[Make sure to read Robert Spencer’s contributions in Jamie Glazov’s new book: Barack Obama’s True Legacy: How He Transformed America.]
As pro-Palestinian demonstrations take place on campuses all across the nation, the idea is persistent and pervasive: yes, the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 were terrible, but Israel had it coming because it is an oppressive apartheid state. The “apartheid” word gets thrown around quite a lot in connection with Israel, yet like so many other charges leveled at the Jewish state, there is nothing to it.
As I noted Friday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Mogadishu) just denounced Israel’s “systematic apartheid,” and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Ramallah) called for “dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance.” Rep. Cori Bush (D-Hate Whitey) likewise said that “we must do our part to stop this violence and trauma by ending U.S. government support for Israeli military occupation and apartheid.”
Those three great statesmen are by no means alone. Thirty-four student organizations at Harvard University issued a statement proclaiming that they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence” between Israel and the Palestinians and declaring that “the apartheid regime is the only one to blame.” The leftist Jewish organization If Not Now tweeted Wednesday: “We’re reckoning with the fact that the Israeli government has failed Israelis and Palestinians by perpetuating a system of apartheid for decades, without concern for the consequences to their citizens. That’s what’s led us here.”
Far-left pundit Marc Lamont Hill tweeted back in 2016 that “Israel is very much, by definition, an apartheid state.” And in 2021, the far-left Human Rights Watch issued a report that claimed that Israel was implementing apartheid policies; the establishment media, of course, eagerly jumped on.
The only thing that’s lacking from the left’s scenario is any actual apartheid. The term “apartheid” comes from South Africa, where it referred to a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination that was in place from 1948 to 1991. The word itself means “separateness,” and South Africa instituted numerous laws to keep the races apart in schools, workplaces, and areas where the public gathered, such as beaches.
There is absolutely nothing like this in Israel. As my Jihad Watch colleague Hugh Fitzgerald has explained: “In Israel, Arabs sit on the Supreme Court, serve in the Knesset, go abroad as ambassadors. The chairman of Israel’s largest bank, Bank Leumi, is an Arab. Jews and Arabs work in the same factories and offices, play on the same sports teams and in the same orchestras, act in the same films, are treated in the same hospitals by both Jewish and Arab medical personnel, attend the same classes in the same universities. Jews and Arabs own restaurants and start high-tech businesses together. The only difference in their treatment is that Jews must, while Arabs may, serve in the military.”
There are no legal restrictions upon Arabs in Israel. The media watchdog HonestReporting points out that “the legal, state-sanctioned discrimination that is the definition of apartheid is not only absent from Israel, it is furiously combatted by its laws and independent judiciary. Israel’s basic laws serve as legal safeguards, providing protection of life, body, and dignity in a democratic state with equal rights for all, including ethnic minorities.”
In September, Mosiuoa Lekota, who is an actual former anti-apartheid activist from South Africa, said in an interview with Bafana Modise of South Africa Friends of Israel: “I was in Israel, my brother. In Israel, you won’t find the same divisions between Jews and non-Jews that we used to witness during apartheid. There are no segregated buses for different ethnic groups, like Jews and Arabs. In Israel, everyone boards the same bus, travels wherever they need to, and disembarks as they wish. There is no apartheid in Israel, not even within their schools.”
Why, then, has the “apartheid” smear become so common among haters of Israel? Because it plays on Western traumas about racism and serves as a shorthand way to demonize the Jewish state without having to bother with actual evidence. The primary evidence that those who claim Israel implements apartheid policies bring forth when they offer any evidence at all is that Israel has built fences between Israel proper and the areas under the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinians who work in Israel have to pass through checkpoints, some of which involve long lines, to get to and from work.
These measures are in place, however, not because of racism on Israel’s part but because so many Palestinians have victimized Israel in jihad attacks. The leftists who denounce Israel for being an apartheid state would see it rendered defenseless against those who have repeatedly vowed to destroy it. That’s likely the whole idea.