The dirtiest word in Israeli politics is not “fascism,” as it in the United States, but “apartheid.” You often hear pro-Palestinian and occasionally liberal pro-Israel voices, such as the daily newspaper Ha’aretz, make the comparison between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the apartheid-era minority oppression of South Africa’s poor majority. In what appears to be an ongoing discussion in The Times of South Africa, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein says these circumstances of sociopolitical history bear little resemblance:
These accusations defame the Jewish state, and also diminish the victims of the real apartheid — the men, women and children of our beloved South Africa — who suffered for centuries under arrogant, heartless colonialism, and then for decades under the brutal apartheid policies of racial superiority, oppression and separation inflicted by the National Party. If everything is apartheid, then nothing is apartheid.
In Israel, all citizens — Jew and Arab alike — are equal before the law. Israel has none of the apartheid legislative machinery devised to discriminate against and separate people. It has no Population Registration Act, no Group Areas Act, no Mixed Marriages and Immorality Act, no Separate Representation of Voters Act, no Separate Amenities Act, no pass laws or any of the other myriad apartheid laws.
Israel is a vibrant liberal democracy, which accords full political, civil and other human rights to all its peoples, including its one million-plus Arab citizens, many of whom hold positions of authority throughout the Jewish state, including that of cabinet minister, member of parliament, and judge at every level of the judiciary.
All citizens vote on the same voters’ roll in regular, multiparty elections, and there are Arab parties and Arab members of other parties in Israel’s parliament. Due to Israel’s proportional representation system, Arab voters, although a minority, have often been partners in various coalition governments and influenced major long-term decisions affecting the country. And Arab Israelis, like all their compatriots, can express themselves and act freely as members of a transparent and open democratic society where criticism of the government in a free press is the norm.
This is, of course, only the case for Israeli citizens, and denizens of the occupied territories are not, except for maybe in a few cases, Israeli citizens. Still, Goldstein goes on, this does not warrant use of the a-word. His reasoning is after the jump: