Israel is not an apartheid state

by Zach Stern, University alumnus

I read Max Kaufman’s “Ignoring All Calls for Justice” article from the Nov.14 issue of the Minnesota Daily and felt uneasy when he claimed that Israel is an apartheid state. I currently live in Israel and have spoken with Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs and Druze Arabs about their lives here, and I can assure you that Israel is the opposite of apartheid. Calling Israel an apartheid state is false, anti-Semitic and unfair to the palestinian people. It demonizes the Jewish state and ignores the real source of Palestinian suffering. Saying the Jewish state practices apartheid is a lie. The term “apartheid” refers to a country segregating or discriminating based off race or religion, and Israel does the exact opposite.

All people in Israel enjoy equal rights. Arab citizens of Israel vote in elections and elect Arab members of parliament. Many also serve side-by-side with Jews in the Israeli Defense Forces and become high-ranking officers. This is not apartheid. There is, of course, a small amount of discrimination in Israeli society, as there is in every society in the world. But as Bashra Khalaila, an Arab woman who works for the Office of Social Insurance in Israel, says, not one government policy discriminates against any minority.

The Palestinian territories are far from apartheid, as well. The Palestinian Authority, not the Israeli government, governs all Palestinians living in the West Bank. These Palestinians vote for a PA parliament; they go to schools operated by the PA and they have their own Palestinian police force. In Gaza, Hamas fully controls the Palestinians. Hamas operates the schools, taxes, police and everything else. Israel imposes a blockade on Gaza to stop the import of weapons to terrorists, which is legal according to the UN. This is not apartheid.

Israel built a security fence around the West Bank and Gaza to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks. Before Israel constructed the fence, terrorists crossed into Israel on a daily basis and blew themselves up in public places, killing innocent people. It is no coincidence that when Israel finished building the fence, these terrorist attacks stopped. This fence is inconvenient for many Palestinians, but after Palestinians infiltrated Israel and killed more than 1,000 civilians, the Israeli government said enough is enough. The Security Fence is an unfortunate necessity, and it is not apartheid.

Calling Israel an apartheid state is also anti-Semitic. It holds Israel to a standard to which no other country is held, while also influencing anti-Semitic rhetoric in Western and Arabic media. Why is it that when people believe Israel makes one mistake, they attack the Jewish state and immediately scream “apartheid” without knowing what happened, while when other countries commit horrific atrocities, these same people stay silent? Anti-Semites in the Western World use this apartheid claim to create anti-Semitic cartoons and propaganda. Newspapers throughout the U.S. and Europe publish these hateful messages and ignite anti-Semitism. Although I do not believe the author of the “Ignoring All Calls for Justice” article is anti-Semitic, his messages and ones like it fuel violent anti-Semitism throughout the world.

Lastly, I want to point out that calling Israel an apartheid state insults the Palestinian people because it takes the focus away from the true sources of their suffering: Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Hamas runs one of the most oppressive and violent dictatorships in the world. Hamas uses children as human shields in combat; Gazans enjoy no freedom of speech and Hamas murders minorities, such as homosexuals, on a daily basis. Furthermore, Hamas uses most of its money to fund terrorism, while never paying attention to the people’s needs. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority also persecutes minorities, allows for very limited freedom of speech and teaches children to become Jihadists.

The Palestinian governments oppress their people, and calling Israel an apartheid state only makes it worse for the Palestinians. We must look at the real source of the Palestinians’ suffering if we are to ever fix this problem.

I want peace, and I can tell you from living in Israel that most Israelis and Palestinians want peace, too. It is certainly acceptable to criticize Israel’s policies, but calling Israel an apartheid state does no good to anyone.