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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2) A majority of Israeli Jews does not support the de facto segregation of Arabs, as exemplified by areas like education and housing. (This majority would undoubtedly have been considerably larger if the question had been, “Do you support the legalized segregation of Arabs in housing and education?”).

3) A majority of Israeli Jews is therefore against apartheid, not for it as claimed by the Hebrew Haaretz.

4) Most Hebrew-speaking Israelis do not understand the difference between the words “apartheid” and “discrimination” and treat the former as if it means what the latter does. This is why 58% of them said they think at least “some” apartheid exists in Israel, even though their answers to other questions indicate that they were actually thinking of nonsegregationist discrimination.

None of this is trivial. The amount of discrimination against Arabs that exists in Israel is great, and deeply disturbing. Though it may have understandable causes, it and the prejudice behind it are reprehensible. Without a concerted national effort to combat them, the situation is unlikely to improve. Nothing could bode worse for Israel’s future.

And yet at a time in which Israel has been pilloried all over the world as an “apartheid state,” it cannot be reiterated too strongly that this is a lie. Israel does not practice apartheid, nor do most of its Jewish citizens want it to. Israeli Arabs and Jews mingle freely in the country’s streets, shops, factories, offices, universities, hospitals, public transportation system, public facilities, beaches, parks, restaurants, theaters and stadiums without the least attempt to keep them apart, and this is how a majority of Israelis prefers it to be, even if many fear or dislike Arabs personally. Israel is not pre-1990 South Africa. It is not Georgia or Alabama in the 1950s. Nor, as much as one may fear for it, is it about to become so.

Haaretz should have known better than to play into the hands of Israel bashers in such a fashion. It is its right as a newspaper to be as critical as it wishes of the Israeli government and public, and it deserves praise for conducting and publishing surveys like this one, even if (as in most surveys) the questions asked were overly simplistic. For sensationalistically claiming that the results showed majority “support for an apartheid regime,” however, Haaretz deserves the strongest censure. And censured it was by the editors of its English edition, who fortunately changed “apartheid” to “discrimination,” even if they, too, printed an inaccurate headline.

Questions for Philologos can be sent to philologos@forward.com


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