Israel, the un-apartheid state – a comparison with Australia

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.

August 21, 2013 20:56
DRUSE ATTEND the funeral of Sayef Bisan, an IDF soldier killed in 2008 in Gaza.

DRUSE ATTEND the funeral of Sayef Bisan 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

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.

They 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.

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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.

APARTHEID SOUTH 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 sex.”

Unlike South Africa and Australia, Israel has never had laws that overtly discriminated between citizens on the basis of race.

Today, just 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 to racism.

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 Israel’s.

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 world.

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 racist past.

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.

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