This upcoming week, the Students for 'Justice' in Palestine will, once again, spew falsehoods as they accuse the freest and most democratic country in the entire Middle East — a region strewn with authoritarian governments and repressive theocracies — of being an apartheid state.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Israel is ranked the 29th most democratic state in the world by The Economist's democracy index. Christians, Jews, and Muslims live in harmony throughout cities all across Israel.
Over 20 percent of the Israeli population is Arab Muslim — a fact that is overlooked by those trying to delegitimize the state. Arab Israelis enjoy full equality under the law and more freedom than their brothers and sisters living in any other territory in the Middle East, including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and, yes, under the Palestinian Authority, just to name a few.
Unlike anywhere else in the Middle East, LGBT individuals have protected rights in Israel. Gays flee the Palestinians Territories in order to seek asylum in Israel. Israel hosts transgender beauty pageants (won this year by an Arab Christian) and celebrates the gay members of its military.
More astonishingly to most, Arabs make up 17 of the 120 members of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset (a parliament, by the way, that conducts its business in the official languages of Israel: Hebrew and Arabic). They attend universities with Israeli Jews. They practice their religion freely. They enlist in the Israeli Defense Forces. And they love their country, Israel.
Yet, the Students for Justice in Palestine charge Israel with apartheid, a term used to describe the segregation and subjugation of blacks in South Africa during the rule of the South African National Party. During this dark chapter in the country’s history, the ruling class of whites marginalized its black inhabitants, treating them as second-class citizens or even subhuman.
Anti-Israel propagandists point to Israel of having erected a barrier separating the West Bank and Israel proper as an example of what they dishonestly designate apartheid. But, once more, they skew the facts of the matter and distort the truth.
The barrier and accompanying checkpoints were constructed in the wake of deadly attacks on Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada orchestrated by Palestinian terrorists pouring into Israel. The barrier dramatically reduced the number of suicide bombings in Israel.
No country on earth would allow agents of terrorism to stream into their country and murder its civilians without applying measures to prevent it. Yet Israel is subjected to a different standard than any other nation.
And, just like all other democracies, Israel does have flaws: the failure of Palestinian leadership to negotiate a lasting peace with Israel has resulted in the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank; the ultra-Orthodox Israeli Rabbinate refuses to recognize other denominations of Judaism as legitimate; Jewish Israeli and Arab Israeli children rarely attend the same schools -— due to the homogeneous makeup of school districts throughout the country — leading to a lack of interaction between them.
But such is the test of a true democracy: to experience obstacles to liberty and overcome them.
Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid colossus, praised Zionists in their fight for the right of Jews to self-determination in our historic homeland as “encourag[ing]” in his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom”. He would be revolted to learn of the twisted appropriation of the term “apartheid” to refer to anything less than such. Not only is it a shamefully inaccurate to claim Israel is an apartheid state in any way, shape, or form, but it is an insult to the blacks in South Africa that experienced actual apartheid and fought against it with their lives.
Furthermore, SJP’s actions are not only detrimental to a campus climate of respect, but the tactics it champions actually hurt those they purport to support: Palestinians. Israeli Apartheid Week is a sham, and its only result will be to engender increased anti-Semitic activity on the 5Cs.
From the very first day Israel declared its independence from British rule, Israel has proven itself to be a country with strong democratic principles and values. These principles are enshrined in the Israeli Declaration of Independence which states, “The State of Israel will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” It is because of this guiding principle that Israeli democracy thrives, despite what misinformation SJP may spread during their week of hate.
Zachary Freiman PO ’20 is a prospective Music and Public Policy Analysis double major from Sleepy Hollow, NY. He dreams of one day meeting Oprah Winfrey.