by Hugh Fitzgerald
Every few weeks it seems that someone — Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Peter Beinart, Nicholas Kristof, Bernie Sanders — simply throws out that phrase suitable for every occasion, that “Israel is an apartheid state.” A few weeks ago, on May 16, it was the turn of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who in the middle of the 11-day war that the terror gang Hamas unleashed on Israel with a furious barrage of rockets, repeated the claim that “Israel is an apartheid state.” She did not offer any evidence for this canard; none of these people ever do. They merely wave in the direction of an answer, saying “just look at the way Israel treats its Arab citizens.”
So here we are having to run through, yet again, the evidence that contradicts that assertion; I am sure you are as tired of reading my response as I sometimes am of having to deliver it, but we mustn’t let that statement, both vicious and absurd, pass unremarked, not when it comes from someone who is taken as seriously as is, by too many, the former bartender and current Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And there is now even more evidence that shows how preposterous that “apartheid” charge has become.
So, one mo’ time, here is the answer to Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and all those who think just like her:
In Israel, Arabs serve in the Knesset.
In Israel, Arabs serve on the Supreme Court.
In Israel, Arabs are sent abroad as diplomats representing their country.
In Israel, the chairman of the largest bank in the country, Bank Leumi, is an Arab.
In Israel, Jews and Arabs study together in universities.
In Israel, Jews and Arabs work together on farms, in factories, in offices.
In Israel, Jews and Arabs both provide, and receive, treatment in the same hospitals.
In Israel, Jews and Arabs play on the same sports teams and in the same orchestras.
In Israel, Jews and Arabs run restaurants together, open stores together, start companies together.
In Israel, the only difference in the treatment of Jews and Arabs is that Jews must, while Arabs may, serve in the IDF. Increasing numbers of Arabs, especially Christians, have chosen to do so.
And now, with the new government that is about to take power, Arabs will be taking part in the government at the cabinet level. The story of how an Arab party, and its head, became vital to the victory of the new coalition that is about to take power, is here.
While addressing Congress last month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and fellow “Squad” members denounced Israel not only for its efforts to defend its people against Hamas terrorism but also labeled it an “apartheid state.”
This fiction that seeks to characterize the only democracy in the Middle East as morally equivalent to apartheid-era South Africa has gained traction on the left and in the media. It was the centerpiece of leftist NGO Human Rights Watch’s anti-Zionist diatribe and was echoed by media influencers like HBO’s John Oliver and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
The false analogy that demonizes and mischaracterizes life in Israel is a propaganda talking point rather than a serious argument. However, the fact that it is divorced from reality hasn’t stopped those who promote it from being able to make it part of the mainstream discourse about Israel.
When Israel’s new government takes office – barring any last-minute changes, it is set to be voted in this Sunday – the “apartheid state” lie will be seen to be even more of a canard than before. By including the United Arab List – popularly known by its Hebrew acronym Ra’am – headed by Mansour Abbas in its ranks as a member, the idea that the Jewish state treats its non-Jewish minorities by a different legal standard will be exposed as a sad joke.
The presence of an Arab political party in the new coalition that is set to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 consecutive years in power is highly controversial. Critics of the so-called “government of change” assert that Ra’am’s presence is a danger to the country’s security.
The case for this critique is not insubstantial. Ra’am is a party that is avowedly Islamist and, at least until now, ideologically connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, the terror-supporting Egyptian-based movement that is also the godfather of the Hamas terrorist group. Its platform is openly anti-Zionist, opposing the existence of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn and supporting the so-called “right of return” for the descendants of 1948 Arab refugees.
Of the four Arab political parties that were previously aligned together under the Joint List, its positions could be characterized as the most radical of the quartet. That made it the most unlikely to be part of a Zionist government, let alone one headed by a right-winger like Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett.
Mansour Abbas’ Ra’am party is not only an Arab party, but an Islamist party. Officially, it is anti-Zionist, opposed to the existence of Israel no matter what the Jewish state’s borders might be, and supporting a “right of return” for “Palestinian refugees” that, if carried out, would mean the demographic end of the Jewish state.
It can be argued that its presence in the government could undermine the ability of the coalition to act to defend Israel. That’s especially true with respect to the possibility of a renewal of the recent terrorist attacks from Gaza or bloody rioting by Israeli Arabs, which Ra’am defended.
But in an illustration of the truth of the expression that politics makes strange bedfellows, Ra’am has chosen to place pragmatism over ideology, and so has joined forces with Bennett and Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid.
The decision of Abbas to run separately from the other Arab parties in the last election was rooted in his apparent belief that Israeli Arabs needed their political representatives to prioritize their well-being and interests over Palestinian nationalist goals.
Mansour Abbas has decided that his nationalist ideology will not solve the bread-and-butter issues that affect the daily lives of Israeli Arabs, who want jobs, easy access to transportation, good schools, better municipal services including clean water and uninterrupted electricity, the possibility of higher education – in short, what Israeli Jews want for themselves and their families. This is what Mansour Abbas hopes to provide.
As the conflict between Israel and the Palestine Authority, and its Hamas rivals, over the future of the West Bank and Gaza heated up after the disastrous 1993 Oslo Accords, Israeli Arabs became increasingly radicalized. In the last 30 years, their political parties became far more focused on supporting Arab tyrants in Ramallah and Gaza than the interests of their voters.
Unlike their three partners in the Joint List, Ra’am’s leaders decided to draw some stark conclusions from last year’s Abraham Accords that normalized Israel’s relations with a handful of Muslim countries. Much of the Sunni Arab world has grown tired of being held hostage by Palestinian intransigence and now sees Israel as a strategic ally against Iran, as well as a trading partner. If that was so, why should the Arab minority inside the Jewish state make support for the fantasy of Israel’s destruction their political priority?
The Abraham Accords proved that many Arabs had had their fill of the Palestinian complaints and constant demands for support, and were no longer going to let the Palestinians prevent them from strengthening their ties to Israel, both in security matters against common enemies — the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, and in economic matters, where the benefits of doing business with Israel became more obvious – and as the last few months of feverish deal-making between Emirati and Israeli businessmen, entrepreneurs, investors have shown.
Abbas didn’t become a Zionist, but he seems to have grasped the illogic of Israeli Arabs being the dupes of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. As such he broke away from the Joint List and campaigned as someone who intended to bargain with the Zionist parties and get the most he could for his constituents….
Mansour Abbas is not going to ask his supporters to wait for, still less fight for, a Palestinian state; he is less a Yassir Arafat and more a latter-day Tip O’Neill, promising jobs for the boys, a chicken in every pot, and all the other good things that a practiced pol can deliver to his constituents. He is the first Arab politician in Israel to have demonstrated that that will be his agenda.
Benjamin Netanyahu was the first one of the Jewish political figures to woo the Arab voters, precisely by promising that he would give more attention to their economic needs. He even negotiated with Mansour Abbas, who at first seemed willing to throw in his lot with Netanyahu and the right-wing Likud, to ensure his staying in power.
But then the Religious Zionist Party, led by Bezalel Smotrich, would not hear of including Ra’am in the coalition supporting Netanyahu. Netanyahu had to choose whether to keep the Religious Zionists or the Ra’am Party; he chose to stick with the Religious Zionists, and thus ended his brief honeymoon with Ra’am.
Then the coalition of “far-right” but pragmatic Naftali Bennett, head of the Yamina Party, together with Yair Lapid of the centrist and secular party Yesh Atid, unhampered by the Religious Zionists who put the kibosh on Netanyahu’s plan to reach out to the Ra’am Party, managed to persuade Mansour Abbas to join what would then become the winning coalition. Bennett and Lapid are keenly aware of what Abbas wants for his supporters – more and better jobs, and more funding for municipal services in Arab communities – and are prepared to deliver.
That will create a government that is ideologically incoherent, though it will also be one united by pragmatic interests. Bennett and Lapid would be foolish to trust Abbas. But by paying – just as Netanyahu would have done – Ra’am in patronage, funding for Arab communities and other concessions to its voters, the new government will have struck a deal that Abbas will have a vested interest in keeping.
For all of the justified fears about bringing an Islamist party into the governmental tent, this is exactly what Israel has wanted for many decades. Indeed, visionary Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who is still rightly revered on the Israeli right as its founding father, wrote a model constitution for a future Jewish state in 1934 that called not only for legal equality for Arab citizens but also envisioned that every one of its governments would have Arab leaders alongside Jews.
Having an Arab political party embrace compromises that effectively nullify their anti-Zionist and Islamist beliefs could be a formula for coexistence in a country in which there will always be a significant Arab minority. That this will complicate things for any government is a given; it is also a signal to other Arabs that their continuing war on Israel’s existence must be abandoned.
Of less importance is the way the agreement with Ra’am will strengthen Israel’s case to the world. Still, an Israeli government with an Arab political partner conclusively debunks the ongoing lie about Israel and apartheid….
The appearance of Ra’am in the ruling coalition is the latest bit of evidence that contradicts the charge that “Israel is an apartheid state.” The Arab party Ra’am (the one Arab party to break away from the Arab Joint List) and its head, Mansour Abbas, are now in the government as part of the ruling coalition. It remains to be seen what cabinet or other post is given to Abbas himself or to others in his party. But the presence of an Arab in the cabinet, and an Arab party as an essential part of the ruling coalition, further debunks the notion of Israel as an “apartheid state.” Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will never slip out of the mind-forged manacles of Islam. So listen up, AOC. On the subject of Israel’s “apartheid,” there’s still time for you to come to your senses.
First published in Jihad Watch.
AOC and her ilk crave attention -- and get plenty by shouting "Israel is an apartheid state." It is like being scandalously dressed: people notice, and that's all that matters. Facts? Truth? Why do they matter?