Daniel C. Juster, Director
A few months ago during an airport layover, I came across former President Jimmy Carter's book on Israel, "Peace or Apartheid." President Carter's thesis is that Israel discriminates against the Arabs of the Land and especially in the West Bank. The Arabs do not have full political rights. Rather they are under military occupation year after year and denied the possibility of the dignity of equal rights. Recently President Carter noted that he was not choosing this title to conclude that this was the total reality, but that he was being intentionally provocative to warn against this direction. Some months ago, I reviewed this book in this letter, but President Carter's comments brought some further reflection. (See, "Zionism & Justice", Feb. '07)
The Meaning of Apartheid and Israeli Arabs
The word apartheid refers to a political system of discrimination. This was the case in the South in the United States until the civil rights legislation of the 50s and 60s. It was the case in South Africa where the term apartheid received its primary reference. While it is true that for various reasons the Palestinians in the West Bank do not have full political rights, the parallel with South Africa is a false analogy. In Israel, the Israeli Arabs (full citizens of Israel) do have rights to vote, to elect members of the Knesset (parliament), and to vote for local officials. Israeli Arabs are only the subject of discrimination with regard to Army service. Israel does not consider them good subjects for defending the Zionist State of Israel!
Other matters of unequal justice have to do with the distribution of services and benefits which is a problem in many societies. The United States today struggles with this issue, some ethnic groups and groups of underclass peoples in the U.S. do not enjoy the same benefits afforded to more empowered citizens. With regard to the Israeli Arabs, they simply do not have a strong enough political block to gain a fair share of the state treasury. This is a normal political problem, not legislated apartheid.
Apartheid and the West Bank and Gaza
The West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza present a totally different reality than apartheid. For many years, the Arab population of these areas was in limbo. Various possible solutions were put forth to solve the problem of the political rights of these people. These rights were anticipated to form part of a peace agreement. From 1948 to 1967 Jordan and Egypt ruled these areas and did not give the population citizenship or equal rights!
After the Six Day War in 1967, these territories came under the control of the government of Israel. One solution floated in the 80s was that the Arab population of the West Bank would have citizenship in Jordan and the Jewish population in Israel. A kind of Swiss canton government would be established in each area. It is important to remember that Israel has never considered the status quo the desired end of the matter. A solution for political rights for the Arab population was always the goal. This is totally unlike the former apartheid government of South Africa.
The Barak government sought to solve the problem by negotiating for a Palestinian State that would include most of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Major Jewish settlements on the boarder in the West Bank would be retained as part of Israel. In exchange, Israel would offer valuable land of equal area. According to the testimony of former President Bill Clinton, and chief U. S. mediator Dennis Ross, Israel gave more than any government of Israel could ever give while still preserving the security of Israel. They blamed Yasir Arafat and the Palestinians for the failure.
Soon after Arafat rejected this proposal, the Palestinians, with Arafat's encouragement started the second uprising, the intifada. This led to the fall of the Barak government and the election of the Sharon government. The Sharon government came up with a new solution: unilateral disengagement. The Palestinians would be given most of the territory but further territory would require peace with Israel. An intensive fight against the intifada began. A security barrier was created to stop the suicide bombers and many leaders of terror were killed. Sharon withdrew Israeli control from Gaza so the Palestinians could govern themselves. If the experiment worked, Israel would withdraw from most of the West Bank. The Palestinians would have their state.
The problem was the most powerful political faction in Gaza; Hamas did not want a state. Instead they took over Gaza, kicked out their rival political faction, Fatah and continue to wage war against Israel. Hamas does not want just the West Bank and Gaza but also Tel Aviv, Ashdod and Haifa! So now the Olmert government finds itself in a stalemate with a weak leader of the West Bank, Mohammed Abbas of Fatah, and a vicious Hamas government in Gaza.
President Carter's Unfair Book
How unfortunate that Mr. Carter's book comes out when Israel is trying its best to turn over the land of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians for their own state where they would have full political rights. However, Hamas does not believe in political rights for its people - their vision is to create a radical and oppressive Islamic state.
The current situation reminds me of the tar baby in the Uncle Remas stories; no matter how hard one tried to get rid of it, the tar baby kept sticking to one's body. The tar baby of the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank stick to Israel and Israel can not separate from them no matter what she tries. How unfair then is the criticism from President Carter. It gives credibility to the radical Arab Muslims! We have not even spoken of the numerous promises of this land as intended primarily for the Jews forever.
The Real Apartheid States
Even more unfortunate is that the true apartheid states of the world are not criticized for apartheid. Why? Because the West fears the radical Arab States and has therefore foolishly chosen the path of appeasement.
The greatest examples of apartheid in the world today are Muslim states. Non Muslim minorities do not have full political rights but according to Islam, they are to be second class (if they are allowed to live). This is the awful dimmi status in Islam. One can covert to Islam but the penalty is death for a Muslim who becomes a Christian or a Buddhist. Women are defined as owned by men. Honor killings and female circumcision (really mutilation) are horrendous. Women have no political or social rights. They are often refused schooling or access to professions. China also terribly oppresses religious believers.
I am convinced that Israel is singled out for two reasons only; anti-Semitism, and the West's fearful attempts to placate the radical Islamo-facists. It is utter spinelessness in the face of evil. Without deep biblical conviction, there is no backbone in the West to confront the real apartheid of the Muslim world. Instead Israel is attacked when she is trying to solve the problem.
|Let us know what you think - why not comment to this article. The authors of these articles are often involved in intense ministry and are thus unable to respond to most comments. As is normal with print and online magazines, Tikkun reserves the right to publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.|
Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Moshe Morrison: The Pushkie Project|
|Martin Shoub: Hand in Hand|
|Michael Cohen: Yom Kippur 5768|