'Calling Israel 'apartheid' is plain antisemitic' - VP of European Parliament

At a conference by the Combat Antisemitism Movement. the WZO and NGO Monitor, world leaders discussed the misappropriation of the term "apartheid" and its use against Israel.

 Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold candles during a protest in front of Catalan Government in Sant Jaume quarter in central Barcelona January 16, 2009 against Israel's attacks on Gaza. The sign reads: "Boycott Israel, boycott apartheid". (photo credit: REUTERS/GUSTAU NACARINO)
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold candles during a protest in front of Catalan Government in Sant Jaume quarter in central Barcelona January 16, 2009 against Israel's attacks on Gaza. The sign reads: "Boycott Israel, boycott apartheid".
(photo credit: REUTERS/GUSTAU NACARINO)

Leaders from around the world spoke out on Thursday against the appropriation of the term “apartheid” from its historical South African context with the goal of defaming and isolating Israel by portraying it as a racist entity.

The comments were said at a conference that was cohosted by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), World Zionist Organization (WZO) and NGO Monitor. The event was titled “Trivializing History: How Anti-Israel Activists Have Hijacked the South African ‘Apartheid’ Label to Attack the Jewish State.”

World leaders, diplomats, legislators, and policymakers discussed what must be done to restore the “apartheid” term to its proper context and delegitimize its use in discourse about a conflict to which it has no relevance.

“Categorizing Israel as an apartheid state is just plain antisemitic,” said Vice President of the European Parliament and Special Envoy on Combating Religious Discrimination Including Antisemitism Nicola Beer.

“In my opinion, such characterization counters progress made in the region concerning the peace process,” she said. “Instead, it deepens the rifts and fuels antisemitism around the world.”

 Copies of Amnesty International's report named ''Israel's Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity'' are seen at a press conference at the St George Hotel, in East Jerusalem, February 1, 2022. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS) Copies of Amnesty International's report named ''Israel's Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity'' are seen at a press conference at the St George Hotel, in East Jerusalem, February 1, 2022. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

“In my opinion, such characterization counters progress made in the region concerning the peace process, instead it deepens the rifts and fuels antisemitism around the world.”

Special Envoy on Combatting Religious Discrimination Including Antisemitism Nicola Beer

The conference was held in response to the global rise in antisemitism.

The apartheid campaign questions Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state by framing Israel as an inherently racist state.

What is the history of appropriating apartheid to Israel?

During the past 18 months, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International published reports accusing Israel of apartheid, and the UN established two bodies where the claim of apartheid will be prominently featured.

These attempts distort the history of what happened during South Africa’s past system of institutionalized racial segregation. Continuous misuse of the apartheid conversation trivializes the suffering endured by true apartheid victims of the oppressive apartheid regime.

Here's what world leaders said

“The suffering of South Africans under apartheid was unique and attempts to apply the same label to Israel trivializes that history and is unacceptable,” said Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic Jirí Kozák.

“We consider this open antisemitism,” he said. “Claiming that Israel is a racist endeavor is in violation of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. Claims of apartheid [are] not about questioning a particular policy, but about challenging the nature of the Jewish state.”

“Whatever the world’s greatest and most unforgivable crime is in any particular moment of history, the Jews will be accused of it,” said Member of the House of Lords Baroness Ruth Deech. “Those who accuse Israel of Apartheid are themselves racist in that their real mission is to deny the legitimacy of the only Jewish state in the world and if they got their way, they would return Jews to dispersion, slaughter and discrimination.”

“Attempts to link South Africa’s past system of institutionalized racial segregation to the nuanced complexity of contemporary Israel-Palestinian relations debases history and trivializes the unique suffering of apartheid victims,” US Congressman Henry Cuellar said. “We must acknowledge the dangerous effects of falsified name-calling.”

“A lot of political prisoners during the apartheid era would have loved to live as a Palestinian in Israel,” said Member of the European Parliament and Vice-Chair of the Budgetary Committee Niclas Herbst.

“Applying the apartheid label serves no purpose other than to delegitimize the Israeli state, demonizing the Jewish people and ultimately bring about Israel’s destruction,” said former minister for defense of the Republic of Ireland Alan Shatter.

What action is being done to help Israel?

Alongside the conference, CAM released a public petition urging people to sign a pledge to “urge decision-makers at the international, national and local levels to vocally reject and condemn the ‘apartheid’ libel of Israel.”

NGO Monitor released a number of reports debunking the claims made by Amnesty International and other NGOs. These releases highlight their work fighting the apartheid libel.

“In light of Unilever’s praiseworthy decision to thwart the antisemitism of its Ben & Jerry’s subsidiary, we have shown that we can beat BDS,” said Elan Carr, CAM advisory board member and former US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.

“The next challenge is to combat the apartheid calumny, and we will do that with a carefully orchestrated strategy and dissemination of the truth and the facts, and that is what we are doing,” he said. “The antisemitic apartheid campaign will be defeated because it is built on lies and hate.”

“It is heartwarming to see how many officials rallied to denounce the apartheid smear,” said NGO Monitor’s Vice President Olga Deutsch. “Preserving the uniqueness of the apartheid narrative is central for the South African people, but in the context of today’s event is also crucial for the global Jewish community facing violent antisemitic attacks. [A] strong message from our elected officials is imperative in setting the tone for the rest of us.”