Mail & Guardian

Israel is not apartheid state

09 Nov 2012 09:18 | Letters

Anti-Israeli Arab sentiment is not new, although openly admitting it is. (AP)

Anti-Israeli Arab sentiment is not new, although openly admitting it is. (AP)

In South Africa  apartheid was enshrined in the constitution and supported by the legal system. People were legally classified into racial groups and forcibly separated from each other. A wide range of laws ensured racially based discrimination, including the prohibition of blacks from voting, using whites-only schools and hospitals, or even mixing with whites in public places. South Africa was also ruled by a whites-only minority government.

The state of Israel has nothing in common with apartheid. Israeli Arabs form political parties, compete in free and fair elections and are represented in the legislature, executive and judiciary, all the way to the supreme court. They can be found in every university as professors and students and in every hospital as physicians, nurses and patients. Arabic is an official language in Israel.

The difference between Israel and apartheid South Africa can be highlighted at a very human level: Jewish and Arab babies are born in the same delivery room with the same facilities, attended to by the same doctors and nurses and the mothers recover in adjoining beds in the same ward. Some apartheid indeed.

Of course, nobody can deny that there is discrimination in Israel against its Arab citizens. Knowing Israel's history, this unfortunate fact is easily understandable. Many in Israel strive to abolish this discrimination and progress is being made.

Such discrimination is found in many countries. From England (ask the Muslim Council of Britain) to France and from Italy and Belgium to the Scandinavian countries. But Levy would never find any parallels between these countries and apartheid South Africa.

The use of the term apartheid in connection with Israel has recently become widespread in anti-Israel circles. This term, and its negative connotations, serves these circles in their attempts to delegitimise Israel. – Dr Jacob Amir

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