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As we speak, anti-Israel activists across the globe are gearing up for or hosting Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) events on various college campuses, with the goal of delegitimizing the State of Israel.  As an anti-Israel student group at American University announced, “The aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.”  While anti-Israel student groups like the Students for Justice in Palestine frequently make such statements, it is critical to remember that such assertions are nothing more than slander designed to harm Israel.

Many of the young anti-Israel activists who claim that Israel is an apartheid state don’t understand what the definition of apartheid truly is.  According to Merriam Webster’s English dictionary, apartheid is “racial segregation: specifically, a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa.”


According to a report published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on the subject, among the policies that were implemented in apartheid South Africa were legal prohibitions on sexual relations between different races; forced physical separations between races, in restaurants, neighborhoods, swimming pools, public transport, etc.; restricting members of the black community to unskilled labor in urban areas; forbidding blacks from voting; educational restrictions for blacks, etc.

Benjamin Pogrund is a former deputy editor of the South African Rand Daily who reported on apartheid for 26 years and was an anti-apartheid activist himself.  After his newspaper was shut down because its owners were under pressure by the apartheid government, he made Aliyah to Israel.  Pogrund, as someone who is familiar with both South African apartheid and Israel, claimed that these conditions listed above do not exist in Israel.   He asserted in the Guardian that “Arabs have the vote, which in itself makes them fundamentally different from South Africa’s black population under apartheid. And even the current rightwing government says that it wants to overcome Arab disadvantage and promises action to upgrade education and housing and increase job opportunities.”

Upon witnessing how both Arabs and Jews worked and were treated in Israeli hospitals, in another instance, Pogrund claimed, “What I saw in the Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital was inconceivable in South Africa where I spent most of my life, growing up then and working as a journalist who specialized in apartheid.”   Yet the existence of Arab voting rights, government initiatives to decrease the gap between Jews and Arabs, and coexistence in hospitals are not the only aspects of Israeli society that prove that Israel is not an apartheid state. Incitement to racism is a criminal offense in Israel, as is discrimination based on race or religion, implying that the Israeli legal system fundamentally rejects apartheid ideology.

In fact, Israel is a liberal democracy, where the Arab minority actively participates in the political process.   Arabs like Major General Hussain Fares, Major General Yosef Mishlav, and Lieutenant Colonel Amos Yarkoni have served prominently in the IDF, while Arabs such as Ali Yahya, Walid Mansour, and Reda Mansour served as Israeli Ambassadors.  Salim Joubran sits on the Israeli Supreme Court, while Nawwaf Massalha and Raleb Majadele were members of the Israeli Cabinet.   Arabs have also served as university professors, heads of hospital departments, management level positions in various businesses, and in senior level positions in the Israeli Police.  Indeed, Israeli Arabs have reached positions that blacks in apartheid South Africa could only dream of. Thus, Israel is the polar opposite of being an apartheid state.

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Rachel Avraham is the editor of the Economic Peace Center, which was established by Ayoob Kara, who served as Israel’s Communication, Cyber and Satellite Minister. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”


  1. While Israel does not practice petty apartheid, it is an apartheid racist state in the most important area of housing. Ninety percent of the land is reserved for Jews only and cannot be leased to non-Jews with very few exceptions. When the Jewish National Fund, under whose rules this racism is practiced, was confronted by evidence of this racism in a Nassau County, New York tax exemption application in 1988 they withdrew the application and paid taxes for many years.

  2. While Israel does not practice petty apartheid, it is an apartheid racist state in the most important area of housing. Ninety percent of the land is reserved for Jews only and cannot be leased to non-Jews with very few exceptions. When the Jewish National Fund, under whose rules this racism is practiced, was confronted by evidence of this racism in a Nassau County, New York tax exemption application in 1988 they withdrew the application and paid taxes for many years.

  3. Some of the commentators apparently have an apartheid brain, with truth relegated to a dark corner. Even then, they must fight with all their might to hold it back. Even a spec of light drowns the outer darkness. Those who oppose Israel have their slogans, no doubt, and chant them ever more aggressively to drown the voice of reason. BTW who needs dictionaries? You can make dictionaries say and mean anything the status quo desires.

  4. Israel *is* a hugely segregated country — sort of like the United States before Fair Housing laws. But in other areas Israel does better than the US. For example, nobody in Israel is trying to enact laws to suppress minority voter turnout.

  5. Israel *is* a hugely segregated country — sort of like the United States before Fair Housing laws. But in other areas Israel does better than the US. For example, nobody in Israel is trying to enact laws to suppress minority voter turnout.

  6. Apartheid is not defined by Miriam's or any other dictionary. It is legally defined by the International Criminal Court (see, specifically as "inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime". That is the criterion by which Israel (and any other state) must be judged, and by that criterion, Israel is most definitely apartheid.

  7. "Incitement to racism is a crime in Israel". Sure it is. Former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, leader of the Shas Party in the government calls for the annihilation of all Arabs and also claims that non-Jews were created, like donkeys, to serve the Jews. The government's silence on his claims of a Jewish "master race" was quite telling and it is clear that Israel's Rabbis continually "incite to racism" with impunity. I will take word of those that lived under apartheid like Mandella over that an ex- South African Zionist. Israel is an apartheid state as your new busline shows. Separate but not equal.

  8. yeah, i guess you're right. human rights are hogwash! whoever thought it would be a good idea to try to treat people as equals. what WAS i thinking! thanks for reminding me, rami, of the fact that israel is ABOVE all laws, natural or moral.

  9. Iyas, he was not referring to human rights at all. Israel, unlike the Palestinian Authority, is a democratic state that very much respects human rights. He was rather referring to the fact that you falsely insist that Israel is an apartheid state. BTW, even if we go by the International Criminal Court definition you provided, Israel is still not an apartheid state. Israel very much respects the human and civil rights of her Arab minority, and I listed numerous names of Arabs who have been successful in Israeli society. Such people didn't exist in apartheid South Africa. You should re-read my article, see the list of policies implemented in apartheid South Africa based on the JCPA report, and see how none of them fit Israel. And you cannot include PA areas in this equation, because Israel never annexed those areas. The only areas that should apply are areas where Israel annexed. Every thing else should be labeled disputed territories where a military regime applies in Areas C and B, PA control in areas A, and Hamas control in Gaza, until peace negotiations determine otherwise.

  10. It would be helpful if you cited evidence that Rabbi Yosef stated those things from a credible source. Mandela never lived in Israel, so he has zero clue about the situation in Israel. As for the gentleman I quoted, he was not a South African Zionist but an anti-apartheid activist leader. He left South Africa because the apartheid government shut down the newspaper where he worked. He wrote in the Guardian that was his only reason for leaving. In other words, he fled the apartheid regime. Now since he lives in Israel, he understands the reality much better than you. I suggest that you read his article in the Guardian before speaking nonsense.

  11. Thanks for your reply, Rachel.

    Apartheid, like any other crime, is defined independently of its practitioners. As an analogy, just because Stalin was the most notorious perpetrator of genocide, one cannot say that therefore neither Hitler nor Pol Pot were genocidal because their crimes were committed in a different way to Stalin's. Genocide exists as a crime in its own right, regardless of who commits it and how they do it.

    And so it is with Apartheid – the South African version was not the only way to discriminate against an ethnic group. The crime of Apartheid includes "Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender", and "Deportation or forcible transfer of population".

    Israel falls foul on both counts. Some examples. First, the citizenship law explicitly forbids a Palestinian citizen of Israel, Christian or Muslim, who marries a Palestinian non-citizen of Israel from bringing their spouse into Israel. Another example, the state has regularly depopulated Christian and Muslim Palestinian villages inside its own borders, and most recently has been trying to do this to 30,000 Palestinians in the Negev. Another example is the right of "return" for Jews around the world regardless of their nationality, while the right of return for Palestinians born inside the boundaries of modern day Israel, but expelled in the various wars, is denied. Another example is the systematic legal and illegal acquisition of land by the Jewish National Fund which guarantees use of the land for Jews only, most often at the expense of Palestinian Christian and Muslim natives. Another example is the recurrent non-recognition of Palestinian villages, thereby denying them infrastructure and services, within the borders of modern-day Israel. I could go on – it is a long list of systematic measures to ensure the supremacy of Jews within Israel to the detriment of other racial and religious groups, which by definition is Apartheid.

    Finally, bringing up names of Arabs who have done well in Israel and using this as evidence that Israel is not Apartheid would be akin to bringing up the names of the Jewish collaborators of Nazism and saying that on that basis Nazism was not genocidal against the Jews. There will always be individuals from oppressed groups in a supremacist state who do well, either because they collaborate with the supremacist system or have managed to make it work in their favour some other way.

  12. "Apartheid is not defined by Miriam's or any other dictionary."

    I think you will find the word 'Apartheid' is in all English language dictionaries. All dictionaries contain the definition of a word, that is their purpose, irrespective of where that definition originated.

  13. Yes, emmpey, it may be defined in many dictionaries. But if you are accusing someone of the crime of Apartheid, what counts is the legal definition, not Miriam's or OED or any other dictionary. Same for all crimes. Someone in court defending themselves against a murder charge will need to defend against the legal definition of murder, not the dictionary definition that suits him best.
    As to people in Gaza and the West Bank, Israel is guilty of all kinds of Humanitarian crimes and Crimes Against Humanity (again, by definition of the Geneva Conventions on Humanitarian Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child).

  14. Iyas, I agree that the South African variety is not the only way to discriminate against a population, yet unless all of the elements that existed in apartheid South Africa exist in Israel, I highly disagree with the usage of the term apartheid in this particular case. As the Israeli Bedouin senior diplomat Ismail Khaldi once said, "Do Israel's Arab citizens suffer from disadvantage? You better believe it. Do African Americans 10 minutes from the Berkeley campus suffer from disadvantage – you better believe it, too. So should we launch a Berkeley Apartheid Week, or should we seek real ways to better our societies and make opportunity more available…Vilification and false labeling is a blind alley that is unjust and takes us nowhere…You deny Israel the fundamental right of every society to defend itself…Your criticism is willfully hypocritical….You are betraying the moderate Muslims and Jews who are working to achieve peace…To the organizers of Israel Apartheid Week I would like to say: If Israel were an apartheid state, I would not have been appointed here, nor would I have chosen to take upon myself this duty." While I agree that there are steps that Israel should take to improve the status of Israel's Arab citizens, the fact that Israel is not perfect does not make her an apartheid state. Arabs like Ismail Khaldi or any of the other ones listed in the article above would not exist in an apartheid state. While you argue they succeed because they support the regime, I would respond that in a truly apartheid state, no Arab, regardless of their political beliefs, would succeed. Furthermore, Ahmad Tibi, Haneen Zoabi and many other Arab Knesset members are definitely not Zionists, yet they have succeeded. Their success disproves your argument. While I personally don't agree with Israel's Bedouin policy, Israel is not the only country that has tried to force the Bedouins to settle in cities instead of remaining nomads. The British Mandate and Ottomans also tried to do the same thing, yet no one accused them of engaging in apartheid. As for the Palestinians, they are a separate issue and they should remain like that, for Israel has not annexed those areas. There are many states that have granted members of the majority ethnic group a right of return yet barred a right of return to rival ethnic groups, yet no one calls them apartheid. Turkey, for example, provides a right of return to ethnic Turks, yet not the Armenians and Greeks who used to live in her country. Does this make Turkey an apartheid state? I think not. It means that a war happened, people got displaced and were forced to settle elsewhere. As for systematically depopulating Arab villages within her own borders, I don't know where you ever heard that, because it simply is not happening. The only case I know of is of Israel trying to make the Bedouins no longer nomadic. In sum, your arguments, using the two examples you gave, are very shaky for arguing that Israel is an apartheid state.

  15. Rachel, to say "unless all of the elements that existed in apartheid South Africa exist in Israel, I highly disagree with the usage of the term apartheid" is to miss the point that a crime is defined by what it entails, not how it is committed by different people. For instance, to say that Hitler was not a mass murderer because he did not kill in the same way as Pol Pot is to miss the point that mass murder is mass murder, wherever it is done, and whatever the different conditions are in place to do it. Apartheid is not defined by congruency to the South African variety, but by a set of legal criteria, which both South Africa of old and Israel today fall foul of, though in different ways. South Africa, for instance, did not significantly engage in ethnic cleansing of the native population as Israel did and does, but was more focussed on subjugation.

    The comparisons with the US are disingenuous at best. That African Americans today do not have the same benefits that White Americans do is because of a culture and society that has not yet been able to fully undo the cultural and societal legacies of its racist past. It is not because the state systemises the reward of whites over blacks. In Israel, by contrast, the state systematically provides reward and benefit to Jews over and above Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

    For instance, Israel has implemented land laws which explicitly allow and legalise the confiscation of Palestinian land for resettlement by Jews. These date right back to the land laws of the 1950s, but continue to current amendments to these laws (2010) which place these lands beyond restitution for Palestinians. These are laws, backed up by organisations (notably the Jewish National Fund) who's sole purpose of existing is to transfer land from Palestinian Christians and Muslims to the Jewish population. Such laws, systems and institutions mark Israel out as Apartheid – these kinds of institutions and systems do not exist with state support in countries such as the US.

    And I repeat – these and other laws exist to specifically target Palestinians. For instance, the denial to Palestinian Christians and Muslims of the right to bring in a Palestinian spouse. The Nakba law, which allows the government to reduce funding from organisations that commemorate the Palestinian day of loss of land (can you imagine the US creating a law to refuse funding to a Native American organisation if the latter commemorated the loss of Native American land?). And many more as I have alluded to in earlier posts.

    I also do not deny Israel the right to defend itself, unless it is using that as justification to implement Apartheid policies. Removing those policies and systems and genuinely implementing and following an egalitarian agenda is a better long term defence than continuing to discriminate systematically against a native population.

    As to the "successful" Arab politicians, you say that "they are not Zionists, but they have definitely succeeded". I would not define success in parliament as having parliamentary privileges removed as it has been from Haneen Zoabi, whom you reference, for instance. She is also on record saying ""It is frustrating and exhausting having always to be on the defensive about why I identify as a Palestinian, why I am not a Zionist, why the Jewish state is not democratic and cannot represent me". Further, the Israeli Central Elections Committee and the Supreme Court are convening to see whether to disqualify the Christian and Muslim Arab parties from the 2013 election. This reeks of the disqualification of the ANC in South Africa during its Apartheid years.

    And more broadly, your calling out cases of discrimination elsewhere, or saying that Israel "isn't the only country who…" is no defence. Saying that Stalin was not the only one who committed genocide does not make his act of genocide any less genocidal or more excusable. So, I'm afraid to say, I stand by the fact that Israel is Apartheid, whatever apologies are created for it.

  16. How can you even compare a democratic state like Israel to Hitler and Stalin? Did Israel systematically murder off the Arab population out of racial hatred like Hitler did to the Jews and Gypsies? Was there ever an Israeli leader like Stalin who was so paranoid that he sent off any perceived enemy to forced labor camps, where thousands perished due to starvation and various diseases? I think not. Therefore, any comparison between people like Stalin and Hitler, and Israel is simply not valid. Furthermore, no ethnic cleansing happened. What happened is that there was a war, 750,000 Arabs and 850,000 Jews got displaced, and Jews from Arab states were accepted as citizens, while the Arab states chose to violate Palestinian human rights by denying the Palestinians citizenship rights. That is what happened, not ethnic cleansing. For every case like Dier Yassin, there were massacres of Jews, such as those of Hadassah medical convoy. It was a war, where there was suffering on both sides, not ethnic cleansing. As for apartheid, did Israel ever bar Arabs from voting, like the apartheid regime in South Africa did? Did Israel ever legally prevent Jews and Arabs from having sex, like the apartheid regime in South Africa did between blacks and whites? Did Israel ever prevent Israeli Arabs from using Israeli trains, restaurants, universities, and swimming pools, like the apartheid regime did with blacks? The answer is no. My thesis adviser is an Arab and I see many Arabs walking around and studying at my university. I took the train last week and sat next to an Arab girl wearing hijab, and we chatted, in a friendly manner. I had an Arab friend when I was studying at BGU and sometimes we went to the BGU swimming pool, together, not separated. I saw an article printed in Haaretz a while ago about a Jewish girl dating an Arab guy. The society frowns on it (both her relatives and his relatives were equally against it, not just the Jewish relatives), but the article was still nevertheless printed in Yedioth Achronot and no Israeli authority figure is forcing them to break up. If Israel was an apartheid state, someone would be forcing them to break up. Thus, to argue that Israel is an apartheid state based even on the definition you gave it is if you have to look for things and stretch things to argue that it is an apartheid state. However, if one examines apartheid in South Africa and one examines Israel, there is simply no comparison. Arabs have it much better in Israel than blacks did in apartheid South Africa, by leaps and bounds. Now, I will get to your examples.

  17. The comparison between the situation of Israeli Arabs in Israel and blacks in America is not disingenuous, but rather the best parallel that I can think of. Of course, the situations aren’t entirely parallel, since there is presently no conflict between blacks and whites in America, while there is a conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. Thus, given this, Israel sees a reason for legislation like the Nakba Law (which prevents them from getting government funding yet not from doing what they like), for not allowing them to reunite with members of enemy states, and for not giving certain Israeli Arabs that were internally displaced access to the 1948 properties (it would set a precedent for Palestinians, who are presently an enemy). Yet still, despite these exceptions, the situations are the most similar. (Do note that the US would not permit Japanese Americans to bring Japanese spouses to the US during WWII, and that there was never really a conflict between Native Americans/blacks and whites in American, it was just pure one-sided oppression). Nevertheless, here are the similarities: There is a gap in the educational level in both cases, as well as the standard of living in both predominately black areas and predominately Arab levels. There aren’t as many Arab/black professors as there are Jewish/white professors. The government is predominately Jewish/white. However, in both cases, Arabs/blacks who are exceptional can succeed and make it. Furthermore, the governmental systems in both cases provide incentives to Arabs/blacks so that they can succeed (Minority university scholarships are in place in both countries, you should look up the special scholarship at Tel Aviv University for Arabs). Furthermore, anti-Zionist Arab/far left black politicians are given the opportunity to succeed, yet do face opposition from sectors of the public who are against them (Haneen Zoabi with having to be defensive about not being Zionist and Barack Obama has also had to defend the fact that he is really American). However, this does not mean that they aren’t successful. The very fact that they are in power shows that they are successful. Yet, pro-Israel Arab politicians like Ayoub Kara or more centrist black politicians like Colin Powell never faced these problems. As for what you said about the Jewish National Fund, an Arab named Raadi Sfori was made the JNF director at one point and Arab herders have been permitted to utilize JNF land, so it is not entirely true what you said. Regardless, JNF land only makes up 13 percent of the land in Israel. So what exactly is the issue? The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that committees cannot discriminate against Arabs in housing. So, Arabs have access to housing in most places. I know of Arabs who have rented in Jewish neighborhoods in Be’ersheva and no one has stopped them. Yet, even if your examples were correct, housing discrimination and discrimination in citizenship is not enough to make Israel an apartheid state. Many Arab states prevent Palestinians from buying houses in certain locations and refuse to grant Palestinian men citizenship when they marry Jordanian women, for example, yet no one accuses them of apartheid, even though their systematic housing, educational, citizenship etc. discrimination contains many more elements of apartheid than Israel does.

  18. Rachel, the comparison between blacks in the US today and Arabs in Israel does not hold water in any way. As I mentioned, and you are ignoring, there are no laws in the US today that explicitly favour whites over blacks, whereas in Israel these laws exist as I previously mentioned.

    It is more valid to compare the situation of African Americans in pre-civil right US than today. Although even in those days, the US was not systematically attempting to forcibly relocate (aka ethnically cleanse) tens of thousands of African Americans against their will from their homes. Nor indeed were the US authorities expelling African Americans from the country and denying them the right of return. All of this happens today in Israel against Arabs, and it happens on the basis of laws and systems instituted by the state of Israel.

    Case in point – Rachel, how many generations back can you personally trace born and bred inside Israel? I can name 5 of mine in Palestine, starting with my father who was born in Jerusalem – and I stop at 5 not because their parents weren't born there, but simply because I don't know their names that far back. And yet, Israel does not allow me to return to live in the home of my father, but allows people who have trace of parents in the land to "return". The same could not be said of African Americans in the US, or of blacks in Apartheid South Africa. Which is probably why many, such as Desmond Tutu, have said that Israel's version of Apartheid is actually worse than South Africa's was.

    And your continued denials of apartheid simply on the basis that there are individuals who have succeeded despite oppression is also tenuous at best. This would be akin to saying that the French did not suffer in the second world war because Petain, the premier installed over France under the Nazis, was a Frenchman. And he was the premier over France! Yet in Vichy France as in Apartheid Israel, it is an insanity to make assertions on that basis while laws and systems are in existence to ensure that it is only ever a handpicked minority who are allowed to succeed in these circumstances.

    My assertion, which is the one you constantly avoid answering, is that there are laws and institutions in place in Israel which explicitly discriminate against Palestinians, and it is this that makes Israel an Apartheid state. And the reason you can't answer it is because these laws and institutions exist, and until Israel dismantles them, it cannot in any way say that it is a state for all its citizens, or that all its citizens are equal in the eyes of the state, or subsequently that it is not Apartheid.

  19. Your comparison of the condition of Palestinians in Jordan with that of those in Israel is irrelevant on at least two counts.

    First, that someone else treats people badly doesn't mean that your mistreatment of them is therefore excused. That kind of logic works in a playground, but not when you're talking about human rights. The Sudanese couldn't defend themselves by citing how badly the Rwandan crimes against humanity were, and Israel can't defend itself by citing neighbours which also have bad human rights records.

    Second, a crucial difference between Israel and Jordan in terms of treatment of Palestinians is that in Jordan, the Palestinians are an immigrant population that is not native to the land – they were all expelled from their own homes by the creation and subsequent policies of the state of Israel. However, the Palestinians inside the state of Israel are all actually in their own homes, on their own lands. They are not a foreign population that was injected there from abroad. That doesn't make me a fan of many Jordanian policies against Palestinians, but it in no way removes the fact that Israel is abusing natives within its own (undefined) borders.

    And again, to try to deflect the fact of Israeli Apartheid simply by pointing out the crimes of other nations does not in any way diminish Israel's own criminality.

  20. I suggest before you put words in my mouth that you reread what I said. I did not compare Stalin and Hitler to Israel – I compared them to each other. I made the point that just because Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot practiced genocide in different ways doesn't stop any of them from being defined as having committed genocide. And so it is with Israel and South Africa (which IS the comparison I am making) – just because they practice Apartheid in different ways doesn't invalidate the description of either of their systems as Apartheid. Both are committing the crime of apartheid, but in different ways. In both instances, the crime is defined by a set of acts, not by comparison to other criminals.

  21. Anyone who knows what apartheid was…and who knows what is really going on is Israel could not use the word apartheid to describe Israel. But, as usual, people who have no desire to know the truth are rarely convinced by facts.

  22. how is Israel segregated? separate buses, separate street, separate sidewalk in hebron, separate school. rob of houses, land. rob of water.
    harrassment of people. no right to protest.

    israel history is based on lies and myths.

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