An old standby of the anti-Zionist movement is the attempt to insist that Israel has imposed an "apartheid" regime. The logic of this argument is devastating, for the only "just" solution that suggests itself is the dissolution of the state of the Jewish people, to be replaced by a "Secular Democratic" regime along the lines of the paradigmatic models offered by Syria and Egypt. The apartheid argument automatically converts everyone fighting for the destruction of the Jewish state into a saint in the holy struggle against Apartheid. From Osama Bin-Laden and President Ahmedinejad to the last Trotskyite and the degenerate skinheads of the NSDAP.AO (Nazional-Sozialist Arbeiter Partei Auslander Organization - American Nazi Party) - all become saints in the tradition of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. The argument has been refuted time and again, (see for example "Don't Treat Israel Like Apartheid South Africa"
by Ian Buruma, which appeared in the Guardian in the summer of 2002). However, like blood libel accusations and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the apartheid accusation springs to life after each defeat, stronger than ever, supported by the a hatred so strong that it can overcome the most specious logic.
It is vain to point out that Israeli Arabs can vote and own land. It is vain to point out that Arabs in thePalestinian territories cannot vote in Israel because Israel has not annexed those areas and that the "apartheid" separation of Palestinian Arabs, which does not apply to Israeli Arabs, is due to security concerns, however misguided the policies might be.
Recently the Guardian devoted four issues to legitimizing the aparheid myth. The Guardian's big spread on is as commendable for excellent writing as it is deplorable for poor logic.
I refer to these four articles online:
McGreal's campaign is cleverly done. You won't catch him saying "Israel is an apartheid state." Rather, he asks rhetorical questons in an oily and ingenuous perversion of the Socratic method. "And indeed, how often do you beat your wife?" This is "balanced" to be "fair." "The subject avoided the question by stating that he never beat his wife, and does not have a wife."
Don't Muslims live in largely separate areas from "real" French people or Germans? There you are, France and Germany must be apartheid societies. How many white folks live in Watts? USA must be an an apartheid society too. Of course every society has some problem in treatment of racial minorities. Using the surefire McGreal method, we can prove that any state is an "apartheid" state for thse who want to believe. McGreal is a gifted writer, but nobody claimed that this gift entails intellectual honesty or logic. The thesis McGreal advances so skilfully, though none too subtly. pours kerosene on the fire of the Middle East finger-pointing contest, rather than enhancing real understanding.
Conveniently juxtaposed to this article there is a second one that discusses Israeli-South African defense cooperation in the bad old days. In this, Chris McGreal's major thesis is not stated but implied: Israel supported apartheid South Africa, and therefore Israel is an apartheid state. There is no other reason for juxtaposing these two articles, one implying that Israel is an apartheid state, and the other documenting Israeli cooperation with apartheid South Africa.
What logic might support this connection? Foreign policy has little relation to internal policy. The USSR was not a Fascist state, and Nazi Germany was not a Bolshevik state, but they signed a pact and the USSR supplied the Nazis with war materials. Both Britain and the United States supported Saudi Arabia under the Saud family since its inception. In Saudi Arabia, slavery was legal until 1961. Does that mean that the US and Britain are slave societies?
As McGreal noted, the South African apartheid movement had strong Nazi leanings. There was genuine concern in Israel that the Jews of South Africa would be hostages of that movement, and that, for example, they might not be able to leave South Africa with their property in the event the situation
got worse. The Jews were especially vulnerable because of their prominent role in the anti-apartheid movement. Whether or not these fears had a basis, they were certainly motives for the cooperation, and also for the caution that Israel showed in condemning apartheid publicly. McGreal has to know this. It is not credible that Shimon Peres, or any of the other officials he interviewed did not mention it at all. Yet he ignores this completely, and paints a diabolical picture of evil Zionists who support a Nazi-sympathizer movement.
McGreal's thesis has been gathering momentum in the alternative media,particularly on the Internet, at viciously anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic Web sites. The "Israel is an Apartheid State, Zionism is Racism" campaign is part of an international campaign that has been going on for some time, that is unrelated to Israeli policies, and that aims to delegitimize Zionism or "de-Zionize" Israel. It is the sort of thing one expects to see in Counterpunch or Uruknet or abbc.com or Radio Islam, not in The Guardian.
Benjamin Pogrund, a veteran of the struggle against apartheid, was one of the people invited by The Guardian to provide a rejoinder, which is reproduced below. *Ami Isseroff
*We do not necessarily have to agree with every argument advanced by anyone. Pogrund accepts McGreal's contention that 93% of Israeli land is reserved for "Jews." This contention appears in many places and is false. Camera has published a detailed refutation of this contention that we append below. Without minimizing problems of discrimination in any society, there is nothing constructive to be gained by raising the scarecrow of apartheid in places where it doesn't occur, and it is certainly unfair to single out Israel with such charges.
'Why depict Israel as a chamber of horrors like no other in the world?'
This week's Guardian report on the parallels between Israel and South African apartheid was muddled and disappointing, argues Benjamin Pogrund
Wednesday February 8, 2006
Nearly three years ago I underwent an operation in a Jerusalem hospital. The surgeon was Jewish, the anaesthetist was Arab. The doctors and nurses who looked after me were Jews and Arabs. I lay in bed for a month and watched as they gave the same skilled care to other patients - half of whom were Arabs and half of whom were Jewish - all sharing the same wards, operating theatres and bathrooms.
After that experience I have difficulty understanding anyone who equates Israel with apartheid South Africa. What I saw in the Hadassah Mt Scopus hospital was inconceivable in the South Africa where I spent most of my life, growing up and then working as a journalist who specialised in exposing apartheid. It didn't happen and it couldn't happen. Blacks and whites were strictly separated and blacks got the least and the worst. And this is only one slice of life. Buses, post offices, park benches, cinemas, everything, were segregated by law. No equation is possible.
That is what came to my mind as I read the Guardian's two-part report this week about Israel and apartheid. The writer, Chris McGreal, is an outstanding reporter. I admire his dispatches from Israel/Palestine. Day by day he honestly and correctly portrays the conflict. But these articles are disappointing. He has lost his way in thickets of information. He has been unable to untangle the confusion and complexities of group relations here. He is muddled in distinguishing between the situations of Israeli Arabs and West Bank Arabs and Jerusalem Arabs.
It is not that he is wholly wrong. Arabs suffer severe discrimination. Israel is in occupation of the West Bank and is responsible for oppressive and ugly actions. But he fails to explain the why and the wherefore. He had a choice in deciding how to decipher the situation. He could have adopted the approach of Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley, well-known Canadian academics specialising in South Africa and the Middle East. In their book, Seeking Mandela, published last year, they say: "Although Israel and apartheid South Africa are often equated as 'colonial settler societies', we argue that the differences outweigh the similarities." They warn that the "simplistic assumption that the South African model readily lends itself to export may actually retard necessary new solutions by clinging to visions or processes of negotiation that may not work in another context". That assessment is surely far more relevant than quoting the debased views about South Africa and Israel of the late Hendrik Verwoerd, a father of apartheid, as McGreal has strangely done.
McGreal had to decide whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. His approach could have been that here is a tiny country which came into being, in the shadow of the Holocaust, less than 58 years ago. It has been under continual attack since the start and is still beset by enemies sworn to its destruction, whether Islamic Jihad and Hamas through suicide bombings, the Arab states through their refusal to recognise its existence, the recent "wipe-out" call by Iran's president, or the actions and declarations of a mixed bag of malevolent forces, anti-semites and semi-Jews. That induces a siege mentality among Israel's Jews. They fight to live and do not always do it pleasantly. They make horrible mistakes and inflict suffering on others. It is not secret. I do not know why Chris McGreal says the Israeli public is unaware of what is happening: newspapers publish the details in profusion, provoking discussion and action.
Yes, racism does exist in Israel - directed against Arabs, and also among Jews. Amir Peretz, new leader of the Labour party, is said to be having problems with western-born Ashkenazi voters because he is Moroccan-born and Sephardic. An explanation offered for the police violence in clearing the Amona outpost last week was the antagonism between the protesting young people, who were mainly religious Ashkenazi, and the police, who were a mixture of Moroccan and Russian immigrant stock, Bedouin and Druze.
Is Israel so different from other countries that struggle to come to terms with their minority groups? Why depict this country as a chamber of horrors like no other in the world?
The glass is indeed half-full. In South Africa, change for the better was simply not possible: the apartheid system had to be eradicated. In contrast, change is possible in Israel. An accusation by a member of the Knesset, Ahmed Tibi, who is Arab, that the central Bank of Israel had a discriminatory employment policy with no Arabs among its 800 staffers, drew the assurance from the bank's then governor that tenders would be advertised in the Arab-language press. He added: "Bank of Israel hires according to criteria of merit, and ignores differences in religion, sex, race or nationality." Tibi also complained that the state monopoly Israel Electric did not employ Arabs; a start has since been made with the hiring of six Arabs. There is continual progress: the evidence is there if you want to see it. The first Arab was appointed to the high court of justice two years ago. Last year, for the first time, an Arab was appointed director-general of a government ministry.
McGreal notes that inside Israel, 93% of the land is reserved for Jews while South Africa's whites kept 87% of the land for themselves. Thus Israel and apartheid South Africa are the same. But the QED is not as straightforward as his citing of these figures would have us believe. In law, land in Israel is open to everyone but, yes, in practice, through legal stratagems, 93% of the land has been only for Jews. This, however, has been breached by the Arab Ka'adan family: in a 10-year legal struggle, they have established their right to buy land and build a home in the "Jewish" community settlement of Katzir in northern Israel. The high court of justice has given a precedent-setting decision that the state cannot discriminate on the basis of religion or nationality when allocating state land to Israeli citizens. The case has dragged on but final success is in sight. Other court actions are underway. Land exemplifies both the negative and positive aspects of the lives of Israel's Arabs: it conveys the discrimination - and the movement towards change; slow, slow, but underway.
On education, McGreal states that separate and unequal education systems were a central part of the apartheid regime's strategy to limit black children to manual and service jobs - something I observed firsthand and fought against in South Africa. But I have to question his reference to what he says is the current belief among Arab parents that their children's schools are deliberately starved of state resources so that Arabs will be doomed to lesser jobs. Every government school, whether Jewish or Arab, gets identical funding; differences, and hence resources, arise through what parents pay and what local authorities pay (most local authorities in Israel are in poor financial shape; Arab local authorities are even worse off with problems in collecting local property taxes). The Jewish schools are Jewish day schools. The Arab schools are Muslim and use Arabic, which is an official language in Israel. There is no bar to Arabs attending Jewish schools, and some do.
I am also puzzled by the health ministry figures that McGreal has chosen to use about state spending on development of health facilities in Arab areas (the clear implication being that Arabs are starved of health care). Contrary to the picture painted, health is a visible indicator of the differences between apartheid South Africa and Israel. In South Africa, the infant mortality rate (IMR) in 1985 was 78 per 1,000 live births. Among colour groups: whites 12, Asians 20, coloureds 60, blacks 94 to 150. In Israel, in the 1950s, the IMR among Muslims was 60.6 and among Jews 38.8. Major improvements occurred in health care during the 1990s and by 2001 the IMR among Arabs was 7.6 (Muslims 8.2, Christians 2.6, Druze 4.7). Among Jews, 4.1. According to the health ministry, the higher Muslim figure was due mainly to genetic defects as a result of marriages between close relatives; poverty is also a factor. Other countries in 2000: Switzerland, 8.2, and 12.3 for Turks living there; United States, whites 8.5, blacks 21.3.
He is also mistaken in saying that Arabs have been singled out for discrimination in getting reduced child allowances. They are the same as Jewish ultra-Orthodox families. These two groups have the largest number of children and have suffered equally from cutbacks in allowances, especially for the fifth child and beyond.
Here in Jerusalem on Monday, I watched the BBC's Auschwitz on television. The episode dealt with French collaboration in delivering Jews to the Nazis for destruction, and how British policemen on Guernsey handed over three Jewish women. It was a reminder, if any be needed, of why Israel exists: to fulfil the centuries-old dream of a homeland for Jews and as a sanctuary for Jews. It's not a perfect society. It struggles to find itself as a Jewish state (with no consensus about what that means), and it struggles to evolve as a democratic society with full rights for minorities. It deserves criticism for its flaws and mistakes. It also merits sympathy and support in facing unfounded attack. Benjamin Pogrund was born in South Africa and was deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail in Johannesburg. He is the author of books on Robert Sobukwe, Nelson Mandela and the press under apartheid. He has lived in Israel for more than eight years and is founder of Yakar's Centre for Social Concern in Jerusalem, which encourages dialogue across political and ethnic lines.
Guardian Defames Israel with False Apartheid Charges
February 20, 2006 by Alex Safian
A recent series of articles in the Guardian by Chris McGreal charge that similar to the old South Africa, Israel is an apartheid state that engages in racist and discriminatory behavior against its Arab citizens. According to the paper, “after four years reporting from Jerusalem and more than a decade from Johannesburg before that, the Guardian's award-winning Middle East correspondent Chris McGreal is exceptionally well placed to assess this explosive comparison.”
Explosive the comparison certainly is, especially because a CAMERA investigation reveals that Mr. McGreal’s arguments are uniformly based either on materially false assertions, or on assertions wrenched grotesquely out of context.
Like the original series of articles, our analysis and investigation will be published in multiple parts. This first installment deals with the first articles of the series, published on Feb. 6, 2006. And, since the investigation is ongoing, further updates will be posted as new information becomes available.
It is appropriate to begin with perhaps Mr. McGreal’s most damning allegation – that most of the land in Israel is reserved for Jews only:
Israeli governments reserved 93% of the land - often expropriated from Arabs without compensation - for Jews through state ownership, the Jewish National Fund and the Israeli Lands Authority. In colonial and then apartheid South Africa, 87% of the land was reserved for whites.
This charge is utterly false. Before going into details concerning the actual land laws and practice in Israel, perhaps it’s better to start with a simple counterexample: the city of Upper Nazareth. Upper Nazareth, a relatively new community (founded in 1957), is built on the slopes above the ancient city of Nazareth, has always had a Jewish majority, and was built entirely on “state land.” Today, it has a population (look for Nazerat Illit in the following link) that is more than 20% non- Jewish, at least half of whom are Israeli Arabs, who, like their Israeli Jewish neighbors, lease their land from the Israel Land Administration (ILA).
The 93% claim is therefore obviously false, and it is a pity that in his “four years reporting from Jerusalem” Mr. McGreal never managed to notice this. Because the “93% of the land” claim is so common – it appears on thousands of anti-Israel websites and probably hundreds of such books – CAMERA produced a detailed refutation, available in slightly different versions here and here. The salient facts are these:
In 1960 under Basic Law: Israel Lands, JNF-owned land and government-owned land were together defined as "Israel lands," and the principle was laid down that such land would be leased rather than sold. The JNF retained ownership of its land, but administrative responsibility for the JNF land, and also for government-owned land, passed to a newly created agency called the Israel Land Administration or ILA. (Encyclopaedia Judaica, V 10, p. 77)
Today, of the total land in Israel, 79.5% is owned by the government, 14% is privately owned by the JNF, and the rest, around 6.5%, is evenly divided between private Arab and Jewish owners. Thus, the ILA administers 93.5% of the land in Israel (Government Press Office, Israel, 22 May 1997).
Jewish and Arab Access to Government-Owned Land in Israel
Statements that Israel refuses to sell state-owned land to Israeli Arabs are extremely misleading, since, as stated above, such land is not sold to Israeli Jews either, but is instead leased out by the ILA and is equally available to all citizens of Israel.
The availability of state-owned land to Israeli Arabs is true not just in theory, but also in practice. For example, about half of the land farmed by Israeli-Arabs is leased from the ILA. (Legal Status of the Arabs in Israel, Westview Press, p. 66, 1990)
Moreover, sometimes Israeli Arabs receive more favorable terms from the ILA than do Israeli Jews. Thus, for example, in new Jewish communities near Beersheva the ILA charged $24,000 for a capital lease on a quarter of an acre, while at the same time Bedouin families in the nearby community of Rahat paid only $150 for the same amount of land. (Israel's Dilemma, Shapolsky Publications, p. 97, 1989)
In another case a Jewish citizen applied to the ILA to lease land in a new Bedouin community under the same favorable, highly subsidized terms available to the Bedouins.
When the ILA refused to lease him land in the community under any circumstances, he sued. In Avitan v. Israel Land Administration (HC 528/88) the High Court ruled that ILA discrimination against the Jewish citizen Avitan was justified as affirmative action for Bedouin citizens. (Legal Status of the Arabs in Israel, p. 81)
In addition, it is important to note the following from the Legal Status book cited above, regarding specifically the access by non-Jewish citizens of Israel to the 80 percent of the land that is state owned (ie “state land”), and the restrictions on access by non-Jews to the roughly 13 percent of the land that is privately owned by the JNF:
The legal arrangements described above, which prevent leasing of land to non-Jews, apply only to JNF lands. Under the principle of equality that binds all public authorities the ILA may not refuse to lease other Israel lands, i.e., lands belonging to the state or the Development Authority, to Arabs. In practice such lands are indeed leased to Arabs, mainly for urban use, but they are also sometimes leased to Arabs for agricultural use too ... (Legal Status, p. 66)
As noted elsewhere in the book, the JNF restictions are often evaded by the government in practice, meaning that non-Jews do in fact have access to much JNF-owned land. Finally, it should be noted that the book’s author, Prof. David Kretzmer, is hardly an apologist for Israel – he was one of the founders of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, more or less equivalent to the ACLU in the United States. While one might not necessarily agree with some of Prof. Kretzmer’s conclusions, his technical treatment of civil rights law and practice in Israel seems quite reliable, unlike Mr. McGreal, who might have benefitted from reading the book or speaking with its author.
Similarly distorted was Mr. McGreal’s treatment of building and demography in Jerusalem. He claims, for example, that:
At the heart of Israel's strategy is the policy adopted three decades ago of "maintaining the demographic balance" in Jerusalem. In 1972, the number of Jews in the west of the city outnumbered the Arabs in the east by nearly three to one. The government decreed that that equation should not be allowed to change, at least not in favour of the Arabs.
But had Mr. McGreal simply looked at the population figures published every year, he would have seen that the “demographic balance” has not been maintained and has indeed changed in “favour of the Arabs.” According to the Statistical Abstract of Israel 2006, Jews comprised 73.4 percent of Jerusalem’s population in 1972 but only 64.9 percent in 2004. (The Palestinian statistical abstract claims that the Israeli figures understate Arab population growth, so that would further undermine Mr. McGreal’s case.)
The bottom line is that all claims about “Israel maintaining the demographic balance” by “preventing Palestinian growth” are contradicted by the most basic demographic figures – in Jerusalem the Palestinian population has grown far faster than the Jewish population. In other words, if anyone is changing the demographic balance in Jerusalem it is the Palestinians.
Let us now turn to Mr. McGreal’s claims that Muslims and Christians are barred from living in the so-called Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City:
Israeli law also restricts where non-Jews may live. "Muslims and Christians are barred from buying in the Jewish quarter of the old city on the grounds of "historic patterns of life of each community having its own quarter'," says Seidemann, in a phrase eerily reminiscent of apartheid's philosophy. "But that didn't prevent the Israeli government from aggressively pursuing activities to place Jews within the Muslim quarter. The attitude is: what's mine is exclusively mine, but what's yours is mixed if we happen to target it."
This is arrant nonsense. Non-Jews can and do live in the Jewish Quarter, and in substantial numbers, while relatively few Jews live in the Muslim Quarter. According to the most recent figures available online (from the 1995 Census of Population and Housing) at least 480 Muslims lived in the Jewish Quarter, making up 22.5% of the quarter’s population. In contrast, Jews made up just 1.68% of the Muslim Quarter’s population. Even in absolute terms, the 480 Muslims living in the Jewish Quarter outnumbered the 380 Jews living in the much larger Muslim Quarter. (The Jerusalem Statistical Yearbook gives the total population of the quarters, along with their numerical designation – the Jewish Quarter is Sub-quarter 63 of Jerusalem, the Muslim Quarter Sub-quarter 64. The Census of Population and Housing then gives the religious breakdown of the population by sub-quarter and even by the more detailed measure of statistical area; the relevant figures are on and near line 1639 of this spreadsheet.)
Thus, the reality is exactly the opposite of what Mr. McGreal charges – it is evidently far easier for a Muslim to live in the Jewish Quarter than it is for a Jew to live in the Muslim Quarter. And Danny Seidemann, the “expert” quoted by Mr. McGreal on this matter, is apparently less than reliable.
McGreal also falsely charged – once again relying on Seidemann – that Jerusalem’s Arab residents were:
... denied permission to build new homes or expand existing ones, [so] many Palestinians build anyway and risk a demolition order. Israel's former prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, routinely defends the demolitions by arguing that any civilised society enforces planning regulations. But Israel is the only western society to deny construction permits to people on the grounds of race. Until 1992, so did South Africa.
In fact, contrary to McGreal’s claims, Arabs in Jerusalem actually receive building permits at the same rate as Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the city (the two communities are demographically quite similar – in total population, family size and income). Indeed, in Jerusalem, Arabs have actually built new housing units at a faster rate than have Jews. As the chief Palestinian demography expert, Khalil Tufakji, admitted in a CNN interview, “We can build inside Jerusalem, legal, illegal -- rebuild a house, whatever, we can do. Maybe we lose ten houses, but in the end we build 40 more houses in East Jerusalem.” (Sept. 19, 1998)
Tufakji’s statement that Arabs have no problem building in Jerusalem is confirmed in a comprehensive report by Israel Kimhi, Arab Building in Jerusalem: 1967 – 1997, published by CAMERA. (Kimhi, of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, was formerly the municipality’s chief city planner).
An even more detailed report by Justus Weiner, Illegal Construction in Jerusalem, was recently published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Among the facts documented by Weiner is that the Jerusalem municipality:
has authorized more than 36,000 permits for new housing units in the Arab sector, more than enough to meet the needs of Arab residents through legal construction until 2020;
Both Arabs and Jews typically wait 4-6 weeks for permit approval, enjoy a similar rate of application approvals, and pay an identical fee ($3,600) for water and sewage hook-ups on the same size living unit.
Thus, McGreal’s claim that Israel denies construction permits to Jerusalem’s Arabs is utterly false.
According to the Guardian website “it is the policy of the Guardian to correct significant errors as soon as possible.” The Guardian also claims to follow the UK Press Complaints Commission Code of Conduct, which requires that newspapers “should take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted material, including pictures,” and that “whenever it is recognized that a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report has been published, it should be corrected promptly and with due prominence.”
Will the Guardian live up to these high-minded words by presenting forthright corrections of their reporter’s defamatory falsehoods, and will these corrections be prominently displayed both in its printed pages and on its website? Or will it follow defamation with denial and coverup? We shall soon see.
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