SHARING some of my many painful memories of growing up in apartheid South Africa with Paul, my co-writer of this post, one stood out in particular. On a hot summer’s day my mother had fetched me from school, as she always did. Driving up a steep hill on our way home she suddenly stopped the car, rolled down her window and asked a man on the street if he wanted a lift.
She had noticed the elderly black man, in dusty clothes, leaning heavily on a stick as he struggled to walk up this hill. As he got into the car he started to cry and pray, thanking my mother and praising her for having the courage to help a black person. That act, of helping a black person classified as an ‘inferior race’ by apartheid laws, was an aberration in our separate and unequal society.
This ailing black man was barred from whites’ only buses and hospitals, both amenities far better than anything black South Africans were permitted to use. His fragility, caused by decades of deprivation under successive apartheid governments, encapsulates the suffering of millions under the apartheid regime. Those who accuse Israel of being an apartheid state belittle this man’s suffering.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) defines any comparison between Nazi Germany and Israel as anti-Semitism. Anti-Semites attempt to bypass that by making false comparisons between apartheid South Africa and Israel. This rhetoric is designed to smear Israel as a ‘racist’ country and is yet another attempt to delegitimise the Jewish state.
This libel stems from the hate-fest that was the 2001 UN ‘anti-racism’ conference, held in Durban. This conference birthed not only the insidious Boycott Disinvest Sanctions campaign but also the unholy concept that being anti-Israel is a requisite for proclaiming anti-racist credentials.
The truth is out there for anyone who cares to take a little time to dispel the propaganda. One of us has the real experience of growing up under a police state, where laws discriminating between blacks and whites were brutally enforced. We both know that by contrast Israeli laws ensure equality between races, religions and sexes.
All religions and races sit in the Knesset and judiciary, unlike in apartheid South Africa where only whites were allowed in parliament and to run the courts. There is no edict in Israel marking separate schools for black and white children unlike the ones I went to.
No Israeli laws exist to define separate hospitals on the basis of race, or religion either. Palestinian leaders frequently seek medical help in Israeli hospitals for themselves and their family members.
Hebrew and Arabic are both official languages of democratic Israel, honouring the linguistic heritages of Jews, Muslims and Christians indigenous to the region.
In apartheid South Africa’s police state, by contrast, and despite the plethora of vernacular dialects such as Sotho and Xhosa, English and Afrikaans were the only official languages permitted during those years. During childhood holidays in those days on beaches in the Cape one could be forgiven for thinking that no black person existed in southern Africa. A trip to Tel Aviv beaches any day will show Arabs and Israelis sunbathing together.
That so many fall for the libel that Israel is an ‘apartheid state’ indicates a willingness to believe the worst of Jews and the best of Islamists, and their Western useful idiots, who have pushed this narrative.
Eventually we hope the Israel-haters might be warned off the comparison with apartheid for its blatant anti-Semitism, just as they have been warned off using the Third Reich. But the current trend is one of comparing Israel to unsavoury regimes. The IHRA has proscribed holding Israel to a higher standard than other democracies as anti-Semitic. As can be seen, the Israel-haters have instead been associating Israel with dictatorships. Prevented from using Nazi Germany and South Africa, they presumably will have to cast around wider. Russia, China, Iran or North Korea would be right out, as the Israel-haters actually like these countries. So they would have to return to history. Affinity would also rule out the USSR and its slave-states, and probably Imperial Russia as well.
The haters’ problem is that any regime they would want to associate with Israel has to be generally well-known, and also well-known to have been unpleasant, but not in a primarily racist manner. That knocks out all the fascist or authoritarian regimes in Europe in the 1930s, as well as the Confederate States of America from the 19th century. The English Commonwealth and Protectorate? They were not too friendly to the Irish. But it is a stretch to start abusing Israel as the neo-Cromwellian state. For a start, the term ‘Cromwellian’ would have to be explained to the hard-of-thinking. Perhaps Ancien Régime France under Louis XIV? Too obscure. Spain under Philip II? As a basis for comparison with Israel, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.
Further back and the comparisons become more and more absurd. The Tudors? House of York? Lancaster? Normans? Mongols? Huns?
So the haters change tack and describe Israel as an imperialist vestige of Western colonialism, which is a bit rich since the Jews cannot be colonising land they actually used to inhabit before their expulsion by actual imperialists from Rome. Palestine was a territory of Ottoman imperialists, part of the province of Syria before becoming a territory of the British Empire under a League of Nations mandate. Israel is actually the least imperialist aspect of the land for centuries.
But this still ignores the central fact, which is that this unbridled hatred of existence of the state of Israel is a manifestation of anti-Semitism. It is actually possible to disagree with the policies of the government of Israel. There are opposition parties in the Knesset that do exactly that. Israel is a democracy, the only one in the Middle East. But the attitude of the Israel-haters never explores the realms of democracy or policy. It is always about the nation and the people as a whole, and that is anti-Semitic.
And this is all why anyone who uses the term ‘apartheid state’ in association with Israel cannot be taken at all seriously. Firstly, they are being anti-Semitic by the standards of the IHRA. Secondly, it is a provably bogus comparison. Thirdly, it tacitly supports terrorism. The term should be banished from our media as much as any other racist epithet.