Israel: An Apartheid State?

There’s a lot of mud slung at Israel – Apartheid! Genocide! The UN regularly feels the need to condemn Israel more than North Korea, China, Venezuela, Syria and Saudi Arabia combined. Even entire church denominations are labelling Israel an Apartheid state.1 Globally, Israel is a bit of a pariah state, and the only country in the world that its “right to exist” is a matter of debate.

However, these condemnations do not stand up to scrutiny. Reality bears out a very different picture and the fact that Israel is the only Jewish state in the world should give us a clue about what is really going on.

Israel is NOT an Apartheid State

Israel is not an apartheid state, as South Africa used to beOne of the false accusations against Israel is that of apartheid.

South Africa was finally freed from the shackles of apartheid in the early 1990s after over 40 years of extreme injustice. Black and white were separated in every sector of society, giving the name apartheid, from an Afrikaans word meaning “apart-hood”.

Is Israel separating Jews and Arabs in this way? Absolutely not.

Having visited Israel, South African politician Mosiuoa Lekota rejected the assertion emphatically. Lakota, who has been Minister of Defense, spent time in prison for his anti-apartheid activism along with Nelson Mandela. “I was in Israel… In Israel, you won’t find the same divisions between Jews and non-Jews that we used to witness during apartheid. There are no segregated buses for different ethnic groups, like Jews and Arabs.” 2

In South Africa, the law of the land dictated what you could do, where you could go, and what you could be based purely on your ethnicity.

In Israel, discrimination based on race, religion, gender or sexuality is illegal. 

People of any race, religion, or background are equally welcome to work in Israel's hospitals, courts, government, army, education system…. the list goes on. There are Arab doctors and nurses, lawyers and judges, members of parliament, local councillors, teachers, professors… you name it. Israelis of different colors and backgrounds have won national prizes of all kinds from Master Chef to beauty queen, and have opportunities to help shape law and society. That's not to say that there isn't racism – there is, like every nation. But there are no laws barring anyone from reaching the top of their field on account of race.

Israel is a multicultural democracy

Israel is not an apartheid stateThe truth is this: If you get on a bus or a train in Israel, it's not uncommon see a hijab-wearing Arab sitting next to an Orthodox Jew. There is no separation on Israel's transportation. In a hospital you'll hear Hebrew and Arabic in the same ward, with Arab and Jewish staff and patients all together. In a university lecture you can look around the room to see all kinds of people represented, learning alongside one another. Indeed, the Arab population of Israel statistically does extremely well academically and many go on to serve in prestigious fields such as law and medicine.

Politics in Israel can be intense and chaotic but there are Arab parties in represented in the Knesset free to make their voices heard. Even if they are anti-Israel. Israel's law enforcement and military services also have people of all different backgrounds, working together to protect Israel.

Ismail Khaldi, an Arab citizen of Israel and the nations first high-ranking Muslim in the Israeli Foreign Service said the following:

“I am a proud Israeli along with many other non-Jewish Israelis: Druze, Bahai, Bedouin, Christians and Muslims who live in one of the most culturally diverse societies and the only true democracy in the Middle East.”

Israeli society is far from perfect, but let us deal honestly. By any yardstick you choose – educational opportunity, economic development, women's and gay rights, freedom of speech and assembly, legislative representation – Israel’s minorities fare far better than any other country in the Middle East.

Like all countries, Israel has had its share of race-related incidents, some of which have been very serious. But they are illegal. The accusation of apartheid is simply false. 

In a covert camera operation, actors set up a situation where a Jewish barista refused service to an Arab, and over and over again, Israelis witnessing the scene spoke up against the mistreatment. Many were so shocked they were shaking and angry to see such racism. It can happen, but it is not socially acceptable to the vast majority, and definitely not legal as it was in South Africa's dark days. It also must be remembered that racial tension in Israel is in the context of ongoing conflict in which many lives have been lost on both sides. Given the situation, Israel works remarkably hard to remain open and free to all.

Insight from the Bible

So why does the charge keep sticking? Why is there such a thing as “Israel Apartheid Week” held at many universities around the world? The Bible can help us understand.

“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the surrounding peoples when they besiege Jerusalem as well as Judah. Moreover, in that day I will make Jerusalem a massive stone for all the people. All who try to lift it will be cut to pieces. Nevertheless, all the nations of the earth will be gathered together against her.” (Zechariah 12:2-3)

Jerusalem, ONE FOR ISRAELZechariah the prophet foretells the entire world will eventually turn against Israel. Jerusalem, the place where all of humanity was saved from sin, has become the spiritual epicentre of creation. The enemy hates Israel because God chose Israel as his vessel to bring salvation and blessing to all the families of the earth through the Messiah.

The Bible is replete with stories of attempted genocide against Israel (another crime Israel gets falsely accused of!). Whether it's Pharaoh, the Amalekites, Haman or the Romans, the desire to wipe the people of Israel off the map is nothing new. Hitler has been one among many. False accusations, blood libels and stirring up hatred against the Jewish people have been a tragically recurring theme.

Anti-Semitism appears in many forms, but the root is always the same – a Satanic hatred of God's beloved. No Christian should be party to this unwarranted and vitriolic condemnation of Israel.

No, Israel is not an apartheid state.

The enemy hates and accuses Israel because he hates the God of Israel. It will become harder and harder for Jews and Christians to publicly identify with the God of Israel as we move towards the end of this age.

Then we will know what real apartheid is.

  1. All Israel News, Christian Groups Condemn Antisemitic Presbyterian Church USA Resolutions which Call Israel and Apartheid State, June 30, 2022
  2. Jerusalem Post, Israel is not an apartheid state, former South African defense minister says, Zvika Klein, September 24, 2023

Photo by Gregory Fullard on Unsplash

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