Israel is not an “apartheid state.” Mansour Abbas, the head of the Islamist United Arab List (Raam) Party in Israel’s 24th Knesset, himself stated that he would not use the word “apartheid” to describe Israel, and that he preferred more objective terms to describe relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel.
“Apartheid” is an Afrikaans word meaning “apartness” and applies to the system of racial segregation in place in South Africa between 1948 and 1994. This was a clear, institutional, and legal separation of white, black, and mixed-raced peoples in South Africa for whom there were segregated benches, parks, beaches, stores, bathrooms, water fountains, schools, etc.
In contrast, Israel is a democratic state, where all minorities receive equal protection under the law. Alongside Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis vote, study, work, live, and serve in Parliament, the courts, the military, and government.
The analogy to South Africa is often supported by groups seeking to end the Jewish State’s existence who believe that supporting BDS campaigns will advance this goal. However, this disproved analogy serves only to embolden extremism and undermine the hopes of achieving a two-state solution based on the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.
The campaign to frame Israel as an “apartheid state” can be traced to the 1975 “Zionism is racism” UN General Assembly resolution (see Myth 2, above) and to the 2001 Durban Conference NGO Forum, where organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch passed a final declaration that declared Israel an “apartheid state” and promoted the strategy of boycotts against Israel. This declaration was approximately 20 years prior to these NGOs issuing “factual” reports they claimed documented Israel’s crimes.
The Durban Conference was rejected outright by all leading democracies around the world, including Canada, as an antisemitic hate-fest.