Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Is Israel an apartheid state?

DEIR YASSIN - startling evidence
About Maurice Ostroff

ISRAEL – An apartheid state?

It is interesting to observe how the use of slogans in the advertising world has been successfully adopted by propagandists. Avis' "We try harder" and Coca Cola's "Pause that refreshes" have been effectvely adapted to "Zionism is racism" and "The apartheid wall"; pithy, but not necesarily truthful messages


A serious study will convince any impartial observer, that allegations of a similarity between the old South Africa’s apartheid regime and the Israeli system are spurious. Moreover, that such false allegations are often used as propagandistic slogans, unworthy of consideration by anyone who values moral integrity. Let's examine the facts.


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. In stark contrast, 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. On the other hand, Israel’s Arab neighbors strictly enforce gender and religious apartheid.


Unfortunately, as in Britain and elsewhere, injustices do occur and Israelis are proud of the fact that human rights organizations operate freely in Israel and that by contrast with neighboring states, they frequently win 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.


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 with almost any other country, even with Britain, home of the Guardian newspaper, which frequently uses this allegation to engage in its favorite occupation of lambasting Israel. 


For example in February 2006, the Guardian published what it called an explosive two-part series by Chris McGreal containing many inaccurate allegations about apartheid in Israel. (See response) .This was followed by a similar article by South African Minister Ronnie Kasrils


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?


Of course, 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 drawn 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 propagandists.


Israeli hospitals

An unblinkered visit to an Israeli hospital will convince the most biased individual about the complete absence of any form of racial discrimination. Arab and Jewish doctors collaborate easily and in some hospitals Arabs outnumber Jewish patients. Especially noticeable after bombing incidents, which have become too common, is the equal treatment given to victims and perpetrators. An Israeli nurse has been quoted saying, “All patients are human beings, but sometimes when we experience these terrible deeds and see the mangled bodies of victims, we have to suppress our emotions when treating the perpetrators. It is so difficult to understand how they can do the inhuman things they do ”


The Hadassah Medical Organization which operates two hospitals in Jerusalem, treats thousands of patients of diverse ethnic backgrounds annually, without any trace of discrimination.. Its international reputation for promoting peace in the Middle East region by providing equal treatment to Palestinians and Israelis, was recognized by nomination for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.


Stephanie Whitson, assistant director at Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Brown Mills, NJ participated with a group of 60 nurses of diverse religious, cultural and racial backgrounds in a mission to Israel called ”Israel – through the eyes of a nurse”.  In an article contributed to Greater Philadelphia – ADVANCE for nurses she wrote “..we all took away the understanding of the great professionalism required to work in an environment where terrorist and victim may lie side by side in an intensive care ward. It is also where our colleagues, whether Jew, Muslim or Christian must leave their politics at the door and care for each person on the precious value of life, regardless of how that patient came to be there.”


A study, published in Pediatrics, reported that from 1990-2000, Arab Israeli children received 66 kidneys from cadavers and Jewish children received 64. The waiting times for a kidney and the long-term outcome of surgery were identical for both   By comparison, studies carried out in the United States and other countries showed that minority groups in those places had significantly lower rates of kidney transplantation compared to the population's majority; apparently due to reduced access to medical care for minorities. However, in Israel, which has a system of universal health insurance, transplant surgery is covered by health funds and computers select patients on the basis of objective data.


In cases where specialist treatment is not available in Israel, Civil Administration officials in the West Bank have assisted Palestinian children to fly abroad for medical treatment. Some months ago seven Palestinian children, from Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus, and Hebron  were flown to Italy for lifesaving medical treatment accompanied by twenty-three family members, some of whom will donate bone marrow to the children. The Jerusalem Post quoted Civil Administration official and coordinator of the trip Dalia Bassa as saying that several additional Palestinian children suffering from heart defects would be sent to Italy later to receive treatment. "If we don't help them, their chances of living are slim," she said.


Since its establishment in 1991, the Schneider Childrens’ Hospital  like other Israeli hospitals, provides equal specialized treatment to children from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and neighboring countries.. Some 30% of patients come from the Arab sectors of Israel or from neighboring countries in the Middle East. Even in times of terror, the hospital welcomes Palestinian Arab children in the spirit of realizing peace, co-existence and mutual respect.


The Hospital’s ongoing unpublicized program to conduct cardiac catheterizations on critically ill Palestinian children from Gaza and the West Bank, has enabled many Arab youngsters to undergo life-saving treatment in spite of political divides.


A typical example; with the cooperation of the Israeli security forces, even during a wave of Arab violence, a three-week-old Palestinian baby, Mustapha Zaid was brought from the Palestinian town of Kalkiliya, suffering from severe respiratory distress. A CT scan showed the infant had a double oesophagus, a rare congenital defect. Senior surgeons operated immediately to alleviate the pressure, after which the baby was able to breathe for the first time without the assistance of a mechanical ventilator.


Does this remotely resemble “apartheid”?


Academic Boycotts

It is surprising and interesting to observe that even well known academics from whom one would expect serious verification before accepting information as fact, have swallowed propagandistic statements and joined the popular chorus of accusing Israel of apartheid. In this connection Appendix A containing two examples of what Arab students say is particularly relevant.


Land Distribution and apartheid

One of the canards, regularly propagated on anti-Israel websites which is frequently repeated uncritically is that 93% of the land in Israel is reserved for Jews. A little research reveals that the facts are quite different.

There never have been any restrictions on the purchase of private land in Israel by local or Arab foreigners as evident from the encouragement by the Palestinian Authority to purchase land in Israel by wealthy Palestinians living mainly in London. The subject is discussed in more detail in Appendix B


In sharp contrast with the enforcement of equality by Israeli courts in regard to land sales, the PA passed a law in 1997 authorizing the execution of Palestinians who sell land to Jews and in fact several have been summarily executed. As recently as April 13, 2006 Haaretz reported that the body of East Jerusalem Palestinian Mohammed Abu al-Hawa, was found in a burned out car in the West Bank city of Jericho. The al-Hawa family was one of two families who had sold a pair of apartment buildings on the Mount of Olives. Fatah gunmen in Jericho claimed responsibility for the murder, condemning the victim as a "traitor." In a leaflet, the gunmen threatened to kill any Arab who dares to sell his house to Jews.


Appendix A What Arab Students say

1. An open letter from a student at London School of Economics, written in 2005 against the AUT boycott

Dear Friend,

My name is Amir Kneifiss and I am an Israeli Druze currently studying towards an MSc. in Governance at the LSE. I am writing as a former student at Haifa University, the institute you decided to boycott a few weeks ago and the place where I spent the best years of my life studying history and politics.


Haifa is a university in which one of every five students is Arab; in which loud but civilised political debates take place regularly; and one in which nobody was ever denied his/her freedom of expression. In my opinion, it is a hotbed of peace and dialogue that should be studied as a model for coexistence and not the opposite. Nevertheless, misled by a frustrated lecturer, you decided to boycott this amazing and diverse institute.


Israel is much more complicated than a newspaper headline. As with many ethnic or national minorities around the world, there are difficulties in integrating Israeli-Arabs and other minorities into the mainstream society. Much more needs to be done in these aspects. Yet, I am a firm believer that change can be made through engagement in the many facets of Israeli democracy and I reject the false allegations portraying Israel as an apartheid and racist state. Not only it is wrong and deceptive, but it will do little to help us in the Middle East confront the real problems and promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.


The misleading arguments about Haifa University are only one example. More disturbing is the one-sided depiction of Israel, portrayed by some extremists who have never really intended to understand the complexities. Nobody, for instance, mentioned that in Ariel College there are currently 300 Arab students and that only last week, three Israeli-Arab Mayors publicly supported the College for its contribution to reducing inequalities. Yes, the occupied territories should be used to establish a viable Palestinian State. Nevertheless, instead of boycotting Israeli institutions, it is much more helpful to explore the various mechanisms capable of satisfying the interests of both sides (e.g. land swap).


An end to the occupation will not come from a blunt boycott, but from pragmatic solutions accommodating both sides ' desires. Only political negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians - and not the imposition of sanctions from the outside - will help to create a better future for us all. Therefore, although I am only in my twenties, I believe spreading hatred is the most ineffective way of promoting these goals. We need to bridge the gap, not extend it.


If you oppose discrimination and believe in peace, open dialogue and constructive debate, you should see why this boycott must be overturned. It helps none of us and shows one-sided hostility to Israel more than a love of peace.


Please do write to me if you are interested in hearing more about my point of view, and please defend dialogue, for the benefit of all of us.


Yours sincerely,

Amir Kniefiss Government Department London School of Economics


2. Article about a Jewish college on the West Bank

Extracts from an article By Shira Philosof - Haaretz June 22, 2005 about a Jewish college on the West Bank

When Ala Fakhory told his parents that he intended to study at the College of Judea & Samaria in Ariel, they were deeply opposed. It was not ideology that caused them to question his decision - it was fear that he would be surrounded by settlers who roam the college armed with pistols. Fakhory, who is one of 250 Arab students who attend the college, insisted. Near the end of his third year of study for a degree in electronic engineering, Fakhory says he experienced no racism on the part of students or faculty. In fact, he says, "Everyone treated me well."

No Racism

Tall, slender, 24-year-old Fakhory was born and lives in the Arab community of Issawiyeh in East Jerusalem. Before beginning his studies at Ariel, he completed two years toward his degree in electronic engineering at the Ort College and he has worked for four years in the East Jerusalem Electric Company.


Despite that, even Fakhory was pleasantly surprised. "There is undisclosed racism everywhere. I don't even feel that kind of hidden racism here. Until now, I haven't felt that anyone treated me poorly. Not the faculty or the students."

In order to lend weight to these statements, Fakhory says that about two weeks after he began his studies, he entered a class expecting to see, "a lecturer with a skullcap and a personal weapon. But the professor was really nice. The first month of study was difficult, but there were professors who helped me until I was integrated. One of them is Eliyahu Farber."


Other Arab students also feel comfortable at the college. When Mahmoud Amash, 22, from Jisr al-Zarqa, wants to describe his satisfaction with the college, he says he often stays here on weekends. When asked if he had a problem settling into an academic institution located in the territories, with a majority of Jewish students, he says no. He had Jewish friends, from Binyamina and Hadera, when he was a high school student in the village, he says. Moreover, he has more Jewish friends than Arab friends in the college.

Amash is an outgoing, smiling second-year student seeking a degree in criminology. He learned of the college through ads published in the media and lives in the dormitories. In his opinion, one of the reasons Arab students study here is because, "criminology is not taught at every university. It is easier to be accepted here, despite the fact that the courses are difficult. Assistance and tutoring is available, which makes it easier to be integrated."


The College is certainly a melting pot for Israel. We have religious students and secular students, and 1,000 new immigrants - Russians, Ethiopians and from a few other countries. We also have the second highest number of Ethiopian students (in total numbers) among all other universities and colleges.



Appendix B – Land sales in Israel

The 93% figure so commonly quoted as being forbidden for sale to Arabs is either due to a sad lack of understanding or a deliberate distortion of the true position, Of the total land in Israel, 79.5% is owned by the government, 14% is privately owned by the JNF, (making a subtotal of 93.5%), and the rest, around 6.5%, is evenly divided between private Arab and Jewish owners. The factual position is that until a recent court ruling, 79.5% of the land had been available equally to Jews, Arabs and all other sectors of the community. This land, however, which is administered by the Israel Land Administration (ILA), is not sold, but leased on long terms.


There has in fact been much internal debate about restrictions in allocating the 14%, owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and originally purchased for the specific purpose of settling Jews.


To understand the complex situation, three factors are highly relevant, viz. Leasehold, the JNF and the Jewish Agency. .


Leasehold. Most of the land in all parts of Israel, is held under the feudal leasehold system, which many are trying to change. There have been many moves to alter this system and the Israeli government has announced plans to privatize much of Israel's state-owned land and offer cheap building permits to citizens willing to move to away from the crowded central area.

Before regarding leasehold as another diabolical Israeli invention, it is relevant to bear in mind that leasehold is common in other countries too. It is still the most common form of flat ownership in Britain whereby those buying a flat, buy only the right to occupy it, usually long-term, around 100 years, without actually owning it.


In fact, dissatisfaction among Britain's 3.1 million leaseholders led to The Leasehold and Commonhold Reform Act 2002 which was intended to end bitter disputes between freeholders and leaseholders,


The JNF. The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was founded in 1901 for purchasing lands in the Ottoman's Empire territories for settlement of Jews, (remember the blue boxes in almost every Jewish home in the Diaspora?). In 1960, the JNF transferred the management of its lands to a newly created agency, the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) and the principle was established that the land would be leased rather than sold. The agreement placing JNF land under government administration incorporated a restriction that JNF land should leased only to Jews in accordance with the JNF’s original purpose. As described in more detail later, the high court has nevertheless ruled that no discrimination is allowed even in the allocation of this JNF land.


In practice, JNF land has even in the past been leased to Arab citizens of Israel, both for short-term and long-term use such as leases on a yearly basis to Bedouins for use as pasture. In other cases, JNF land has been traded for other, unrestricted, land so it can be leased to Arabs.


he Jewish Agency

The Jewish Agency was established in 1929 in accordance with the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine which included the concept of a "Jewish agency " comprised of representatives of world Jewry to assist in the " establishment of the Jewish National Home . . . in Palestine."


ARTICLE 4 of the British Mandate over Palestine stated

An appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognized as a public body for the purpose of advising and cooperating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration, to assist and take part in the development of the country.


Among its activities, the Agency has been responsible for resettlement of new immigrants, and in accordance with the Mandate decision, the building of new settlements for the Jewish population. This has been interpreted in the past as reserving such settlements for Jews.

The situation regarding restriction in leasing JNF or Jewish Agency land to non-Jews was brought to a head in 1994 when Adel Ka'adan, an Arab nurse at the Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center in Hadera and his family applied for a plot of land in Katzir, a suburban neighborhood near his village and was turned down flat, (as is known to happen in communities abroad who try to maintain homogeneity and common interests). The settlement was established on state land in 1982 by the Jewish Agency in cooperation with the Katzir Cooperative Society, which accepted only Jewish members.


The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, filed a suit on the Kaadans' behalf. In its March 2000 decision, the High Court ruled 4-1 that the state couldn’t discriminate between Arabs and Jews in land allocation. The one dissenting judge, Ya'acov Kedmi, agreed that the state has no right to discriminate against Arabs on state lands, but he added that the Jewish Agency, which was formed to promote Jewish settlement in Israel, has the right to decide who can benefit from its resources. Following its ruling, the High Court ordered the Katzir membership committee to consider the couple's candidacy and not base its decision on religion or nationality.


Eventually, in May 2004 the high court ruled that The Ka'adan family is not only entitled to purchase a lease in Katzir, but they can do so at the price prevailing in 1995, when they first inquired about settling there.

The absurdity of drawing parallels between South African apartheid is the deliberate ignoring of essential differences. In South Africa discrimination was enforced by law. In Israel, the situation is the direct opposite as evidenced by this decision, evidencing that the Israeli courts vigorously enforce equality, even pronouncing against the government.


Commenting on the court verdict, Dan Yakir, an attorney for the Kadans was quoted as saying "The court is emphasizing the universalistic values inherent in Judaism – that to act in accordance with Jewish values is to act with justice and equality."

Court President Aharon Barak wrote for a 4-1 majority. "The Jewish character of the state does not permit Israel to discriminate among its citizens. In Israel, Jews and non-Jews are citizens with equal rights and responsibilities” This conclusion is derived both from the values of Israel as a democratic state and from the values of Israel as a Jewish state,”


The flip side is that there is still some discrimination, but in the form of affirmative action. The ILA sometimes offers Israeli Arabs more favorable terms than it does to Israeli Jews. It charged the equivalent of $24,000 for a capital lease on a quarter of an acre in new Jewish communities near Beersheva while Bedouin families in the nearby community of Rahat paid only $150 for the same amount of land.

When a Jewish policeman from Beersheva, Eleizer Avitan, applied to the ILA to lease land in a Bedouin community under the same highly subsidized terms available to the Bedouins, the ILA refused. When he sued, Israel's Supreme Court ruled in favor of the ILA, saying that what might be viewed as ILA discrimination against the Jewish citizen Avitan was justified as affirmative action for Bedouin citizens.


Contrast with Policies of Israel’s neighbors

Human Rights activists who eagerly point out every wart in Israel are either ignorant of the situation in neighboring states, or deliberately ignore them. In sharp contrast to the enforcement of equality by Israeli courts, the PA passed a law in 1997 authorizing the execution of Palestinians who sell land to Jews and in fact several have been summarily executed.


As recently as April 13, 2006 Haaretz reported that the body of East Jerusalem Palestinian Mohammed Abu al-Hawa, was found in a burned out car in the West Bank city of Jericho. The al-Hawa family was one of two families who had sold a pair of apartment buildings on the Mount of Olives. The family, said that seven bullets had been fired at Mohammed’s head and car. Palestinian sources said he had also been beaten around the head.


Fatah gunmen in Jericho claimed responsibility for the murder, condemning the victim as a "traitor." In a leaflet, the gunmen threatened to kill any Arab who dares to sell his house to Jews.


A while before, rioting had broken out in the neighborhood and a restaurant belonging to a member of the al-Hawa family was torched. Palestinian sources said that one family member had been abducted to Ramallah for interrogation by the Palestinian security forces.

In an effort to secure his release, the family then published an announcement in an East Jerusalem newspaper, claiming that the buildings were not sold to Jews directly, but to Palestinian buyers who, in turn, sold the property to a Jordanian investment company.

The crime was compounded when residents of the A-Tur neighborhood prevented the burial of Muhammad Abu al-Hawa, in a local cemetery and his family was eventually forced to bury him in a makeshift cemetery on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho


This murder is consistent with Yasser Arafat’s statement in an interview with Yediot Ahronot, on May 20, 1997 in which he said "I warned the land dealers several times through the media not to play with fire. For us, whoever sells land to Jews and settlers is more dangerous than collaborators. Therefore, they must be put on trial and sentenced to death ... they are traitors. And to the Washington Post, May 20, 1997, he said "Expect the unexpected ... nobody from this moment will accept any traitor who sells his land to Israelis." (back)



In Jordan, under the direct instructions of King Husein, the government of Jordan in 1973 passed the "Law for Preventing the Sale of Immovable Property to the Enemy." The enemy being defined as "any man or judicial body [corporation] of Israeli citizenship living in Israel or acting on its behalf." Any Jordanian who sold land in Jordan or the West Bank to the "enemy" faced the death penalty and forfeiture of all his property to the state:

Following the peace treaty with Israel, the law was repealed, but milder statutes still effectively bar Israelis from purchasing or leasing land in Jordan.



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