March 7, 2011
'Israel Apartheid Week': Language as WeaponBy Arlene Kushner
"The pen is mightier than the sword," went the old maxim. We have the Internet now. And, where Israel is concerned, there are attacks by Katyusha rockets. Yet the message stands: Words can deliver a greater blow than physical force.
Israel was barely a day old when the Arab League attacked in 1948; its goal was to eradicate the nascent Jewish state. Despite the odds, Israel prevailed. Her enemies tried again in 1967, and yet again in 1973. Weary of military defeats, Arab leaders decided physical force was not going to destroy Israel, and began to consider other methods for achieving the same goal.
At this point, the PLO devised the "Strategy of Stages," which called for taking Israel down bit by bit. One of the stratagems to have come out of this approach is the delegitimization of Israel via legal and verbal attacks.
When words are used in this fashion, there is no compunction about dishonesty. Whatever causes damage is fine, as long as the words appear to have legitimacy. Two basic rules adhere: The message must be consistent, and the words -- frequently buzz words -- must be repeated over and over.
Here we might refer to yet another saying, this one attributed (without irony) to Nazi propagandist Goebbels: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, it becomes the truth."
The Arab world has refined this strategy to an art form, with none more skilled than Palestinian Authority leaders and their supporters. As lies become "truth," there are people of sincere convictions who accept them, and respond to Israel accordingly.
Israel's recourse in these situations is, and must be, exposure of the lies via logic and facts.
On March 7 the 7th "Israel Apartheid Week" will begin in some 50 cities internationally -- with primary focus on Western college campuses.
Israel as apartheid state. This is diabolically clever. Use of the buzz word "apartheid" links Israel to the old South African regime, which practiced apartheid and was seen as lacking moral legitimacy. Read out by the international community, it was brought down by a system of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS).
The goal is to bring Israel down in similar fashion. Considerable work is being devoted to a BDS campaign against Israel, particularly in conjunction with Apartheid Week.
What we are looking at is a libelous fiction that has taken on a veneer of credibility. When the facts are examined it becomes imminently clear that Israel is not an apartheid state:
Apartheid in South Africa was a legal system of discrimination based on race, with a minority white Afrikaner community imposing severe inequalities and patterns of separation upon the black majority within the borders of the South African nation.
The issue in Israel is political-national. At its heart are claims to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is a vastly different scenario, for the concept of separation involves different (perceived) national groups.
The Jewish people are not colonialists analogous to the Afrikaners, but actually have the superior claim. Established as a nation over 3,000 years ago, Jews maintained a presence on the land over the centuries, returning home in larger numbers in recent times. The Jewish right to a national homeland between the river and the sea was fixed in international law in 1922 with the Mandate for Palestine.
The Arabs who identify as Palestinians today, by contrast, until very recently saw themselves simply as part of the greater Arab nation; they have never had a separate nation. Now they claim the right, at a minimum, to all land beyond the1967 armistice line.
Israel has constructed a north-south fence in Judea and Samaria, which is criticized as an "apartheid wall." But let's look at the facts here, too: it was constructed as a security measure, to block entry into Israel of Palestinian Arab terrorists.
We can perhaps best grasp the fact that Israel is not apartheid by looking inside the nation, which has no legal separation or discrimination based on race. Arabs -- mostly Muslims -- constitute 20% of the citizenry; they maintain political parties, are accorded full freedom of speech and protection within the courts, vote, and have representation in the Knesset (parliament). Arabs walk the streets freely, and shop where they wish.
One need only visit an Israeli hospital to understand the true nature of Israeli society. For there are Arab patients and Arab medical personnel; Arab doctors sometimes treat Jews, and Jewish doctors sometimes treat Arabs. This would be totally incomprehensible within a system of apartheid.
Even while these charges are made against Israel, black Africans -- Muslims, Christians, and animists -- are voting for Israel with their feet. Word has gone out, among those seeking political refugee and those seeking economic betterment -- that Israel is the place to get to.
Their understanding transcends the myths being constructed to destroy Israel.
Arlene Kushner is an Israeli writer and author based in Jerusalem. Her posts can be found at www.arlenefromisrael.info.