Rich Lowry: No, Israel is not an apartheid state

(Adel Hana | AP photo) A Palestinian militant stands guard during a military drill organized by military factions outside Gaza City, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020.

The charge of apartheid is the new blood libel.

As Hamas rains rockets down on Israel, members of the Squad in Congress and other left-wing enemies are using the occasion to amplify their accusation that Israel is an “apartheid state.”

This is a transparent attempt to delegitimize — and isolate and ultimately destroy — the Jewish state by associating it with a racist regime that the world united to squeeze out of existence.

Rashida Tlaib, the Democratic congresswoman from Michigan, says that Israel is “promoting racism and dehumanization” under an “apartheid system,” and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota refers to “Israel’s apartheid government.”

The charge is given a patina of legitimacy by Human Rights Watch, which recently issued a 213-page report devoted to the allegation, and other anti-Israel organizations that understand the accusation’s potential power to define Israel out of the circle of advanced democracies.

It doesn’t take much moral discernment to understand, even if one takes a harshly critical view of how Israel conducts itself, that it is nothing like an apartheid regime in South Africa that depended on a rigorously enforced system of racial repression.

The Arab minority in Israel (about 20% of the population) may face obstacles, but it is not treated like black South Africans.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and her ideological compatriots tweeted the other day, “Apartheid states aren’t democracies,” which nailed the point, just not the way they intended.

Israel is a democracy that affords its Arab citizens full rights. They vote in elections and Arab parties sit in parliament. These parties obviously have a profoundly different worldview than the Zionist parties, which has been a barrier preventing cooperation between them. But this year, in a first, Arab parties were part of the negotiations over forming a new government before they broke down.

Arab Israelis are full participants in Israeli society. There are Arab justices on the Supreme Court. About 20% of doctors in Israel and about half of pharmacists are Arab. Roughly 17% of students seeking an undergraduate degree are Arab, a number has roughly doubled over the last decade.

As Steve Kramer of The Times of Israel puts it, “They arguably are the most free Arabs in the Middle East.”

Then, there are the Palestinian territories, where there is a marked lack of democracy courtesy of the Palestinians themselves.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who is still serving a four-year term that began about 15 years ago, cancelled new elections scheduled for May 22. He found a way to blame Israel for this move, of course, but the bottom line is that his party, Fatah, feared Hamas would win, as it did in the last Palestinian election back in 2006.

The Palestinians have made postponing elections into a high political art, in keeping with the lack of democratic accountability in other neighboring Arab states.

How Israel should handle the threat of another terror state devoted to its destruction arising on its borders is, any fair-minded person should concede, an inherently difficult question.

It has offered the Palestinians a state twice, in 2000 and 2008, to no avail.

Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip entirely in 2005. It can’t be blamed for Hamas winning the elections in 2006, taking over Gaza in a coup against Fatah a year later, and misgoverning the territory ever since, with an emphasis on using it as a base from which to wage war against Israel.

Much is made of its border controls in Gaza and the West Bank, but a border isn’t a denial of citizenship rights, rather a demarcation between two societies. If the Palestinians would ever accept the right of Israel to exist and embrace a program of peaceful development, they’d get their own sovereign state.

Instead, they want to wipe Israel from the map, and are getting an assist from purveyors of the malicious lie that Israel is morally indistinguishable from the old, racist South Africa.

Rich Lowry Courtesy photo

Rich Lowry is editor of National Review.

Twitter, @RichLowry