Up For Debate: No, there is not a state of apartheid in Israel
Rhetorical language has its place. However, the exaggerations used by Aminah and the argument put forward hardly constitutes anything constructive. A key to constructive writing is unwavering cogency — that is, it must make sense.
Aminah argues that a few similarities found in the Israeli situation, despite some strong contrasts, still equate identically to a legal definition of which even the author implies is inapplicable: “In the law, Arabs … can [run for the Israeli parliament, or Knesset] and vote.”
The unfortunate side of Israel — being a modern state — is that overzealous politicians can prescribe actions which are discriminatory, and in some cases, illegal. But to say that these cases totally override the many positive democratic values that Israel offers is to make a gross and inaccurate presumption. Every Israeli citizen, whether Jewish, or non-Jewish — as 20 percent of the population is — has these rights and more; including attending the same education system, access to the same public transportation, and like other democracies, minorities that are discriminated against can and do utilize a strong court system against both individuals and the government.
The most obvious example of Israeli democracy is the recent rape case against former Israeli President Moshe Katzav, where a non-Jewish Arab Supreme Court Justice found him guilty and sentenced him to prison. I have met the director of the YMCA in Jerusalem, Forzan Hussein, who acknowledged discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel — but was also quick to note he would “rather be a minority in Israel than the ‘majority’ in any other [state in the Middle East].”
It is a good thing in an editorial to take liberties, as I’ve previously mentioned, but the author unfortunately takes a few factual liberties as well. The Palestinian author, Edward Said, wrote: “There is simply no rational justification from an intellectual point of view of having a policy of ignorance, or using ignorance as a weapon in a struggle. Ignorance is ignorance, no more and no less. Always and in every case.”
Aminah’s inaccuracies only foment an atmosphere of ignorance. When discussing the checkpoints, she cites “thousands,” contradicting B’Tselem which clearly states as of 2011, there are “55” (excluding border-crossings into Israel-proper), and that the “wall” is “in most areas … comprised of an electronic fence with dirt paths.” In addition, when the author wrongly characterizes roads as “Jewish only,” one must remember this is a conflict of nationalities, not religions or ethnicities — Israelis (which can be Jewish, Muslim or Christian — and also be Iranian, Syrian, Armenian and Palestinian) have full access to all roads and buses under Israeli-jurisdiction.
While an exaggeration of 55 to thousands and a nationality to a single religious group certainly helps the author’s argument, it does nothing to contribute to a fact-based discussion on any injustice perpetrated in the area.
In similar manner to Ami Kaufman, a former chief editor for Haaretz, “it’s the occupation, stupid.” Occupation by nature, of course, is not a friendly game of “Candy Land” — but that also doesn’t mean one should personally condone the situation. I personally as a Jew with family in Israel unequivocally oppose any ill effects brought about by the occupatory status. Indeed, under the Fourth Geneva Conventions unilateral land appropriations are illegal, however, the same accords Israel, “both the responsibilities and privileges of being the occupying power, which includes controlling [Palestinian] movement under security concerns.”
The primary concern of any occupying power is the safety and security of their civilian populace — and this is concern is echoed by Amnesty International’s report “Without Distinction,” which states that “[Israel’s] obligation to protect civilians is absolute and cannot be set aside. The attacks against civilians by Palestinian armed groups are widespread, systematic and in pursuit of an explicit policy to attack civilians.” Certainly such a policy would not have been implemented if their were not grave threats to Israeli civilians, and as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, restrictions on Palestinian movement from 1967 to 1991 were “relatively light.” Occupation has problems of its own, and unfortunately, security concerns are some of them, but occupation is a far cry from apartheid.
Criticism is good — in a modern democratic state it is one of the few weapons against tyranny in a democracy — as most of us would not take up arms in a “well organized militia.” However, once one endorses a dogma (a dogma that former South African President, F.W. de Clerk calls “absurd”) that one cannot escape and which the author’s hyperbole steers towards, one becomes not only unhelpful but also detrimental to the progress.
We’ve seen this happen before in our own democracy, whether in congressional deadlock or partisan voting. This summer I was in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and Jordan. The grassroots, the people on the ground, NGOs and independents, Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Americans, everyone, they are all working, however slowly but diligently, towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict that gives as close to an absolute justice as possible for everyone. To sully their work with unfounded accusation is disrespectful to not only Palestinians but also the international community as a whole.
Matan Lurey is a fifth-year informatics major. He can be reached at email@example.com.