Letter to the Editor: SJP’s ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ is slander

Ross Krasner

At Northwestern, anti-Israel rhetoric has continued to escalate well beyond reasonable discussion and is beneath the decorum and dignity of a top university. It shouldn’t take The New York Times to write as they did Sunday that “some of the talk (at Northwestern) was openly hostile, with charges of racism and colonialism.”

This week, Students for Justice in Palestine is hosting “Israeli Apartheid Week” in an effort “to build support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.” Their use of the word “apartheid” to presumably describe Israel’s society is a particularly pernicious slander of Israel. Translated from Afrikaans, apartheid means “apart-hood.” Its use is meant to draw comparisons to the situation in pre-1994 South Africa.

In apartheid South Africa, a minority of whites subjected the majority black population to severe discrimination: separate restaurants, separate toilets and drinking fountains, separate houses, separate hospitals and separate schools. Blacks critically injured in car accidents were left to die if no “black” ambulance was available to rush them to a “black” hospital. Blacks could not vote.

In Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, nothing comes close to apartheid. Israel’s Declaration of Independence adheres to the same democratic principles the United States adheres to, including “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex … (and) freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”

Israeli Arabs not only have the right to vote, but are active participants and leaders in their democracy, serving in the Knesset and on the Supreme Court. All minorities in Israel have full access to health care.

Adversaries of Israel have repeatedly pointed to checkpoints and the security barrier — of which only a small percentage is actually a wall — between Israel and the West Bank as somehow physical evidence of apartheid. However, these vital counterterrorism tools were only instituted after relentless terrorist attacks emanating from the West Bank targeting Israeli civilians during the second Intifada.

The claim that there are “over 50 laws in Israel that discriminate against its Palestinian citizens” is completely false and meant to mislead. This fabricated statistic can be linked back to a list that is made up of fringe legislative proposals not approved by the Knesset and includes laws such as the one stating institutions of higher learning must use the Hebrew calendar even though exceptions are made for residents where the majority is not Jewish or if the language of the institution is not Hebrew.

Many authoritarian regimes not far from Israel’s borders brutally repress minorities including Palestinians. Where was the outcry from SJP when Bashar al-Assad’s security forces cut off water and electricity to the 160,000 Palestinians of Yarmouk? If it is not Israel’s fault, is it not worth attention?

The situation in Israel and Palestine is clearly complicated, and Israel is by no means perfect. But to equate Israel with an apartheid state is intellectually dishonest and morally slanderous. The belief that occupation of Palestinian land began in 1948 denies the historical and physical connection Jews have had to the land of Israel for millennia.

Correction: A previous version of this letter misspelled Bashar al-Assad’s name. The Daily regrets the error.