The Hypocrisy of Israel Apartheid Week


Opinion piece by Danielle Kubes


By: DANIELLE KUBES  
Published: March 8th 2011
in News » Local

The hypocrisy of Israel Apartheid Week

I laughed the first time I heard Israel called an apartheid state. The statement is so hyperbolic and absurd that it should not even require refutation. But since many students fail to grasp the full complexity of Middle Eastern issues and never bother to check the facts, I’m writing to clarify that Israel is not an apartheid state and saying it is only hinders constructive dialogue; people shut down when they hear emotive words bearing negative connotations. So calling Israel an apartheid state merely attracts attention and masks the real issues plaguing the Israel-Palestine conflict.

 

First off, most people don’t realize that Israel is extremely multicultural. Downtown Tel-Aviv you’ll find Black Christian Sudanese drinking coffee alongside Thai women shouting Hebrew, beside religious Jewish men wearing tall black hats who dart their eyes to the ground as scantily-clad young Israeli women saunter by with their Ethiopian boyfriends to buy soda from Arab-Israeli vendors. To assume Israel has a single ethnic identity, or that its goal is such, is a joke. True, Israel was founded primarily as a Jewish state — but not to the exclusion of others. The purpose was to ensure that Jews always have a safe place to go whenever they face persecution, certainly not because Israel seeks an entirely Jewish population run according to Biblical laws. Israel could not create a single identity even if it tried because Jews are too diverse in race, observance and opinion.

 

Moreover, every citizen of Israel’s democracy has exactly the same rights. Arab Israelis — who make up roughly one fifth of the country’s six million people — vote, worship whomever they want, volunteer for the army and even make up roughly one-tenth of parliament. Sure, prejudice and discrimination exists in Israel. And in Canada. And in every country in the world. To be an apartheid state, the discrimination must be sanctioned and enforced by the government on the basis of race. Israel’s government often condemns prejudiced individuals and constantly denounces extremists. It cannot be held responsible for the actions of racist individuals.

 

But what about the checkpoints, fences and separate roads the government placed in the West Bank? Are they proof the government is inherently racist against Palestinians? Or did Israel create them to protect its citizens from a very real terrorism threat funded and encouraged by Iran and Syria? Security, not racism, is the motivation behind Israel’s policies in the West Bank.

 

Separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians exist because tensions are so intense that an Israeli found on Palestinian property is likely to be assaulted or killed, and vice versa.

 

Racism didn’t fuel the recent offensive in Gaza either; Israel’s government was taking military action against the nearly 3,500 rockets it says have been launched against Israel from the Gaza Strip since Israeli forces withdrew from the region in August 2005. Feel free to criticize Israel’s defence policies, but don’t be fooled into thinking the core of the conflict is institutional racism. Not only is there little evidence for that, but it also oversimplifies the conflict thereby drawing attention away from the real issues at hand such as water rights, demographic issues and extremism.

 

And what about the actions of Israel’s neighbours? Why didn’t people protest when Lebanon’s army killed hundreds of Palestinians in 2007 while fighting militants in a refugee camp? And why don’t people cry out when Syrian homosexuals have to flee into Israel to escape death? Perhaps Canadians don’t care when Arabs kill other Arabs. We must take care not to apply a different standard to Israel, which possibly has the best human rights record in the region.



Related articles: (Israel Apartheid Week, Gaza, College, University, )



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