Monday 9 March marked the beginning of what the supporters of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and PSF (Palestinian Solidarity Forum) like to refer to as ‘Israel Apartheid week’.
Those who have visited Israel and are more informed refer to it as ‘Israel Awareness Week’. The various events marking the week are held on university campuses all across South Africa. It is an incredibly difficult and emotional time for Jewish students and also for Christian Zionists. The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) is working hard and has been preparing long in advance to counter the anti-Israel stance by the BDS, PSF and numerous other organisations that would like to see the destruction of Israel.
Apartheid was a system in South Africa under which a small minority of whites ruled over the larger black majority population. Apartheid subjected blacks to severe political, economic and social discrimination and segregation. They could not be citizens, vote, participate in the government or fraternise with whites.
Israel is the opposite of an apartheid state. It is a multicultural democracy and the only free country in the Middle East. According to the human rights watchdog, Freedom House, it is the opposite of an apartheid state. Labelling Israel as practicing ‘apartheid’ justifiably offends Israelis and many victims of real apartheid regimes.
Israeli law enshrines equal rights for all citizens, and minorities participate fully in public life. While Israel, like other multi-ethnic democracies, struggles with minority disadvantages, its laws try to eradicate inequality. Furthermore, it is incorrect to state that Israel practices apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza.
Palestinians are not citizens of the Jewish state. They are governed by their own leaders — Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Israeli measures like checkpoints and the security barrier do not exist to separate people based on religion or ethnicity but rather to protect Israeli civilians of all backgrounds from people within the Palestinian community who would do them harm. When Palestinian leaders say yes to peace, these measures will become unnecessary.