Apartheid slur driven by hatred and lies

Gil Troy

Every year, with the harsh cold of February comes the harsh rhetoric of the abomination known as “Israeli Apartheid Week.” I would not object if the Palestinian national movement devoted a week to celebrating Palestinian nationalism – including envisioning what a Palestinian state could look like. But making the high point of the Palestinian student calendar a week devoted to demonizing, delegitimizing and libelling the Jewish state is offensive, and it explains why the Palestinians have failed to advance their cause in any real way.

As long as Israel-hatred lies at the heart of Palestinian ideology, Israel would be foolish to compromise, concede or even negotiate. The fact that university campuses foster this hatred is tragic. The fact that university campuses foster an inaccurate modern blood libel falsely comparing Israel to South Africa and continuing the “Zionism is racism” canard is criminal.

Zionism, meaning Jewish nationalism, starts with the understanding that Jews are a people, with collective rights to a national homeland in Palestine. Until 1948, the focus of the Jewish national liberation movement was building and establishing a state. Now, the emphasis is on protecting and perfecting it. The fact that Zionism – the idealistic movement to make the state better – is tagged with the racist label shows just how absurd and self-destructive the Palestinian attack is.

The uniqueness of the Jewish experience, whereby Jews believe in a religion, Judaism, and belong to the Jewish People, is something many modern Jews and non-Jews don’t understand. This duality is why you can have a Jewish democratic state that is not a theocracy. This duality is why you have secular Jews, atheistic Jews, and Jews who emphasize family, ethnicity, culture, civilization and nationhood, along with religious Jews. In traditional Judaism, the religious and national dimensions are mutually reinforcing. Today, moderns often pick and choose.

Nevertheless, this linkage makes Zionism the least racist nationalism of all forms of nationalism. Most nationalists are born into their national group, emphasizing the biological dimension, which leads to racism. Judaism, by contrast, allows anyone to convert into the religion, and thus join the nation, making Zionism the most permeable and least racist form of nationalism. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is national, not racial. There are dark-skinned Israelis and light-skinned Palestinians. There are Israeli Arabs who have served in Israel’s army and been killed by Palestinian terrorists. Racism is not the great divide, as it was in South Africa, where people were defined as “coloured,” “mixed,” etc., depending on skin colour.

The mystery, then, is why was Zionism accused of racism, and why is Israel compared to South Africa? The origins lie in the 1970s, when Soviet propagandists and Palestinian terrorists wanted to demonize Israel. They believed that if the fight for Palestine could be linked to a broader fight against western racism, imperialism and colonialism, they might win.

In fact, all these ideological lies distracted the Palestinians, focusing them on empty victories at the UN and on college campuses, rather than doing the hard work of negotiating, compromising, building a peaceful, democratic civil society, and engaging in other forms of state-building. Now, the Palestinian national movement is defined by a pernicious form of violence, terrorism, and three lies: that Israel is racist, when the fight is national; that Israel is colonialist, when Israelis and Palestinians have conflicting claims to the same land; and that Israel is imperialist, when little Israel, population eight million, is on its own and surrounded by hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims.

When outrageous lies become believed as accepted truths, especially in places like college campuses supposedly devoted to truth, we know that we are no longer in the realm of facts and instead are dealing with bigotry. Historically, we know what to call prejudice against Jews. We call it anti-Semitism.