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DECONSTRUCTING "ISRAELI APARTHEID" TO EXCUSE BDS
Deconstructing "Israeli Apartheid":
Countering the incessant lies on your campus and in the Media

March 19, 2012
 
While Israel's adversaries have always charged the country with many misdeeds, only relatively recently have these alleged transgressions coalesced into the so-called BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), modeled after the campaign against apartheid South Africa, and based on the allegation that Israel too is an apartheid state and should cease to exist. An integral part of the BDS campaign is Israeli Apartheid Week on some college campuses, featuring speakers, demonstrations and street theater meant to illustrate the claim that Israel is, simply put, bad. So bad that, like apartheid South Africa, it is illegitimate and should cease to exist.
 
When examined in detail, however, the apartheid charges fall apart, since Israel is, in fact, a progressive and liberal democracy. Unlike neighboring Arab countries Israel has free elections, a free press, full religious freedom, and full rights for women and minorities, including gays. In Israel there are Arab legislators in the Knesset, Arab diplomats in the Foreign Ministry, Arab generals in the Israel Defense Forces, and also Arab judges. In fact, it was an Arab District Court judge ( George Karra) who recently sentenced former Israeli President Moshe Katzav to jail, and an Arab Supreme Court Justice who upheld the sentence (Salim Joubran).
 
In fact, in many ways even Arabs who lived under Israeli administration in Gaza and the West Bank had more rights than they have today under Hamas rule in Gaza, or under PA rule in the West Bank, and more rights also than the citizens of any Arab country.
 
A full analysis can be found in Deconstructing "Israeli Apartheid", which is excerpted below. 
 
Israeli Apartheid Week, and charges of Israeli apartheid generally, are based on a monstrous series of lies, an inversion of reality that targets the only open and liberal democracy in the Middle East, in favor of promoting those states and movements that are enemies of human rights and democracy.
 
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Please use the information in the alert as background for your own letter. Do not copy and paste directly from the alert and do not forward it to the media.
 
The Israel apartheid charge is becoming more and more common. The information outlined below can help you to fight back with convincing facts and details.
 
If you are associated with a college or university, stand up against Israeli Apartheid Week or any anti-Israel conferences or speakers coming to the campus. If you are an alumnus, alumna, student, parent of a student, faculty, donor or live near a university:
    Find out if the university or college is holding or has recently held an Israeli Apartheid Week or other anti-Israel conference or event Write to the President, Provost and/or Dean Write to the local newspaper or to the campus newspaper Make them aware that the claims of Israeli Apartheid are false Let them know that far from being an apartheid state, Israel is the only open liberal democracy in the entire Middle East Use some of the information in the In Detail section below to write your letters Insist that no university funds be spent to support Israel Apartheid events Require that the university stand up not only for free speech, but also for honest speech and academic integrity Based on the response, consider whether you want to continue the support you may be giving to the university
Please send blind copies (bcc) of your correspondence to letters@camera.org
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Apartheid Charges versus the Facts
 
The anti-Israel charges leveled by the Israel apartheid sites, to the extent they can be checked at all, are usually based on phony or nonexistent sources. To see this it's instructive to take a close look at one of the leading Israel apartheid sites, ItisApartheid.org . As we shall see, actually tracking down the sources and facts shows that they simply have no case, and that their charges can only be attributed to prejudice or reckless ignorance. 
 
The Ethnic Cleansing Charge
 
Myth: Israel is guilty of ethnic cleansing. One of the site's key "fact sheets," on the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, charges that:
Ethnic cleansing in Palestine began with the idea that Palestinian Arabs would never consent to giving up lands for European Jews to settle on after World War II.
 
From the outset, Israel's first leader, David Ben-Gurion, made clear the intentions of Israel's Zionist movement when he said in 1937: "We must expel Arabs and take their place. But one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as war."

Fact: This alleged quotation is bogus -- the first sentence mangled, and the second simply invented. David Ben-Gurion's actual sentiments were the opposite of what is charged here.
 
Certainly there are many websites with essentially the above quotation, but that is not enough -- as historians know, one must always depend upon, as much as possible, primary sources. And as with so many other alleged "Zionist quotes," the primary source here paints a very different picture. According to Professor Efraim Karsh, who went to the archives to examine the original 1937 document (a handwritten letter from Ben-Gurion to his son Amos), here is what the relevant passage actually said:
We do not wish and do not need to expel Arabs and take their places. All our aspiration is built on the assumption -- proven throughout all our activity in the Land [of Israel] -- that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs. (Efraim Karsh, Fabricating Israeli History, p. 49-50; A Chameleon, Nevertheless)

That is, as indicated above, Ben-Gurion said exactly the opposite of what this and other apartheid websites would have their readers believe. And the letter to his son was no exception -- on many other occasions Ben-Gurion made similar declarations about coexistence with the Arabs, and the rights that Arab citizens would have in Israel. For instance, ten years after the letter, in a speech on December 13, 1947, Ben-Gurion said:
In our state there will be non-Jews as well -- and all of them will be equal citizens; equal in everything without exception; that is, the state will be their state as well. ... The attitude of the Jewish state to its Arab citizens will be an important factor -- though not the only one -- in building good neighborly relations with the Arab states. If the Arab citizen will feel at home in our state, and if his status will not be in the least different from that of the Jew, and perhaps better than the status of the Arab in an Arab state ... then Arab distrust will accordingly subside and a bridge to a Semitic, Jewish-Arab alliance, will be built. (Karsh, Fabricating Israeli History , p67; for an excerpt of this see Karsh's article The Palestinians and the "Ri ght of Return", Commentary, p26)

Charges Regarding Water
 
Myth: Both in its overview and in the fact sheet Water as an instrument of Apartheid in the Occupied Territories, Israel is charged with water apartheid. According to the overview, Israeli Apartheid in the Occupied Territories:
The Israeli military authority controls virtually all the water in the West Bank. 73% of West Bank water is piped back to Israel. Illegal Jewish settlers use 10% of West Bank water.

Fact: First of all, the citation given to support these charges -- a report by the Israeli organization B'Tselem -- actually says nothing of the sort. Nowhere in the report, for example, does it say or imply that "73% of West Bank water is piped back to Israel," or that any water from the West Bank is piped back to Israel.
 
The fact sheet Water as an instrument of Apartheid in the Occupied Territories repeats a similar charge, this time with a citation that at least seems to offer support for the charges:

Control of the occupied territories by Israel is all about the control of water and other resources. Israel controls all of the water in the West Bank including aquifers under Palestinian territory and currently 83% is piped to Israel or used in the settlements, which is illegal under international law...

The facts, however, clearly contradict this charge. Israel does not take "Palestinian water," and no water is piped from the West Bank into Israel. Israel obtains roughly 50 percent of its water from the Sea of Galilee and the Coastal Aquifer, both of which are entirely within Israel's pre-1967 lines. Another 30 percent comes from the Western and Northeastern Aquifers of the Mountain Aquifer system. These aquifers straddle the Green Line separating Israel from the West Bank, but most of the stored water is under pre-1967 Israel, making it easily accessible only in Israel.
 
The reason the water is mostly under Israel, and accessible there, is easily understood: Israel, with a Mediterranean coastline (that is, at sea level), is at a lower elevation than the West Bank, and under gravity the underground water flows down to the lowest point, which is Israel. For the same reason, the aquifer is much closer to the surface in Israel, and therefore more accessible there, than in the higher elevations of the West Bank.
 
Thus, even in the 1950s, when the West Bank was occupied by Jordan, Israel used 95 percent of the Western Aquifer's water, and 82 percent of the Northeastern Aquifer's water. Today, Israel's share of these aquifers has declined to 83 percent and 80 percent, respectively. That is, under direct Israeli administration the Palestinian share of these aquifers has actually increased.
 
It is therefore simply ludicrous to claim that Israel's use of this water (which began in the 1920's during the pre-state era) is "illegal under international law."
 
In addition, every year over 40 MCM (million cubic meters) of water from sources within Israel is piped over the Green Line for Palestinian use in the West Bank. Ramallah, for example, receives over 10 MCM annually. And despite the virtual declaration of war against Israel by the Hamas rulers of Gaza, Israel still sends to Gaza over 4 MCM of Israeli water annually. Thus, it is the Palestinians who are using Israeli water.
 
And not just the Palestinians. Despite its own meager supply, Israel annually provided 600,000 CM of water to ten otherwise dry villages in South Lebanon, and under its peace treaty with Jordan provides more than 55 MCM annually to the Kingdom. Perhaps no other country in the world, facing the severe shortages that Israel does, has shared so much water with its neighbors.
 
Myth: Palestinian usage per person has actually declined since 1967:

Palestinians had more water available per person before the 1967 invasion and occupation of the West bank and Gaza than they do now.

Fact: This charge is a vast inversion of reality. In fact, in the period from 1967 to 1995 West Bank Palestinians increased their domestic water use (ie, home use) by 640%, from 5.4 MCM to 40 MCM (Judea-Samaria and the Gaza District -- A 16 Year Survey 1967-1983, Israel, Ministry of Defense, 1983; Arnon Soffer, The Israeli Palestinian Conflict over Water Resources, Palestine-Israel Journal, Volume 5, No. 1, 1998). By way of comparison, in the same 28 year period Israeli domestic usage increased by just 142% (Statistical Abstract of Israel 1996, V47)
 
Total use (domestic, industrial and agricultural) also increased: In 1967 total Palestinian usage in the West Bank was 60 MCM, amounting to a per capita annual usage of 85.7 CM, while in 2006 total usage had tripled to 180 MCM, amounting to a per capita annual usage of 100 CM (see The Issue of Water between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel Water Authority, 2009; p 15)
 
This huge jump in Palestinian consumption was possible only because Israel drilled or permitted the drilling of over 50 new wells for the Palestinian population, laid hundreds of kilometers of new water mains and connected hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns to the newly built water system, and supplied Israeli water to the Palestinians through this new system. (Background: Water, Israel and the Middle East, Israel Foreign Ministry 1991; Marcia Drezon-Tepler, Contested Waters and the Prospects for Arab-Israeli Peace, Middle Eastern Studies, Vol 30, No. 2, April 1994)
 
To summarize, the "apartheid" water charges could not be more false. Israeli water, drilled in Israel, is piped over the Green Line into the West Bank for Palestinian use, and therefore it is the Palestinians who are using Israeli water. More details are available here, here and here.
 
Alleged Apartheid within Israel
 
There are at least two separate fact sheets dealing with alleged apartheid within Israel: Apartheid and Discrimination in the State of Israel and Discriminatory Laws in the State of Israel. Somewhat confusingly, there is also a PDF version of the first fact sheet with a slightly different title, and somewhat different content: Apartheid and Discrimination inside the State of Israel.
 
Myth: As with the other fact sheets, the Apartheid and Discrimination fact sheet is filled with blatant falsehoods and distortions. For example, it includes Israel's Law of Return in a listing of supposedly apartheid laws:

Beginning with the rights of residence and citizenship, the Law of Return grants immigrant and residency rights to anyone who claims a Jewish identity (defined as a child or grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew, and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew) but refuses the right of return to Palestinians and their descendants who were expelled in 1948.

Fact: The Law of Return is neither racist not peculiarly Israeli. Similar laws have been in effect in such democracies as Mexico, Ireland, Finland, Greece, Poland, Germany, Italy, and Denmark. Furthermore, such laws are expressly permitted by, for example, the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965). According to Article 1(3) of this convention, nations are permitted to favor certain groups for citizenship provided there is no discrimination against any particular group.
 
Furthermore, Article 1(4) provides for "affirmative action." That is, a state may employ a preference in granting citizenship to undo the effects of prior discrimination. In the case of Israel such prior episodes of discrimination are clear: the British decision in 1939, for example, to bar Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine, thereby consigning millions of Jews to deaths in the crematoria of Europe. To an exceedingly small degree, the Law of Return helps to mitigate this wrong.
 
As stated above, other democracies have similar laws. For example, in Ireland the the appropriate minister can waive the usual requirements for citizenship under various conditions including:

Where the person is of Irish descent or of Irish associations, or is a parent or guardian applying on behalf of a minor child of Irish descent or Irish associations.

The text of the full Irish law makes clear just how widely the concept of descent or associations is defined:

Section 16 of the Principal Act is amended by the insertion of the following subsection:

"2) For the purposes of this section a person is of Irish associations if--

(a) he or she is related by blood, affinity or adoption to a person who is an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen, or

(b) he or she was related by blood, affinity or adoption to a person who is deceased and who, at the time of his or her death, was an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen."

The Irish "law of return" is therefore even more expansive than Israel's, as it does not cut off at the level of the grandparent. Would those who accuse Israel over its Law of Return charge that Ireland, Greece, Poland, Finland, Germany and Denmark are also apartheid states?
 
Myth: Before 1948 Arabs owned most of the land in Israel, which the Jews proceeded to steal:
In 1945, Palestinians owned 85% of arable land. The U.N. Conciliation Commission estimated that about 80 percent of the land in what is today Israel is property formerly owned by Palestinians that was confiscated by Jewish organizations like the Jewish Agency. Until recently Palestinians were forbidden by Israeli law from owning it or leasing it.
 

Fact: It is true that the cited reference, Progress Report of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (A/1985 20 November 1951) does make roughly this claim at one point, though concerning total land, not "arable land":

36. The Office estimated that the extent of the land abandoned by Arab refugees is 16,324 square kilometres, of which 4,574 square kilometres are cultivable.

Since Israel's total land area is approximately 20,250 square kilometers, the claimed Arab holding would be approximately 81% of the country's land area. However, this number is absurdly large when compared with data from British surveys during the Palestine Mandate, which showed that the vast majority of the country's land was state land, belonging neither to Jews nor Arabs, but to the sovereign. It is no surprise, therefore, that elsewhere in the report much more realistic figures are given. Specifically, Appendix 1, Paragraph 15, presents a table on the "total extent of abandoned Arab land":

PCC Report land table
Now, considering that 1000 dunams equals a square kilometer, the table shows that total Arab holdings amounted to just 4,589 square kilometers, which would be about 23%, rather than 80%, of the country. But even this is an overstatement, since the vast majority of the Negev was so-called "mewat" land under the Ottoman Land Code, and therefore state land rather than privately held land. Subtracting out the alleged Negev holdings would leave 2,754 square kilometers as the total of privately-held Arab land, or approximately 14% of the country. By way of comparison, the total of privately-held Jewish land prior to the war was approximately 8.6%. The bottom line is that the claim that Arabs had owned more than 80% of the country is a vast overstatement.
 
Myth: The higher infant mortality among Arab citizens of Israel, and the growing gap as compared to Jewish citizens, is yet another example of the country's discriminatory policies:

Infant mortality rates among Arabs are twice those among Jews. The gap has existed since the establishment of the state and has grown over the years.

Fact: The infant mortality rate in Israel among Arabs is higher than it is for Jews, but the rate for Arab Christians is similar to that for Jews, and in some recent years actually lower than for Jews. This shows quite clearly that alleged anti-Arab discrimination is not the reason for the higher infant mortality rate for Israeli Arab Muslims. And rather than the gap growing over the years, the opposite is true -- the gap has declined tremendously, thanks to intensive efforts by the Israeli health authorities. The following table from Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics shows the impressive results:

Infant mortality rates

The average infant-mortality rates in the period 2001-2004 and the rates in 2010, for Jews, Arab Christians, Arab Muslims and Arab Druzes, break down as follows: (Sources: Statistical Abstract of Israel 2011, Table 3.1 and Infant Mortality 1997-2004 Demographic and Health Characteristics, Table 2, p 62)

  Jews Arab Christians Arab Muslims Druze
2001-2004 3.6 3.1 8.6 5.9
2010 2.7 2.8 7.3 3.2
Among the reasons for the higher rate among Arab Muslims are the following known risk factors for infant mortality: (1) motherhood at a very early age tending to lead to low-birth-weight babies; (2) large families -- almost 24% of Arab households in Israel contain 7 or more people, and a further 16% contain 6 people, while for Jews the corresponding numbers are just 8.3% and 5.7%; (3) marriage among close relatives , leading to birth defects.
 
Finally, to place the infant mortality numbers in context, one should note that in 2007 the rate in the United States was 6.8 ( Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012), far higher than the rate in Israel for Jews, and Arab Christians and Druze, and not that different from the rate among Arab Muslims.
 
In other words, the infant mortality charges are baseless, and under scrutiny fall apart.
 
Myth: The fact sheet Discriminatory Laws in the State of Israel charges that Palestinians (that is, Israeli Arabs) are forbidden from serving in the Israeli army:

Israeli Jews (except some orthodox Jews) have to serve in the Israeli army when they turn 18. Most Palestinians are forbidden to serve in the army. Many of the benefits of society are given to people who have served. Preferential treatment of housing, education and other services are given to army veterans.

Fact: No Israeli Arabs are barred from serving in the Israeli army -- Druze Arab men are drafted into the army when they turn 18, just like most Israeli Jews (this is by consent of the Druze community). Moreover, a higher percentage of eligible Druze serve in the army than eligible Jews, and 60% of Druze recruits choose to serve in combat units.
 
Men from the Israeli Arab Bedouin community also routinely volunteer for the army, where they have served with special distinction as scouts and trackers. For instance, according to a recent BBC report:

... there are thousands of Muslim Bedouin who serve in the Israeli army, or IDF, and even bear arms against their fellow Muslims in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. They do so although it is not compulsory for them to serve in the Israeli military, as it is for most Israeli Jews, and sometimes military service comes with a price tag.

"I will do whatever is required from me to do the job with the full faith in the service of the Israeli state," asserts Maj Fehd Fallah, a Bedouin from the village of Saad in the Israeli occupied Golan.

He is happy to perform his duty, whoever he may have to fight against.

Bedouin have fought and died alongside Jewish Israelis in the army "Yes, I have fought against Muslims in Gaza," he says. That includes Israel's three-week Operation Cast Lead which began in December last year.

"And I would fight again if I had to," he added. "Israeli Muslims who don't serve in the IDF should be ashamed for not serving their country."

Other Israeli Arabs -- both Christian and Muslim, including women -- are also free to volunteer to serve in the Army. For example Elinor Joseph, a Christian Arab from Haifa, in 2010 became the IDF's first female Arab combat soldier. Explaining her decision to enlist, Cpl. Joseph said:

"I understood that it was most important to defend my friends, family, and country. I was born here." At the end of the day, she says she realized it was the right thing to do, "With time, when you do things from the heart, you begin to understand their importance."

Cpl Elinor Joseph
Elinor Joseph, a Christian Arab and a combat soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, says that "At the end of the day, this will always be my home too."
The fact sheet's claim that Arabs are prevented from serving in the Israeli army is thus yet another obvious falsehood.
 
Conclusion
 
The apartheid accusations are merely a pretext in the hands of activists who are bound and determined to be anti-Israel, regardless of the facts.  The activists who accuse Israel of apartheid and similar charges therefore deserve absolutely no credibility whatsoever.