February 12, 2006
I refer to Chris McGreal’s “Worlds
Apart” described by the Guardian as an “explosive comparison” between Israel and the former apartheid regime
in South Africa. (Feb. 6). In view of the explosive nature of the report your readers are entitled to an alternative view.
As the report contained over 14,000
words it is impossible to deal with it adequately in a letter to the editor. With due respect to Mr. McGreal’s experience,
I believe that, as an early member of the Springbok Legion, an anti-apartheid movement formed by South African soldiers in
WW2, (the first mass movement of Whites openly opposed to apartheid), and subsequently as an Israeli resident, I am qualified
to credibly address some of the misinformation contained in the report. I would therefore appreciate an opportunity to contribute
an article addressing the substance. In the meantime I offer the following comments.
Allegations of a similarity between
South Africa’s apartheid regime and the Israeli system are as irrational as the claim that Jews were responsible for
9/11. However, if the intention is to justify an opinion, formed before examining the relevant facts, one can always find
a few parallels between Israel and apartheid, as one can find such parallels with almost any other country, even with Mr McGreal’s
home territory, Britain. While I would be the last to compare Britain with the old South African regime, facts taken out of
context show a much more convincing resemblance of Britain, rather than Israel, to apartheid.
For example, in September 2005, The
BBC reported that Trevor Phillips, leader of the Commission for Racial Equality, warned that British society was becoming
more divided by race and religion and that the nightmare of fully fledged ghettos could happen in the country.
The London based Independent Race and Refugee News Network (IRR) has produced statistics revealing that in 2003-04,
there were 52,694 racist incidents and an alarming increase in racially motivated murders as well as a devastatingly high
incidence of Black deaths in custody. Their reports also show that the percentage of persons living in unfit dwellings is
much higher for all ethnic minority groups than for their white counterparts. Sounds very much like apartheid does it not?
But any informed logical person realizes
that these statistics, quoted out of context, reflect a completely unrealistic picture of Britain, with its laudable history
of racial tolerance, universal justice and strenuous efforts to ensure racial equality.
So too, the parallels Mr. McGreal
draws between Israel and apartheid are as unjustified as they are offensive. Such comparisons, repeated by persons who should
know better are not only intellectually dishonest, they are often lazy repetitions of catch phrases propagated by cynical
In South Africa, apartheid was entrenched
in the law and strictly enforced. The law not only denied the vote to Black citizens, it legislated to force discrimination
in almost every aspect of daily life. Any person interested in making a serious
comparison can readily ascertain that in stark contrast to South Africa’s apartheid laws, Israel s Declaration of Independence
specifically ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or
gender. Israeli Muslims, Christians, Druse and other minority groups enjoy exactly the same civil and political rights as
Jews. They serve in the Knesset and speak freely against the government. By contrast, Israel’s Arab neighbors strictly
enforce gender and religious apartheid.
Unfortunately, as in Britain and elsewhere,
injustices do occur. Mr. McGreal quotes the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, to support his arguments, but logically
the very fact that B’Tselem and other human rights organizations operate freely in Israel is a powerful argument against
any accusation of apartheid. Israelis are proud of the fact that by contrast with neighboring states, B’tselem frequently
wins arguments even against the state. The litmus test is that in complete contrast to the despised South African laws, which
enforced apartheid, the Israel high court upholds the civil rights of all citizens without distinction