This article appeared in Ynet News on June 13, 2021.
The baseless accusations that Israel has adopted an apartheid system similar to South Africa’s pre-1994 racial doctrine, just won’t go away.
Recently, Ilan Baruch and Dr. Alon Liel, two former Israeli diplomats who served as Israel’s envoys in South Africa, have written in the South African internet periodical “Daily Maverick”, that “Israel took inspiration from apartheid regimes.”
In doing so, Baruch and Liel chose to ignore the legal and historical facts which contradict this inflammatory and misguided accusation, as well as the professional judgements of some of the leading experts in the field of human rights law.
For example, ten years ago, Justice Richard J. Goldstone, who served on South Africa’s Constitutional Court, wrote very plainly in the New York Times on October 31, 2011, that descriptions of Israel as an apartheid state are “unfair and inaccurate slander.”
Goldstone himself was not known to be on Israel’s corner. He headed a UN fact finding mission on the Gaza Conflict in 2008-9, which tried to argue that Israel had deliberately killed civilians in that war. Goldstone eventually retracted the principal conclusions of his own report.
While he did not understand Israel’s conflict with terrorist group Hamas, he was an authority on his home country of South Africa, where he had been a supreme court judge and a professor of international law at such renowned institutions as Harvard Law School, Fordham, and NYU Law School.
Goldstone made it clear that “In Israel there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute.”
This was his way to advise the international community not to involve the International Criminal Court on this particular issue.
Goldstone was not alone. Canada had a professor of Human Rights Law, who also taught at Harvard Law School named Michael Ignatieff, who headed its Liberal Party. According to Robbie Sabel, the former legal adviser to Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ignatieff said that the purpose of the campaign labeling Israel as an Apartheid state was to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state itself.
So why hasn’t Israel moved forward with the peace process, or otherwise attempted to address the needs of the Palestinians in order to counter the attempts to label it as an apartheid state?
It did. In 2014, President Barack Obama’s administration came up with a model for the West Bank which the parties could accept with reservations. Israel said yes under these conditions.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas meanwhile, told Obama “I’ll get back to you.” But never did.
The details here matter. In Apartheid South Africa, for example, there were white hospitals and black hospitals. Yet anyone today who wanders into the Emergency Room in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem will find both Jewish and Palestinian Arab patients.
There are both Jewish and Palestinian doctors working side by side. And in the last month the Israeli political system was working out a power sharing arrangement with the Israeli Islamic Ra’am Party. Charging Israel with apartheid is not only unfair, it is completely inaccurate.
The question now is, if it is so clear that Israel is not an apartheid state, why do writers persist to argue to the contrary? Israel’s adversaries are waging an ideological war against the Jewish state. They understand that Israel is the only country whose legitimacy was recognized by both the United Nations and the League of Nations.
Advocates of the Israel-Apartheid libel hope that their campaign will lead to Israel’s de-legitimization and eventual replacement with a Palestinian/Islamic entity.
This campaign against Israel has had vile aftereffects that need to be noted. It is no coincidence that the world is witnessing an upsurge in anti-Semitism.
Anti-Israel demonstrations today frequently have signs that refer to apartheid. Those pushing the “Israel is an Apartheid state” rhetoric are playing with fire.
We have been working to build a new network of ties with Arab states from Sudan to the United Arab Emirates. We have re-opened our relations with Sub-Saharan Africa and have been welcomed from Guinea to Chad.
Israel’s future lies in the normalization of relations with our neighbors, not in acquiescing to the hate-filled rhetoric of its opponents.