No, Israel isn’t an apartheid state. This charge is not only ludicrous, but also insulting to the millions of South Africans who had to endure real apartheid. It also represents a complete inversion of reality.
The accusation is the latest manipulation of the far left in twisting terrorist violence against Israelis into something “justifiable.” As terrorists intentionally direct thousands of rockets towards civilian centers in Israel, the far-left has begun shoring up narratives that only demean Israeli victims of terror.
The term “apartheid” is employed by those who know that the latest outbreak of violence is a result of Hamas attacking the Jewish state with no basis for provocation. To shore support in their rivalry with the Palestinian Authority, they must generate the provocation. They must label Israel an “apartheid state,” because doing shields them from acknowledging their morally reprehensible position of justifying terrorism. Thus, they peddle the lie.
The latest accusation has come from famed TV host John Oliver, who recently accused Israel of committing “war crimes” and engaging in “apartheid.” His claims are mere echoes of others on the far left, from Human Rights Watch’s 213-page report labeling Israel an “apartheid state” to Rep. Rashida Tlaib alleging Israel is “promoting racism and dehumanization” via an “apartheid system.”
Recognizing why these accusations are so deeply wrong calls for a definition of what is actually apartheid. The apartheid of South Africa was a system of segregation and subservience, whose objective was to demean all non-white persons in every aspect of politics and society. It was a racialized, destructive scheme that pervaded everything from housing to health care to labor.
Not one aspect of the above description defines Israel’s relationship with its Arab population. Steven Kramer of The Times of Israel gave a succinct description of the life of Arabs in Israel. Israeli Arabs vote in Israeli elections and have full protection of Israeli laws. They attend universities in Israel, have political representation in the Knesset, and have the freedom to reside wherever they would like. They are exempted from certain obligations, including mandatory military service, although they are free to join if they would like.
As for Arabs living in east Jerusalem, the opportunity for Israeli citizenship is there, although the majority have not accepted it. With regards to the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is responsible for administering laws and social services to Palestinians living in Areas A and B, where Jews are not permitted to live. While Area C is governed by Israeli military control, the minority of Palestinians who reside there are still governed by the laws of the PA.
As I explained earlier this year in the American Spectator, those who peddle the apartheid trope often point to the security barrier that separates Palestinian and Israeli neighborhoods in the West Bank as a reincarnation of the Berlin Wall—Sen. Ralph Warnock, D-Georgia, drew this analogy during his election campaign. Israel constructed the security apparatus, not in a vacuum, but in response to the Second Intifada of 2001-2004 in which Palestinian suicide bombers killed 1,000 Israeli civilians and wounded another 5,000. The barrier is designed to keep terrorists out by preventing them from crossing into Israel. The Berlin Wall was designed to keep people in.
Israelis aren’t permitted to live in Gaza, either. In 2005, the Israeli government evicted 9,000 Israelis from Gaza as part of its attempts to disentangle Israel from the territories and build a stable peace. Even though Israel did what the international community demanded of it, once Hamas took over the Gaza Strip from the PA in 2007, Hamas terrorists began firing rockets at Israeli towns and villages.
Arabs are permitted to live in Israeli lands, but Jews are not permitted to live in Palestinian territories. Yet it is Israelis who are baselessly accused of apartheid. This narrative gains traction because it preys upon the general (and understandable) ignorance that many have about the complex situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It also gains traction because there are those in Congress and within the media who have a vested interest in demonizing Israel to fit an intersectional narrative of oppressor and oppressed.
Those worried about the democratic rights of Arabs should express genuine alarm that the PA President Mahmoud Abbas is in the 16th year of his four-year term and that he has opted to suspend the upcoming Palestinian elections. The fact that Hamas rules oppressively over two million Palestinians in Gaza, including using them as human shields, should also spark outrage. But neither seems to bother the spreaders of the “apartheid” trope.
It is Palestinian-Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza who are subjected to corruption, mismanagement, and violence. These are uncomfortable truths for many on the far left, who would rather maintain a false narrative than address the genuine problems.
Erielle is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).
Originally published in The Federalist