A sign and posts marking the white and "all races" areas of a beach in South Africa in 1982. (Photo/United Nations)
A sign and posts marking the white and "all races" areas of a beach in South Africa in 1982. (Photo/United Nations)

As a South African Jew, I know Amnesty’s ‘apartheid’ label for Israel is absurd

The recent report from Amnesty International UK, replete with distortions of reality, contained no surprises. It follows in the wake of similar reports from Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem, all aimed at delegitimizing Israel and casting the Jewish state in the worst possible light, including the calumny of labeling it an “apartheid” state.

The slander of Israel’s enemies knows no limits!

Amnesty’s report labeling Israel an “apartheid” state refers not only to recent years but dates back to the very founding of the state in 1948. From Year 1, Amnesty claims the Jewish state merits the title and as such should be removed from the family of nations.

And in Amnesty’s amen corner, there are echoes from the chorus of Israel haters, such as the horrendously named Jewish Voice for Peace, terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, and individuals from both the far left and the far right.

However, in addition to the most prominent U.S. Jewish groups and organizations that have punched back hard are the voices and support of lawmakers in the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel and the United States.

As a South African who lived through the worst excesses of the apartheid state, and who also lived in Israel for periods of time and visited the country several times, I can attest that the connection is an absurd and spurious one.

For the first 40 years of my life I lived in South Africa, where every aspect of one’s life was regulated and determined by one’s racial group.

Blacks, Coloreds or Mixed Race and Indian peoples were, by law, told where they could live, go to school, which university they could attend, where they could swim, which movie theater they could enter, where they could eat and where they could play. And only whites had the right to vote in elections. “Whites Only” signs were ubiquitous. Institutionalized discrimination existed for decades, affected and afflicted the dispossessed, people of color, cruelly and viciously.

Needless to say, this bears absolutely no resemblance to a country where an Arab judge sentenced a former Jewish president to a prison term, where Arab doctors head the country’s most prestigious hospitals, where Jewish scientists and Muslim scientists working side by side are at the forefront of breakthroughs in scientific innovations and discoveries.

One-fifth of Israel’s population is Arab. Muslims and Christians are entitled to whatever rights and privileges a democratic country can offer.

Hardly sounds like “apartheid” as I remember it — and to label Israel as such is a disservice and insulting to the millions who suffered under the real apartheid.

American Jews need to make their voices of disgust and opposition to Amnesty’s report heard as loudly and forcefully as they can. The knives are out, the enemies are baying for the demise of Israel, and we should not be found wanting.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of J.

Mervyn Danker
Mervyn Danker

Mervyn Danker is the past regional director of AJC and served as head of school for Jewish schools in South Africa, Australia and the U.S., including at the Ronald C. Wornick School in Foster City. He lives in San Mateo.