No, Israel is not an apartheid state

Opinion: Israel has its problems, but accusing it of being a nation that discriminates against its Arab citizenry and against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank ignores reality and only serves to cheapens the suffering of black South Africans who lived under that oppressive regime

Yoseph Haddad |
I was in South Africa 18 months ago to take part in the anti-Israel "Apartheid Week," organized by the Boycott, Divest, Sanction Movement in local universities.
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  • I visited the Apartheid museum in Johannesburg and met with Black residents who lived under the apartheid regime.
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    יום הנכבה מפגינים פרו פלסטינים נגד ישראל קייפטאון דרום אפריקה
    יום הנכבה מפגינים פרו פלסטינים נגד ישראל קייפטאון דרום אפריקה
    Pro-Palestinian protesters in South Africa
    (Photo: Reuters)
    I later confronted BDS activists who accuse Israel of carrying out a similar discriminatory policy towards Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel.
    The term "apartheid" refers to one group's racial segregation and discrimination of another and was similarly stated in the UN Apartheid Convention declaring it a crime against humanity, which was adopted by the International forum in 1973.
    There is no doubt that Israel has much to repair. The Arab sector needs massive government investments in education, housing and infrastructure.
    The government failed to act against the violent crime wave ravaging Arab communities and the Nation State Law passed by the Knesset in 2019 must be amended to restore Arabic as an official language of the state and to ensure that future land development is not exclusive to Jewish cities.
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    הפגנה נגד חוק הלאום בתל אביב
    הפגנה נגד חוק הלאום בתל אביב
    Israeli Jews and Arabs protest against the Nation-State Law in Tel Aviv, July 2018
    (Photo: AFP)
    The bill must also include a clause solidifying the equality of all Israelis before the law.
    But despite all of its deficiencies, Israel is not an apartheid state. Not even close.
    The majority of Palestinians on the West Bank are governed by the Palestinian Authority and in Gaza all residents live under the rule of Hamas.
    Israel, which is a sovereign democracy that is responsible for its citizens, allows many Palestinians access to employment within its borders and provides them with medical services and even coronavirus vaccines.
    Those Palestinians do not live under an apartheid regime. Anyone who claims otherwise does not understand the meaning of the word.
    Hamas oppresses political opponents of its rule in Gaza as well as the local Christian community, and the PA has been criticized by the United Nations for racism and discrimination in its educational program that fosters anti-Semitism, violence and hatred towards Israel.
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    Hagai El-Ad is an Israeli human rights activist who has served as the director general of B'Tselem
    Hagai El-Ad is an Israeli human rights activist who has served as the director general of B'Tselem
    B'Tselem chief Hagai El-Ad accused Israel of being an apartheid state
    (Photo: Courtesy)
    The B'Tselem human rights NGO said earlier this year that Israeli Arabs were living under an apartheid regime, but by doing so, the organization diminished and cheapened the suffering of black South Africans who had been subjected to the ills of apartheid for many years.
    I had the opportunity to look into their eyes and see the real pain that was inflicted upon them.
    Is Samer Haj Yehia, the chairman of Israel's largest bank Leumi, living under an apartheid regime? And what of Dr. Masad Barhoum, the director general of Galilee Medical Center, or George Karra, the Supreme Court justice? Are they living in an apartheid state too?
    And what of the Arab doctors, lawyers and police officers and the Arab members of Knesset and the ministers - are they living under this form of oppression as well?
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    A sign in South Africa during apartheid
    A sign in South Africa during apartheid
    A sign in South Africa during apartheid
    (Photo: Getty Images)
    Black South Africans were not even allowed on park swings used by white children. They could not vote in parliamentary elections and those living in Bantustan were deprived of South African citizenship. Meanwhile, the Arab citizens of Israel have equal rights under the law.
    Knesset Member Aida Touma-Suleiman from the Joint List, the alliance of predominately Arab parties, hosted a conference in parliament this week, titled "After 54 years: From Occupation to Apartheid."
    Its speakers included representatives of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement and other groups critical of Israel such as B'Tselem, Adalah and Human Rights Watch.
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    כנס מיוחד בכנסת אחרי 54 שנה- בין כיבוש לאפרטהייד
    כנס מיוחד בכנסת אחרי 54 שנה- בין כיבוש לאפרטהייד
    Joint List MK Aida Touma-Suleiman, right, and Meretz MK Mossi Raz hosting a conference on apartheid in the Knesset this week
    (Photo: Knesset Channel)
    The defamation of Israel emanating from the very center of its democracy notwithstanding, the conference was nothing but a display of hypocrisy.
    For when a member of Knesset from the Arab community in Israel hosts such an event, any claims of discrimination by an apartheid regime are instantly negated.
    In fact, by preventing dissenting voices such as mine from being heard at the conference, she and her associates themselves become a true manifestation of discriminat
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