The accusation that Israel is an apartheid state is a misguided attempt to delegitimize all that Israel represents: a pluralistic, democratic state that ensures full political rights to all of its citizens.
The 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination defines apartheid as: “governmental policies based on racial superiority or hatred.”
The term apartheid, a state-sanctioned system of segregation and racial discrimination, was used to define South Africa from 1948 to 1994.
During apartheid in South Africa, non-whites were subjected to institutionalized racial and discriminatory law, denied the right to vote, banned from universities and treated as second-class citizens.
Labeling Israel the same way would suggest a comparison between the two nations. Israel has never been an apartheid state and it does not stand as one now.
All Israeli citizens enjoy full legal protection and are given the right to vote.
All Israeli citizens can serve in the Knesset, Israel’s parliamentary body.
For comparison, 12 Arabs currently serve in the Knesset — in the U.S. Senate, only five senators are minorities.
All Israeli institutions are integrated. All Israeli citizens, and even Palestinians, regardless of their racial, religious or ethnic identity maintain the right to challenge the Israeli Supreme Court for any appeal — a Supreme Court where one of the justices is an Arab.
Israel is not an apartheid state; it is a democracy. In Israel, unlike many of the surrounding Arab states, women are given full rights and opportunities.
This also includes gays and other minorities — Palestinian gays often flee the West Bank to Israel, a place they know they will not face persecution.
Arab-Israeli citizens contribute wonderfully to Israeli culture, media and academia. Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab journalist in Israel, exemplifies the opportunities given to all citizens of Israel: “If Israel were an apartheid state, I, for example would not be allowed to work for a Jewish newspaper or live in a Jewish neighborhood or own a home.”
To claim Israeli apartheid would be to denounce men like Khaled — Arabs who contribute to Israeli society, enjoy prosperity in Israel and live peacefully.
Despite the constant threats of destruction from surrounding Arab states and terrorist organizations, Israel consistently upholds its democratic values.
Israel does the best it can with the cards it has been dealt — and when many in the region seek your destruction those cards could be considered poor at best.
Israel’s need for security can often spark criticism from those who denounce the country’s democratic legitimacy.
During the second intifada, and from September 2000 through December 2009, “1,178 persons were killed and 8,022 more were injured as a result of Palestinian terror attacks.”
The number of deaths forced Israeli Defense Forces to construct a fence between Israel and the West Bank in order to defend itself from the unprecedented bombardment of terrorist activities.
Terrorist activity included firing rockets into Israeli towns and schools, as well as using suicide bombers and shooting into communities.
These measures were not taken to discriminate against Palestinians, but to protect innocent Israeli citizens.
The security checkpoints, which are still in place today, are used to ensure the safety of Israel and its citizens.
While the situation has certainly produced civilian casualties on both sides, this is the result of any conflict.
Israel, like any other state, is not perfect. As the only true democracy in a region of instability, the significance of Israel’s decisions is amplified.
Yet, to hold Israel to a higher moral and ethical standard, even above nations like our own, serves as nothing but a systematic attack on the Jewish state.
No nation is devoid of mistakes, abuses and injustices. And just like the rest of the world, Israel has made mistakes.
Israel has said it is willing to give the Palestinians more autonomy over lands they claim as theirs.
However, none of that can happen without Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and a promise of security.
These are the paramount issues of failed peace talks, which have, until recently, been supervised by Secretary of State John Kerry.
But peace talks cannot and should not continue while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas maintains his joint leadership position with Hamas, a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel.
Claiming Israeli apartheid reflects a failed comprehension of the term and a lack of knowledge of the democratic complexities of Israel.
Peace will come, but the abhorrent misuse of the word apartheid does nothing but disrupt the process.