Israel boycott unnecessary
BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice will hold events this week for “Israeli Apartheid Week” on the University campus. “Israeli Apartheid Week” is closely related to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
There is no apartheid in Israel, yet the week continues to be known as “Israeli Apartheid Week.” The term “apartheid” is meant to recall the situation in South Africa pre-1994. Using the term apartheid to describe the situation of Arabs in Israel is not only erroneous, but takes away from those who suffered the hardships of actual apartheid in South Africa.
The International Criminal Court met in Rome on July 17, 1998 to establish a treaty, known as the Rome Statute, which 120 states eventually accepted. In the Rome Statute, we find a definition of apartheid: “Inhumane acts … committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of retaining that regime.” This definition correlates strongly to the events that took place in South Africa from 1948 to 1994, which involved white supremacy and Afrikaner minority rule.
The situation in South Africa involved what is referred to as “petty apartheid.” The National Party passed a string of legislation, which began with the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages, Act No. 55 of 1949, which prohibited marriage between whites and blacks. Moreover, blacks were not allowed to run businesses and were supposed to move to black “homelands” and set up businesses there. Everything from bus stops, trains, hospitals and ambulances were segregated, and blacks were not allowed to buy hard liquor. Blacks who were injured in accidents were left to bleed to death if there were no “black” ambulances to get them to “black” hospitals. Additionally, blacks were prohibited from filling government positions and were not allowed to employ white people.
However, the situation for Arabs in Israel is nothing like that of pre-1994 South Africa. Israeli-Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population and play a huge role in Israel’s democracy. Arabs vote in elections, serve in the Knesset and even hold high-ranking positions, such as Justice Salim Joubran in the Israel Supreme Court. Furthermore, unlike blacks in pre-1994 South Africa, Arabs not only run successful businesses in Israel, but are also encouraged to do so. The Israeli government categorized all Arab communities in the country as “class A” development areas in July 2006, giving them tax benefits. This decision was made in order to encourage investments in the Arab sector. Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office Raanan Dinur declared in December 2006 that Israel finalized plans to give NIS 160 million private equity funds to help develop the businesses of the country’s Arab citizens. The Israeli government approved a $216 million investment in March 2010 with the goal of increasing the Israeli-Arab sector. The plan is set to put more than 15,000 new Arab employees into the workforce by 2014.
Unlike blacks in pre-1994 South Africa, Israeli-Arabs participate in Israel’s public health system. This public health system is far more advanced and prosperous then those in neighboring Arab countries. Israeli-Arabs lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical care. Despite the fact that more than half of Arab men smoke, the life expectancy for Arab citizens has increased by 27 years since 1948. Moreover, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (Israel), the Arab infant mortality rate dropped from 32 deaths per thousand births in 1970 to 8.6 per thousand in 2000. In respect to health care, Israeli-Arabs are better off living in Israel then in the vast majority of Arabic countries in the Middle East.
In essence, the situation of Israeli Arabs does not compare to the apartheid of pre-1994 South Africa.
Thus, boycotting Israel is not only unnecessary but destructive. It points all the blame on one side of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Doing so simplifies what is in reality a nuanced and complex issue. Furthermore, by putting all the blame on one side, we therefore stifle discourse and in the end, everyone loses. Instead we should work as a student body to promote dialogue and the exchange of ideas. Perhaps, we can turn a week that often promotes hatred into a week of peaceful dialogue and discussion.
Zev Newman is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.