Israel and the Apartheid SlurBy Michael Weinberg
The Israel Apartheid Week worldwide "global event" has ended and likewise the controversy has left the news headlines and op-ed pages of almost all newspapers and media outlets. But I wish to return to apartheid.
Even as a Jew, and an Israeli, I do not wish a return to apartheid, in practice, but rather to closer examine this loaded, grossly distorted, and extremely misunderstood term. Apartheid bears no resemblance to the reality of day-to-day life in Israel.
The planners and attendees of the 2011 Israel Apartheid Week contend that their efforts are to bring equality, peace, prosperity, and strength to a maligned and abused minority population. I was absent from the events, speeches, and symposiums as to how Israel Apartheid Week will realize such idealistic results. Any explanation how the intent to isolate Israel-based corporations, through the use of boycott, divestment, and sanctions, will suddenly yield miraculous results is absent throughout their website content.
These efforts to demonize a nation of survivors, from the biblical to modern era, are baffling and reckless. Israel assists in countless life-saving rescue missions and disaster relief operations locally and worldwide. We care for neighbors and strangers by saving lives of the injured or sick such as in recently devastated Haiti, refuge for thousands of African refugees fleeing horrific conflict. At the cost of precious lives, Israel's best intentions and expertise are often refused as did the Iranian government after a catastrophic 2003 earthquake or grossly manipulated via horrific and unsubstantiated slander such as accusations against Jewish surgeons of harvesting organs of dead or injured Haitians. Such baseless and libelous accusations are dangerous to Jewish and non-Jewish lives, alike.
Defining Demands, Demanding Definition
The Israel Apartheid website states: "The aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system". Yet, Israel Apartheid Week does not responsibly justify this accusation with even basic evidentiary data. This hurts the viability of their claim. Absent of valid context or research IAW still makes the following demands upon the State of Israel:
Of the participants and planners, of Israel Apartheid Week how many actually live in Israel? How many resided in and witnessed apartheid, in practice, in South Africa? How many were even born prior to the dissolution of the policy of apartheid? How many have ever visited Israel to seeking living examples of daily multicultural pluralism? In fact, one must question: Where does IAW derive their understanding and definition of apartheid?
Amazingly upon perusing the Israel Apartheid Week website nowhere does it define the actionable policies it claims to oppose! The desire to oppose an entity or action without defining its nature is void of logic. The website details the demands of their campaign in reaction to apparently sordid actions by the Israel government. Below, an excerpt from a page from the Israel Apartheid Week site employs the use of the word apartheid -without ever any attempt to define its meaning:
IAW is defining demands of Israel. I am demanding definition of just one word.
The Historical Definition
Apartheid is a word of Afrikaans origin, derived from a French root and Dutch addition that means essentially: apart. The word was specifically applied to a rigid governmental policy of segregation, in the republic of South Africa during which political, legal, and economic discrimination was instituted against non-whites.
Apartheid was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party government in South Africa between 1948 and 1994, under which the rights of the majority black inhabitants of South Africa were ignored.
Racial segregation in South Africa began in colonial times, but apartheid as an official policy was introduced following the general election of 1948. New legislation classified inhabitants into racial groups: black, white, colored, and Indian and residential areas were segregated by means of forced removals. From 1958 on, Blacks were deprived of citizenship, and the government segregated education, medical care, and other public services. From 1950, laws were passed to keep races apart and suppress resistance.
Apartheid was by definition, a government policy of racial segregation by political and economic means and supported by legislation.
Israel and apartheid remain, until proven otherwise, mutually exclusive terms.
A Current Events Study
Based on the definition and details above IAW has justifiable claims against the Israeli government. In 2005 the government of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in defiance of a Knesset-issued referendum, removed 8000+ Jewish families from their jobs, lives, and homes in the Gaza Strip and Northern Shomron. Jews remain the only ethnically cleansed population of people in Israel(including the 1982 removal of families from the Sinai village of Yamit as part of the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty). These families remain today the only forcibly removed citizens of Israel, by government policy, due entirely to their ethnic identity The only governmental policies that discriminate based on race are directed and employed against Jews!
A Shared Society
I live in Israel. I get searched via a security guard, a metal detector or wand, and my baggage is scanned to enter malls, shops, offices, bus and train stations. I am questioned what is inside my laptop case, my grocery bags, and my pockets. I am asked if I carry a weapon. I am examined and profiled by my dress, my eyes, my stance. Some people are, in fact, more scrupulously searched or examined, with cause: there is often a risk of danger and the priority is for the safety of every person entering or exiting a particular space or establishment.
I live amongst people of all nationalities, colors, creeds, religions, sexual preference, and political affiliation. On any given day a multitude of languages can be heard spoken on the streets: Farsi, English, Thai, French, German, Finnish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew. Together we share government offices, waiting rooms, hospitals, shops, eateries, holy sites, pharmacies, medical facilities, zoos, malls, grocery stores, post offices, universities, workplaces, and neighborhoods. We serve and share roles as varied as doctors, nurses, surgeons, mechanics, rail-workers, clerks, soldiers, elected officials, lawyers, journalists, and taxi drivers. We are an integrated society.
The responsibility of the government to carefully administer a process of human population flow, including safeguards and checks against potential dangers is a right and obligation. Most countries worldwide have a detailed process of visa or visitation rights and requirements for citizens and non-citizens alike. IAW has presented no evidence how Israel differs in practice or policy from any other nation-state in monitoring and expediting the flow of human traffic.
I have every right to expect the strictest measures possible to be employed in ensuring myself, my friends, my family, my fellow citizens, my neighbors are not to be torn to bits of flesh and bone, incinerated, and burned alive on busses, reduced to dust and burnt flesh by bombs in cafes, or riddled with shrapnel from exploding missiles, mortars, and projectiles. I have every right and responsibility to protect myself, by whatever means necessary, to not to be forever maimed mentally, emotionally, or physically.
All peoples in Israel are free to purchase or sell property, attend university, gain employment, receive health services, open a business, train for licenses, shop, eat, attend arts events and theater performances, and worship in freedom. Here, no minority oppresses a majority, nor does a majority oppress a minority.
There is no law in the state of Israel, and absent any reference on the IAW website, is any particular race, creed, or belief promoted or favored over another nor provided legal authority, encouragement, preference, or support to procure dominion of one over the other. In every society, from time immemorial, economic, social, and religious distinctions remain. This is not apartheid.
Following the 1999 unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, Hezbollah establishes terrorist bases with impunity. In 2000, after the offer by Ehud Barak the PLO launches a murderous uprising. Following the 2005 expulsion of 8000 families, after which not even one Jewish soldier or Jewish civilian remained, world-class, state-of-the-art greenhouses, the back-breaking, never-ending toil of several generations of hard-working Jewish farmers, were left in-tact. Without hesitation their metal parts and structures were converted to weapons of destruction, the fields of flowers of a million hues now serve as deadly rocket launching areas against babies, children and innocent citizens.
The IAW website refers to the Israeli security barrier as "The Wall" without reference to the context or the immense security challenges Israel faces on a daily and hourly basis. Thousands of tons of food and goods are checked and enter Gaza every day. There is no siege. Electricity and water are provided at Israel's expense. Sometimes, "good fences make good neighbors".
In 1994, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin initiated a unilateral move to protect Israel's citizens through the construction of a security barrier to keep a radicalized population from murder and massacre. The Israeli intention was, and remains, to minimize engagement with hostile forces, and when forced to engage, to do so with the greatest possible pin-point accuracy and minimal collateral damage. Israeli success is equated with minimal loss of life and destruction. Conversely, the very essence of terror is to inflict the greatest possible damage, pain, and fear upon the civilian population. The wall, cement-made slabs meters in height, in conjunction with miles of fences and barbed wire, enhanced with high-tech sensors and cameras, are preventing attacks and loss of life on both sides of the wall.
We protect lives with this wall. We hope a day will exist when it will not be necessary to separate us from our neighbors. The wall has cost billions of shekels. We have tirelessly changed its planning, route, dimensions, and completion date via court order. Egypt has begun building a similar security barrier on its own border to deny radical elements, such as Hamas and al-Quaeda, who routinely threaten the security and safety of the Egyptian people and government. Where is 'Egypt Apartheid Week'?
Accusations Absent of Substance
The eight-years of relentless bombardment of deadly missiles orchestrated by Hamas and Hezbollah upon Israeli villages and cities required serious military intervention. The condemnation by the likes of IAW refers, via their website, to Israeli military actions-without specificity-on several pages, as: "barbaric". IAW fails to provide credible sources for either its accusations or any proposed and progressive alternative. During the past six years Hamas has had total autonomy within the territory of Gaza: Why are missiles still being fired?
The IAW precedent is as follows:
1. Israel has no right to prevent provocation, murder, or massacre: The wall is apartheid and must be dismantled.
2. Israel has no right to defend against provocation, murder, or massacres: Military operations such as Operation Cast Lead or Operation Defensive Shield are barbaric and brutal.
3. Israel has no right to live with peace and calm: Israel is deserving of terrorism and death because of erroneous and apartheid policies.
Conclusion: Israel should not exist. Israel should contribute to its own demise and murder of its citizens and visitors by not adequately preventing or defending its borders and territory.
When Israel does not actively prevent or defend against provocation, murder and massacre people will die. This includes civilians within Israel and civilians within areas under PLO or Hamas auspices. The precedent above defies logic and justice and renders survival of Israel impossible.
A Void of Creative Solutions
IAW presumes that the use of a BDS strategy will force drastic Israeli concessions. Yet, where is the evidence supporting the effectiveness of these tactics? If the campaign does, in fact, yield the intended results as outlined above, what next? Will peace reign? Will life be equal and fair and "apartheid free"? Will any meaningful change come as a result of the achievement of these three core goals: boycott, divestment, sanctions? In fact the IAW is actually supporting apartheid by targeting only the Jewish people, only the Jewish state. However, the use of BDS strategy has and will continue to harm the earning power of many thousands of Arab workers employed by Jewish-owned businesses in Israel.
These measures create a rouse of "media-static" while remaining pragmatically weak and absent sufficient critical mass. The BDS strategy offers no distinction of organizations such as Jewish Heart for Africa who utilizes Israeli solar technology for the benefit of remote and destitute communities in Africa. Can IAW substantiate the benefits to their supposed constituents that outweigh the cost, possibly death, to these communities of Africa receiving such support from Israeli ingenuity? Israeli products and services exported or donated worldwide include life-saving medical equipment and medication, anti-terrorism and security expertise, and the most advanced agricultural methods and technology available on the planet. Are the positions of IAW and the BDS strategy, in fact, irresponsible?
In response to IAW I set forth counter demands:
The following words are from an address by Abba Eban, then-Israeli Ambassador to the UN, as recorded at the General Assembly's Special Political Committee, in November of 1958, prior to 1967 borders, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, or Jenin, or Defensive Shield or Operation Cast Lead:
Today and Tomorrow
IAW seeks a return to apartheid where Jews are again victims. IAW has yet to accurately define or provide evidence of apartheid in Israel. Absent viable data and credible sourcing, claims of Israel apartheid remain incomplete and unsubstantiated. The foregone conclusion is that the real problem is the existence of Jewish sovereignty. Our living, sustenance, and growth causes an envy and awe not easily reconciled.
In previous eras, our persecutors built walls to keep us immobile and imprisoned and today we build walls to keep danger out. We light the homes and quench the thirst of a radicalized population seeking our annihilation at our own expense. We are besieged with charges of racism, inhumanity, and genocide. Yet, we are fair and just, aware of our imperfections and fallibilities, and remain a constant "work-in-progress" As we have wandered, homeless, for millennia we learned to mitigate and soothe the horror of our nightmares with the vision and comfort of the land of our dreams, of the hills of our homeland, the majesty of Jerusalem.
We can endure your protest as we have seen much, much worse on the blood-stained-storied streets of Jewish ghettos in the towns, cities, hamlets, hilltops and country-sides of European and Arab lands. We will surely outlast these protests and we are here to stay.
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