The convenient thing about responding to articles that use accusatory rhetoric in place of substantive arguments is how easily these claims, lacking substance, are dismantled. Thus, when they took to the pages of the McGill Daily recently to make pernicious claims of Israeli Apartheid, Tadamon!, a student group, proved once again (see our HRC letters to the McGill Tribune and McGill Daily) their preference for compensating with rhetoric what their arguments lack in substance.
In a letter entitled “Don’t Conflate Judaism With Zionism”, Tadamon! recycled the tired Israeli Apartheid canard. The problem with this claim is that Israeli Arabs enjoy the full freedoms of Israel’s democracy and live freer lives than anywhere else in the Arab world. A full eighty percent of Palestinians consistently choose Israel as the government they admire most.
So why falsely accuse Israel of being an Apartheid state? By rebranding the conflict as an issue of Israeli discrimination against Arabs, those with an anti-Israel agenda hope to use the language of human rights to persuade people to consider Israel, like South Africa, a pariah state. By confusing the issues, groups like Tadamon! gratuitously use apartheid rhetoric to skirt a debate on the real issues surrounding the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
As Richard Goldstone, former justice of the South African Constitutional Court , explained in his New York Times op-ed entitled “Israel and the Apartheid Slander”, there is no apartheid in Israel: Arab-Israelis (as well as the Muslim, Baha’i, Christians, Russian-Israelis, American-Israelis, British-Israelis, French-Israelis and all other religious or ethnic groups) enjoy the full freedoms of Israel’s vibrant democracy. Israeli-Arabs are represented in the Knesset, have served in the Cabinet, in high-level foreign ministry posts (for example, the Ambassador to Finland) and include an Arab-Israeli member of the Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, and receive the same treatment. Israeli Arabs own property, businesses and work in professions alongside other Israelis. Public facilities such as hospitals, restaurants, buses, courts etc. are open to all. Arabs form 20% of the university population, which is a reflection of their percentage in the general population.
Apartheid indeed exists in the Middle East. For example, there is legally mandated gender and religious discrimination in Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to vote, drive or leave their homes without being accompanied by a male. Palestinians selling property to Israelis are executed by Palestinians and Palestinian Authority officials have declared any future state of Palestine would be free of Jews. Tadamon of course ignores the fact that half of Israel’s Jewish population originally came from Arab countries and were driven out by laws and policies resembling, and at times exceeding, laws of Apartheid. Only 4000 Jews, compared to nearly a million sixty years ago, live in Arab lands today.
Arab intolerance of a Jewish presence in the Middle East continues today in the form of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. No longer aimed at Jewish citizens of Arab countries (who either fled or were expelled), Arab rejectionism today centers on Israel. Settlements, which sit on merely 1.9% of the West Bank are trumpeted by the media as major obstacles to peace yet terrorism, incitement to genocide, and anti-Semitic incitement largely go unreported. The Apartheid canard enjoys surprising currency. It remains, however, a convenient, if disingenuous, means to distract attention from the real issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.