I can no longer defend Israel
At 5 years old, I went with my family on my first trip to Israel. That trip, and every subsequent trip, has left me with a sense of pride and love for the State of Israel.
Despite Israel’s social issues (for example the integration of immigrants, and the influx of illegal migrants) and despite the lack of progress being made with the ‘peace process’, I have always admired Israel for its pluralistic, multi cultural society, and it’s socially sensitive policies.
Coming from South Africa, and growing up in Apartheid South Africa, Israel has represented for me, everything that Apartheid South Africa was not.
If the State of Israel was West, Apartheid South Africa was East. There was no link, connection or association between the two. And I loved that about my visits to Israel.
Despite knowing that they will probably be deported as illegal immigrants, I have long admired the black Muslim refugees who have risked their lives, trying to make their way to Israel.
I respect people like Simon Deng, a black Sudanese former slave, and leading human rights activist, who despite the opposition to his views, rallies in support of Israel as a free, democratic state, where all religions are protected, and racial, as well as religious, discrimination is outlawed.
I have loved the State of Israel as a country where members of parliament included Muslims, Jews, Christians and Druze. Members of parliament are light skinned and dark skinned. Members of parliament speak Arabic, Hebrew, English and Yiddish.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence makes it clear that the State of Israel:
“will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions.”
The Declaration of Independence goes on, to call on all inhabitants of the State to help build the State, as equal members of the State. This is stated as follows:
“WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institution”.
This diversity was not what I grew up with in Apartheid South Africa.
Since Jerusalem’s re-unification in 1967, Israel has guaranteed access to all holy sites for all religions. Further, the Israel government embarked on multiple projects aimed at restoring Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites.
I have always loved the fact that Israel is a melting pot of races, nationalities and religions. In many ways, for me, Jerusalem represented the light that could combat Pretoria’s darkness.
Jerusalem’s many faces, with its plethora of Mosques, Churches and Synagogues has been, for most of my life, an inspiration. I have long felt that Jerusalem is a city where one can experience the true nature of the State of Israel. A state where religious freedom is enshrined. A state where citizens are equal before the law, irrespective of race, gender or religion.
I love travelling on Jerusalem buses. I love seeing an Ultra Orthodox man, decked out in his typical garb, hat, long coat, long side curls and all. And opposite him, a devout Muslim woman, decked out in her beautiful, colourful hijab and both travel together peacefully, sometimes engaging in conversation, sometime sitting quietly, as both cultures and religions value the beauty of modesty.
They sit on that same bus, as equal citizens of the State of Israel. Free to associate. Free to practice their religions. Free to travel on public buses.
I love that sight
But Israel’s detractors have highlighted the ‘Apartheid’ nature of the State of Israel. While Israel endeavours to find a peaceful solution and settlement with the Palestinians, Israel’s detractors continue to maintain the stance that Israel is an Apartheid state.
The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) campaign has its supporters wearing T-shirts with the words 'Israeli Apartheid Stinks'.
Israel’s detractors use the failures of the peace process as weapons against a State that claims to enshrine human rights and protect all citizens.
Despite the State of Israel’s declaration of independence, and the laws that govern the land, the BDS movement states that:
“Israel was established by the Zionist movement over 60 years ago with the intention and effect of achieving the permanent removal en masse of the indigenous, predominantly Arab population of Palestine for the purpose of Jewish colonization and development of a “Jewish state.””
The anti-Israel lobby is strong. That lobby makes use of emotive terms like ‘Apartheid Israel’. They confuse issues and they confuse the public. They use the lack of progress in the peace process as a basis to mislead the public about Israel’s value and respect for human rights. Those values and respect are inherent not only in Israeli law, but in large parts of Israeli society too. The anti-Israel lobby dismisses these facts, and promotes fallacies. The BDS movement draws attention away from pressing issues in the world, and demonizes Israel.
Simon Deng, a black Sudanese former slave, has said:
“The people who suffer most from the UN anti-Israel policy are not the Israelis but all those people who the UN ignores in order to tell its big lie against Israel: we, the victims of Arab/Muslim abuse: women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, homosexuals, in the Arab/Muslim world. These are the biggest victims of UN Israel hatred”
When talking about and debating the issues that face Israel, I try and take as an objective a stance as possible. I review the facts, the figures, the comments, the realities.
Sadly, my love of Israel is challenged. When I see refugees being beaten in Tel Aviv, I am saddened by the way some Israeli thugs can act. That makes an impression on me. But what makes an even greater, positive impression on me, is seeing how the Israeli authorities deal with those thugs, and ensure that any person challenging another’s human dignity gets severely punished.
When I see slow progress on the peace process, and the difficulty in finding a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I am saddened. Then I recall the great sacrifices Israel makes to achieve peace, like its willingness to dismantle settlements in Gaza, and expel all Jews living there, in the hope the Palestinians will make bold moves too, towards peace.
I make my best effort to view Israel’s policies and existence in an honest, open and fair manner. The same way a true and upright judge would treat proceedings in a court case.
A judge would review facts. A judge would listen to both arguments. A judge would review the prosecution’s case and the defense’s case equally, with an open mind, and an eagerness to ensure that justice prevails. A judge does not rely on conjecture, false accusations, weak analogies and wild associations. A judge does not get swayed by emotive language, but keeps his mind sharp, focusing on what is presented before him, challenging all lines of reasoning.
Israel has many detractors. For years, people have been making claims against the State of Israel. Israel has been pursued in legal courts, as well as in the courts of public opinion.
And in those courts of public opinion, I have always been willing to defend Israel. To present the facts. To tell my stories. To share my experiences. To be honest about Israel’s flaws, and to be proud of its accomplishments.
I have treated the court of public opinion as I would a court of law.
Sadly, the prosecution fails to do the same. The prosecution fails to bring facts and relies on conjecture and false associations. Like a skilful magician’s sleight of hand, Israel’s detractors focus the public’s attention solely on Israel’s negative aspects, while ignoring the good that far outweighs the bad. The BDS, and others, use of emotive language, like “Apartheid Israel” ignores the facts on the ground, and misleads in the most disgusting of ways, making a mockery of those who suffered under the atrocities of Apartheid South Africa.
When presenting its case, the anti Israel lobby continues to ignore the intellectual and honest debate that the topic requires. Facts are replaced with fallacies, ignorance is exploited and all the good that Israel does is disregarded.
Such a position does not make for an open and honest debate. Such a method of argument does not make for an environment where mutual respect is guaranteed, and where the focus is on positive resolutions to conflict.
I used to enjoy defending Israel. I used to love presenting my case in an objective, respectful and courteous manner.
I like being open to debate. Presenting facts. Defending Israel. Acting like a defence team in a court of law. Defending with a measure of dignity, decorum, and rationality.
But when the prosecution, the anti Israel and BDS lobby, prosecutes Israel by presenting its case in a salacious, unsavory and repulsive manner, I can no longer defend Israel.
There is no point in even trying