Stop Apartheid!

OK, that title got you reading, so what I really mean is “Stop (with the) Apartheid (rhetoric already)!”. This morning I counter-demonstrated against a group protesting against Israel, and they had “Apartheid” boldly on display. Now, I admit I can be a stickler for words (I am, after all, an author and blogger), maybe even a little OC about them at times. But my thing with “apartheid” is not nitpicking. This is strategic rhetoric designed to invalidate Israel as a Jewish state.

This morning’s demonstration was triggered by a meeting here between some New Mexico and Israeli business and high-tech people to discuss cooperation in water and energy conservation. One of the protesters had a bright orange sign that said “Don’t do business with Israeli Apartheid!” so I asked him what “Apartheid” meant. He said he didn’t know; he was just holding up the sign. I said that “Israeli Apartheid” was a lie and asked why he was holding up a sign with a lie. He said, “That’s the sign they gave me.”

Another demonstrator said that Israeli was guilty of apartheid because they did targeted assassinations (against Hamas military leaders in Gaza). I tried to explain that Hamas had declared and demonstrated itself to be at war with Israel, and this was a military strategy, which doesn’t have anything to do with apartheid.

Now, to be fair, I did speak with another young guy who was a bit more knowledgeable. His bottom line revealed the ugly truth about the apartheid rhetoric: Israel is apartheid simply because it’s a Jewish state. Simply because it claims to be the national homeland of the Jewish people, it’s racist, apartheid and all the rest. Every state on the planet, this guy was implying, should be a pluralistic, secular, church-and-state separated set-up like the USA. I did ask him why it’s OK for President Obama (along with most others) to refer to “the Islamic Republic of Iran,” but it’s not fair for there to be a Jewish state of Israel, but I didn’t get much response.

“Apartheid” casts the Jewish people in the land of Israel as colonialists, as a powerful, European-backed minority oppressing a native population. Never mind that there have always been Jews in the land of Israel (as even the protesters admitted this morning), or that Jews have been the majority population in the whole city of Jerusalem since the 1860s, long before there was any thought of West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem, or that the Arab population west of the Jordan mushroomed after the Jewish population started to grow.

The apartheid rhetoric invalidates any kind of Jewish state as wrong because it’s Jewish. From this perspective, Israel could solve all its problems and atone for all its shortcomings, and that wouldn’t solve a thing.

For me, that’s a good reason to stand up, even out on the streets, in support of Israel as Israel – the national homeland of the Jewish people.