​SACHS: Israel isn’t an apartheid state

There are many misconceptions about the Jewish state

It’s that time of year again, folks.

No, I’m not talking about the time where we break out those jean cutoffs that have been growing old in our drawer all winter. I’m talking about a highly contentious week during our school year when the group Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine publically put Israel on the stand for committing the horrendous crimes of South African-like apartheid. Because we are a University composed of intellectual, truth-seeking students, it is critical that we understand the blatant inaccuracy and moral backwardness of this accusation.

First, let us turn to our main point of reference for the institution of apartheid: South Africa between 1948 and 1992. The policies of segregation implemented in racist South Africa were based solely on skin color and an upholding of white supremacy. Israel resembles nothing close to this bigoted environment and does not discriminate against race, creed or sex. In Jerusalem, the city I called home last year, I interacted daily with Israeli-Arabs who worked in local businesses and lived comfortably in the affluent city center. Just up the street from me stood the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, in which 12 Arabs hold seats (as of just before the recent elections). This situation would have been unheard of between blacks and whites in apartheid South Africa.

Now let us turn to the issue of the security wall, a structure built between the West Bank and Israel. The security wall was built as a response to the countless suicide bombings committed by Palestinians from the West Bank during the Second Intifada of 2000-05. As a result of these attacks, 1,100 Israelis died. After the implementation of this wall, the number of attacks of Palestinian terrorists and innocent deaths of Israelis decreased dramatically.

In the current status of the conflict, some argue this wall hinders the interaction between Israelis and Palestinians and acts as a means of oppression to the Palestinians living in the relatively undeveloped West Bank. Let’s humor this accusation and say yes, the wall is an emblem of apartheid. But then how would we explain the daily movement of West Bank Palestinians into Israel for work? And even more confusing would be the cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv inside Israel proper that are the homes to thousands of Palestinians. These questions can be answered by simply looking at the facts of history.

In 1948, thousands of people were displaced from the mandate of Palestine due to the creation of the Jewish State of Israel. Out of those thousands, some Arabs living on the land were encouraged to leave by Arab leaders. Indeed, some Arabs were forced to leave their homes but, coming as a shock to anti-Israel wavers of the apartheid flag, many Arabs also chose to stay. This nation would go on to become a beacon of democracy, diversity and equality and a home to people of many religions and skin colors.

For the sake of enlightened heritage of the University, we must consider our approach and our reasoning on this issue. I do not believe Israel is perfect, nor do I preach this. SPJP, by going as far as calling Israel an apartheid state, is supporting a manipulation of truth, weakening the entire legitimacy of its cause and deflecting attention away from the true problems in this highly nuanced Israeli-Palestinian issue. This cause instead appeals to the emotions of the issue rather than the facts and attacks the legitimacy of Israel as a state. You may call for freedom of Palestinians from the crippling grasp of Israel, but I call for freedom of truth for the sake of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has persisted for too long.

If you believe in peace and justice, why not protest the intolerable evils of ISIS as they commit their daily slaughtering of non-Muslims and those who support Israel and freedom? Or how about we turn our attention to the long list of things Saudi Muslim women are forbidden from doing, one of which is leaving the house without a male chaperone? Why not be up in arms against the Palestinian Authority, which states that it seeks a sovereign state for the Palestinians but some suggest is laundering money? I suppose it wouldn’t be as flashy of a cause to support. Indeed, the name Students for Peace and Justice for Palestinians Oppressed by Their Own Governing Body is quite the mouthful.

Accusing Israel of enacting the same disgusting practices of the apartheid state of South Africa is abhorrent. It is an injustice to those victims of a real apartheid system in South Africa and an injustice to the state of Israel which practices a high standard of acceptance amidst a region steeped in volatility, senseless killing and corruption. To SPJP and the supporters of this cause, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be just a fraction closer to being resolved when you retire your accusations and understand the reality of the situation.

Jennifer Sachs is a first-year in the College and board member of Hoos for Israel.

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