It is tempting to ignore “Israel Apartheid Week,” an anti-Israel hate-fest taking place this week in Canada, England and the US. The organizers of such events, though they claim to be supporting Palestinian rights, will obviously not be satisfied unless the Jewish state ceases to exist.
But there are, no doubt, decent, caring people who may come across these events, or who bought Jimmy Carter’s best-selling book branding Israel an apartheid state, who may be taken in by such vitriol.
So let us consider: Is Israel an apartheid state?
In an op-ed last week in The Australian, Muslim author Irshad Manji answers: “Would an apartheid state award its top literary prize to an Arab? … Would an apartheid state encourage Hebrew-speaking schoolchildren to learn Arabic? Would road signs throughout the land appear in both languages? Even my country, the proudly bilingual Canada, doesn’t meet that standard.”
She continues: “Would a Hebrew newspaper in an apartheid state run an article by an Arab Israeli about why the Zionist adventure has been a total failure? Would it run that article on Israel’s Independence Day? Would an apartheid state ensure conditions for the freest Arabic press in the Middle East?”
We would only add: What other state airlifted thousands of black Africans from Ethiopia to grant them instant and full citizenship?
The absurdity of the apartheid charge is illustrated by the Arab MKs who make it. Jamal Zahalka, an MK from one of the two Arab parties represented in the Knesset, said, “Calling the occupation apartheid… is an understatement. The Israeli occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is worse than apartheid.” (see www.tomgrossmedia.com) Some might find it strange that Zahalka sees the Gaza Strip as “worse than apartheid” when it has been completely controlled by Palestinians since every Israeli settler (living and deceased), soldier and road block was withdrawn from that area in 2005.
Further, Zahalka appears not to realize that “apartheid week” organizers are not just referring to the situation in the territories captured by Israel in 1967 – most of which it has been desperately trying to hand over to a Palestinian state, and where, east Jerusalem apart, it has never asserted claims to sovereignty – but to Arabs in Israel itself. As their Web site states, “Israel is in fact an apartheid state, not just a belligerent occupying power.”
Zahalka himself puts the lie to this claim. He and other Israeli Arab MKs are living proof that Arab citizens of Israel, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa, have full political and civil rights, can vote and be elected to their parliament, and can even freely (if immorally) support the enemies of the state they are sworn to represent.
Indeed, many Israeli Arabs do not vote for the Arab parties, which have become so radicalized that they ignore their constituencies, but for Jewish parties. An Arab member of the Labor Party, for example, has just become a minister in the Israeli government.
And that’s just the beginning. Israelis, be they Arabs or Jews, are much freer than anywhere in the Arab world. This is relevant because the “apartheid” charge brands Israel as a human rights abuser. But what sense does it make to berate the only country in the region that does respect human rights, while ignoring the rampant abuses taking place throughout the Muslim world?
According to the American Anti-Slavery Group (www.iabolish.com): “Though slavery was legally abolished [in Mauritania] in 1980, today 90,000 slaves continue to serve the Muslim Berber ruling class. Similarly, in Sudan, Arab northerners are known to raid the villages in the South – killing all the men and taking the women and children to be auctioned off and sold into slavery.”