The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Movement justifies its
racist persecution of Jewish Israeli businesses in Australia, the UK, Europe and
North America with the accusation that Israel is an apartheid state.
like to imagine that their campaign of aggressive protests around tiny retail
cosmetics stands and chocolate shops is comparable to the mass protests against
the Springbok rugby team that characterized the campaign against South African
apartheid in the 1970s and ‘80s.
But the analogy between Israel and
apartheid South Africa is false on every level. A comparison of Israel with
Australia, a country generally admired for its freedom and successful
multiculturalism, reveals this clearly.
As will be demonstrated below,
Israel is one of the most un-apartheid states in the world, with a record of
successful multiculturalism, protection and integration of minorities that puts
most western countries, including Australia, to shame.
Africa had a system of strictly enforced laws that enshrined racial
discrimination against “blacks” and “coloreds” in every aspect of South African
society. This was similar to, but more extreme than, the system of racist laws
that Australia had in place prior to the recognition of indigenous Australians
as equal citizens in 1967 (by Constitutional amendment).
In contrast to
Australia and South Africa’s foundational racism, Israel’s declaration of
independence in 1948 guaranteed “complete equality of social and political
rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or
Unlike South Africa and Australia, Israel has never had laws that
overtly discriminated between citizens on the basis of race.
like Australia and most western countries, Israel has strong anti-discrimination
laws that prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, nationality,
land of origin, sex, sexual orientation, political views, personal status or
parenthood in a broad range of contexts. Israeli law also prohibits incitement
These laws are more stringently enforced in Israel than in
Australia because of the plethora of NGOs, well funded by the EU, that
specialize in searching out and bringing to court any cases of indirect racism
against Arabs or Muslims. Unlike Australia, Israel allows NGOs to bring such
cases directly to its Supreme Court.
But there is more to the elimination
of racism in a society than repealing racist laws and passing laws outlawing
racial discrimination. Practical outcomes of successful multi-culturalism and
integration of minorities at all levels is the true measure of the elimination
of racism in a society.
And it is by this measure that Israel puts
Australia and much of the western world to shame.
The practical reality
in Israel is that minorities achieve prominent positions at a far higher rate
than in Australia.
This is true in all areas of society: • Politics: In
Israel, 10 percent of Israel’s Knesset are from Arab minority groups (Christian,
Muslim and Druse).
This includes over 4% from parties with racially mixed
composition. This large representation of minorities has been a consistent
feature since the early days of the state.
Three members of religious and
racial minorities, Nawaf Massalha (Muslim Arab), Salah Tarif and Raleb Majadele
(both Druse) have served at ministerial level in the Israeli government,
including the later two as Cabinet ministers.
By contrast, only 1.3% of
Australia’s current federal Parliament are from religious minorities (one Muslim
and two Jews) and this itself is a huge increase from previous Parliaments that
often featured less than 0.5% non-Christian representation. While there have
been a similar number of Australian Jews who have served as ministers, no other
religious minority has been so represented.
• Judiciary: Israel has a
judge from the Arab minority serving on its highest court (Salim Joubran).
Sadly, Australia has not had a single High Court judge from a racial or
religious minority for over 80 years, since Sir Issac Issacs! • Military: Israel
has three Druse generals currently (or recently) serving in its defence forces
(Major-General Yusef Mishleb and brigadier-generals Imad Fares and Hasson
Hasson). Disturbingly, it appears Australia has not had a single general from a
religious or racial minority for over 80 years, since Sir John Monash! The
legislature, judiciary and military are the key sources of hard power in any
society and the success of racial and religious minorities reaching these
corridors of power is a litmus test of the true openness and lack of racism in a
society. Australia’s scorecard on this test compares very poorly to
But success of minorities in areas of soft power is an equally
important measure, and here, too, Israel outclasses Australia.
Socio-Economic Statistics: In Israel the life expectancy, educational attainment
and earnings of the Arab minority are on par with, if not better than, that of
Arab minorities in virtually all Western European countries, and far above that
of other Arabs in the Middle East. In Australia the life expectancy, educational
attainment (including basic literacy) and earnings of indigenous Australians is
nothing short of appalling, worse than many third world countries.
Popular Culture: An Israeli Christian Arab, Lina Makhoul, won The Voice Israel
this year. In contrast, not a single person from a minority religion has won the
equivalent Australian Idol.
Salma Fiomy-Farij, a hijab-wearing Israeli
Muslim Arab, came second in this year’s Israeli Master Chef (the winner was a
German convert to Judaism).
In Australia Master Chef has not had a single
winner from a religious or racial minority.
THUS BY both legal and
practical measures Israel is a less racist country than Australia and as far
from apartheid South Africa as any country could possibly be. Israel truly is an
un-apartheid state, one of the freest, most open and non-racist societies in the
The false accusations and Israeli Jew-targeting protests of the
Australian BDS movement are not only racist and anti- Semitic, they are also
completely hypocritical when Australia has so far to go to overcome its own
The author is an Australian solicitor working for Shurat
HaDin – The Israel Law Center in Tel Aviv. He recently brought a complaint under
Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act against one of the leaders of the BDS
movement in Australia, Prof. Jake Lynch of Sydney University.