Fighting Anti-Israeli Bias

Countering
Item 7

THE UNHRC'S STANDING AGENDA ITEM
TARGETING ISRAEL

Claims

Claim 24: Israel practices institutional racism and apartheid against the Palestinians

examples

Malaysia, 48th Session

“Malaysia urges Israel to immediately stop its flagrant violations of international law, including the inhumane, colonial and apartheid practices towards the Palestinians.”

Kuwait, 48th Session

“The ongoing apartheid policy and ethnic cleansing requires us to call upon the Human Rights Council to take measures to end these practices.”

Indonesia, 48th Session

“The absence of independent and impartial accountability for grave human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity as emboldened Israel to continue…the imposition of its apartheid regime.”

Pakistan, 47th Session

“Illegal settlements have created a humanitarian desert for the Palestinian people, as they are victims of decades-long apartheid policies.”

Lebanon, 47th Session

“The occupying power acts as if it is above the law…In addition to the policies of discrimination and apartheid, there are plans for extending the settlements.”

Iran, 47th Session

“The increased occupation of Palestine, coupled with mushrooming of further illegal settlements, have led to…a colonial or apartheid-like governing structure infringing the rights of the indigenous population to equality, as well as the right to be free from social, racial, and ethnic discrimination and apartheid.”

Our Response

UN Watch

These accusations are part of a concerted campaign led by a number of NGOs, including Amnesty International[1] and Human Rights Watch,[2] to delegitimize Israel as an inherently racist endeavor which—just like the apartheid regime in South Africa—must be dismantled. In essence it is a revival of the infamous 1975 “Zionism is racism” resolution rejecting Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination.”[3] Thus, by denouncing Israel as institutionally racist, Algeria, Kuwait, Mauritania, Namibia and others categorically reject the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in Israel under any circumstances.

This charge is meant to demonize Israel and encourage punitive measures against it by the international community, such as discriminatory BDS. Ignoring massive systemic persecution of minorities in other countries—including China which imprisons more than one million ethnic Uighurs in concentration camps, Russia which occupies Crimea and persecutes Crimean Tatars, Sudan where ethnic strife that has been labeled genocide continues today, and Mauritania which has 500,000 slaves—and holding Israel to a different standard than the rest of the world, makes this claim antisemitic.

Moreover, as detailed in our responses to Claims 3 and 4, the accusation is patently false. Like in many other countries, discrimination against minorities, including Arabs, Ethiopians and others, exists in Israel. However, there is no institutionalized racism in Israel. Israel’s approximately two million Arabs (20% of the population) have full citizenship and voting rights. Fifteen Israeli Arabs from multiple parties were elected to the 24th Knesset in March 2021.[5] The Muslim Arab Ra’am party led by Mansour Abbas was part of the Bennett/Lapid unity government, which also included left-wing and right-wing political parties. Arab Israelis serve in high level government and military positions as well as in senior roles in the private sector. Public facilities in Israel, including buses, malls, restaurants and beaches are open to all without discrimination. Simply put, there is no comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa.

Similarly, Israel does not have a policy of institutional racism in the West Bank or Gaza where the Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and are subject to the jurisdiction of their own government. The situation in those areas is not one of racial discrimination, but of a political and military conflict, dating back well over a century, to which Israel is entitled under international law to respond in self-defense with security measures to protect its citizens.

Unfortunately, the Oslo peace process of the mid-1990s saw an outbreak of suicide bombings in Israeli cities and towns, a phenomenon that was further escalated in the early 2000s with a bloody five-year Palestinian terror campaign against Israelis, in which more than 1,000 Israelis were killed and thousands more injured.[6] During that time, Palestinian terror attacks against civilians—on buses, in restaurants, markets and dance clubs—were an almost daily occurrence, including deadly suicide bombings and other explosives and shooting attacks.[7] By 2005, Israel was able to bring the violence to an end by implementing a variety of military and security measures designed to protect the Israeli civilian population, including its security barrier.[8] In addition, in 2005, Israel completely withdrew its armed forces and civilian population from the Gaza Strip.

This accusation that Israel is institutionally racist is an example of how the Palestinians and their supporters have weaponized the language of international law in service of a political agenda. Arguing that all of Israel’s security measures are racist because they are directed at the population in the Palestinian territories, notwithstanding the terrorist threats coming from that territory, dilutes the meaning of racism and turns it on its head. Denying Israel the right to adopt basic security measures denies Israel its right to self-defense. This effectively denies the rights of the Jewish people to self-determination in their historic national homeland while legitimizing Palestinian terrorist attacks against Jews due to their ethnic and religious identity.

Finally, as set out in our response to Claim 3, many prominent South Africans who experienced apartheid first-hand emphatically reject the claim that Israel is an apartheid state, including Frederik Willem de Klerk, the South African President who ended apartheid,[9] Kenneth Meshoe, President of the African Democratic Party and a member of parliament,[10] Judge Richard Goldstone, judge on South Africa’s Constitutional Court appointed by Nelson Mandela and author of the UN’s 2009 Goldstone Report,[11] and Benjamin Pogrund, a veteran South African journalist and anti-apartheid activist.[12]

Likewise in a 2017 interview, head of the Red Cross delegation Israel Jacques de Maio, absolutely rejected the comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa. He said:

The Red Cross was very familiar with the regime that prevailed in South Africa during the apartheid period, and we are responding to all those who raise their claim of apartheid against Israel: No, there is no apartheid here, no regime of superiority of race, of denial of basic human rights to a group of people because of their alleged racial inferiority. There is a bloody national conflict, whose most prominent and tragic characteristic is its continuation over the years, decades-long, and there is a state of occupation. Not apartheid.[13]

[1] Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel system of domination and crime against humanity, Amnesty International (February 1, 2022), https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde15/5141/2022/en/.

[2] A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, Human Rights Watch (April 27, 2021), https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution.

[3] United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 (XXX) (November 10, 1975), https://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/761C1063530766A7052566A2005B74D1.

[4] Eugene Kontorovich, HRW Crosses the Threshold into Falsehoods and Anti-Semitic Propaganda, Kohelet Policy Forum (April 26, 2021), https://en.kohelet.org.il/publication/hrw-crosses-the-threshold-into-falsehoods-and-anti-semitic-propaganda.

[5] Current Knesset Members of the Twenty-Fourth Knesset, The Knesset (last visited April 28, 2021), https://knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mkindex_current_eng.asp?view=1.

[6] The Situation on the eve of the Second Intifada (2000), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (last visited November 26, 2019), https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/AboutIsrael/Maps/Pages/Situation-on-the-eve-of-the-Second-Intifada.aspx

[7]Victims of Palestinian Violence and Terrorism since September 2000, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (last visited November 26, 2019), https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/terrorism/palestinian/pages/victims%20of%20palestinian%20violence%20and%20terrorism%20sinc.aspx.

[8] Jonathan Schachter, The End of the Second Intifada? Institute for National Security Studies (October 2010), https://www.inss.org.il/he/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/systemfiles/(FILE)1289897140.pdf.

[9] Marissa Newman, South Africa’s de Klerk: Israel not an apartheid state, Times of Israel (May 27, 2014), https://www.timesofisrael.com/south-africas-de-klerk-israel-not-an-apartheid-state/#gs.gd4njv.

[10] I know what apartheid was, and Israel is not apartheid, says S. African parliament member, Jerusalem Post (August 25, 2015), https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/I-know-what-apartheid-was-and-Israel-is-not-apartheid-says-S-African-parliament-member-413101.

[11] Benjamin Pogrund, Why Israel is nothing like apartheid South Africa, New York Times (March 31, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/opinion/why-israel-is-nothing-like-apartheid-south-africa.html.

[12] Richard Goldstone, Israel and the apartheid slander, New York Times (October 31, 2011), https://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/opinion/israel-and-the-apartheid-slander.html.

[13] Sever Plocker, ICRC official: Israel is not an apartheid state, but there is occupation, Ynet (April 26, 2017), https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4953648,00.html.

These accusations are part of a concerted campaign led by a number of NGOs, including most recently B’Tselem[1] and Human Rights Watch,[2] to delegitimize Israel as an inherently racist endeavor which—just like the apartheid regime in South Africa—must be dismantled. In essence it is a revival of the infamous 1975 “Zionism is racism” resolution rejecting Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination.”[3] Thus, by denouncing Israel as institutionally racist, Algeria, Kuwait, Mauritania, Namibia and others categorically reject the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in Israel under any circumstances.

This charge is meant to demonize Israel and encourage punitive measures against it by the international community, such as discriminatory BDS. Furthermore, the charge itself is discriminatory as it singles out only the Jewish state for condemnation for the crime of “apartheid,” an accusation that has never been lodged against any government other than the South Africa apartheid regime.[4] Ignoring massive systemic persecution of minorities in other countries—including China which imprisons more than one million ethnic Uighurs in concentration camps, Russia which occupies Crimea and persecutes Crimean Tatars, Sudan where ethnic strife that has been labeled genocide continues today, and Mauritania which has 500,000 slaves—and holding Israel to a different standard than the rest of the world, makes this claim antisemitic.

Moreover, as detailed in our responses to Claims 3 and 4, the accusation is patently false. Like in many other countries, discrimination against minorities, including Arabs, Ethiopians and others, exists in Israel. However, there is no institutionalized racism in Israel. Israel’s approximately two million Arabs (20% of the population) have full citizenship and voting rights. Fifteen Israeli Arabs from multiple parties were elected to the 24th Knesset in March 2021.[5] The Muslim Arab Ra’am party led by Mansour Abbas is part of the current unity government, which also includes left-wing and right-wing political parties. Arab Israelis serve in high level government and military positions as well as in senior roles in the private sector. Public facilities in Israel, including buses, malls, restaurants and beaches are open to all without discrimination. Simply put, there is no comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa.

Similarly, Israel does not have a policy of institutional racism in the West Bank or Gaza where the Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and are subject to the jurisdiction of their own

[1] A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid, B’Tselem (January 12, 2021), https://www.btselem.org/publications/fulltext/202101_this_is_apartheid.

[2] A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, Human Rights Watch (April 27, 2021), https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution.

[3] United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 (XXX) (November 10, 1975), https://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/761C1063530766A7052566A2005B74D1.

[4] Eugene Kontorovich, HRW Crosses the Threshold into Falsehoods and Anti-Semitic Propaganda, Kohelet Policy Forum (April 26, 2021), https://en.kohelet.org.il/publication/hrw-crosses-the-threshold-into-falsehoods-and-anti-semitic-propaganda.

[5] Current Knesset Members of the Twenty-Fourth Knesset, The Knesset (last visited April 28, 2021), https://knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mkindex_current_eng.asp?view=1.

UN Watch