Ask Is­rael’s Arabs about life in ‘apartheid’ state

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

This month, the UNspon­sored hate-Is­rael fes­ti­val known as Dur­ban III takes place. Un­der the head­ing “anti-racism,” the great bulk of the con­fer­ence, like Dur­ban I and Dur­ban II, con­sists of con­demn­ing Is­rael for racism and equat­ing it to an apartheid state.

Of the world’s many great lies, this is among the great­est.

How do we know it is a lie? Be­cause when South Africa was an apartheid state, no one ac­cused Is­rael of be­ing one. Even the UN would have re­garded the ac­cu­sa­tion as ab­surd.

Is­rael has noth­ing in com­mon with an apartheid state, but few peo­ple know enough about Is­rael, or about apartheid South Africa, to re­fute the slan­der. So let’s re­spond.

First, what is an apartheid state? And does Is­rael fit that def­i­ni­tion?

From 1948 to 1994, South Africa, the coun­try that came up with this term, had an of­fi­cial pol­icy that de­clared blacks sec­ond-class cit­i­zens in ev­ery as­pect of that na­tion’s life. Among many other pro­hi­bi­tions on the coun­try’s blacks, they could not vote; could not hold po­lit­i­cal of­fice; were forced to re­side in cer­tain lo­ca­tions; could not marry whites; and couldn’t even use the same pub- lic re­strooms as whites.

Not one of those re­stric­tions ap­plies to Arabs liv­ing in Is­rael.

One and a half mil­lion Arabs live in Is­rael, con­sti­tut­ing about 20 per­cent of that coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion. They have the same rights as all other Israeli cit­i­zens. They can vote, and they do. They can serve in the Israeli par­lia­ment, and they do. They can own prop­erty and busi­nesses and work in pro­fes­sions along­side other Is­raelis, and they do. They can be judges, and they are. Here’s one telling ex­am­ple: it was an Arab judge on Is­rael’s Supreme Court who sen­tenced the for­mer pres­i­dent of Is­rael, a Jew, to jail on a rape charge.

Some other ex­am­ples of Arabs in Israeli life: Reda Man­sour was the youngest am­bas­sador in Is­rael’s his­tory, and is now Con­sul Gen­eral at Is­rael’s At­lanta Con­sulate; Walid Badir is an in­ter­na­tional soc­cer star on Is­rael’s na­tional team and cap­tain of one of Tel Aviv’s ma­jor teams; Rana Raslan is a for­mer Miss Is­rael; Ish­mael Khaldi was un­til re­cently the deputy con­sul of Is­rael in San Fran­cisco; Khaled Abu Toameh is a ma­jor jour­nal­ist with the Jerusalem Post; Ghaleb Ma­jadele was un­til re­cently a Min­is­ter in the Israeli Gov­ern­ment. They are all Israeli Arabs. Not one is a Jew.

Arabs in Is­rael live freer lives than Arabs liv­ing any­where in the Arab world. No Arab in any Arab coun­try has the civil rights and per­sonal lib­erty that Arabs in Is­rael en­joy.

Now, one might counter: “Yes, Pales­tini­ans who live in- side Is­rael have all these rights, but what about the Pales­tini­ans who live in what are known as the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries? Aren’t they treated dif­fer­ently?”

Yes, of course they are, they are not cit­i­zens of Is­rael. They are gov­erned by ei­ther the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity (Fatah) or by Ha­mas. The con­trol Is­rael has over these peo­ple’s lives is largely man­i­fested when they want to en­ter Is­rael. Then they are sub­jected to long lines and strict searches, be­cause Is­rael must weed out po­ten­tial ter­ror­ists.

Oth­er­wise, Is­rael has lit­tle con­trol over the day-to-day life of Pales­tini­ans and was pre­pared to have no con­trol in 2000 when it agreed to the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­de­pen­dent Pales­tinian state to which it gave 97 per­cent of the land it had con­quered in the 1967 War. The Pales­tinian re­sponse was to un­leash an in­tifada of ter­ror against Israeli civil­ians.

And what about the se­cu­rity wall that di­vides Is­rael and the West Bank? Is that an ex­am­ple

There are lies, and then there are loath­some lies. “Is­rael is an apartheid state” falls into the lat­ter cat­e­gory.

of apartheid?

That this is even raised as an is­sue is re­mark­able. One might as well men­tion the se­cu­rity fence be­tween the United States and Mex­ico as an ex­am­ple of apartheid. There is no dif­fer­ence be­tween the Amer­i­can wall at its south­ern bor­der and the Israeli wall on its east­ern bor­der. Both bar­ri­ers have been built to keep un­wanted peo­ple from en­ter­ing the coun­try.

Is­rael built its se­cu­rity wall in or­der to keep ter­ror­ists from en­ter­ing Is­rael and mur­der­ing its cit­i­zens. What ap­pears to bother those who work to dele­git­imize Is­rael by call­ing it an apartheid state is that the bar­rier has worked. The wall sep­a­rat­ing Is­rael from the West Bank has prob­a­bly been the most suc­cess­ful ter­ror­ism-pre­ven­tion pro­gram ever en­acted.

So why, then, is Is­rael called an apartheid state?

Be­cause by com­par­ing the freest, most eq­ui­table coun­try in the Mid­dle East to the for­mer South Africa, those who seek to Is­rael’s demise hope they can per­suade un­in­formed peo­ple that Is­rael doesn’t de­serve to ex­ist just as apartheid South Africa didn’t de­serve to ex­ist.

Yet, the peo­ple who know bet­ter than any­one else what a lie the apartheid ac­cu­sa­tion is are Is­rael’s Arabs, which is why they pre­fer to live in the Jewish state than in any Arab state.

There are lies, and then there are loath­some lies. “Is­rael is an apartheid state” falls into the lat­ter cat­e­gory. Its only aim is to has­ten the ex­ter­mi­na­tion of Is­rael.

Den­nis Prager is a vis­it­ing fel­low at the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion at Stan­ford Univer­sity. He is the au­thor of four books, most re­cently “Hap­pi­ness Is a Se­ri­ous Prob­lem” (HarperCollins).

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