Israelis Should Avoid Using Term 'Apartheid'

Discrimination Exists But No Enforced System of Segregation

Separate But Not Equal: Comparisons drawn between Israeli and apartheid policies are facile and misleading.
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Separate But Not Equal: Comparisons drawn between Israeli and apartheid policies are facile and misleading.

By Philologos

Published November 05, 2012, issue of November 09, 2012.
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“Most Israelis support an apartheid regime [mishtar apartheid] in Israel,” announced the lead headline in the October 23 issue of the left-liberal Hebrew daily Haaretz, Israel’s most internationally prestigious newspaper. “Survey: Most Israeli Jews advocate discrimination against Arab citizens,” was the translation of this headline in the same day’s English edition of the paper.

Any way you look at it, it’s shocking — though, as we shall see in a minute, not quite true. Nevertheless, “apartheid” and “discrimination” are two very different things. “Apartheid,” a word first used in its now accepted sense in Afrikaans in 1929, means the systematic segregation of one people, race or group from another, such as existed in South Africa until 1990 and in the American South, where it was commonly known as “Jim Crow,” until the early 1960s.“Discrimination” means the systematic favoring of one people, race or group over another, such as exists in numerous countries around the world today. Did the English Haaretz simply mistranslate the Hebrew Haaretz’s headline — or did it justifiably correct it?

Let’s look at the Haaretz survey. Here are some of its findings:

When a sample of Israeli Jews was asked whether there was “apartheid” (the question was posed in Hebrew, using that word) in Israel, 39% said there was “some,” 19% said there was “a lot,” 31% said there was “none” and 11% had no opinion. Asked whether Israeli Jews should be given “priority” over Israeli Arabs for government jobs, 59% said “yes” and 34% said “no.” Asked whether there was anti-Arab discrimination (aflaya) in the Israeli workplace, 50% agreed there was and 29% thought there wasn’t. Asked whether they would deny Arab citizens of Israel the right to vote, 59% said they would not, 33% said they would. Asked whether they would object to an Arab living in their building, 53% said they would not, 42% said they would. Asked whether they would object to Arab children being in their child’s class in school, 49% said they would not, 42% said they would.

Other questions in the survey had to do with attitudes toward Palestinians in the occupied territories, but the answers to these are more subject to different interpretations. What are the conclusions that can be drawn from those given here? Here are a few:

1) A majority of Israeli Jews is in favor of anti-Arab discrimination in some areas, such as government hiring. A majority is against it in other places, such as the ballot box.


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