The Afrikaans word “apartheid” means “the state of being apart.”

As well, apartheid was a system of racial segregation, through legislation, by the National Party of South Africa between 1948-1994. Under this system of governing, political representation for non-whites in South Africa ceased in 1970. Furthermore, in that same year, non-whites were denied citizenship.

This racist policy forced the majority of non-white people to live in, and become members of, 10 tribally-based bantustans, or “homelands.” The white-led minority, represented by the National Party, also segregated education, medical care, beaches and other public services. The native black people were considered inferior to the whites, and were exploited due to this inhuman policy.

Those who call Israel an “apartheid state” are morally, factually and historically inaccurate. Their mission is to delegitimize Israel.

As a man of faith, I believe that the West Bank of the Jordan River (and frankly, much further east) is the land promised to the Chosen People according to the Bible. Yet, for the sake of argument, let us say that the West Bank is not part of the sovereign state of Israel, and is governed by the elected Palestinian Authority and/or Hamas.

In this case, Israel’s policies cannot be compared to the racist internal policies of Apartheid South Africa. And for those Palestinians that are citizens of Israel, Israeli law guarantees equal rights, without distinction of race, creed or gender.

Proponents of so-called Israeli apartheid would attempt to counter by saying that the West Bank is, ultimately, Israeli-controlled. They would also say that Palestinians are scrutinized at military checkpoints, and would bring up the ID system, separate highways, the West Bank security barrier and other apparent forms of oppression.

I do not deny that these exist. I do deny, though, that their root cause is racism, as was the situation in South Africa.

The vast size and vigilance of the security forces in Israel is an exceptional financial burden on the economy – yet must exist for Israel’s very survival as a nation. Countless acts of terrorism have been perpetrated within Israel by bloodthirsty and brainwashed individuals who hide within crowds, and in hospitals and schools.

The Arab people must understand that the real reason they suffer these inconveniences – and, yes, at times, embarrassment – is that other Arabs carry out terror attacks that make them necessary.

For these reasons, it is a sad – but sobering – fact that Israeli security forces are suspicious of the non-Jewish population. The separation of two groups in this case is not due to apartheid racism, but terrorism.

Finally, the citizens of North America shouldn’t throw stones when it comes to the question of occupation, segregation and racism, as our history reveals that we live in the proverbial glass house. We know that much of the continental United States was acquired through conquest – especially against the First Nations People.

Indians, here, are still treated as second- class citizens (who live on segregated “Reservations”). We should, as a society, address very real racism at home before directing ignorant and uneducated comments toward Israel.

In closing, I must add that Israelis give the best (and free) medical care in the entire Arab world to the Palestinian people.

Friends, let us apply these truths to all accusers of Israel. Shalom !

The author is pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

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