Israel and the apartheid lie – A response to Amnesty International


“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”.

This quote, often attributed to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda chief, seems to be the one truth the Nazis ever espoused. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly due to their track record on Israel, Amnesty International have joined those anti-Israel voices in perpetuating this big lie.

The Amnesty report alleges that Israel is “an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis” and that “segregation is conducted in a systematic and highly institutionalized manner through laws, policies and practices”. However, it does not take much research, let alone one visit to Israel, to be able to quickly dispel this fabrication.

Go anywhere in Israel and you will see no signs for segregation. There are no separate buses for Arabs and Jews. There is no policy of discrimination against Israeli Arabs (that is, Arabs, some of whom identify as Palestinians, who are citizens of Israel) entering Israel’s universities or being barred from certain professions (unlike in Lebanon). Arabs play a full part in every aspect of Israel life. There are Arabs in the police, in the army, in the Judiciary. In fact it was an Arab Supreme Court Judge who convicted and sentenced a then sitting Jewish President to jail.

The Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, has regularly had strong representation from Arab parties, and as recent as 2020, the Arab ‘Joint List’ was the third largest party in the Knesset. The current governing coalition includes an Arab party, the Islamist United Arab List, with its leader, Mansour Abbas, holding the position of Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and Chair, Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs.

None of these would have been possible or even thinkable in the apartheid regime of South Africa.

Equal rights for all Israeli citizens, regardless or race, sex, sexual orientation, colour, or religion is also enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. This document still serves as the foundation of all laws in Israel.

With respect to the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, also known as the “Occupied Territories”, under the 1993 Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements, they are not Israeli citizens, and therefore do not have the rights attached to citizenship, as with any other state. They live under the governance of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls all civil life in the geographical areas agreed upon, mostly those with high Palestinian populations. The PA has its own laws, courts, and security forces – and previously elections and Parliament, until it stopped bothering with those. Those are the necessary institutions of a people in the process of fulfilling their aspirations of statehood.

According to the Oslo Accords, the final status of the above areas and its residing population has always been agreed to be settled in ‘Final Status’ agreements, yet the PA refuses to meet with Israel, even with the recent change of Israeli government. They have also been offered a full Palestinian state in over 90% of Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem with land swaps by two previous Israeli Prime Ministers, both times these were outright rejected. Amnesty choses to ignore all these facts.

Of course Israel has its challenges. There have been some communities who have not always flourished as well as others, but this is no different from any country in the world and does not constitute apartheid. And every country, including Israel, has its own specific immigration policies and systems of work permits for non-citizens. This does not constitute apartheid either.

Amnesty International, and groups like it, are clear on one thing. The do not believe that Israel has a right to exist. If their policy recommendations were implemented, Israel would either be destroyed or quickly dismantled. It considers its very founding just after the Holocaust (but not because of it), with the imprimatur of the UN, and in the midst of an attempted war of annihilation, to be illegitimate. It sees no right for the self determination of the Jewish People in their ancestral homeland, a right it affords to all other indigenous people.

In conclusion, Israel is far from an apartheid state, and Amnesty International are yet again jumping on the band wagon of demonising, delegitimising and applying double standards to Israel. Whilst Israel is the world’s only Jewish State, it does not seek to be exclusively Jewish but strives to maintain its national Jewish identity, no different from the 50 plus Muslim and 20 plus Christian countries in the world. And it tries to do this despite many of its neighbours wanting its annihilation, or groups such as Amnesty wanting it to fade in the annals of history.

  • Rob Berg is President of the Zionist Federation of New Zealand.