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Is Israel an apartheid state

The Philos Project's film 'Hope in the Holy Land' released on May 14, 2021, explores the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Philos Project's film "Hope in the Holy Land" released on May 14, 2021, explores the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. | Screenshot: Hope in the Holy Land

On September 22, the UN will host a conference marking the 20th anniversary of the 2001 “World Conference on Racism in Durban.” The original Durban conference was hijacked by people and a terrorist-supporting agenda rife with antisemitism. Clearly, the organizers this year missed the irony of hosting a conference 11 days after the 20th anniversary of the infamous terrorist attacks of September 11.

Today, the Durban conference and everything that has come out of it, is synonymous with hate. Delegitimization of Israel is its sole target. It should be canceled, not celebrated.

The good news is that, so far, a number of countries are boycotting the upcoming conference: Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Hungary, Netherlands, UK, the US. The bad news is that the rest of the world seems to think that there’s no problem with the UN hosting another conference whose sole purpose is to smear Israel.  That’s not new, of course, for an institution that is rarely on the right side when it comes to Israel and the Middle East. 

It’s worse, because a conference dedicated to fighting racism not only perpetuates a lie, but diminishes addressing (much less overcoming) actual rampant racism, or the suffering that people have endured.  If only the UN would take racism seriously, without deflecting the issue to bash Israel.

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Durban gave birth to the canard that Israel is an apartheid state. It paved the way for the BDS movement: boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning Israel.  No countries that foster racism were sanctioned, or even mentioned. BDS may not be about flying planes into buildings, but its terrorist intent to destroy Israel is clear enough. The founder and brainchild of BDS, Omar Barghouti, said it plainly: “It is not the occupation of the West Bank that is the problem, but the existence of Israel itself.”

The accusations of “apartheid” against Israel are likewise slanderous and dishonest. The racist laws that existed in South Africa encompassed every facet of black people’s lives, and intentionally kept them as second-class citizens. There are no such racial laws in Israel and never have been. Israel’s Declaration of Independence affirms equal rights for Arab and indeed all citizens.  Arabs serve in the government, in parliament, as Supreme Court justices, and even in the military. There are many mixed Arab-Jewish cities, and Arabs exist in just about every context of Israeli society. Calling Israel apartheid exploits and diminishes the actual suffering of those who lived under real apartheid.

Moreover, those who boycotted South Africa sought to change the system. Nobody ever sought to destroy the very existence of South Africa as a state. BDS neglects to reveal one salient fact: they are not about changing Israel for the better, but delegitimizing Israel, and ultimately advocating for its destruction.

Yes, Israel has a challenge with what Barghouti and others call “the West Bank.” The fact is, there is a very real issue of Palestinian Arabs wanting their own state, although some don’t. Israel does not want to absorb 2.5 million Palestinian Arabs as citizens of Israel specifically because Israel is a democracy and wants to remain a Jewish state. While Israel accepted a two-state solution in 1947 — with one state for Jews and another for Arabs — and the Arabs went to war to prevent Israel from becoming a state, the reality is that there never was a state called Palestine.

When people refer to Israel as an apartheid state, they want you to believe that all the suffering of the Palestinian Arabs is because of Israel, and that their experience mirrors that of the lives of black South Africans under apartheid. That’s a lie. The weapons of those who seek to delegitimize and destroy Israel are not social justice, but terror and death.  They try to oversimplify a decades-old conflict based on long-debunked propaganda.

Few see the irony in the fact that what was born at a conference about overcoming racism has devolved into a racist movement itself, embracing a hatred that is as old as Biblical history, and delegitimizing Israel as the nation of the Jewish people.  Ideally, the Durban IV conference should be canceled altogether, not just boycotted.  Barring the possibility that the UN will come to this realization, many more should boycott the September 22 conference.  If your country is not one of the ones already boycotting the conference, contact your UN Mission to express that it should be.

Actual racism is indeed a global problem and should be addressed.  Wasting resources on a conference that hijacks a conversation that needs to be had about the reality of racism with one that simply blames Israel for everything is not just wrong, it does a disservice to the world. But of course, when BDS leaders shout “justice for Palestine” they really don’t care about the well being of Palestinian Arabs. They don’t care if the victims of their economic boycott are in fact the Palestinian Arabs they claim to help. Their sole purpose is to delegitimize and destroy Israel, and no amount of scorched earth and harm to Jews and Arabs is too much to fuel their blind hatred.

The Genesis 123 Foundation is hosting a webinar on September 13 to discuss these issues.  You’re invited to join to hear the truth from the perspective of two South African natives.

Jonathan Feldstein is President and CEO of the Genesis 123 Foundation and

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