Neil Lazarus is an internationally acclaimed expert in the field of Middle East Politics, Israel Public Diplomacy and Effective Communication Training…
Debunking the Apartheid Myth
Anti Israel organizations are mobilising again in an attempt to remove the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Throughout universities worldwide Israel Apartheid Week has begun. Under the guise of legitimate criticism and empathy for the underdog, liberal students are protesting Israel’s so called apartheid policy. The reality in the West Bank is more complex. Israeli policy is often oppressive, but apartheid it certainly isn’t.
Racism exists in Israel, to say otherwise is to be blind or just Ashkenazi. Racism in Israel should be condemned often more virulently than it is. To describe the situation of Palestinians as the same as the blacks of South Africa is to belittle the black majority’s struggle for national liberation in South Africa. Desmond Tutu’s recent rantings seem to undermine and trivialise his own struggle.
Neil Lazarus Soweto
The brand apartheid is an attempt to criminalize and demonize Israel. Criticism of Israeli policy is fair but by comparing it to South Africa brings the country’s very existence into question.
The Palestinian Israeli conflict is fundamentally different to South Africa. Israel is seeking to create a two state solution as a resolution to the conflict between two peoples. In South Africa the white minority sought to dominate the black majority. In Israel , the Jewish Majority is seeking a divorce with the Palestinians.
It is useful to distinguish between the Arab citizens of Israel and the Palestinians of the West Bank
Arab citizens have full civil rights, unlike the black majority of South Africa in South Africa. The right to vote, study and participate in society. Their position is a far cry form South Africa
Israel has Arab members of Knesset, judges and professors. Their position is complicated. As one young Israeli Arab said to me, “our country is at war with our nation.” These challenges are unique. To cry apartheid is to impose a different reality on the complexity of the Middle East
The situation of Palestinians in the West Bank is more complicated. It is important here to note that they are not citizens of the state. Much of the alleged discrimination results from preferential rights given to citizens of the state versus non citizens. Israel’s mistaken policy of settlement building exasperates the situation by pitting Israelis against Palestinians in a battle for land. Rather than moving towards a two State solution, settlements complicate the situation by entwining two populations, rather than separating them.
Is this apartheid? Far from it. Checkpoints are not apartheid nor are security barriers or small areas of Palestinian self rule. They are scars on a land left by an unresolved conflict.
True liberals should reject the use of apartheid in the rhetorical battle against Israel. It trivializes the meaning of the word. Rather than continuing to yell and shout, progressives should work towards a true reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. They should reject calls for boycott and work towards dialogue.
The time has come for a peace week and not a week of continued hatred.
(Violence broke out at the London School of Economics this week between Jewish and Palestinian Students)