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   Responses to Common Inaccuracies About Israel
Israel/Zionism is Racist   

Zionism is a racist ideology.

As a self-described “Jewish State,” Israel is by nature an undemocratic and discriminatory country.

Israel treats Arabs as second-class citizens.

Israeli treatment of the Palestinians today is comparable to the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews, and policies of “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide.”

Israel is an apartheid state and should be fought in the same manner that apartheid in South Africa was fought – through divestment, boycott and other punitive economic measures.

Rooted in the liberal principles of freedom, democracy, equality, and social justice, Zionism is fundamentally incompatible with racism. Zionism is the Jewish national movement of rebirth and renewal in the land of Israel – the historical birthplace of the Jewish people. The yearning to return to Zion, the biblical term for both the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, has been the cornerstone of Jewish religious life since the Jewish exile from the land two thousand years ago, and is embedded in Jewish prayer, ritual, literature and culture. Zionism is an ideology that celebrates the Jewish connection to Israel. It does not discriminate against or judge other religions or nationalities.

Israel’s Law of Return, which some critics of Israel accuse of being “racist,” is for Jews a potent testimonial to the safe and free haven they will always have in the State of Israel after centuries of persecution and isolation. Israel’s uniqueness as a country which grants automatic citizenship to Jews (as well as their non-Jewish immediate family members) who seek to settle there is not racist. Individuals ineligible for automatic citizenship under the Law of Return are eligible for Israeli citizenship under regular procedures equivalent to such requirements in other countries. Indeed, the State of Israel is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, comprised of Jews and non-Jews from at least 100 different countries from diverse ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds.

The false equation of “Zionism equals racism” has its origins in the passage of the Arab and Soviet-sponsored United Nations resolution of November 10, 1975 which declared Zionism a “form of racism and racial discrimination.” The highly politicized resolution was aimed at denying Israel its political legitimacy by attacking its moral basis for existence. The resolution, which former-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described as a “low point” in the history of the UN, was finally repealed on December 16, 1991. Unfortunately, there have been numerous efforts by Arab representatives at international conferences and forums to reintroduce this heinous equation.  

Democracy is the cornerstone of the State of Israel. As stated in its Declaration of Independence, Israel’s government will be “for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice, peace as envisaged by the Prophets of Israel, it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” Israel’s two official languages are Hebrew and Arabic, and all its citizens regardless of religion, ethnicity or color are accorded full civil and political rights, and equal participation in all aspects of Israeli social, political, and civic life.

As in every country, much more needs to be done to promote greater educational and employment opportunities for minorities, particularly Israeli Arabs and new immigrants. Much of this disparity is due to scarce resources. The Israeli government has been committed to investing in the necessary infrastructure and assistance for these communities and there are numerous non-government organizations in Israel and abroad who monitor government policies and treatment of minorities.

Israeli law makes no distinction between its Arab and Jewish citizens. Israeli Arab citizens enjoy the same rights as their Jewish neighbors. They are free to practice their religion without discrimination, in accordance with Israel’s commitment to democracy and freedom. There are a number of Israeli Arab parties represented in the Israeli Knesset (parliament), and Arab members of Knesset are extremely vocal in promoting their issues and opinions. In 2007, Raleb Majadele, was named Minister of Science, Culture and Sports, becoming the first Israeli Arab member of the cabinet. In 2004, an Israeli Arab, Salim Jubran, was appointed to the Israeli Supreme Court.

As in every country, much more needs to be done to promote greater educational and employment opportunities for minorities, particularly for Israeli Arabs. The Israeli government has committed to investing in the necessary infrastructure and assistance for these communities. As in the United States, non-governmental organizations publicly advocate for increased investment in Israeli Arab communities.

It is important to note that Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are not citizens of Israel. After gaining territory in the 1967 War, Israel found itself with a million Palestinian Arabs under its administration. Israel hoped its authority over the Palestinians in these areas would be short-lived and that it would be able to exchange the land for peace with its Arab neighbors. As a result, Israel did not annex or incorporate the West Bank and Gaza Strip into Israel proper, and thus did not apply the same laws that govern Israeli civilian life.

Absolutely no comparison can be made between the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jews. Nor can Israeli actions or policies be characterized as acts of ethnic cleansing or genocide.

In contrast to Holocaust and more recent examples of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Rwanda and Kosovo, there is no Israeli ideology, policy or plan to persecute, exterminate or expel the Palestinian population – nor has there ever been. Israeli policies toward the Palestinians are based on its need to defend its population and combat threats to Israel’s security, while promoting a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In direct contrast, the Nazis’ “final solution” to the “Jewish problem” was the deliberate, systematic and mechanized extermination of European Jewry. Hitler’s final solution led to the calculated, premeditated murder of six million Jews and the destruction of thriving Jewish communities across Europe.

Those that make the comparison between the Jewish state and the Nazis and Hitler – who perpetrated the greatest and largest act of anti-Semitism in world history – have not chosen this comparison innocently or dispassionately. It is a charge that is purposefully directed at Jews in an effort to associate the victims of Nazi crimes with the Nazi perpetrators, and serves to diminish the significance and uniqueness of the Holocaust. To make such a comparison constitutes blatant hostility toward Jews, Jewish history and the legitimacy of the Jewish State of Israel.

The treatment of Arabs by the State of Israel cannot be compared in any way to the treatment of the black majority in South Africa under apartheid. There is no Israeli ideology, policy or plan to segregate, persecute or mistreat the Arab population.

Apartheid was a uniquely repressive system, through which South Africa’s white minority enforced its domination over the black and other non-white racial groups who made up more than 90 percent of the population. Apartheid – which means “separate development” in the Afrikaans language – was enabled through a host of laws such as the Group Areas Act, which banned blacks from “white areas,” the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, which prevented blacks and whites from marrying or even having sexual relations with each other, and the Bantu Education Act, which regulated the education of black children in accordance with their subservient social position. The regime imposed “Bantustans,” impoverished autonomous homelands whose borders were designed to exclude economically viable land, upon 12 million black South Africans.

No such laws exist in Israel, which pledged itself to safeguard the equal rights of all citizens in its Declaration of Independence. Arab citizens of Israel have the full range of civil and political rights, including the right to organize politically, the right to vote and the right to speak and publish freely. Moreover, Israel has declared its acceptance, in principle, of a sovereign Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to be established as the result of bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. As Benjamin Pogrund, the prominent South African Jewish journalist who was imprisoned by the apartheid regime, has written: “Palestinians are not oppressed on racial grounds as Arabs but are, rather, the competitors in a national/religious conflict for land.”

Divestment and boycott campaigns singularly demonize Israel and designate Israel for pariah status, while ignoring other states, including many in the Middle East, which systematically abuse human rights. If anti-Israel divestment and boycott activists were truly interested in aiding Palestinians and promoting Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, they would advocate constructive initiatives between Israelis, Palestinians and others. Unfortunately, most of these activists ignore such initiatives, and focus solely on bashing Israel and promoting punitive actions against the state.

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