Israel Apartheid Week

An open letter to the Student Representative Council of the University of Cape Town in response to hosting the annual hate fest in April 2019: The Israeli Apartheid Week.

By Stephen Schulman, a UCT alumnus living in Israel

image001 (63)
Hall Of Hate. Jameson Hall  – renamed in 2018 ‘Saartjie Baartman Hall – is UCT’s venue during its annual ‘Israel Hate Week.

Dear members of the UCT SRC,

Now that the new year of 2019 has arrived it came to my notice that you, as in the past, and as is your custom, in the merry month of April, hosted that annual hate fest: the Israeli Apartheid Week.

image006 (5).png

As a past graduate of our proud university and even though many moons have passed, I still feel a kinship to this great institution and its students and therefore would like to draw your attention to certain cogent facts and to engage you in a frank open discussion. I am certain that your studies and exposure to the benefits of academia of my alma mater have endowed you with qualities of intellectual and moral integrity and have instilled in you the virtues of disinterested enquiry, dispassionate objectivity and courtesy that shall enable you to weigh my words and honour me with a reply.

image004 (7).png

You label Israel an “apartheid state”.

To deserve that label, a country must fulfil certain criteria. Apartheid was official government policy, legislated, executed and also condoned and ideologically justified by the main Afrikaner churches. Black people were discriminated against, disenfranchised, relocated, dispossessed and relegated to the fringes of society while there were strict laws against miscegenation and racial intercourse.

image001 (61)
The high-profile marriage in 2018 between Arab-Israeli news anchor, reporter, and television host Lucy Aharish, a Muslim (left), and Israeli film and television actor Tzahi Halevi and a Jew. (Photo: Meir Edery)

Unfortunately, nowadays the term “apartheid” has been too often incorrectly applied to any form of discrimination, been devalued and has consequently lost its original context.

Now, does the State of Israel fulfil the criteria to be so labeled? Does it have an official policy of racial discrimination to groups within its borders?

image005 (8).png

Firstly, all citizens irrespective of race or religion have full equality.There are Arabs serving in the diplomatic corps and an Arab judge in the supreme court. In the Knesset (Israeli parliament) the current minister of communications is a Druse. There are Arab parties in the Knesset and even though they see themselves as Palestinians and their views are often inimical to the state, as Israel is a democratic country, they have the right to express their opinions, which they freely do. Arab citizens are an integral part of the work force and partake fully in society. In my Medical Health Fund and in hospitals and clinics, there are Arab doctors and nurses with Arabs and Jews together in the hospital wards. I have been treated by Arab doctors and nurses and wait my turn in line after other Arab citizens to see a doctor. There is mingling in cinemas, restaurants and supermarkets. Just recently a well-known and popular TV presenter who happens to be a Moslem Arab married a Jew. Is this “apartheid“?

image003 (6).png

Israel has freedom of religion and religious sites are protected by law. The Bahai faith so viciously persecuted in Iran has magnificent gardens and buildings in Haifa. A great number of Christian pilgrims visit our country. The LGBT community lives and works freely here. Do these same conditions exist in the Middle Eastern countries surrounding us, in Gaza and the West Bank?

image007 (11).png

You profess a deep and lasting concern for the Palestinian community. Let us now examine a few facts. In 1948, the United Nations declared Israel as a legitimate state with a right to stand amongst the community of nations. The Israel War of Independence ensued as the fledging state’s Arab neighbors refused to abide by the UN resolution, acknowledge Israel’s existence, avowed to destroy it, “push the Jews into the sea” and promptly invaded the country. In the aftermath of the war, approximately 600,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees. Moreover, approximately 850,000 Jews who had been living in the Arab countries many centuries before Islam dominated the area, were persecuted, subjected to pogroms, disenfranchised, dispossessed and expelled.

image010 (3).pngIn the name of justice for all, a most relevant and pertinent question would be to enquire about the fate of these 850,000 Jewish refugees. The answer is quite simple: the vast majority were accepted with open arms by the fledgling state while a smaller number having European passports chose to move there. Today, Jews from Arab countries and their descendants are an integral part of modern-day Israel.

Israel did not push them into squalid refugee camps and keep them there to fester as hostages as the Arab countries have done to their fellow Moslems. Israel did not deny them full citizenship and opportunities. You profess deep concern for the Palestinians’ rights. Lebanon restricts them to refugee camps, denies them basic rights such as citizenship, health care, employment and education and disqualifies them from owning property. Moreover, they are barred from studying or practicing in twenty professions. Lebanon continues to ignore calls by various human rights groups to the Lebanese authorities to end discrimination against Palestinians.

Is this not “apartheid” in its true sense?

In reality, the policy and actions of Lebanon are closer to the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany. In the wake of the Gulf War, many Gulf states, Qatar included, used the opportunity to expel the Palestinians living there. Saudi Arabia has imprisoned many and in Syria, thousands have been tortured and murdered. Is there an Arab country that has accepted their co-religionists the Palestinian refugees, given them citizenship and full rights as Israel has done to the Jews expelled from the Arab countries?  In the name of full justice and moral consistency, why have you never raised your voices in protest? Why have you not devoted a week to this cause?

The SRC has always stated its awareness of and devotion to causes for human rights.

image008 (7).png

Turkey under Erdogan has summarily dismissed over 100, 000 civil servants, purged the army, jailed many in the opposition and effectively silenced the free press either by laws or intimidation.

Iran is under dictatorship, executing, jailing and torturing many of its citizens, persecuting religious minorities such a the Bahai and actively developing and spreading terrorism throughout the globe.

Saudi Arabia denies gender equality, has religious intolerance ad has executed over 500 people in the last few years.

image009 (3).png

China has forcibly relocated over 1000,000 Moslem Uighurs, incarcerated, executed and harvested the organs of members of the Falun Gong sect. and let us not forget, amongst others, its maltreatment of the Tibetans.

Yet, in the light of all these well-known gross abuses, the SRC has chosen to remain silent. Why is this so?

Is it because you don’t wish to offend and bite the hand that feeds you when Saudi Arabia and China invest large sums of money in SA?

You quite rightly state your pride in being an African university and your involvement in the affairs of the continent and so it should be. Nevertheless, you remain silent in the face of injustices. To name a few:

Zimbabwe is corrupt and oppressive towards its own people. There is slavery in the Sudan and many fellow Africans suffer under incompetent and corrupt rulers. I saw in your group picture where you happily and contentedly sit, that with the exception of one white person that you are all Africans, so in raising your voices you cannot be accused of racism. You have been empowered by your fellow students to speak out. Why is there silence on your part?

image002 (58)
Hall Of Hate. Jameson Memorial Hall is UCT’s venue during its annual ‘Israel Hate Week.

When I was at UCT, the SRC saw beyond campus politics, was involved, protested and demonstrated against government apartheid policies. South Africa – your country, the country of your forefathers and your future generations – is mired in deep corruption with its leaders filling their pockets at the expense of the ordinary citizen. Poverty, neglect and crime is rampant. In your site, I searched in vain for any pronouncements of your concern or activism.  It is incomprehensible that you should choose silence!

image011 (2).png

Consequently, your official platform is full of platitudes that unfortunately are devoid of any content. I find it pitiful that you find time to single out Israel while willfully ignoring the rampant injustices around you. I find it pitiful and morally repugnant that you turn a blind eye to many egregious violations of human rights and let hatred, racism and anti-Semitism blind your reason. I find it saddening that you, the student council are devoid of any moral compass and are stained with moral cowardice.

image012.png

I level these charges against you. They are serious. If I have erred, I shall gladly stand to be corrected. I look forward to your reply. If not, then you will have affirmed all my accusations.

Stephen Schulman

Ramat Hasharon,

Israel.

 

 

 

One thought on “Israel Apartheid Week

  1. Hello fellow South African, Stephen, I too come from South Africa, lived most of my youth under the apartheid regime and was a student at Wits in Johannesburg.

    One of the reasons I came to Israel was to live away from a racist society which I could do very little to change. I read your article with interest but could only partly agree. Indeed Israel, even today after the new law which makes Arab citizens living here second class citizens, is not, strictly speaking, an Apartheid state. However racism is rampant and this is not the kind of democracy I came to in order to escape apartheid. I do think it is legitimate to use the “A” word to make a point and international awareness of this can only put pressure on us to change in the direction we may like to see. This is certainly true when referring to the Palestinians living in the occupied territories under a harsh military rule with no political or legal rights – for over 50 years now. It is true that there are many other countries that should be judged severely on the issue of human rights but this can in no way justify our oppression of the Arab people who, like us make claim to this land. How and why the Palestinians refugee problem came about is also an issue which can be judged from many angles.
    No, I am not anti- Israel, I live here for over 50 years, happy and proud of much, but not proud of our human rights record and not proud of our “apartheid-like” regime, particularly in the occupied areas. There will be reasons and explanations for this but there were also reasons and explanations in South Africa.

    I hope disagreement is not also disagreeable
    Richelle Shem-tov

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.