A Jewish (therefore apartheid?) State

       Several of the laws that are pointed to when pronouncing apartheid upon Israel are concerned with maintaining the Jewish character of the state. It is precisely this Jewish character, accompanied by supporting legislation to preserve it, that is often denounced as inherently racist; the first piece of evidence in the case for Israeli apartheid. But Israel did not recently sneak this Jewish nature in the back door, triggering concerns of apartheid that could not be detected previously. It is no secret that Israel intended to be a Jewish state ... that was the point.

       In 1917 Arthur Balfour set the stage for the Zionist aspiration of their own Jewish state in his famous Balfour Declaration, writing that Britain views "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people ..."20 Palestine was then mandated to Britain by the League of Nations who proceeded to task them with "putting into effect the declaration ... in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people"21 as one of their primary responsibilities. In addition to affirming the Balfour Declaration, the mandate for Palestine reiterates the goal of "reconstituting their [the Jews] national home in that country [Palestine]" and to "secure the establishment of the Jewish national home ..."

       UN Resolution 181 in 1947 partitioned Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. In fact, the phrase "Jewish state" is mentioned no fewer than 30 times in this resolution with many references to the accompanying "Arab state" as well. Finally, Israel's Declaration of Independence speaks of "re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State"22 and "the right of the Jewish people to establish their State ... to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State." It explicitly declares "THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL" (capitalized in original) that "will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles ..."

       Knowing full well that Israel would exist as a Jewish state and even intending for it be so, the United Nations voted to create it. And yet, we still have to address complaints like freelance journalist Sherri Muzher's: "How could anyone claim that Israel is not a racist state? It is even called the Jewish state of Israel."23 A country being designated as Jewish is no more evidence of apartheid or racism than membership in the Arab League is evidence of apartheid or racism for any of its 22 member states, none of whom Muzher expresses any condemnation toward.

       Muzher continues complaining that Israel "is a state for one religion", apparently unaware of the Muslims, Christians, Bahais, Buddhists, Druze, and Hindus who freely practice religion there, and that "Unlike the United Kingdom, Greece, and Norway, Israel has no state religion ..."24 Consistent with her previous hypocrisy of condemning the Jewish state as racist while giving 22 Arab states passes, she has nothing whatever to say about any of the 57 countries in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, or Catholic countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, and Venezuela, or Buddhist countries like Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, or Protestant countries like Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Liberia, and Norway, or even Hindu Nepal.

       Nor does she, or like-minded complainants, seem to have a problem with the central role of race and religion in the pan-Arab and pan-Islamic ideologies punctuating Middle East politics. Why should the one, lone, Jewish country in the world be the focal point of so much racial controversy when other countries with names like the United Arab Emirates, Syrian Arab Republic, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Arab Republic of Egypt, Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, or the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan exist with impunity?

       Just as hypocritical, though slightly more juvenile, comes the complaint that Israel's flag embodies the state's racism with its Jewish Star of David as the sole image. Presumably, the Jewish insignia exists not as a symbol of national pride, but to chase off gentiles similar to the effects of a crucifix on vampires. But neither Joseph Massad with Al-Ahram or the folks over at the Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid seem to be bothered by religious symbology elsewhere.

       Their respective complaints (to pick but two examples among the critics who see fit to even refer to such a trivial grievance) are that "Israeli racism ... manifests in its flag ..."25 and that the "Israeli flag discriminates."26 Even a cameo appearance of Egypt's flag featuring the Golden Eagle of Saladin, Iran's which has "Allahu Akbar" inscribed 22 times along with the Muslim proclomation "Laa ilaha ila Allah" and Muslim symbolism, or Iraq's with "Allahu Akbar" in giant letters, or Saudi Arabia's huge scimitar which represents the sword of jihad with the Muslim proclomation of faith hovering above, would have made for a more balanced critique. Any of the 12 flags with embroidered Islamic crescent moons would have been worth a mention as well. Or how about the dozens of flags proudly displaying the Christian cross in various sizes? Again, why is it that only when the lone Jewish state follows standard international practice does it become outrageous and deserving of condemnation?

       All double standards aside, there should be nothing remarkable that a Jewish state caters to Jewish culture much like Arab states cater toward Arab culture, China caters towards Chinese, or Greece caters to Greeks. Contrary to the implication, one need not be a Jew to enjoy Israeli citizenship. Israel's Proclomation of Independence enshrined "the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants" as well as ensuring the "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 ..."5 These principles were again affirmed in 1994, the same year South African apartheid fell.7

"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 institutions."6

5  Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948.
6  Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948.
7  Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation, March 9, 1994.
20  Balfour Declaration
21  The Palestine Mandate
22  Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948.
23  Muzher, Sherri. Racism: When Will we Face the Facts?, May 14, 1948. (Site accessed June 30, 2009)
24  Kadalie, Rhoda and Bertelsmann, Julia. Franchising "Apartheid": Why South Africans Push the Analogy. March 2008
25  Massad, Joseph. Israel's Right to be Racist. Al-Ahram Weekly Online. 15-21 March 2007, Issue No. 836
26  Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid (CEIA). Israeli Apartheid