'Apartheid' and 'genocide' are used as verbal bombs against Israel - opinion

The words 'apartheid' and 'genocide' serve no purpose other than to insult, stigmatize and delegitimize the Jewish state.

Israel Apartheid Week at Columbia University. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel Apartheid Week at Columbia University.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

On August 6 and 9, 1945 the United States detonated two nuclear weapons, named “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The newly developed A-bomb was the most powerful weapon in America’s arsenal. 

Words have been likened to weapons when employed maliciously in order to defame. Defamation slanders a person’s or a group’s reputation typically by propagating fraudulent accusations.

In recent years the pro-Palestinian propaganda industry has released two verbal atom bombs in its ongoing effort to defame and delegitimize the State of Israel. The names of these bombs are “apartheid” and “genocide.”

Apartheid and genocide belong to a carefully honed lexicon that is routinely employed by pro-Palestinian activists when holding forth on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whether verbally or in print. This lexicon rests upon many emotionally loaded terms and phrases such as “occupation,” “illegal settlements,” “colonialism,” “social justice,” and “the right of return.” These are intended to divert the listener’s attention from the facts and evoke effect; in other words, to send up an emotional smokescreen. Apartheid and genocide are the apotheoses of this lexicon.

While still in adolescence many become aware that cuss words exist on a hierarchy. There are cuss words that are intuitively ranked lower and others that are ranked higher. The F Word is universally ranked at the top and if employed in polite company, can stop all conversation.

PROTESTERS BRANDISH anti-Israel signs outside the Durban Conference opening session, August 31, 2001. (credit: REUTERS)PROTESTERS BRANDISH anti-Israel signs outside the Durban Conference opening session, August 31, 2001. (credit: REUTERS)

In the present “woke” political atmosphere accusations of apartheid and genocide are of comparable weight to that word. They are the most disparaging and derogatory claims that may be leveled against any group or state; perpetrators are considered to be the scourge of humanity; they are beneath contempt. Accusing Israel of genocide and apartheid is political cussing. It serves no purpose other than to insult, stigmatize and delegitimize the Jewish state.

The allegation that Israel practices apartheid and genocide is also an example of the “Big Lie.” The Big Lie is any preposterous claim that over the long term and with frequent repetition gains credibility and believers. With time, empirical truths fall away as the Big Lie is relentlessly propagated and succeeds in tapping into people’s emotions.

We witnessed an example of this in the controversy surrounding US Vice President Kamala Harris’s recent visit to George Mason University. Her feckless response to a student who matter-of-factly accused the State of Israel of practicing “ethnic genocide” against Palestinians validated the former’s view in front of the cameras.

This student’s uneducated accusation was consistent with the mendacious chants that are shouted and the slogans that are displayed on placards at hundreds of anti-Zionist demonstrations, particularly on American college campuses.

Both accusations, apartheid and genocide, are untrue but they have now become a staple of the anti-Israel Left. Progressive Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who himself didn’t shy away from labeling as racist the government of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, acknowledged as much in a May broadcast of the CBS News interview program Face the Nation when he stated that his fellow progressives should “tone down the rhetoric” when it comes to language – such as “apartheid” – used to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

However, an even greater yardstick of the success of these lies is the impact that this tactic has had upon American Jews. The State of Israel and its security was for a long time the one issue upon which American Jews of all backgrounds could agree.

At the end of this past June, 800 American Jewish voters of various ages were polled by GBAO Strategies on behalf of the Jewish Electorate Institute regarding their attitude towards the State of Israel. Among the findings were that 34% agreed that “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is similar to racism in the United States,” 25% agreed that “Israel is an apartheid state” and 22% agreed that “Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.”

In 1948, the estimated number of Palestinian Arabs living within the new state was 156,000. In 1949, upon the conclusion of the War of Independence, outside the state, in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, lived approximately 700,000 Arabs. That is a total of 856,000 Palestinian Arabs. Today, the total number combining Israeli-Arabs and Arabs living under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas comes to around 7,500,000, a population nearly nine times the size in 1948. Any accusation of Palestinians being the victims of genocide at the hands of Israel is patently ludicrous. 

To elide this truth, some anti-Israel circles, for example the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, have taken to redefining genocide in a manner that lends credence to its very partisan view of the condition of the Palestinians. According to the leftist think tank: “The term [genocide] does not necessarily signify mass killings. More often [genocide] refers to a coordinated plan aimed at destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups.” And even this revised definition is not applicable to the State of Israel’s true relationship with Palestinians.

No less absurd is the charge of apartheid. Unfortunately, Israel’s Arab population, as is true for ethnic minorities in every Western democracy, are often the victims of social prejudice and discrimination.

But this behavior does not reflect the ethos of the state. Under Israeli law all the country’s citizens are equal. As pointed out time and again, many of Israel’s Arab citizens have achieved remarkable success in government, law, business, hi-tech, culture and the professions.

Outside pre-1967 Israel, in Judea and Samaria, security restrictions imposed by the IDF upon the Arab population represent defensive policies that were established in response to years of Palestinian terrorism, both there and that crossed the border into the state. Israel’s detractors see racially motivated bigotry and apartheid instead of legitimate security concerns.

Within the “woke” ideological value system that has invaded and taken command of so much of liberal and progressive thinking, empirical truths and verifiable facts are irrelevant. What matters to Israel’s adversaries is branding the Jewish state with false accusations of genocide and apartheid, the two most emotionally charged weapons in the arsenal of political propaganda. 

There is no quick or easy way for Israel to counter this deeply emotional conundrum. The response requires rigorous and ongoing exposure of foreigners to on-site experiences that contradict false Palestinian claims and that bear witness to the many unsung positive interactions between Israelis and Palestinians. How should this be done?

The writer is the director of iTalkIsrael in Efrat.