Fighting Anti-Israeli Bias

Item 7



Claim 3: Israel commits apartheid against the Palestinians


Tunisia, 42nd Session

“The daily grave violations all over the Arab occupied lands and the ongoing attempts to occlude identity and impose status quo through…apartheid.”

Pakistan, 41st Session

“During the past seventy years, [the Palestinians] have been driven from their homes and their homeland, militarily occupied and obliged to live in conditions resembling apartheid.”

Saudi Arabia for the Arab Group, 41st Session

“We express our resentment to the decision of some countries to boycott Item 7, which gives the green light to the occupying power to continue its apartheid policies.”

Iran, 42nd Session

“We ask the international community to respond immediately to the aggressive, expansionist and apartheid regime.”

Our Response

UN Watch

Discrimination against Arab and other minority groups in Israel exists. But the notion that this is akin to apartheid South Africa—where the black majority was oppressed by the white minority and denied the most fundamental human rights—has no basis.[1] In apartheid South Africa, blacks were denied the vote; in Israel, Arabs, Druze, Christians and other minorities enjoy full citizenship and voting rights, with 17 currently-serving Arab Members of Knesset—nearly one sixth of the legislature—belonging to several different parties.

Unlike in apartheid South Africa, Arabs and other minorities are represented in the Knesset and on Israel’s Supreme Court; attend and teach at Israeli universities; work as doctors and receive world-class medical treatment in Israeli hospitals; and fully access public spaces alongside Jewish Israelis, such as buses, malls, restaurants, and beaches. Anyone who has walked in any public space in Israel, especially in cities with sizable Arab minorities such as Haifa and Jerusalem, will routinely encounter visible minorities such as Arab Israelis, including women proudly wearing hijabs without fear of discrimination.

The situation in the West Bank, where under the Oslo Accords jurisdiction over Palestinians and Israelis is divided between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, is more complex, but there too institutionalized racism does not exist. Checkpoints or other security measures are designed to prevent suicide bombers and other terrorists from infiltrating from Palestinian areas into Israel and killing innocents in cafés, pizza shops or discos, and are not acts of racism.

Prominent South Africans who had first-hand experience of apartheid emphatically reject the claim that Israel is an apartheid state. Frederik Willem de Klerk, the South African president who ended apartheid, stated in 2014 that “it is unfair to call Israel an apartheid state,” noting  “you have Palestinians living in Israel with full political rights,” and “you don’t have discriminatory laws against them, not letting them swim on certain beaches or anything like that.”[2]

Kenneth Meshoe, President of the African Christian Democratic Party and a member of the South African Parliament, has dismissed the Israel apartheid charge as “an empty political statement that does not hold any truth,” noting that in Israel “you see people of different colors, backgrounds and religions” interacting with each other daily. “Those who know what real apartheid is, as I know, know that there is nothing in Israel that looks like apartheid,” said Meshoe.[3]

Benjamin Pogrund, a veteran South African journalist and anti-apartheid activist, says that “those who accuse Israel of apartheid — some even say, ‘worse than apartheid’ — have forgotten what actual apartheid was, or are ignorant, or malevolent.” Although he is critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, Pogrund adds, “from my perspective, there is none of the institutionalized racism, the intentionality, that underpinned apartheid in South Africa.” Pogrund explains, “In South Africa, the white rulers deliberately set about forcing segregation and discrimination into every aspect of life; that was their intention from the start, with the aim of securing power and privilege for the white minority.”[4] However, “that is not Israel on the West Bank. There is no ideological aim to discriminate against Palestinians.”[5]

One of Israel’s most famous critics, Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the UN’s 2009 Goldstone Report which excoriated Israel over its war that year with Hamas, wrote in the New York Times that accusing Israel of apartheid “is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel.” The former South African judge said that “in Israel, equal rights are the law, the aspiration and the ideal; inequities are often successfully challenged in court.”[6]

Judge Goldstone also categorically rejected any claims of apartheid in the West Bank, stating:

There is no intent to maintain ‘an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.’ This is a critical distinction, even if Israel acts oppressively toward Palestinians there. South Africa’s enforced racial separation was intended to permanently benefit the white minority, to the detriment of other races. By contrast, Israel has agreed in concept to the existence of a Palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank and is calling for the Palestinians to negotiate the parameters.


[1] Alan Dershowitz, Alan Dershowitz: Debating BDS with Cornel West, Algemeiner (January 1, 2018),

[2] Marissa Newman, South Africa’s de Klerk: Israel not an apartheid state, Times of Israel (May 27, 2014),

[3] I know what apartheid was, and Israel is not apartheid, says S. African parliament member, Jerusalem Post (August 25, 2015),

[4] Benjamin Pogrund, Why Israel is nothing like apartheid South Africa, New York Times (March 31, 2017),

[5] Raphael Ahren, Is Israel an apartheid state? Answers from someone who’d know, Times of Israel (December 30, 2014),

[6] Richard Goldstone, Israel and the apartheid slander, New York Times (October 31, 2011),

UN Watch