This past week, as reported in the Echo, the “Students for Justice in Palestine” held a protest at the freedom wall which, not surprisingly, turned out to be rather controversial.
Now, there are many different aspects of this event one could review or criticize, from freedom of speech to the many divisions between campus organizations, but I am going to focus on the heart of the protest, the accusation of Israel being an Apartheid State.
Israel has done a very poor job in keeping up its end of the “Two State Solution” deal and its continual encroachment of Palestinian settlements is also an area of concern. As a result of these careless and ruthless actions, the Palestinian people feel oppressed and trapped. These injustices hurt any chance for Israel and Palestine to come to terms and having any legitimate chance at peace, but does this make Israel an Apartheid state?
Apartheid is a very broad idea, yet specifically used word. Apartheid was commonly used in reference to the South African Government policies that the majority, black, South African population experienced at the hands of the minority, white, South African population. The sort of oppression that the black population experienced was horrendous. My high school history teacher, Mr. Keith Kindred, often referred to it as “ The Jim Crow South on steroids.”
The land on which the Black South Africans could live was extremely regulated, every aspect of their lives was controlled to a point of near slavery. Starvation and disease were rampant and arrests by highly oppressive police forces were not uncommon. All of this was systematically done by the White population to aggressively control South Africa. It goes without saying that the Black South Africans had no political rights.
So how does Israel compare to this image of Apartheid? Well the details are a bit complicated, but the answer is simply “no.”
When looking at the conflict between Palestine and Israel, one should view it in the perspective of a static war, not entirely a social construct or domestic government policy. While Palestine is under the de-facto rule of Hamas, whose goal is to see the destruction of Israel, it begins to paint a slightly clearer picture of the conflict. Hamas has started many military conflicts with Israel and is the ultimate obstacle for any peace agreement and is highly responsible for the current condition of the Palestinian people. It was Hamas that started the six-day war and it was Hamas that used children as human shields, according to a UN report. The Wall between Palestine and Israel is not the same kind that President Trump wants between the U.S. and Mexico. The security concerns of Israel are absolutely justified and warrants concern.
Furthermore, Arabs in Israel enjoy the same legal rights and economic opportunities as the Hebrews, that's not to say there isn’t any racism taking place, but it is not a government policy as it was in South Africa.
When the now discredited and severely biased report came out that Israel was an Apartheid State, Benjamin Pogrund wrote an article for the New York Times called, “ Why Israel is Nothing like Apartheid South Africa.” He outlined many of the same points I have made regarding this issue, his viewpoint was the main inspiration of this article. Pogrund grew up in South Africa and reported on the many injustices that were occurring there.
Ultimately, Israel's approach to Palestine needs to change, but calling it an Apartheid State will misinterpret the problem and put those that use the term at risk of being played in a larger political game between Hamas and other radical Islamic terrorist groups and the rest of the world.
It is not for me to say that people shouldn’t protest and point out the injustices that have been committed, but to use the word “Apartheid” only misrepresents the problem and will lead to deeper political struggle in trying to achieve any meaningful peace. Apartheid shouldn’t be a political toy, too many South Africans suffered for that to be the case.