University campuses around the world are in the throes of marking the so-called “Israel Apartheid Week.”But just the briefest reflection on what apartheid really was will show why it is obscene that the apartheid descriptor has become the default position for the global delegitimization campaign against Israel.I went to boarding school in apartheid Rhodesia (South Africa’s northern white-ruled neighbor) and edited newspapers and wrote books under the constraints of South Africa’s apartheid system.
From the age of nine, I had swastikas scrawled on my boarding school locker. The message was as much about my refusal to join a collective denigration of blacks as it was a reflection of my Jewish identity.Under South Africa’s apartheid system people classified as black were randomly stopped in the street by police and ordered to produce an identity card. If they could not do so immediately, they were invariably thrown into a police wagon and incarcerated.People classified as non-white had no right to vote, run for political office or use “whites only” park benches, post-office doors, toilets, public swimming pools, cinemas or even beaches. If critically injured in an accident, they were left to die if no non-white ambulances were available to transport them to a non-white hospital. White hospitals were prohibited from treating non-white patients.In Soweto, a sprawling black city on the edge of Johannesburg, hundreds of thousands of men were prohibited from bringing their families to live with them under a clause known as Influx Control.If caught doing so, the charge under which they were hauled before the courts was “harboring their wife and children.”Under the banner of “Israel Apartheid Week,” university campuses in the US, UK, Australia and elsewhere are engaging in activities, which include erecting simulated checkpoints at which role-playing students will be “shot” by “Israeli soldiers.” These scenarios are buttressed by speakers, posters, displays and movies depicting Israel as an apartheid state, with organizations such as Socialist Alternative, Students for Palestine and Action for Palestine actively involved.Granted Israeli society is a work in progress and Arab Israelis suffer disadvantage in various spheres. The difference is the Israeli government has set up a ministry with the express purpose of tackling these inequities.It is also a given that the condition of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is a serious issue, albeit inextricably bound up with the root cause of the conflict, which is the fundamental refusal to accept Israel’s existence. The key point though is that every Israeli citizen, of whatever faith and ethnic background, enjoys the right to vote and to speak out – even against Israel’s existence.The country has a free press, an independent judiciary – an Arab judge recently passed sentence on a former president of the country on sexual misconduct charges – and Arabs have served as government ministers, ambassadors, high-ranking army officers and heads of the border police.There have been Arab Members of the Knesset in every Israeli parliament since the first one sat in 1949, holding as many as 12 out of 120 seats in some sessions, while every Israeli university has Arab students and lecturers, with 20 percent of Haifa University’s students and 10 percent of its faculty Israeli Arabs, and Arab and Jewish surgeons operate side by side on Arab and Jewish patients in Israel’s hospitals. The list is virtually endless.To brand Israel an apartheid state is not only baseless, it insults all who suffered under the apartheid regime. It falsifies history for expedient political gain. Yet so many fall for the lie.