Is Israel an apartheid state?

Is Israel an apartheid state?

Ethopian Jews with Torah

Israel’s critics and enemies make an invidious and erroneous comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa. Those who urge a worldwide divestment from Israel use this comparison, trying to rally the same forces that used the international divestment sanction as a significant factor in toppling the white supremacy regime in South Africa. The hope of Israel?s enemies is to bring down the Jewish state. Many pro-Israel groups, including many Christian groups, have countered this effort, so far successfully.


The former South Africa was a regime in which a small minority of whites ruled over a far larger majority of blacks. The whites had complete control over the political and economic system. Blacks were denied voting rights, and any real participation in the political life of the country. There were laws prohibiting the fraternization of whites and blacks, and forbidding marriage between white and black. There was also the strict confining of blacks to specific native areas, and a general limitation on basic freedoms of all kinds.

When Israel is called a 'racist regime' like South Africa the first response is to point out that the concept of 'race' is not inherently connected with the definition of Jewish identity. There are Jews of all colors and races. And Israel is the only state in the history of mankind to have made a major effort to bring a large group of black people, (the Ethiopian Jews once called Falashas) to it in order to make them full citizens. There are no laws in Israel which even consider the subject of racial preference.

Nonetheless, those who call Israel a racist state base their accusation on an erroneous correspondence of whites in South Africa with Jews in Israel, and blacks in South Africa with Arabs in Israel. Their contention is that the same kinds of discrimination and bias that applied against blacks in South Africa, apply to Arabs in Israel. This accusation is absurd not only because of the absence of the racial component in the Israel situation but also because of the majority- minority element. The whites were a small minority in South Africa, and the Jews are the majority constituting close to eighty percent of the citizens of Israel (2003). The absurdity of the comparison is underlined further by the fact that Israel is a functioning democracy in which the Arab minority has full voting rights, and are amply represented in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

Israel's accusers respond to this line of argument by saying that they are not so much referring to apartheid in regard to Arabs living within the Jewish state, but rather to those living 'under occupation' in the West Bank and Gaza. These Arabs have no voting rights in Israel, and do not receive the broad social and medical benefits that Arabs within the state of Israel do.

Here however it is necessary to point out that since the Oslo Peace Process agreements in 1993 over ninety percent of West Bank and Gaza Arabs are not under the official rule of Israel.They are instead part of the Palestinian Authority and its government. The political social and economic responsibility for the Palestinian Arabs lies with the Palestinian Arab regime.

Against this critics of Israel point out that Israel actually has control over the Palestinian Arabs in that it limits not only their entrance into Israel, but their free movement between different parts of the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The critics of Israel will also say that like South Africa it confines the ?oppressed population? to specific areas out of which it cannot move.

This accusation brings us to one of the major differences between the South African situation, and the Israeli one. Israel has been since its very founding involved in a continual military effort at its own self-defense. The surrounding Arab nations invaded Israel in 1948, as soon as the State of Israel was declared. The Palestinian Arab population refused a state of its own alongside Israel and have been trying to undermine the Jewish state from the first day of its founding. Israel has been subject to what is arguably one of the most despicable terror campaigns mankind has ever known. Since the start of the al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000, this has included the insane use of homicide-bombers to kill and maim as many innocent Israeli civilians as possible.

The Palestinian Arab terrorists conducting this campaign have wide support from other terrorist groups and terror states in the area. The South African regime was never subject to anything close to the kind of military threats Israel has been subject to.

Israel's limitation of Arab movements not only comes as a natural effort to prevent illegal entry into Israel, but fundamentally as part of its campaign against terror. The difficult economic and social situation of the Palestinian Arabs comes in good part because they have launched what the historian Joel Fishman calls a "people's war" -- organized, controlled and financed by Yasser Arafat's terrorist groups -- against Israel in which they are determined to destroy the Jewish state even if it means regressing socially and economically themselves. Their effort to do this cost over nine hundred Israeli lives and thousands of injuries during 2000-2003. The overwhelming majority of those injuries were of innocent civilians. In contrast, Israeli actions taken in self-defense have been confined exclusively to military targets.

The correct comparison between the South African oppressive regime should be made not only with Israel but with the Arab states and the Palestinian Authority itself. This point has been made by Ariel Natan Pasko. The Palestinian Arabs' repression of their own people, their denial of freedoms, their corruption, and the use of torture against anyone who opposes the regime, fit in well with the model of the white supremacy regime in South Africa. It is the Arab states, and the potential future state represented by the Palestinian Authority itself, that do not tolerate and have persecuted minorities among them. They are the true non-democratic human rights violators of the Middle East.

Note:We gratefully acknowledge Shalom Freedman as the primary author of this page.


Note: This is a moderated site. Only comments that add value to the discussion will be published.

§ 8 Responses to Is Israel an apartheid state?

  • Mart says:

    This is a ridiculous argument

    1) if its not apartheid because the Jews are a majority, then I guess it was fine for the Nazis to do what they did (the jews being a minority in Germany)?
    2) if the arabs in the occupied territories don’t count, then you don’t know much about apartheid era South Africa… the blacks were not “South Africans” they were given citizenship of various bogus states within South Africa. They had no internation recognition, were subject to incursions by South African police and troops and were merely a mechanism to deny rights to the black people.

    The Palestinian authority is almost identical in structure – it has no international recognition as a state (in fact israel and the US won’t let them have that, see recent actions at the UN). It is subject to Israeli incursions. It also finds that 66% of the West Bank is out of bounds for Palestinians, whilst Jews are encouraged to settle on the land.

    Those of us who oppose fascism in any form, be it Nazi Germany, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, apartheid in South Africa or any other course that seeks racial segregation, and oppression of other races would wish to see Israel reform and would support the Palestinian Christians and Muslims in having equal rights in the land in which they were born and from where they originate.

    Its appalling that a Jewish state of all states is behaving in this despicable way. I support the right of the jews to live with equality, but creating a fascist state is just like a child molester using the excuse that he was molested as a child – that still doesnt make it alright.

  • Josef says:

    The only democracy in the Middle East is a Western implanted colonial state. Israel bosättnignspolitik on the West Bank is illegal and racist even the racist tract which may be used only by Jews. Racism can manifest itself in many different ways with this form may be 10/10 points. Israel out of the West Bank and admit Palestine.

    This comment has been translated from Swedish.

  • CGD says:

    This website is so biased in favor of Israel. The Israeli govt is so afraid of the truth that they have to put up websites like this full of bias and misinformation. Fortunately there are some people who are savy to the attempts of Zionists to demonize the Arabs. They are engaging in a form of anti semitism, since Palestinians are semites, that they accused the west of engaging in for centuries. The Gaza strip is like a big ghetto, except they have less freedom than the Jews in Europe.

    This whole issue is so infuriating and it is inconceivable that so many people choose to be blind about the inequality and injustice suffered by the Palestinian people; and actually swallow the lies that are fed to them by the Zionist’s. I do not oppose a Jewish state however stealing someone else’s land and then attempting to justify the theft and engage in the slow annhilation of another people in order to create a “Democratic Jewish” state…….is not only an oxymoron but a contradiction to all those religious values and commandments they represent. Thou shall not steal, thou shall not kill…oops I guess those apply to only some of us, not to the “state of Israel .

    • Kevin says:

      I think the Palestinian hatred is based off the vengeance they deserve from the Jewish hatred brewed from the fear of every Arab state around them that may have Muslim extremists just at the border. I mean, couldn’t said extremists mosey their way into Palestinian territory unnoticed and cripple the Jewish cities from the Palestinian border? They don’t have enough natural terrain defense. I understand the Palestinians have a genuine reason to be angry, but the Israelis have a genuine reason to be afraid.

  • Mark Adamson says:

    How can Israel be an apartheid state when Arabs that live in Israel have more rights than they do in Arab countries? Blockades and traffic stops are to prevent terrorists from killing innocent Israelis, be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim. What about the rockets the Hamas drop on southern Israel on a daily basis, that doesn’t even make news anymore it’s so common place. If there is horrible conditions in Gaza and Shomron (West Bank) it’s the PA and Hamas’s fault, Israel has every right to defend itself. “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” -Golda Meir

    • Jon Miren says:

      What about the indiscriminate use of white phosphorus munition (banned by international law) over civilian settlements, what about the illegal withholding of international aid that Israel is bound by law to pass to the Palestinian authority? What about the carving of Palestinian land in order to favor Jewish settlements, to the point of cutting the flow of water to Palestinian settlements so that Israeli settlers can have pools in their backyards? what about the destruction (against international law) of Bedouin settlements? what about unlawful kidnapping of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians being hold indefinitely with trial nor formal accusation? what about Israel Terrorist origin? what about the refusal to a by-national state solution?
      The rhetoric used to refute the accusation of being an apartheid state, is nothing but void of true meaning and based on semantics. Yes, being Jewish is not a race, yet that doesn’t change the fact that Israel is pursuing a policy of discrimination against non Jewish individuals within the stolen territory.
      Anyone not able to see the lack of factual or empirical argumentation in every post of this website should go to their university and ask for their tuition money back.
      This site is not a Palestine Fact site, is a pro-Israel lobbying website masquerade as an factual collection, when in fact is filled with willing omission of historical facts and empty arguments. I advice anyone looking for truthful information here to not base their conclusion solely on information obtained here.
      And as a clarification to avoid pointless discussion, no I’m not an antisemite, I support the need of a Jewish state and the existence of Israel, Yet i am against the unilateral pursue against international law and opinion of a segregation policy that begins echoing the same actions that the state was originally set out “never again” allow to happen. I am against ISRAELI (not Jewish) policy in the middle east, and by Israeli, I mean those in a position of power that refuse to listen to their own population cries for a true negotiation of an enduring peace.

    • timothy andersen says:

      Well said, Mark Adamson. You truly have knowledge of what is going on in the Middle East. The buffoons that don’t have any clue. like to babble about nonsensical stuff and call the Israelis as being racist without any facts to back it up.

  • jayj says:

    Well said, Jon Miren says. You truly have knowledge of what is going on in the Middle East. The buffoons that don’t have any clue. like to babble about nonsensical stuff and call the arabs as being racist without any facts to back it up.

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