There are a lot of lies and misconceptions about Israel. One of the most popular myths about the Jewish state is that it is an apartheid state. What is apartheid exactly? In case you are unfamiliar with the meaning of apartheid, it is a policy or system of segregation or discrimination based on race.
Chances are, however, that most of the people who claim that Israel is an apartheid state don’t live in Israel, haven’t visited Israel, or have never even spoken with an Israeli before.
Israeli citizens, whether they are Jews, Arabs, or people of other backgrounds, are equal before the law. All Israelis ride the same buses, use the same hospitals, and live and work together in all sorts of different fields. Perhaps most importantly, all Israeli adults, regardless of their backgrounds, have the right to vote and run for office. This, of course, includes Israel’s Arab citizens, who comprise about one fifth of the country’s population. You will find Arabs in all echelons of Israel’s governing institutions, from the cabinet to the Supreme Court. If any of this doesn’t sound like apartheid, it’s because it isn’t apartheid in any way, shape, or form.
Yet, the myth of Israeli apartheid is just one of many lies that people around the world are misled to believe that we Jews have to exhaust countless hours debunking.
Recently, telling the truth about Israel has become significantly easier to do with the advent of the Abraham Accords, which are important, as they have established full diplomatic relations between the Jewish state and four Arab countries, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. Misconceptions about Israel are especially present in Arab and Muslim countries, which have been hostile to the very existence of the Jewish state for decades.
But now that the road to relations has opened with some of these countries, people in both Israel and the Arab states that have signed on to the Abraham Accords can begin to set the record straight about the true, pluralistic nature of the Jewish state. There are new opportunities to make real human connections, share our similarities, and learn about our differences – and with that comes truth and bridge-building.
Just this week Isaac Herzog became the first Israeli President to go to Bahrain. Once there, he was warmly welcomed by Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. Because of the Abraham Accords, the opportunities for mutual connections are boundless.
Since the signing of the Accords in 2020, cooperation between Israel and the four Arab states that signed on to the accords has flourished, especially on matters related to economics and trade. In 2021, for example, trade between Israel and the UAE alone reached $1.2 billion, and economic exchanges between the two countries are projected to exceed $10 billion over the next five years.
There is also increased cooperation between Israel and the other Abraham Accord countries on matters related to research and development, as well as academic exchanges. One especially significant development that has come as a result of the Accords is the opening of a Holocaust memorial exhibition in Dubai, a first in the Arab world, where the Holocaust has historically been downplayed and even denied.
Developing pro-active engagement strategies to debunk myths and bring people together, like the innovative NGO “Israel-is” is doing by convening various forums, allows Israelis and people living in countries that are now part of the Abraham Accords to work together and strengthen relations. Israel-is has also crucially made a point of being active on social media, where many lies and misunderstandings about Israel have unfortunately become very popular.
Debunking the lies and misconceptions about Israel, such as the apartheid myth, must involve the kind of networking and bridge-building that Israel-is and other similar organizations undertake. It is imperative that the Israeli public support these bridge-building strategies so that people around the world will learn the truths about Israel, rather than perpetuating lies and myths about the world’s only Jewish state.
Jason Shvili is a freelance writer in Toronto, Canada, who specializes in Israeli and Middle Eastern politics.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Yifa Segal