July 21, 2010

Israel & Apartheid

Given the rise is popularity of the apartheid analogy with Israel, I thought it would be worthwhile to highlight the ways in which this analogy simply does not hold. The following text is from the Wikipedia article on the topic:

Academic Susie Jacobs states that the apartheid analogy is "inadequate", and that it is a rhetoric which skims over substantive differences. She points out that Apartheid was a great deal more than segregation, instead it was a society almost wholly based on racial criteria.

StandWithUs, a pro-Israel advocacy organization, argues that apartheid in the Republic of South Africa was an official policy of discrimination against blacks enforced through police violence, based on minority control over a majority population who could not vote. They point out that in contrast, Israel is a majority-rule democracy with equal rights for all citizens including Arab citizens of Israel who vote freely. Israel contends with prejudice in its population as all societies do, but such prejudices are opposed by law. They also point out that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are not governed by Israel but by the Palestinian Authority.

Unlike South Africa, where Apartheid prevented Black majority rule, within Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip—the territory Israel controls—there are currently more Jews than Palestinians, although Jews are only 48% of the population as a whole. However, most of the West Bank and all of Gaza are not expected to be controlled by Israel after a final settlement.

Benjamin Pogrund, author and member of the Israeli delegation to the United Nations World Conference against Racism, has argued that the petty apartheid which characterized apartheid-era South Africa does not exist within Israel:

"The difference between the current Israeli situation and apartheid South Africa is emphasized at a very human level: Jewish and Arab babies are born in the same delivery room, with the same facilities, attended by the same doctors and nurses, with the mothers recovering in adjoining beds in a ward. Two years ago I had major surgery in a Jerusalem hospital: the surgeon was Jewish, the anaesthetist was Arab, the doctors and nurses who looked after me were Jews and Arabs. Jews and Arabs share meals in restaurants and travel on the same trains, buses and taxis, and visit each other’s homes. Could any of this possibly have happened under apartheid? Of course not."

In response to increasing inequality between the Jewish and Arab populations, the Israeli government established a committee to consider, among other issues, policies of affirmative action for housing Arab citizens. According to Israel advocacy group, Stand With Us, the city of Jerusalem gives Arab residents free professional advice to assist with the housing permit process and structural regulations, advice which is not available to Jewish residents on the same terms.

"The equivalence simply isn't true. Israel is not an apartheid state. Israel's human rights record in the occupied territories, its settlement policy, and its firm responses to terror may sometimes warrant criticism. And Prime Minister Ehud Olmert himself recently warned that Israel could face an apartheid-style struggle if it did not reach a deal with the Palestinians and end the occupation in the West Bank. But racism and discrimination do not form the rationale for Israel's policies and actions. Arab citizens of Israel can vote and serve in the Knesset; black South Africans could not vote until 1994. There are no laws in Israel that discriminate against Arab citizens or separate them from Jews. Unlike the United Kingdom, Greece, and Norway, Israel has no state religion, and it recognizes Arabic as one of its official languages."

—Kadalie, Rhoda and Julia Bertelsmann, black South Africans whose families fought against apartheid

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