Is Israel an 'apartheid state?’
The main argument over whether or not Israel is an apartheid state comes from differing opinions on what exactly defines an apartheid state. The newly recognized definition of apartheid concerns the oppression of one group by another through the use of inhumane acts. Airstrikes that kill children, tear apart families, and cities that enforce segregation and deportation are certainly inhumane acts. The website Human Rights Watch, details how 'the international community has over the years detached the term apartheid from its original South African context, developed a universal legal prohibition against its practice, and recognized it as a crime against humanity with definitions provided in the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid'.
This updated definition for apartheid is as follows: 'a crime committed when officials systematically oppress one group in the territory under their control, and subject it to inhumane acts, with the intent to maintain the domination over that group for the benefit of another group.' Under this widely recognized definition, it's impossible to deny Israel is an apartheid state.
Many officials, countries, and human rights groups agree that what is currently happening to Palestinians is an act of oppressive violence being carried by Israel. B'Tselem and Human Rights Watch have both labeled Israel as an apartheid state, as did a 2020 United Nations report. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the country an apartheid state, tweeting on May 15, 2021, 'Apartheid states aren't democracies.' The fact that so many groups and individuals are agreeing says something about the extent of Israel's crimes, and it's hard to refute the claim that they are, in fact, an apartheid state.
Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning 'apart-hood' or 'separateness.' Apartheid is an unsuitable description of Israel and the current clashes between Jews and Palestinians there. Non-Jewish Israelis enjoy the same rights as Jewish Israelis, including having representatives for the Knesset (the Israeli legislature). In fact, Arabic is recognized as one of Israel's official languages.
Labeling Israel as an 'apartheid state' is an attempt to de-legitimize Israel's sovereignty as a nation; it's a gross mischaracterization intended as a weapon to turn world opinion against Israel. Since Israel's 1948 reestablishment of its historic ancestral land, there has been conflict between the Jews and Palestinians. Since its founding, Israel has been surrounded by unfriendly Arab states and has been continually defending itself for over 70 years. The tensions that erupted in May 2021 are merely the latest examples of Israel's volatility of daily life. Arab terrorist organization Hamas (whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel) is the primary force behind the violence toward Israel (including thousands of rocket attacks).
South African apartheid has an entirely different history than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Apartheid was rooted in racial segregation and legislation aimed at disenfranchising black South Africans. Apartheid more closely resembles the US history of slavery and segregation in pre and post-Civil War times. To compare apartheid to the current dynamic in Israel is to minimize the suffering and institutionalized discrimination and human rights restrictions and violations visited upon blacks in South Africa. Israel's legitimate right to defend itself from attacks from within and without its borders by Palestinians and Arab-led terrorist organizations is in no way comparable to apartheid.
- Prominent House Representatives Rashida Talib, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez often link Israel to apartheid, a racial segregation policy enacted in South Africa from 1948-1994.
- The center of the debate over Jewish and Palestinian people is in the ownership of the land; for Jews, it is their ancestral home, but Palestinians claim it under Ottoman ownership. The 1947 United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 to re-establish Israeli statehood in the region. Since Israel declared independence in 1948, Israelis have fought in several territory-related wars: The 1949 Arab-Israeli War, the 1967 Six-Day War (between Egypt and Syria), the Palestinian’s “first intifada” in 1987 and “second intifada” in 2005. The Oslo I Accords of 1993 and Oslo II Accords of 1995 allowed Palestinians to govern themselves and “mandated the complete withdrawal of Israel from 6 cities and 450 towns in the West Bank.”
- Judaism is the world’s oldest monotheistic religion and is rooted in the Hebrew scriptures (called the TaNaK by Jews and Old Testament by Christians), written by multiple authors over a span of centuries; Islam was founded in the 7th Century by the Prophet Muhammad.
- Hamas is a militaristic Islamic Resistance Movement founded in 1987, a “spin-off” of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood established after the first intifada, that operates primarily in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and calls for the “eradication of the State of Israel.” In 1997, the US designated Hamas a foreign terrorist organization.