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The claim that Israel is an “apartheid state” is intensifying worldwide. According to Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the rhetoric has become “unprecedented in its venom and in its radioactivity.” Moreover, he concludes that this could be the year that the “apartheid” label actually sticks, and becomes a real danger to Israel.

And Lapid’s analysis is supported by recent events:

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which in 2010 declared a “diplomatic intifada” against Israel, has taken center stage in the most recent attempt to demonize and slander Israel.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad Malki last week asked diplomats at the United Nations Security Council: “Will you accept this [Israeli] apartheid in the 21st century or will you convert to advocates of the one-state solution of freedom and equal rights for all between the [Jordan] River and the [Mediterranean] Sea?”

The one-state solution effectively entails the replacement of Israel with an Arab-majority country.

Perhaps lost on the UN diplomats is that the PA supports the destruction of Israel through its insistence on the “right of return” to Israel for millions and millions of Palestinian “refugees.”

For his part, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in November said that Israel risked perpetuating a system of “apartheid.” His remarks were parroted by many news outlets, which, parenthetically, failed to even mention repeated Israeli peace overtures that have been rejected by the PA.

It is legitimate for the media to share news that a public official or an NGO issued a particular statement, even if that statement is false. It is, however, improper to blindly echo that statement without proper research or rebuttal, which is precisely what the media has done in this case.

In January of last year, B’Tselem published a report claiming that Israel was no longer a democracy, but, rather, an “apartheid regime” devoted to cementing the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians.

Media outlets portrayed B’Tselem, which supports the annihilationist Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as a leading proponent of human rights — thereby facilitating the hijacking of the word “apartheid” by an anti-Israeli group.

In April 2021, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published its own report accusing Israel of implementing a system of apartheid. The report included numerous distortions of fact, which HonestReporting analyzed and rebutted:

Global and national judicial institutions should step up to break the vicious cycle of unlawful attacks and impunity for war crimes,” [HRW Associate Crisis and Conflict Director Gerry] Simpson said.

These investigations should also address the larger context, including the Israeli government’s crushing closure of Gaza and its crimes of apartheid and persecution against millions of Palestinians.

The New York Times and other news organizations produced extensive coverage of HRW’s “explosive” charge, notwithstanding its lack of validity.

Aside from misconstruing well established facts, Human Rights Watch declared Israel an “apartheid state” through a particularly devious method: changing the very definition of the word.

In fact, as HonestReporting previously demonstrated, HRW’s new and original definition of “apartheid” is so broad that if applied fairly and rigorously, then almost every nation would be guilty of “apartheid,” in one way or another. This is notwithstanding a context of a clearly discernible and ongoing bias among those at HRW that deal with Israel (see, for example, here, here, and here).

The “apartheid” claims are not mere rhetoric, but are part of a bigger picture in which reports and speeches escalate, by steps, to legal actions.

In December, the United Nations General Assembly approved an open-ended Commission of Inquiry (COI) into Israel’s treatment of Palestinians that was proposed in the aftermath of the 11-day Hamas-initiated May 2021 conflict.

The UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in May voted to launch the investigation amid accusations that Israeli forces committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip. At that time, HonestReporting demonstrated that these claims were based on faulty information, as well as a misinterpretation of the Geneva Conventions.

Moreover, former United Nations human rights chief (2008-14) and South African judge Navi Pillay is slated to lead the UNHRC inquiry. She is on record as saying that Israel has “enforced segregation on racial lines,” and also expressed support for the BDS movement, which, according to its leaders, is meant to put an end to the Jewish state in its entirety. Pillay has advocated for the blacklisting of companies that do business with Jewish communities located over the Green Line.

While everyone is entitled to their own personal opinions, a judge is ethically obligated to approach cases with professional neutrality. In this case, the judge has a clear, predetermined opinion, and, accordingly, the outcome is essentially predetermined.

Though unprecedented, the move is not unfamiliar: In 1975, much of the international community embarked on a quest to effectively criminalize the Jewish state with the passage of UN Resolution 3379 that “determine[d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.”

Though the resolution was repealed in 1991, its faulty premise was revived at the now-infamous 2001 UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. That event is viewed by many as the beginning of renewed efforts to equate the Jewish state with apartheid South Africa.

The Durban Conference, or Durban I, featured what many nations have since determined to be outright antisemitism, and scholars have traced the roots of the BDS movement to that gathering.

The next step toward concrete action against Israel, after UN resolutions, comes in the form of action at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In February 2021, the ICC announced it would exercise jurisdiction over the Jewish state and “Palestine” for the purpose of investigating “potential war crimes.” The decision prompted a furious response from Israel and condemnation from the United States.

Indeed, it is unclear whether the ICC has jurisdiction. For one thing, Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the court’s founding charter. Additionally, “Palestine” does not formally exist according to international law.

Nevertheless, actions are proceeding at the ICC with the support of the Palestinian government in a manner that could realistically result in arrest warrants against Israelis around the world — from high ranking politicians, to anyone who has ever served in the IDF, to ordinary citizens who are “guilty” of having lived in the wrong location.

Last, but certainly not least, is the way in which celebrities have increasingly embraced the “apartheid” libel.

For example, supermodel Bella Hadid last May sparked a firestorm when she posted to her Instagram account, which has 42 million followers, a series of cartoons referring to Israelis as “occupiers” and Palestinians as “oppressed.”

In one cartoon, a woman tells her friend: “There is no ‘fighting’. There is only Israeli colonization, ethnic cleansing, military occupation and apartheid.”

In November, Richard Gere, Simon Pegg, and Claire Foy were among more than a hundred celebrities who signed a letter that included the “apartheid” attack, and condemned Israel’s designation of Palestinian “rights” groups as terror organizations.

That apartheid refers to the policy of racial segregation in pre-1990s South Africa, a construct that does not remotely apply to Israel, is seemingly irrelevant to the UN, ostensible human rights groups, and the media.

In fact, this is how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines apartheid:

a former policy of segregation and political, social, and economic discrimination against the nonwhite majority in the Republic of South Africa.

Now compare that description to Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.

Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, the vast majority of Palestinians have been governed by either the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or Hamas — which, mind you, is considered a terrorist group by most Western countries — in Gaza. The PA, specifically, was created with the support of the international community, with Palestinian leaders willingly agreeing to adopt partial autonomy while granting Israel security control in some disputed areas.

Israel is a country where Arabs serve as Supreme Court Justices, fighter pilots, Members of Kneset, artists, athletes, and in every facet of life, as explored in depth numerous times by HonestReporting. In a stunning irony, Omar Barghouti, the self-proclaimed co-founder of BDS and a proponent of the apartheid claim, earned his degree at the University of Tel Aviv.

Israel experiences the same racial tensions as any other modern, liberal democracy with a meaningful degree of diversity. However the legal, state sanctioned discrimination that is the very definition of apartheid is not only absent from Israel, but it is furiously combated by Israel’s laws and court system.

Israel’s basic laws and their rigorous enforcement serve as legal safeguards. In particular, the law on Human Dignity and Liberty (1992) states:

All persons are entitled to protection of their life, body and dignity.

Other laws as well as the functioning of Israel’s independent judiciary form the basis of a democratic state with equal rights for all groups, including ethnic minorities.

As such, singling Israel out exposes a double standard, and misrepresents the actual legal and practical state of affairs within the country.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

Source of original article: Gidon Ben-Zvi / Opinion – (
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