The labeling of Israel as a "racist state" began years before the settlement enterprise in the territories made the headlines. Many remember how in 1975 the UN decided to define Zionism as racism. Then-Israeli Ambassador Chaim Herzog tore up the resolution on the podium, and US Ambassador to the UN Patrick Moynihan called it "a great evil."
The UN's resolution from 1975 was indeed revoked in 1991, but the campaign demonizing Israel as an "apartheid state" gained momentum around the world, and even among intellectuals in Israel. This week, Palestinian organizations are marking the 10th anniversary of Israeli Apartheid Week on campuses in the United States and Europe. These are serious and even violent incidents of glowing hatred, calling for the elimination of the Jewish state, allegedly out of liberal motives. Against this background stood out the clear voice of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who declared at the Knesset that those calling Israel an apartheid state are infected with malice and anti-Semitism.
Harper is one of the few leaders to strongly condemn the apartheid discourse. On the other hand, in Israel of all places a number of academics and even politicians adopt the apartheid regime in South Africa as an analogy when discussing the occupation and the State's "racist" nature.
These days, an online discourse is taking place between Israeli professors about "Israel as an apartheid state." One of the prominent participants, who is trying to give his arguments an academic-analytical gloss, writes: "Apartheid is a type of regime or historic political situation, like a theocracy or dictatorship, and is not a curse. The Israelis shedding light on this situation identify it as a basis for rectification, and not as a smear campaign or an attempt to cause people to hate Israel."
Allegedly, this is a cold analysis, disconnected from ethical labeling. But that is not the case. The use of the words "Israeli apartheid" is a key part of the campaign to label Israel, with and without the territories, as a criminal state born in sin and existing in sin.
Malicious slanderIt's interesting that of all people, South African judge Richard Goldstone, known in Israel for the biased report he published about the war in Gaza, identified the attempt to liken Israel to the apartheid regime as "malicious slander." In a New York Times op-ed, Goldstone wrote that the attempts to compare Israel to the South African apartheid are aimed at demonizing and isolating Israel, with the aim of thwarting a two-state settlement:
"I know all too well the cruelty of South Africa’s abhorrent apartheid system, under which human beings characterized as black had no rights to vote, hold political office, use 'white' toilets or beaches, marry whites, live in whites-only areas or even be there without a 'pass.' Blacks critically injured in car accidents were left to bleed to death if there was no 'black' ambulance to rush them to a 'black' hospital. 'White' hospitals were prohibited from saving their lives… In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute."
Goldstone determines that those seeking to promote the "myth of Israeli apartheid" are creating superficial and anecdotal comparisons in order to distort the complex reality of a deep national conflict. They are presenting a "false and malicious" charge that "precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony."
There is no doubt that we must strive for a situation in which the Palestinians gain national independence alongside the State of Israel, thereby putting an end to the intolerable situation, both politically and morally, of controlling another people.
For a peace agreement we need the Palestinian side of course. But it's time for a national disengagement, even if the Palestinians don't cooperate and we are forced to withdraw to security borders unilaterally. At the same time, we must undermine the malicious comparison of Israel to the apartheid regime.