ISRAEL IS A COMPLICATED COUNTRY, NOT AN APARTHEID STATE
Israel has a population of 10 million but performs like a country with 100 million inhabitants. The child of hope and home of the brave consistently punches above its weight. Despite Israel’s many accomplishments, it also has shortcomings. When addressing these faults, it is important to deal with facts – not half-truths and misinformation.
First, attacking Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state is antisemitism:
Antisemitism is a disgrace in all its forms. Legitimate criticism of Israel is welcomed and warranted. Bolstered by a vibrant free press and entering its 29th straight week of anti-government protests, nowhere is this more evident than in Israeli society itself. Criticism may include Israel’s human rights record in the West Bank, the Likud government’s judicial reform, and its handling of the peace process. Questioning Israel’s legitimacy as a state and the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, however, is blatant antisemitism.
Misinformation networks consistently promote antisemitic rhetoric on social media, mass media, and university campuses to delegitimate Israel.
One such delegitimating mantra is “from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea, Palestine will be free”. While mindlessly parroting propaganda promulgated by Iranian-backed terrorist groups, this extremist rhetoric neglects the fact that nearly 10 million Israelis reside in cities and towns located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Suggesting that a productive member state of the international community must be liberated to “Free Palestine” is both morally reprehensible and antisemitic.
Another delegitimating mantra is “Israel is younger than my grandparents”. This messaging intends to mislead its audience by equating age with legitimacy. The Jewish presence in Israel dates back thousands of years. Let there be no doubt: newly independent states in Africa, Asia or Europe are not any less legitimate than older states in Africa, Asia, Europe, or the Americas.
Messaging of this kind also fails to account for the fact that other states in the Middle East and North Africa, such as Egypt (1952), Tunisia (1956), Sudan (1956), Cyprus (1960), Kuwait (1961), Algeria (1962), Bahrain (1971), Qatar (1971), the United Arab Emirates (1971), and Yemen (1967, 1990), gained their independence after Israel (1948). Whether they won their independence through peaceful means or armed rebellion against a colonial overlord, none of these states are delegitimated in the same manner or to the same extent as Israel.
Second, Israel is not a racist or apartheid state:
Like the LGBTQ+ community, Sunni and Shia Muslims, Sephardi, Mizrahi, and Ashkenazi Jews and Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and Maronite Christians all have equal rights in Israel. 2 million Israeli Arabs comprise roughly 20 per cent of Israel’s population. Members of every ethnic and religious group serve in the Israeli Defence Forces, form political parties, and are represented in the Knesset, judiciary, and foreign service. As in America, there is a diversity of political opinion in Israel. Unfortunately, this sometimes includes racists, bigots, and both left and right-wing extremists.
Apartheid states are rarely kind to their victims or enticing to the people they oppress. Nevertheless, hundreds of Palestinians from the West Bank receive high quality and often life-saving medical treatment in Israel. In early July, a Palestinian boy from the West Bank had his head reattached to his body after a devastating car accident resulted in decapitation. In 2022, the Israeli government introduced a program granting twenty thousand Palestinians from Gaza permits to work in Israel, where they earn exponentially higher wages in significantly better working conditions. Tens of thousands more Palestinians travel from the West Bank to Israel to work and study every day.
A philosopher once said you shouldn’t throw stones if you live in a glass house. This begs the question: How many Israelis – let alone Jews – study, live, work, serve in the armed forces, form political parties, run for office, vote in elections, or express political opinions in Gaza or the neighboring countries? Despite the historic Jewish presence across the Middle East, the answer appears to be zero. Up until the 2020 Abraham Accords, the only state in the Middle East where Jews lived side by side with Muslims and Christians and safe from persecution was Israel.
With that in mind, Israelis must still look at themselves in the mirror. Jewish settlement building in Area C of the West Bank is a significant obstacle to a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Despite distinctions between settlements (established by government resolution and built with appropriate permits on state-owned land) and illegal outposts (built without the appropriate permits on privately-owned Palestinian land) in Israel’s legal system, all settlements are considered illegal by most of the world under international law. To say they weaken the likelihood of a two-state solution, desecrate the rule of law, undermine Israel’s moral standing in the international community, and put non-Israeli Zionists in a bind is an understatement.
To be clear: Israel is not an apartheid state nor a perfect country, but a work in progress. The Start-Up Nation is a pluralistic democracy endowed with the creativity to confront colossal geographic, demographic, economic, political, scientific, social, and security challenges. It took less than 75 years for victims of the biggest genocide in history to build this marvel of a state. An inspiring example for the world to follow, a determined and resilient Israel will continue thriving against all odds – regardless of what its enemies may throw at it.
Originally published by The Times of Israel on July 27, 2023.