until the last few years and were only created as a way of protecting Israeli civilians from terror attacks in disputed areas.
25. The security barrier is not an “Apartheid Wall” because it is almost entirely a fence and because its primary purpose is to protect Israeli lives; it is not a land grab because its route has to be justified in security terms according to the High Court.
26. The term Apartheid is only used because of intellectual laziness, in order to generate sensation through metaphor, or to isolate Israel as Apartheid South Africa was isolated; it does not stand up to serious intellectual scrutiny.
More to come...