MYTH: Israel is an “Apartheid” State

Israeli-Arabs participate in all aspects of Israeli society. Pictured above is a Bedouin-Arab serving in the Israel Defense Forces (photo credit: Wikipedia Commons, Israel Defense Forces).

FACT: An Apartheid system segregates people based on ethnicity or race. It denies the segregated group basic civil rights, and is a form of institutionalized racism. Apartheid refers exclusively to the system of racial segregation that existed in South Africa up until its official abolition in 1991.  The South African apartheid system divided South Africans into four racial groups. All public services, even beaches, were segregated. Blacks were forced to live in designated areas, stripped of their citizenship, and denied the right to vote.

Israel has no comparable system. Arabs are granted full rights under Israeli law. They are granted the same protections as all Israeli citizens, including freedom of speech, assembly, and press. Arabs have equal voting rights and have representatives in both the Israeli parliament and Supreme Court. They eat at the same restaurants, go to the same beaches, and drive on the same roads as Jewish citizens.

In fact, Israel’s Declaration of Independence calls for “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex.”

Israel has two official languages: Hebrew and Arabic. Israel has Arabic schools, Hebrew schools, and bilingual schools, all of which are open to any Israeli citizen. Moreover, to ensure Arab access to higher education, Israel has an affirmative action program.

With regards to Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), nearly all Palestinian-Arabs there are governed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and are therefore not under Israeli jurisdiction. The PA denies Arabs in Judea and Samaria basic freedoms and human rights and runs an oppressive and corrupt dictatorship over its own people; but this cannot be blamed on Israel, seeing as the PA has complete control over nearly all Palestinian-Arab population centers in the area.

After the wave of Palestinian-Arab terrorist attacks against Jewish and Arab civilians took the lives of more than 1,000 people (mostly civilians) in 2000-2005, Israel implemented border crossing and a security barrier to block Palestinian-Arab terrorists from reaching Israeli cities. While these security measures inconvenience some Palestinian-Arabs, they are far from measures of “apartheid,” seeing as they are common-sense security measures that have worked to prevent terrorist attacks against Jews and Arabs.

When people complain that Arab communities have substandard infrastructure, this is not due to discrimination; rather, it is due to a neglectful Palestinian-Arab government. The Palestinian Authority has received billions of dollars in foreign aid—it is one of the largest recipients of international aid per capita—but it often goes to corruption rather than infrastructure. In 2013, the European Union condemned the Palestinian Authority for having simply “lost” the 2.5 billion Euros of aid it was given.

Within Israel, the government actually spends a disproportionately high amount on social services in Arab municipalities. In 2009, the Israeli Education Ministry on average budgeted $307 per student in Arab municipalities and only $147 per student in Jewish-majority municipalities.

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Arabs are granted more rights and services in Israel than in any other Arab country.