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May 3, 2015 / 14 Iyar, 5775
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Apartheid: The Big Lie

Demonstrators against Israel

Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90

The time is now long overdue to recognize that Adolf Hitler’s contribution to political wisdom — the Big Lie – has reappeared in the Palestinian narrative of the state of Israel as an “apartheid state.” “[T]he broad masses of a nation,” Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, “will more readily fall victim to the big lie than to the small lie.” The constant repetition of the Big Lie, he explained, made it acceptable, especially when it could be manipulated to appear to have a certain credibility. The world is all too familiar with the success of Hitler’s Big Lie narrative that the Jews were internationally powerful, responsible for World War I – and, in his view – for most of the problems of the world. This new Big Lie about Israel being an “apartheid state” that has been trumpeted by the Palestinian narrative of Middle Eastern history and politics has, in recent years, been accepted not only been accepted by “the broad masses,” but also by more educated and supposedly politically sophisticated individuals in the media, the churches, and academia.

The official definition of the crime of “apartheid” was first formulated in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 30, 1973. The definition was “inhumane acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group…over another racial group…and systematically oppressing them.” A later version of the definition was included in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, of July 17, 1998 which came into force in July 2002. The definition became inhumane acts concerning an identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious grounds “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

The change in legal terminology is important for political reasons. Israelis and Palestinians can be considered as “identifiable groups” and therefore the provisions of international law in the 1973 Convention and the 1998 Statute can be applied to them, thus opening the opportunity for a legal charge of the crime of apartheid against Israel.

Yet this legal issue has little to do with the real life political attempt to bring the charge against Israel. That action began in the 1970s when the Soviet Union, for its own political purposes, organized a coalition with Arab states and other willing countries in what was then considered the group of “non-aligned” countries of the world. The greatest success of the coalition was to obtain an overwhelming majority, 72-35-32, for the infamous UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 of November 10, 1975 which defined Zionism as a form of racism and racial discrimination, and years later repealed only after great efforts by American diplomats, including, finally, the future US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.

Similar declarations followed. The most forthright was the Declaration of the first Durban conference (The UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance) in September 2001 that “We declare Israel as a racist, Apartheid state in which Israel’s brand of Apartheid as a crime against humanity has been characterized by separation and segregation, dispassion, restricted land access, denationalization, ‘bantustanization’ and inhumane acts.” Since then an “Israel Apartheid Week” has become an annual event on many college campuses in the United States and elsewhere.

The declaration of Durban 1, which reads as an indictment, was certainly applicable to the old, unlamented South Africa where blacks were indeed segregated in many ways by legal and other restrictions, and were treated as inferior human beings; but it has no application to the state and society of Israel. Within the state of Israel, Israeli Arabs, 20% of the population, have: equal political and social rights as Jews; full citizenship members of the Israeli Parliament – called the Knesset; a seat on the Supreme Court; diplomatic representation at the most senior levels; a free press in Arabic, which is – along with Hebrew – an official language; the capacity to move freely; equal opportunity to enter universities, to be employed, and to enter freely into marital relations with fellow Arabs or with Jews. If Jews and Arabs do live in different areas of the country it is not through a state-imposed segregation, enforced by legal means, but by choice. There are no segregated roads, as there are in Saudi Arabia, and there are no segregated schools, housing, drinking fountains, buses or any officially imposed limits whatsoever. Discrimination does not exist on the basis of race, religion, or sex; and all groups have legal protection of the law. Unlike Muslim countries, Israel has no state religion, but rather contains some 15 recognized religions. Israel, unlike the old South Africa, is a multiracial society.

About the Author: Michael Curtis is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Rutgers University, and author of the forthcoming book, Should Israel Exist? A sovereign nation under assault by the international community.


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One Response to “Apartheid: The Big Lie”

  1. Desmond Tuto has said that in many ways Israel is worse then South Africa was. Uri Davis correctly points out that Israel does not have what he calls "petty apartheid" like separate drinking fountains. Israel is an apartheid state because 90% of its land is controlled by the JNF or under JNF rules which prohibit the sale or long term lease of land to any non-Jew. In addition Jews have preferential rights to citizenship denied to all non-Jews while the level of government services such as schools and development funds to non-Jews is at a much lower level than the same services to Jews, In 1989 the JNF withdrew an application fir tax exempt status in Nassau County New York when confronted with evidence of the apartheid nature of its organization and practices.

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