Despite other newsworthy stories concerning Hamas and Muslim reaction to newspaper cartoons, the Guardian has chosen to publish a lengthy two-part diatribe (see parts 1 and 2) comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa. The false and unfounded portrayal of Israel as an “apartheid state” is certainly not new and has been examined many times by HonestReporting (see below for related communiques). In the past five years, however, this charge has been revived and promoted as part of a deliberate campaign and strategy to demonize and delegitimize Israel. As Professor Gerald Steinberg notes, this was an outcome of the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa.
The attempts to turn Israel into a pariah state like apartheid-era South Africa have encouraged boycott and divestment campaigns and the singling out of Israel for special treatment in international forums as well as tarnishing Israel’s image. This potent political weapon and its emotive terminology is thus used to turn Israel’s security fence into an “Apartheid Wall” and Zionism into a form of racism. Those who deny the Jewish right to self-determination also turn to the South Africa “rainbow state” example to promote an eventual bi-national state of Jews and Palestinians. The logical outcome of this would see Arab demographic dominance and the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
In debunking the comparison between Israel and apartheid, the Jewish Virtual Library states:
Today, within Israel, Jews are a majority, but the Arab minority are full citizens who enjoy equal rights. Arabs are represented in the Knesset, and have served in the Cabinet, high-level foreign ministry posts (e.g., Ambassador to Finland) and on the Supreme Court. Under apartheid, black South Africans could not vote and were not citizens of the country in which they formed the overwhelming majority of the population. Laws dictated where they could live, work and travel. And, in South Africa, the government killed blacks who protested against its policies. By contrast, Israel allows freedom of movement, assembly and speech. Some of the government’s harshest critics are Israeli Arabs who are members of the Knesset.
The situation of Palestinians in the territories is different. The security requirements of the nation, and a violent insurrection in the territories, forced Israel to impose restrictions on Arab residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip that are not necessary inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. The Palestinians in the territories, typically, dispute Israel’s right to exist whereas blacks did not seek the destruction of South Africa, only the apartheid regime.
Flawed and biased journalism
The Guardian’s feature article is not an op-ed or even an editorial, but the work of Chris McGreal (pictured), the paper’s Israel correspondent whose previous posting was actually in South Africa. McGreal’s politicized agenda towards Israel is dramatically revealed in this article and raises doubts as to his ability to provide accurate and balanced reporting from the region.
McGreal chooses to interview known anti-Israel figures such as the UN’s John Dugard and South African politician Ronnie Kasrils, who has previously called for a boycott of Israel. In addition, marginal figures are quoted, such as supposedly influential Likud Israeli MP Uzi Cohen who calls for the expulsion of Palestinians from PA territories. The reality, however, is that Cohen is the less than influential Deputy Mayor of the Israeli town of Ra’anana and not even a Member of Knesset. Just these examples call into question the credibility of McGreal’s piece.
Letters to the Guardian: firstname.lastname@example.org
While HonestReporting has addressed some of the points raised by McGreal’s article, readers are encouraged to use some of the sources listed below to further their knowledge of this complex issue:
- BICOM, Response to the Guardian’s G2 supplement.
- Benjamin Pogrund, ‘Why depict Israel as a chamber of horrors like no other in the world’, The Guardian, 8 Feb 2006.
- Gerald Steinberg, Abusing ‘Apartheid’ for the Palestinian Cause, Jerusalem Post, August 24, 2004.
- Reader reactions in the Guardian, Feb 8, 2006.
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.
(Image of apartheid via Flickr/jasonwat)