Smearing Israel as an “apartheid” state is wholly disingenuous and is a perfect example of how when baseless accusations are left unanswered, they risk becoming accepted as conventional wisdom.
In fact, the Rome Statute defines apartheid as the“systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
Is Israel perfect? No, far from it and more must be done to promote Arab minority rights, but we mustn’t forget that Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East in which its 20% Arab minority (1.7 million citizens) enjoy full equal rights before and under the law. Israeli Arabs consistently affirm they would rather live in Israel as a minority than anywhere else in the Middle East as part of the majority. Israel’s vibrancy, its openness, and tolerance have solidified its credentials as a progressive liberal democracy whose Arab minority not only enjoys the same rights as all other Israeli citizens, they occupy positions at the pinnacle of Israeli society. Arabs sit on Israel’s Supreme Court, have been elected to Israel’s parliament (there are 17 Arab Members of Knesset), they fight in the Israel Defense Forces and partake in every facet of Israeli society.
Ultimately, Macdonald’s modus operandi serves to demonize and stigmatize Israel, to tarnish the Jewish state’s hard-fought reputation and to malign its standing in the community of nations.
In his column, Macdonald misquoted sources when saying that (emphasis added): “…with a long list of Israeli political leaders, academics and public figures … all of whom have warned that the Jewish state is becoming, or already is, an apartheid state.”
As my HonestReporting.com colleague Daniel Pomerantz observed, most of the people referenced specifically say that Israel is not an apartheid state. To be precise, the cited individuals warn that Israel would be in danger of becoming an apartheid state if Israel were to adopt certain policies: policies which Israel has not adopted and most likely never will. Such is the nature of political debate in any free democracy: opposing politicians dramatically predict the consequences that would result from following one possible path to its theoretical conclusion.
Macdonald’s only source claiming that Israel is already an apartheid state is a 2007 opinion piece in a small New Zealand based web site by Shulamit Aloni: a now deceased, former Israeli politician from the far left Meretz party. Though certainly a part of the national debate, the party is currently one of the smallest in Israel.
In a country of 8.5 million people and with free speech, Pomerantz observes that you’ll find at least someone expressing every opinion imaginable. Yet Macdonald fails to come up with even one quote from the contemporary Israeli mainstream, or even from the current decade.
Macdonald claims that (emphasis added): “Expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank continued, and since the election of Donald Trump, colonization has surged with an invigorated enthusiasm.”
Whether you love or loath the settlement enterprise, the facts speak for themselves. Pomerantz observes:
In order to accommodate the residents already evacuated from the town of Amona, the first new settlement in 25 years has received initial approval, but it has not yet received final approvals for actual building. Furthermore, when completed it will be tiny: containing 102 housing units, roughly the size of the smallest “truck stop” towns in America like Saint Donatus, Iowa or Marengo, Indiana.
Macdonald claims (emphasis added): “The roughly three quarters of a million Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have complete freedom of movement and their own set of roads,effectively forbidden to the disenfranchised Palestinian underclass.”
In fact, Israeli settlers are not allowed to enter Area A of the west bank, nor is it accurate to claim that they have “complete freedom of movement” there. Furthermore, Macdonald’s claim that Israeli settlers have their “own set of roads, effectively forbidden to the disenfranchised Palestinian underclass” is false, and this statement is made to tar Israel with racism. While certain west bank roads are prohibited for use by Palestinians solely for security reasons, there are no Jewish-only roads. Israeli Arabs and any Israeli citizen irrespective of their ethnic origin or religion, have every right to travel on those restricted roads, as do Israeli Jews.
Macdonald claims (emphasis added): “Settlers are entitled to carry arms and use them in self-defence; Palestinians are not. Settlers have property rights. Palestinians have property claims. Et cetera.”
In fact, all Israelis are required to have a permit to carry arms and Palestinians (whether a member of a terror group or not) openly carry weapons in Gaza and the west bank. Make no mistake, over 90 percent of Palestinian Arabs in the west bank live under Palestinian Authority administrative rule. Furthermore, Israel’s Supreme Court has consistently upheld Palestinian land claims. In fact, recently, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld that “all the homes in the West Bank outpost of Netiv Ha’avot in Gush Etzion that were built on private Palestinian land must be demolished.”
While Macdonald may lament the existence of Israel’s security barrier, let’s not be obtuse to how it’s presence has seen a dramatic reduction of terror attacks by 90%. Israeli lives matter.
As Executive Director of HonestReporting Canada, one the “energetic pro-Israel activists (that) scrutinize the media,” as Neil Macdonald describes, it’s my responsibility to set the record straight. Accordingly, HRC has filed a formal complaint with the CBC to right this serious wrong.
Importantly, the “apartheid” libel does not offend only Israelis, but stands as an affront to all those who would campaign against real apartheid were they not misdirected by a campaign of disinformation that excels in rhetoric because it lacks truth and substance.