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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Allegations against Israel blind, ignorant”

Around this time of year, the word “”apartheid”” is thrown across many college campuses to describe the state of Israel. Last year on the UA Mall, we witnessed a small group of students who organized a demonstration during “”Apartheid Week”” in attempt to persuade passers-by about the “”brutal treatment”” of non-Jewish (specifically Arab) citizens of Israel. Many followers of “”Apartheid Week”” associate themselves with this word without fully knowing it’s meaning.

The word “”apartheid”” originally refers to the South African system between 1948 and 1994 that institutionalized racial discrimination and strict legally-enforced segregation that gave the white minority control over South Africa. Blacks were disenfranchised and stripped of their citizenship. Today, groups who oppose the existence of Israel refer to Israel as an “”apartheid state,”” claiming that Israel treats its Arab citizens in a similar manner to how the blacks were treated in South Africa.

Those who slander Israel with discriminatory claims, suggesting that Arab citizens are not treated like equals in the state of Israel, are not only blinded, but also ignorant. Twenty percent of the Israeli population is Arab (Muslim and Christian). Arabs can vote, are represented in parliament, sit on the Supreme Court and serve in the cabinet. For example, Muslim Arab Raleb Majadele served as a cabinet minister, and Majallii Wahabi was briefly acting president of Israel in 2007. There is no Arab country in the world where Jews have the same rights as Arabs do in Israel. In fact, many Arabs citizens aren’t even free in their own countries. When talking about the “”Middle East”” conflict, it is rarely mentioned that homosexuals are executed in Iran and that the legal system in Jordan supports “”honor killings”” — the murder of women, including rape victims, whose sexual conduct displeases their families. Or, how about Syria, which is ruled by a dictator from a minority sect or Saudi Arabia which imposes severe restrictions on women, such as being banned from driving or traveling without permission.

It’s countries like Iran, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia that should be criticized for the lack of rights their citizens receive, not Israel, which is the only democratic country in the region. As someone who has lived in Israel, I have witnessed the highs and lows of the Israeli government. The truth is that Israel is not perfect, but no country is. However, to even link Israel with the word “”apartheid”” is not only prejudiced but very much inaccurate.

South African journalist Benjamin Pogrund said, “”Israel is accused by some of being ‘the new apartheid’ state. If true, it would be a grave charge, justifying international condemnation and sanctions. But it isn’t true. Anyone who knows what apartheid was, and who knows Israel today, is aware of that. Use of the apartheid label is at best ignorant and naïve and at worst cynical and manipulative … Apartheid is used in this case and elsewhere because it comes easily to hand: it is a lazy label for the complexities of the Middle East conflict. It is also used because, if it can be made to stick, then Israel can be made to appear to be as vile as was apartheid South Africa and seeking its destruction can be presented to the world as an equally moral cause”” (Focus Magazine, December 2005).

Irael is not an apartheid state, on the contrary, the country deserves recognition. For example, Israel was one of the first to respond to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, even before the United States, practically a neighbor to Haiti.

This upcoming week marks the annual “”Israel Palooza”” on our campus. Instead of falsely accusing Israel as an apartheid state this year, let’s come together and celebrate the freedoms of Israel’s citizens in efforts to work together towards a peaceful future.

— Guest columnist Aaron Jacobs is amedia arts junior.

He is a Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America Campus Fellow. Reactions to his column may be sent to letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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