Israel is an Apartheid Country? No

What is apartheid? If we take this word literally, etymologically, the “apart” element indicates a separation, while the “theid” aspect refers to the practice of extrication of one set of people from another.

There are separatist movements in Canada—some citizens of Quebec wish to go their separate ways from the rest of the country. Some Basques desire to disaffiliate from Spain. These efforts qualify as a yearning for apartness, or apartheid if we stick to the very narrow definition of this concept. Similarly, the U.S. War of 1861-1865 also involved secession and thus apartheid.

The point I am making here is that there is nothing necessarily problematic about apartheid, at least not in terms of separation. Those who engage in it merely depart from others—they should not be considered criminals.

Did South Africa engage in apartheid of this sort until a few years ago? No.

There was no real separation of the races in South Africa. Blacks worked in the homes, factories, and stores owned by whites—rarely, vice versa. The white minority, in a myriad of ways, trampled on the rights of the black majority.

Let us now leave off etymological correctness and use this word according to everyday parlance. It has little to do with mere separateness. Rather, the left depicts a powerful group exploiting, ruling over, and unjustly imprisoning innocent members of the victimized group—the South African apartheid situation for many decades.

Does it also take place in Israel? Of course not.

Yes, there are Arabs who are imprisoned in that country, but they were duly found to be criminals in a civilized court of law; the rule of law was followed to a great degree. Does this apply 100 percent of the time? Certainly not. No legal system organized by human beings can be perfect. However, in terms of how nations in the world rank insofar as the rule of law is concerned, Israel is placed 33 out of a total of 193 countries. That places it in the second decile, not too shabby for a country with widespread hatred amongst its citizenry. It outranks more internally peaceful countries such as Spain (42), Malta (44), and Chile (48).

In sharp contrast, what crimes have been committed by the Israeli hostages now held by Hamas? None. Zero. Do the Israelis typically violate the rights of their Arab citizens? Certainly not. Yes, there are not a few who are imprisoned, and even killed, in Judea and Samaria for their unjustified attacks on the settlers, but this is not a rights violation. Rather, it constitutes the upholding of justice. It cannot be denied that the Jews in Israel are wealthier on average than their Arab fellow citizens. But this is true in many other countries, such as the U.S., which is also not an apartheid state in this sense of the word.

Nor do the Israelis even wish to be apart from the Arabs. They desire to buy from them, sell to them, invest with them, employ them, and be good neighbors with them. Thousands of Gazans had permits to work in Israel, before October 7, 2023.

What about the fact that Israel is a Jewish State and fervently intends to remain as such? Is that not part and parcel of apartheid?

Well, yes, it is, but only in the non-problematic etymological sense. Israel is an apartheid country in the same sense that Japan is a Japanese nation, China is a Chinese state, Korea is a Korean political entity, Brazil is a Brazilian country, Norway is a Norwegian nation, Nigeria is a Nigerian state and France is a French political entity. There are only a few countries that are truly multi-ethnic, such as the United States, Canada, and Switzerland. These are the exceptions, not the rule. Israel, here, is with the overwhelming majority.

Is Israel an apartheid state in the bad sense of South Africa? No, a thousand times no.

In Israel, there are Arab judges, Arab politicians, Arab political parties, Arab policemen, Arab members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and etc. For example, Balad is an Arab political party; its leader is Sami Abu Shehadeh. There are roughly 1,500 Bedouin who are members in good standing in the IDF. There are Arab judges scattered throughout the Israeli judiciary; there is even one who is a member of its Supreme Court. He is Khaled Kabub, appointed to this august position in 2022.

A black person in apartheid South Africa would not have enjoyed any such accomplishments. Israel treats its non-Jewish citizens in a civilized manner. If you doubt this, look at the population patterns. Arabs vote with their feet: they want to stay in Israel, not leave it. For example, the Arab population in Israel was 1,536,000 in 2009, it moved to 1,713,000 in 2014 and then again to 1,956,000 in 2020. Their population increased absolutely, and even slightly relatively—from 20 percent to 21 percent to 21 percent in those three years. They grew in population side just about equally with the Jews. If they were mistreated, compared to what they faced in other Arab countries, this would not likely have been the case. Women are allowed to drive there. Homosexuality is legal there. It is a democracy in which they are allowed to take part, not a dictatorship. The same cannot be said for most Arab countries.

Are there any true apartheid states in the bad sense at present? One candidate is China, based on its maltreatment of the Uighurs. Another is South Africa itself, given the way the newly powerful black majority mistreats its white minority. Do white people immigrate to South Africa or emigrate out of it? Of course, the latter. This is the exact opposite of what occurs in Israel vis a vis the Arabs. If Israel mistreats them, why do they prefer to locate there, instead of the Arab countries of their origin?

Apartheid is a totally unjust criticism of Israel.

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5 thoughts on “Israel is an Apartheid Country? No

  1. The genius of the author, I think, was to begin with a conclusion and then be flexible, creative, and promiscuous enough with the evidence – while also formulating viable new meanings for well understood concepts – to prove his point irrefutably. The notion of ‘good apartheid’, grounded in ‘etymological correctness’, is priceless. Elsewhere, particularly in the geographical survey of states where good apartheid operates, the author dispenses with the traditionally valued qualities of scholarship – such as depth, rigour, meaning, and coherence – and explores exciting new territory. But, for me, deploying the tu quoque strategy against present-day South Africa – as a ‘true apartheid state’ – was the coup de grâce.

    Of course, while discoursing about an apartheid which exists only in the ‘non-problematic etymological sense’, it is worth recalling the definition of the crime of apartheid which exists under International Law, specifically under Article 7 of the 1998 Rome Statute Of The International Criminal Court. In respect of Israel’s activities in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank, this is the standard applied by unimaginative lawyers, judges, and the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories, among many others.

    Nullum crimen sine lege. But law exists, and in his 2022 report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur set out his findings:

    “There is today in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967 a deeply discriminatory dual legal and political system that privileges the 700,000 Israeli Jewish settlers living in the 300 illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

    “Living in the same geographic space, but separated by walls, checkpoints, roads and an entrenched military presence, are more than three million Palestinians, who are without rights, living under an oppressive rule of institutional discrimination and without a path to a genuine Palestinian state that the world has long promised is their right.

    “Another two million Palestinians live in Gaza, described regularly as an ‘open-air prison’, without adequate access to power, water or health, with a collapsing economy and with no ability to freely travel to the rest of Palestine or the outside world.”

    The Special Rapporteur concluded that a political regime which so intentionally and clearly prioritizes fundamental political, legal and social rights to one group over another within the same geographic unit on the basis of one’s racial-national-ethnic identity satisfies the international legal definition of apartheid.

    The systematic and scrupulously evidenced approach of Professor S. Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur, is obviously at odds with Professor Block’s disdain for certain, clear meaning and the ‘facts on the ground’, and each will have its adherents.

    I know which I find more convincing.

    1. Please let me know when the United Nations deals with human rights abuses in China or even North Korea. Or Iran or Saudi Arabia or Qatar or damn near anywhere outside of Europe, the former British Colonies, Japan — or Israel.

      The UN can say that the Moon is made out of Blue Cheese and it would be no more relevant than what you cite above. Israel is a sovereign country.

      These are historically Jewish lands that the Romans stole from them, and which they re-acquired as the result of a war that they neither wanted to fight nor started — the Arab countries attacked them, and got their tails kicked. Israel settled with Egypt and rumor is that Egypt didn’t want Gazi.

      Israel tried to help Gaza — it has blueprints for the hospitals because it *built* the hospitals. Israel was told to get out — so it did, permitting a “one vote, one time” election that led to Hamas ruling things. The world gave Gaza lots and lots and lots of money and resources and instead of building housing and schools, it used the concrete to build tunnels. It’s ripping up the water mains to make rockets out of the pipes — rockets to shoot at Israel.

      Gaza — with lovely beaches — subsists on handouts from Israel and the Western World — exactly why should Israel continue to provide water and electricity (that I doubt is being paid for) to people trying to kill everyone in Israel? It would be like us funding Bin Laden.

      Ted Cruz puts it best — “it is a battle between civilization and barbarism.”

      1. If I may take just one example from your excellent demonstration of whataboutery, a 2014 United Nations Commission of Inquiry report found that North Korea’s government committed systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations that constitute crimes against humanity. The COI report recommended that the UN Security Council refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court.

        The UN High Commissioner of Human Rights restated this recommendation to the Security Council in 2023, with reference to the ongoing documentation of the regime’s crimes and abuses, which include crimes against humanity.

        The UN Security Council held an Arria-formula meeting on these human rights issues in March 2023 and a formal debate in August, and, as before, opposition from China and Russia prevented the Council from adopting any form of resolution.

        In December 2023, and for the 19th consecutive year, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for international efforts to improve human rights conditions in North Korea.

        I could go on, chapter and verse – but you get my point. Your point was to invoke the existence of worse issues elsewhere, suggest that they are ignored by a highly partial UN at the expense of the West, and insinuate that this puts Israel’s actions in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank beyond all our moral and legal considerations.

        Your Blue Cheese argument sent me to the kitchen for a sandwich, but leaves the principles of reality and truth intact. International law exists. Sovereign countries are subject to international law for all manner of things, including attempted genocide and crimes against humanity. Israel is no exception.

        The ‘historical lands’ argument appears only to have traction when applied to Palestine, and not, for example, to Australia or the United States of America – of course, as Sam Harris pointed out, ‘God’ was involved, acting in his capacity as omnipotent realtor to the Middle East.

        Your mention of Gaza’s “lovely beaches” – now occupied by hundreds of thousands of ‘displaced’ Palestinians in makeshift tents – is incomparable.

        The implication that you support withholding drinking water and other basics from a civilian population trapped in unimaginable conditions – and your worry that the drinking water hasn’t been “paid for”- point to an infernal desire for suffering.

  2. I say again, this is really more about NeoMarxism more than antiSemitism….

    I need to explain that a little bit better — and yes, I am still thinking in terms of the Cold War when countries were largely on one side or the other, and Israel was on our side.

    Today’s critics of Israel either were on the Soviet side at the time, or represent a government that overthrew a government which had been on the American side.

    South Africa is a good example of this — it’s no secret that the Soviets were supporting the ANC and advocating the overthrow of the De Klerk government — something which ceased to be the concern to the US that it once was when the Soviet Union imploded.

    The ANC now runs South Africa, and I’m wondering how much of its animosity towards Israel are motivated more by lingering Marxist animosities than antiSemitism. This neither legitimizes nor negates the latter, it’s just that things often get quite complicated….

  3. “Another is South Africa itself, given the way the newly powerful black majority mistreats its white minority”

    I do not consider the ruling African National Congress government to be a “Black majority government”. It may be Black, but I’ve always felt that it consisted of a racial minority ruling in a country with numerous other Black races that are *still* excluded from power.

    Back in the mid 1990s, shortly after the ANC government had replaced the “Apartheid” government, a few ANC members were in a UMass grad seminar with me. Above and beyond how they were treated as royalty — being permitted to submit ANC policies as their own personal scholarship for class assignments instead of actually having to *do* the assignments (in a class being taught by the then Provost!) it struck me that there really was no difference between their government and the one which they’d just replaced.

    No difference…

    It still was an oligarchy, every bit as authoritarian, and at least one of its initial supporters is now conceding that I was right. See:

    Like all Marxist governments, it used the “cadre system” where outsiders were excluded from all active participation in the government — but it also appeared to me that only members of one specific minority racial (tribal) group were members of the cadre, and we weren’t permitted to ask questions about their presentations.

    But I was convinced then — and remain so now — that the only thing that happened in South Africa was that one racial minority group had replaced a different racial majority group — that the majority was still being discriminated against on the basis of their race.

    And it’s South Africa complaining about Israel?!?

    I say again, this is really more about NeoMarxism more than antiSemitism….

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