Citing Israel’s “apartheid” policies, African-American author Alice Walker has refused to allow the Israeli publishing house Yediot to publish her Pulitzer Prize-winning work The Color Purple in Hebrew. Twenty-seven years ago she lobbied against allowing Steven Spielberg’s movie adaptation of her novel to be shown in South African theatres when apartheid was still part of the law there. To justify her recent action,Walker claims that Israel’s behaviour is even worse than that of the South African apartheid regime.
Why Walker’s apartheid analogy? In 2001, at the UN World Conference against Racism held in Durban, South Africathe notorious Durban I ConferenceIsrael was labeled a “racist, apartheid state in which Israel’s brand of apartheid is a crime against humanity.” In apartheid-era South Africa (1948-1994), discrimination based on skin colour was the official policy of the white minority government. Blacks and other people of colour were treated as inferior human beings and segregated from whites by legal and other restrictions. Blacks were barred from voting and holding public office. They were relegated to inferior neighbourhoods and prevented from using the same accommodations as whites. Black-white sex was regarded as criminal activity.
Let’s look at Israel’s “brand of apartheid”: In Israel, Israeli Arabs are full citizens with equal political and social rights; are members of the Knesset; have a seat on the Supreme Court; have a free press in the Arabic language, with Arabic regarded as an official language along with Hebrew; are free to choose Jews as friends and spouses. The list could go on. Road blocks, check points, and the ‘Fence’ do exist, not to segregate, but rather, to provide security. Security measures taken for reasons of self-defense do not constitute discrimination. There is no government-imposed social division. There is no colour problem in Israel.
The struggle against apartheid in South Africa involved a sustained campaign of economic sanctions by Western nations in order to bring down the regime. Using the very same strategy and with the same goal in mindin this case, the end of Israelopponents of the Jewish state have launched the global BDS (boycotts, sanctions, and divestment) Movement, a movement in which Walker has chosen to participate.
If the obviously intelligent, Pulitzer Prize-winning author has done any investigation whatsoever on the reality of contemporary life in Israel, she must know that the ‘Israeli apartheid’ label does not fit in any way, shape, or form. Throughout their history, the Jewish people have had the most odious lies told about them, dangerous lies, all too readily accepted as truth by the ignorant masses. Israel’s portrayal as an ‘apartheid-era South Africa’ is another of those lies. When award-winning authors collude with Israel’s enemies through unwarranted cultural boycotts, all of us, Jews and non-Jews, those who recognize the apartheid label for what it is, a lie, must speak up.