It is not apartheid: A quick debunking of the most obvious lies about the State of Israel

For decades, the pro-Palestinian cause has assailed the Jewish state with basically any falsehood that would stick – and a lot of it has

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Ever since Russia attempted an all-out conquest of Ukraine last year, Moscow has tried hard to convince the wider world that they’re actually on a selfless crusade to rid Ukraine of its neo-Nazi, drug-addicted tyrannical government. But for the most part, the propaganda has fallen flat.

It’s an entirely different story when it comes to Israel. For decades, the pro-Palestinian cause has assailed the Jewish state with basically anything that would stick – and a lot of it has. In academic and left-wing corridors across Canada and the West, it is now commonplace for Israel to be cited alongside terms such as “colonial violence,” “apartheid” and even “genocide.”

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But just because these terms are ubiquitous at universities, that doesn’t mean they’re true. Below, a quick guide to the most obvious lies about the State of Israel.

Israel is not, under any circumstances, an outpost of “settler colonialism”

On the semi-frequent occasion that Western academics have openly praised the Oct. 7 massacres, the gist is usually that they see it as an act of “decolonization.” Israel is a Middle Eastern “settler colony,” they argue, and thus deserves whatever “anti-colonial” violence it receives.

Setting aside the fact that most of these academics are non-Indigenous residents of countries that are actual former settler colonies (such as Canada or the United States), the basic accusation doesn’t make sense in the Israeli context. Jews are not indigenous to Poland or Brooklyn; and the recent explosion in new genetic technologies has only confirmed that Jews have origins in the Middle East stretching all the way back to Neolithic times. What’s more, there has been a permanent Jewish presence in the area since then, even if it was only a few thousand years prior to the start of the modern-day Zionist movement. And most Israelis are not descended from European Jews; they are primarily descended from North African and Middle Eastern Jewish communities that were forcibly expelled in the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

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The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem has been a major focus of Hamas; it’s on their official logo and they even named the Oct 7. massacres after it (Operation Al-Aqsa Flood). The mosque is built atop the Temple Mount, former site of the Temple of Jerusalem, which until its destruction by the Romans in the year 70 was Judaism’s primary focal point.

So if Israel is a settler colony, it’s notable as the only one where the settlers just happen to be colonizing an area where their direct ancestors built and maintained sprawling places of worship more than 2,000 years prior — which were then destroyed and built upon by the region’s supposed indigenous people.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, U.S. President Bill Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
From left, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, U.S. President Bill Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during a Middle East peace summit at Camp David, Maryland, in July 2000. Photo by Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images

Want a two-state solution? Maybe ask the Palestinians why they keep rejecting one

Despite what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have told you, any hope of a “two state solution” is likely dead – at least for a generation or two.

The Palestinian side has thrown in its lot with Hamas; an Islamist group that has always been very open about its uncompromising mission to destroy Israel and eradicate its citizens. And on the Israeli side, some of the country’s last bastions of leftist, pro-compromise sentiment just happened to live in the southern Israeli kibbutzes hit hardest by the Oct. 7 massacres.

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But it didn’t used to be this way. There have been multiple hinge points in the last 75 years where peace negotiators sat down and drafted a serious plan for side-by-side Israeli and Palestinian states. In each case, Israel said “yes,” and the Palestinian delegation did not.

The first was at Israel’s inception in 1948, when the United Nations partitioned the British Mandate of Palestine into a Jewish side and an Arab side. The region’s Jews took the deal, and the Arabs didn’t — prompting an all-out attempt by the Arab World to violently evict the new Jewish state.

The most recent was in 2000, when U.S. President Bill Clinton secured Israel’s approval for a demilitarized Palestinian state occupying the Gaza Strip, 92 per cent of the West Bank and even parts of Jerusalem. Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinian National Authority, said “no” — and then launched four years of suicide bombings.

Israeli police as they evict settlers from a Gaza settlement.
A man scolds Israeli police as they evict settlers from the Gush Katif settlement in the southern Gaza Strip, in August 2005. Photo by Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Want Israel to “deoccupy” Palestinian land? They did … in Gaza

If there’s one unifying characteristic among rapacious, land-hungry colonizers, it’s that they don’t voluntarily surrender waterfront territory. But Israel’s done this twice. Thirteen years after capturing the Sinai Peninsula during the Six Day War, in 1979, they gave it back to Egypt in exchange for a peace agreement (which stands to this day).

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And then in 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, an area it had similarly occupied since seizing it from Egyptian control during the Six Day War. Until then, Gaza had resembled the current state of the West Bank; a majority-Arab region under Israeli occupation, with the odd Jewish settlement thrown in.

But under Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, they didn’t just withdraw their military presence — they also forcibly evacuated more than 9,000 Israeli settlers. The operation was so thorough that it even saw the exhumation of a Jewish cemetery that included the bodies of people who had died in Palestinian terrorist attacks.

And unlike with the Sinai Peninsula, Israel didn’t receive anything in return. The territory was handed to the Palestinian Authority, who in turn vowed to continue waging jihad on the Jewish state. In a chilling preview of things to come, one of the first actions of a newly autonomous Gaza was to set fire to all the synagogues left behind in former settlements. The first full day of Gazan autonomy would also see a handful of rockets fired into Israeli territory — the first of thousands. Then, only a year after the withdrawal, Gazans voted for Hamas, the most radically anti-Israel party on offer.

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West Bank Palestinians rally for the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians in the West Bank city of Ramallah gather to show solidarity with the Gaza Strip, on October 31, 2023. Photo by Zain Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images

If Israel is trying to commit genocide, it’s very, very bad at it

When news of the Oct. 7 massacres first broke, the first wave of pro-Palestinian rallies to hit Canadian cities all carried an explicitly celebratory air. But this narrative immediately shifted after Israel began to fight back. Now, a common refrain at these rallies is that Israel is committing “genocide.”

It’s not a new charge. But even according to the most watered-down post-modern definition of what constitutes a “genocide” these days, it would be exceedingly difficult to pin one on Israel.

For one thing, the Palestinian population is growing dramatically. In the immediate wake of the Six Day War in 1967, there was about 1 million Arabs living in Gaza and the West Bank. According to the most recent count by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, that number is now up to 5.5 million.

Even the lesser genocide charge — that of attempting to erase a people through assimilation — doesn’t really hold up. The first step of any cultural genocide is the erasure of language or religion, and even after 56 years of Israeli administration of the Arab-majority West Bank, the region’s chief language is Arabic and its main religion — practiced by about 80 per cent of West Bank residents — is Islam.

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Speaking of genocide, this is probably where we should mention that one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict actually has a lot of experience with it. The events of Oct. 7, in which mobs go door-to-door indiscriminately murdering and torturing Jews, has occurred hundreds of times throughout Jewish history — the most obvious example being the attempted eradication of European Jewry in the 1940s. As any number of Jewish commentators have noted in recent weeks, the main difference this time is it happened to a Jewish community that is able to defend itself.

United Arab List party supporters cheer election results.
United Arab List party supporters cheer as they watch election results at the party’s headquarters in Nazareth, Israel, on March 17, 2015. Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

They’re also terrible at apartheid

This accusation started cropping up around the mid-1990s.  For obvious reasons it’s always been a little difficult to equate Israel with Nazi Germany, everyone’s usual first choice for “most evil country.” So Israel instead found itself being shoehorned into comparisons with Apartheid South Africa. For nearly 20 years, Canadian universities have even been home to officially sanctioned “Israeli Apartheid Weeks.”

Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza wasn’t just a unilateralist cop to Palestinian nationalism. At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was pretty open about the fact that they were doing it for “demographic” reasons. Quite simply, Gaza had a lot of people and a high birth rate. So, if Israel annexed the territory, they were potentially absorbing so many Arabs that – in a few generations — Muslims would constitute the Israeli majority and they’d lose their ability to be both a democracy and a Jewish state.

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This is not the kind of calculus that an actual apartheid country would make. Apartheid South Africa would have simply annexed Gaza and then declared the Palestinians as racially inferior non-citizens who weren’t allowed to vote.

And Apartheid South Africa’s whole deal was to deny basic rights to most of its citizenry in order to empower a white minority to rule over a non-white majority. Jews are the majority in Israel, but one-fifth of the population is Arab and enjoys full citizenship.

A cursory look at pre-1994 South African history shows the country lacked any black legislators, judges or even Olympians. Israel, by contrast, swore in its first Muslim Supreme Court justice just last year. Arabs are exempt from the draft but there are Arab volunteers in the Israeli Defence Forces. And for a brief period in 2021, Israel’s Arab List political party even formed part of the country’s governing coalition.

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