Friday 15 January 2010

Liars, damned liars and Israel bashers

Let me stress here that I do not regard Andrew Sibley as an 'Israel-basher'. I just think he has been misled by the Israel bashers. This piece is intended to disabuse people like Andrew Sibley of the notion that Israel is an apartheid state. In fairness, it should be said that Andrew states in his response to my review of Zion’s New Name (see Christian Zionism’s New Name)that the term is 'unhelpful'.

In my review I stated that Andrew ‘categorises Israel as … an apartheid state'. In response (see his Comment), he says, ‘Apartheid? I have said that use of such language is unhelpful do [sic] your claim is factually wrong here.’

What Andrew actually says on page 11 of the book is:

Even someone of the stature of Jimmy Carter has suggested that the Zionist policies of the State of Israel are in effect a form of apartheid because they seek exclude Palestinians from the land.

His footote reads: ‘Carter, J, [sic] Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. New York, Simon and Schuster, 2006, reported in Sizer, S., Zion’s Christian Soldiers? IVP, 2007, p,15 [sic (page 16)]. Perhaps Andrew can help me here but I find no statement to the effect that the apartheid analogy is ‘unhelpful’. Why does Andrew list Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace not Apartheid in his Selected Bibliography, yet not quote directly from it in on page 11? Even then, he fails to cite the correct page of Sizer's book. This suggests to me that Andrew had not read Carter’s book, even though he included it in his bibliography. It indicates sloppy research.

So, until Andrew points me to the page where he says the apartheid analogy is ‘unhelpful’, let’s look at the charge. It is an accusation raised with monotonous regularity against Israel. Uri Davis, Jimmy Carter. and Ben White have all written about it and in an Open Letter to Bono, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) accuses Israel of practicing the ‘most pernicious form of colonialism and apartheid.'

Apartheid in South Africa was an official policy of discrimination against blacks enforced through police violence, based on minority control over a majority population who were not permitted to vote. Because Israel is a majority-rule democracy with equal rights for all citizens including Arabs who may and do vote freely, its critics have to radically redefine the term ‘apartheid’ in order to make it stick. Even Uri Davis recognises this:

A classic apartheid construction when it refers to the essential attributes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is essentially a conflict between a settler-colonial state and an indigenous population dispossessed by the colonial project.

But the situation in Israel is significantly different when compared to South Africa in one or more important senses. First, visitors to South Africa would have been hit in the face by apartheid immediately: benches for whites, benches for non-whites; toilets for whites, toilets for non-whites; parks for whites, parks for non-whites; transport for whites and transport for non-whites.

However, the first impression of Israel to a lay-visitor would possibly be the impression of a standard liberal Western democracy: there are no buses for Jews, buses for non-Jews; parks for Jews and parks for non-Jews; beaches for Jews and beaches for non-Jews. The core apartheid is veiled, and the Jewish National Fund plays an important part in the construction of this veil. (My emphasis)
Consider the following contrasts between Apartheid South Africa and Israel.

Under the Apartheid regime in South Africa, whites were the minority; blacks were the majority. In Israel, Jews are the majority, Arabs the minority.

In Apartheid South Africa, there were laws that discriminated against black citizens; in Israel there are no laws that discriminate against Arab citizens or separate them from Jews.

South Africa had a job reservation policy for white people but Israel has adopted pro-Arab affirmative action measures in some sectors. Israeli schools, universities and hospitals make no distinction between Jews and Arabs.

Black South Africans could not vote until 1994; in Israel Arab citizens of Israel can vote, and also serve in the Knesset.

An Arab citizen who brings a case before an Israeli court will have that case decided on the basis of merit, not ethnicity. This was never the case for blacks under apartheid.

In response to increasing inequality between the Jewish and Arab populations, the Israeli government established a committee to consider, among other issues, policies of affirmative action for housing Arab citizens.

Jerusalem provides free professional advice to assist Arab residents with the house permit process and structural regulations, advice which is not available to Jewish residents on the same terms.

Consider the following quotes from people who actually know something about apartheid.

Former South African President F W deKlerk, who played a key role with Nelson Mandela in ending apartheid, describe the comparisons between Apartheid South Afridca and Israel as are ‘odious’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘not a direct parallel’.
In 2003, South Africa's minister for home affairs Chief Mangosuthu Butjelezi said, 'The Israeli regime is not apartheid. It is a unique case of democracy'.

Fred Taub, the President of Boycott Watch says, ‘[t]he assertion ... that Israel is practicing apartheid is not only false, but may be considered libelous.’
Malcolm Hedding, a South African minister who worked against South African apartheid, says:

Calling Israel an 'apartheid state' is absolute nonsense. You might have structures that look like apartheid, but they're not. The barrier fence has nothing to do with apartheid and everything to do with Israel's self-defense. There was no such barrier until the second intifada, when people were being murdered on the highways. And the country does not dehumanize its minority in the sense of apartheid. The issues are totally different.

Benny Morris, who is often critical of Israel writes:

"Israel is not an apartheid state — rather the opposite, it is easily the most democratic and politically egalitarian state in the Middle East, in which Arabs Israelis enjoy far more freedom, better social services, etc. than in all the Arab states surrounding it. Indeed, Arab representatives in the Knesset, who continuously call for dismantling the Jewish state, support the Hezbollah, etc., enjoy more freedom than many Western democracies give their internal Oppositions. (The U.S. would prosecute and jail Congressmen calling for the overthrow of the U.S. Govt. or the demise of the U.S.) The best comparison would be the treatment of Japanese Americans by the US Govt ... and the British Govt. [incarceration] of German émigrés in Britain WWII ... Israel's Arabs by and large identify with Israel's enemies, the Palestinians. But Israel hasn't jailed or curtailed their freedoms en masse (since 1966 [when Israel lifted its state of martial law]).

I am indebted to the following sites for the information in this blog: Wikipedia, Camera and Zionism on the Web.


  1. Dear Mike

    Firstly, I hope this discussion isn’t going to get into nitpicking over technicalities. Incidentally, my copy of Sizer’s book has the Carter quote on page 15 – the bibliography is stated as being selective – offering people some sources for further research. I do not claimed to have read every book in that list, nor do I need to in order to offer such a resource.

    If you look at the context of my writing on pages 10 and 11, I am simply setting the scene of the state of the debate on both sides. I then write that both sides effectively accuse the other of racism and that this isn’t helpful to respectful dialogue. The accusation of apartheid made by Carter is effectively an accusation of racism and that is what I say isn’t helpful. So I was not making a point, or agreeing with one side or the other, but simply trying to state each position as accurately as possible. I suggest you read pages 10 and 11 more carefully.

    What is the point of trying to prove me of sloppy research? Is it to personally attack me? I offer 10 pages of scriptural references, and a full index all formatted and coded by myself. I couldn’t find a publisher so had to publish myself and some of the proof reading isn’t perfect I accept. I felt strongly that Christian Zionists are going off the rails theologically, but that the other side is engaging in a political campaign and not dealing with the problem spiritually. I therefore tried to write something balanced so as to engage in dialogue and raise important spiritual questions. The book isn’t at PhD level, it wasn’t meant to be, instead I wanted to write something quickly that was accessible for ordinary people. I will do something to PhD level when I have time.

    As for apartheid – the situation in Israel is far more complex than a mere division along racial lines - I agree with that – there are many nationalities in Israel and Judaism is as much a religion as a race. However, there are still questions of justice for Palestinians that should be raised, and questions of security for the people of Israel. A Christian’s duty is to judge fairly and not show partiality to one side or the other. Christian Zionists also sometimes have little concern for the Palestinian Christian community; that community itself has Jewish roots. According to Eusebius the first 15 bishops of Jerusalem for instance were converted Jews, ministering to a largely ethnic Jewish-Christian people. Yes, many Arabs have joined the Palestinian Christian community, but it has a legitimate Jewish root. Palestinian Christians have suffered at the hands of both the Israeli policies and from Muslim extremists. I have also had a look at your website videos and see how Messianic Jews are harrassed by the authorities.

    So, do ‘Israel bashers’ mislead me? I try and follow the advice of Scripture - and judge by the fruit produced. I have always been wary of political campaigns because they can often be about humanistic manipulation of events. That is different to a prophetic ministry that seeks to bring the word of God into a situation.
    Andrew Sibley

  2. Well said Mike.

  3. The comparison with South Africa is a bit of a red herring.

    The only relevant question under public international law, is whether the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories matches the crime of apartheid as described by the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Punishment and Suppression of Apartheid.

    Now, you may not think much of international law. That's not necessarily an unreasonable position to hold, depending on the reasons. But if you're going to start making arguments about apartheid, then it's essential for you to address the internationally agreed definitions. I personally think the case against Israel is pretty solid. Nothing that you say above does anything to change that.

  4. Sooo, no mention of the *other* side of the shekel - the so-dubbed Liars FOR Israel - those who prowl the internet lying, deceiving, impersonating, attacking, even defaming anyone who dares criticize the Zionist state. This truly disgraceful behavior is attracting a lot of attention, as it should. Pretending to be victims while actively committing crimes is not a good look.