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Jacque De Maio, International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) representative to Israel and the Palestinian Authority

{Originally posted to the Tower Magazine website}

The International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) representative to Israel and the Palestinian Authority affirmed this week that Israel neither practices apartheid nor carries out extrajudicial killings.

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In an interview with Ynet, Jacques De Maio dismissed the two controversial charges, noting that “in contrast to the security systems in many countries, including Western ones, Israel allows us rapid access to senior military, prison and other security services.”

“We have a productive, efficient and professional dialogue with them,” he added. “We checked with them the question of the shooting of perpetrators of terror attacks, and we came to the unequivocal conclusion that there are no shoot to kill orders of suspects by IDF, as some political elements tried to convince us. Rules of engagement have not changed, and became even stricter.”

De Maio explained that when individual soldiers act in violation of IDF guidelines, the ICRC reports the activity and usually receives a “substantive” response from authorities. “So we rejected the accusation, and immediately there were those who claimed that we were whitewashing IDF war crimes and serving the Zionists,” he said.

In response to accusations that Israel practices apartheid, De Maio observed that “the Red Cross was very familiar with the regime that prevailed in South Africa during the apartheid period, and we are responding to all those who raise their claim of apartheid against Israel: No, there is no apartheid here, no regime of superiority of race, of denial of basic human rights to a group of people because of their alleged racial inferiority.”

“There is a bloody national conflict, whose most prominent and tragic characteristic is its continuation over the years, decades-long, and there is a state of occupation. Not apartheid,” he stressed.

Nkululeko Nkosi, a South African youth leader, strongly rebuked the charge that Israel is an apartheid state earlier this month and called on activists to stop appropriating the term when describing its conflict with the Palestinians.

Benjamin Pogrund, an activist who was jailed for opposing the apartheid regime in South Africa, wrote in The New York Times last month that Israel “is nothing like South Africa before 1994. Those who accuse Israel of apartheid — some even say, ‘worse than apartheid’ — have forgotten what actual apartheid was, or are ignorant, or malevolent.”

“South African apartheid rigidly enforced racial laws,” Pogrund observed. “Israel is not remotely comparable. Yet the members of the B.D.S. movement are not stupid. For them to propagate this analogy in the name of human rights is cynical and manipulative. It reveals their true attitude toward Jews and the Jewish state. Their aims would eliminate Israel. That is what’s at stake when we allow the apartheid comparison.”

South African human rights activist Tshediso Mangope drew upon the history of his country in order to refute inaccurate portrayals of Israel, such as that it is an apartheid state, in a December 2016 article in The Tower Magazine.

Jews, Mangope noted, are not foreign conquerors of Israel, but rather its indigenous people; no one could reasonably argue that “returning to your ancestral homeland from whence you were displaced makes you a settler.” He also pointed out that while black South Africans had support from surrounding nations in their struggle, Israeli Jews historically have been shunned by their Arab neighbors, most of whom at some point have “vowed to wipe Israel off the map.”

While the central goal of black South African activists was peaceful coexistence, “most Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist,” and even “essentially supported the call for the genocide of Jewish people,” Mangope noted. He concluded by writing that “the only way to protect Jewish people from all the hardships they have suffered the world over is to defend their inalienable right to self-determination” in a Jewish state.

Maj. Alaa Waheeb, the highest ranking Muslim officer in the IDF, wrote an op-ed in the Jewish News in March 2016 expressing pride in the role he plays in Israeli society. He recounted being on a speaking tour of the United Kingdom with a Jewish medic: “We were the Muslim who protects Jewish lives, and the Jew who saves Muslim lives. There’s only one country in the Middle East that could produce a couple like that – and it sure as hell isn’t an apartheid state.”

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