In February, Amnesty International, an NGO that prides itself on “campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all,” published a scathing report accusing the Jewish state of the crime of apartheid. The report, “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: A Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity,” waxes on for 200-odd pages, filling page after page with charges, slanders and slurs and passing it off as the so-called evidence of Israel’s “institutionalized and systematic discrimination against Palestinians within the framework of the definition of apartheid under international law.” Complete with maps and moving pictures, the report uses emotive language to tug at the heartstrings and rally a troop of outraged human rights advocates to take Israel to task over this gross injustice. There’s just one problem: there is no apartheid in Israel.
Taking a page from Amnesty International’s book, I could fill 200-odd pages with evidence refuting the apartheid accusation against Israel. Yet I’ll leave the repudiation to those who know best: Africans who actually experienced apartheid or who saw the system unfold.
“I was born and lived under apartheid, and this [Amnesty International] report erases our experience—the denial of an adequate education; the restrictions on where we could live, who we could be with. It attempts to redefine what we went through, and so trivializes and negates it. It does a disservice to those who suffered and died so that black people could be treated equally.”
—Olga Meshoe Washington, a South African native and CEO of Defend Embrace Invest Support Israel International, in “Calls for Amnesty Charity Probe over Israel ‘Apartheid’ Smear”
“In apartheid South Africa, backs could not vote at all. They had no representation in government at all. In Israel, if you are an Israeli citizen, you can vote, whether you are white, black, brown, purple, olive, orange or yellow. If you are a citizen of Israel, you have representation. One vote, one person. If you are an Arab in Israel, if you are a citizen, you can vote. Doesn’t sound like apartheid to me.”
—Joshua Washington, director of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
“As a black South African…I have often heard the accusation that Israel is an apartheid state…I recently made a trip to Israel and the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] to understand the issues and the prospects for resolving the conflict…My visit to the region confirmed for me that there is no meaningful comparison between Israel and the former apartheid regime in South Africa. I grew up under apartheid. I saw my parents being humiliated under apartheid. The scars of apartheid still live with us to this day and are strongly embedded in the psychology of my people…It appears that those who compare Israel to apartheid South Africa do not understand the fundamentals of apartheid, nor have they experienced it.”
—Tshediso Mangope, South African human rights activist and senior researcher at the ANC Parliamentary Caucus in “I’m a South African Activist Who Used to Fight Against Israel—Until I Went There”
“What South African freedom fighters laid down their lives for and went into exile, the Arabs in Israel already have. They can vote—and have their elected representatives in the Israeli government. Arabs can choose where to live, where and how to travel and where to get an education…For us, that would have been illegal. Where are the similarities? Where is the apartheid? Those who push this lie trivialize our pain. And that is insulting. They have every opportunity we did not have. They have rights and freedoms we could only dream of—and still want to say they suffer like black South Africans did? It reduces our painful past to something tedious.”
—Rev. Kenneth Meshoe, South African member of Parliament
“I, personally, will no longer allow other people to use our tragedy, as the survivors of apartheid, for their own agenda. Your sense of solidarity should be informed. And the problems between Israel and Palestine should never be compared to South African apartheid; the current conflict is completely different…”
—Lesiba Bapela, South African social justice activist and All Faculty Council chairperson of the University of the Witwatersrand Student Representative Council in “Stop Using Apartheid for Your Own Agenda”
“As a Kenyan, I saw how the voices of Africans were exploited by the widespread and false comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa. The unfortunate circumstances and struggles of the Palestinian people are largely perpetuated by their own leaders, whose political strategy determines that the worse things are for Palestinians on the ground, the more convincing their case against Israel. These are the same leaders who compare the Palestinian people’s situation to apartheid South Africa, robbing South Africans of their history and cheapening it, in order to gain sympathy and financing from the international community.”
—Zenobia Ravji, writer/journalist in “New African Perspectives on Israel and the Palestinians”
“Most American college students are not really familiar with what happened in South African apartheid and don’t know what they’re talking about when discussing it in relation to Israel. I come from a country whose people were the architects of apartheid. It’s easy for American college students to label Israel as an ‘apartheid state’ merely because they heard it from BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] activists. They don’t realize they are being lied to, and that’s what we are trying to stop.”
— Klaas Mokgomole, former member of BDS and current coordinator of Africans for Peace in “South Africans Denounce Anti-Israel Activists for ‘Hijacking’ Apartheid”
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