In a private conversation, Secretary of State John Kerry unleashed the well-known narrative that dictates that if Israel does not retreat from the settlements, it will become an apartheid state and our fate will be like that of South Africa during its apartheid rule. Kerry even showed deep concern for Israel’s future as a Jewish state. Clearly, his words were directed at the Israeli public in order to create internal pressure for additional retreats.
So what is the truth?
The only case in history when a predominantly white nation sent its armed forces to Africa in order to bring black people to its country and grant them full citizenship with total freedom is Israel’s rescue of Ethiopian Jewry.
Slavery in the classical sense exists today only in some Muslim countries. Accusations of practicing apartheid from representatives of the culture of slavery and their supporters in the Obama administration against the nation that represents the message of Jewish liberty are outrageous.
Now for some real definitions of apartheid: South African apartheid was an array of segregative and discriminatory laws based on race. If annexation of territory without affording full voting rights means apartheid, then the U.S. has been – and continues to be – an apartheid state for more than the last 100 years. Here’s why:
1) The U.S. captured the island of Puerto Rico (3.6 million residents) from Spain 116 years ago. Its residents cannot vote in U.S. federal elections.
2) The U.S. captured the island of Guam (150,000 residents) from Spain 116 years ago. No voting rights (same as above).
3) The U.S. bought the Virgin Islands (106,000 residents) from Denmark 97 years ago. No voting rights (same as above).
4) The Northern Mariana Islands (77,000 residents) were captured from Japan 70 years ago and became a UN-American mandate. For the past 36 years, the islands have been under U.S. sovereignty. No voting rights (same as above).
5) The U.S. captured American Samoa (55,000 residents) from Spain 116 years ago. Its status is different from the rest, as it is a protectorate of the U.S. No voting rights (same as above).
Nobody accuses the U.S. of practicing apartheid policies because the people in its territories do not have federal voting rights. There is a clear and recognized difference between human rights and civil (as in voting) rights.
Differences in the civil status of citizens exist in other Western countries, and they are not considered apartheid states in the least. In addition to the U.S., in the modern countries of Czechoslovakia, Hong Kong, Latvia and others, a certain percentage of its citizens do not have voting rights. For example, in Latvia – a member of the European Union – 15 percent of its citizens do not enjoy voting rights. All of these countries make a distinction between people on the basis of their nationality, not on the basis of the territory where they live. Israel is another one of those countries. It has nothing to do with apartheid.
The nation of Israel has returned to its ancestral homeland in order to establish a Jewish state. The principles according to which this state should function are the means, not the end. If and when we see that granting voting rights and full citizenship to other national groups will threaten Israel’s Jewish identity, it is our full right to contest that threat. Israel always has and always will grant all its residents full human rights.
And what about Kerry’s concern for Israel’s Jewish majority? Most likely, he was referring to the “demographic problem.”
In that case, Kerry can relax. The average Jewish woman in Israel now gives birth to more babies than her neighbor in Ramallah. According to the American-Israel Demographic Research Group, the continued trend, with the addition of approximately 500,000 new immigrants to Israel, will bolster the Jewish majority from 66 percent to 80 percent by 2035. Without any peace process, the Jewish majority in Israel – Arabs of Judea and Samaria notwithstanding – will be 80 percent in just 20 years. Upheavals like what we are now witnessing in Ukraine or economic crises throughout the world can definitely bring even more new immigrants to Israel, shortening the estimated time span.
About the Author: Moshe Feiglin is the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and a member of Israel's Security and Defense Committee. He heads the Manhigut Yehudit ("Jewish Leadership") faction of Israel's governing Likud party. He is the founder of Manhigut Yehudit and Zo Artzeinu and the author of two books: "Where There Are No Men" and "War of Dreams." Feiglin served in the IDF as an officer in Combat Engineering and is a veteran of the Lebanon War. He lives in Ginot Shomron with his family.
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