A Response to The Guardian’s “Worlds Apart”
Israel as an apartheid state.
London Guardian recently published a very lengthy two-part series
by Chris McGreal, which it described as an explosive comparison between Israel
and the former apartheid regime in South Africa. And indeed it did provoke a
flurry of responses.
is very sad that a quality newspaper like the Guardian, considered
it worthwhile to devote so much effort and space, (14,350 words), to
propagating the obviously propagandist libel of equating Israel to apartheid
South Africa. Logical examination of the facts shows that allegations of a
similarity between South Africa’s apartheid regime and the Israeli system
are as irrational as the claim that Jews were responsible for 9/11 or that the
earth is flat.
However, if the intention is to justify an
opinion formed before examining the relevant facts, one can find parallels
between apartheid and almost any other country, even with Mr McGreals home
territory, Britain. For example, while I would be the last to liken Britain to
the old South African regime, facts taken out of context show a much more
convincing resemblance of Britain, rather than Israel, to apartheid.
Last September, the BBC reported that
Trevor Phillips, leader of the Commission for Racial Equality, warned that
British society was becoming more divided by race and religion and that the
nightmare of fully fledged ghettos could happen in the country.
The London based Independent Race
and Refugee News Network (IRR) has released statistics revealing that in
2003-04, there were 52,694 racist incidents and an alarming increase in
racially motivated murders as well as a devastatingly high incidence of Black
deaths in custody. Their reports also show that the percentage of persons
living in unfit dwellings is much higher for all ethnic minority groups than
for their white counterparts. Sounds very much like apartheid does it not?
But any informed logical person realizes
that these statistics, quoted out of context, reflect a completely unrealistic
picture of Britain, with its laudable history of racial tolerance, universal
justice and strenuous efforts to ensure racial equality.
So too, the parallels Mr. McGreal draws
between Israel and apartheid are as unjustified as they are offensive. Such
comparisons, repeated by persons who should know better are not only
intellectually dishonest; they are often lazy repetitions of catch phrases
propagated by cynical propagandists. More egregiously they ignore situations
where valid parallels can be drawn.
In South Africa, apartheid was entrenched
in the law and strictly enforced. The law not only denied the vote to Black
citizens, it legislated to force discrimination in almost every aspect of
daily life. One wonders whether Mr. McGreal is aware that one of the
countries where discrimination continues to be enforced by law is Lebanon;
where, according to an Amnesty International report, Palestinian refugees are
barred from certain jobs, where a Palestinian cook; accountant; medical
doctor; hairdresser; pharmacist; engineer; concierge or lawyer is unable to
practice legally and where the law bars Palestinians from owning real estate
and from inheriting property or even registering property that they had
person interested in making a serious comparison can readily
ascertain that in stark contrast to South Africa’s apartheid laws, and
Lebanon’s discriminatory laws,
Declaration of Independence specifically ensures complete equality
of social and political rights to all inhabitants irrespective of religion,
race, or gender. Israeli Muslims, Christians, Druse and other minority groups
enjoy exactly the same civil and political rights as Jews. They serve in the
Knesset and speak freely against the government. By contrast, Israel’s Arab
neighbors strictly enforce gender and religious apartheid.
Unfortunately, as in Britain and
elsewhere, injustices do occur in Israel. Mr. McGreal quotes the Israeli human
rights group, B'Tselem, to support his arguments, but logically the very fact
that B'Tselem and other human rights organizations operate freely in Israel is
a powerful argument against any accusation of apartheid. Israelis are proud of
the fact that by contrast with neighboring states, B'Tselem frequently wins
arguments even against the state. The litmus test is that in complete contrast
to the despised South African laws, which enforced apartheid, the Israel high
court upholds the civil rights of all citizens without distinction.
The writer has experience
of both South Africa and Israel. Currently living in Israel, he was an early
member of the Springbok Legion, an active anti-apartheid organization formed
by South African soldiers during WW2 and the first mass movement of South
African Whites openly opposed to apartheid.
more articles by Maurice Ostroff