This guest post is written by Rolene Marks.
Apartheid. Just the mention of the word is emotive, evocative and provocative. For millions of South Africans who suffered under the apartheid regime, the word is synonymous with suffering, discrimination and racism.
Today the word apartheid has been hijacked by Israel’s detractors as a way to launch a well-orchestrated assault on her legitimacy as a state. They capitalize on the emotional response that the very mention of the word and the images that it conjures up, to plan campaigns that are based on their own particular brand of racism – anti-Semitism.
Why has the comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa gained so much trajectory over the last decade? The Durban Conference on Racism that was held in South Africa in 2001 became the springboard where this comparison really gained ground. Not since Nazi Germany has such nasty invective and accusations been leveled against Israel and the Jewish people.
The rationale behind this is that if Israel is compared to and demonized just as much as apartheid South Africa was, then treating the Jewish state like a pariah and meting out the same treatment in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanction policies is the logical step. In fact, if Israel is as odious as South Africa was, should it exist at all? And herein lies one of the fundamental differences. At no point during the apartheid years was South Africa’s legitimacy or existence as a state challenged, just the racist governmental policy.
Israel being singled out for opprobrium at the expense of other conflict regions and states that are guilty of human rights abuse smacks of something more sinister.
What was apartheid? Apartheid is defined as the discriminatory and oppressive laws based on race that deemed one group of people (non-white) as inferior and legislation in all spheres to support that. It also pertains to the forced removal of people of color from their neighborhoods and relocation to less desirable areas.
Does racism exist in Israel? Yes it does. Just as it does in Canada, the U.S., Brazil, South Africa or any other country in the world. It is abhorrent and inexcusable but is it state legislated and policy like it was in Nazi Germany or South Africa? No, and to single Israel out exposes a shocking double standard. Israeli Arabs who are citizens of Israel enjoy equal voting rights, representation in government, the right to education in the same schools and universities as anyone else (in fact Arabic is an official language) and all inalienable rights. Israel’s critics will argue but what about the Palestinians? Aren’t they subject to apartheid that is worse then South Africa at the hands of Israel?