On Saturday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and other members of her “Squad” endorsed the claim that Israel is an “apartheid state” and therefore is not a democracy. An Arab-Israeli activist who served in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) defended his homeland from her slanderous claim. Many Americans on the Left have taken the Palestinian side in the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, due in part to this argument.
“Apartheid states aren’t democracies,” AOC tweeted on Saturday, with Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) echoing her words. AOC and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) shared videos of MSNBC host Ali Velshi’s monologue arguing that Israel is an apartheid state.
“Palestinians are at best, third class citizens in the nation of their birth. The idea that it is even remotely controversial to call what Israel has imposed on Palestinians as apartheid is laughable,” Velshi argued.
Recommended: The Hamas Rocket Attacks Are Based on a Lie
Yoseph Haddad, an Arab who actually lives in Israel, powerfully countered AOC’s claim.
“I’m Yoseph, an Israeli Arab. I checked the definition of apartheid and you seem to be confused by the propaganda of this political org,” Haddad tweeted. “Arabs like me have full equal rights and live, learn, work, and play together. Take it from me, I live it. Stop lying.”
Speaking on Israel’s I-24 News, Haddad explained that Israel is a multi-racial society
“Here you will see Israeli Jews and Arab Christians and Arab Muslims and Druze and all kinds of minorities. Here they shop together, work together, go to school together, make art together, save lives together, report the news together, serve in the army together, protest the government together, even work as lawyers and judges in the courts together,” he said.
“Apartheid” means “apartness” in Afrikaans (a language that developed from Dutch in southern Africa). It refers to the South African policy that separated South Africa’s white minority from its nonwhite majority, using racial segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-whites.
Israel obviously fails to meet this definition of Apartheid, but many activists seize on a smaller aspect of the South African policy in order to justify suggesting that Israel is racist. As part of Apartheid, South Africa set up 10 semi-autonomous African homelands, which all remained dependent on South Africa. Somewhat similarly, the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip enjoy political autonomy but remain reliant on Israel for certain goods and services. Many Palestinians go to Israel for better medical services, even though Palestine has a medical industry, for example.
Recommended: Israel Begins Ground Operation Against Hamas
Unlike the Apartheid black states within South Africa, Palestine enjoys wide recognition as an independent state — though the United States has not granted this recognition. The Fatah-run Palestinian Authority rules about 42 percent of the West Bank while the terrorist group Hamas rules the Gaza Strip. Israel administers part of the West Bank.
While the relationship between Palestine and Israel is complicated, it seems likely that the impetus of the current conflict has inspired the renewed claims of “Apartheid.”
Hamas launched more than 1,600 rockets into Israel — most of which got intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome — after a violent confrontation between Israeli police and Palestinian rioters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the Temple Mount, near the third-holiest site in Islam. The rioters had protested the eviction of Palestinians who have not paid rent for living on land allegedly owned by Israelis. The riot broke out just before Israel’s Supreme Court could decide the issue.
Hamas has claimed the evictions — some of which have already occurred while others have been stalled by legal challenges — of Palestinian residents from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood constitute “aggression” against Palestine. U.S. activists — including some of AOC’s “Squad” — have echoed this claim, calling the evictions proof of Apartheid-style “settler-colonialism.”
Yet the Sheikh Jarrah dispute is relatively straightforward and it does not represent Israeli oppression. In 1876, two Jewish trusts committed to the development of the Jewish population in Jerusalem purchased the land in question. In 1948, Jordan invaded the area and seized the land of the two Jewish neighborhoods involved, expelling the Jews. In 1956, Jordan arranged for the housing of 28 Palestinian refugee families in the area of the abandoned homes in one of the neighborhoods. The families paid rent to Jordan.
After Israel retook Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli government took control of the property. The Jewish trusts requested the land be returned to them, and in 1972, Israel accepted their claims. In 1982, the trusts requested the removal of 23 Arab families that had stayed in the area. The trusts reached an agreement with the families: the descendants of refugees represented the trusts’ ownership of the land in exchange for a protected tenant status.
The families agreed to pay rent, but the trusts claimed that the Palestinians did not pay. The trusts also claimed that the tenants made alterations to the buildings without a permit, and that they sought to destroy structures of the old Jewish neighborhood.
While it seems that Israeli law privileges Jewish land claims over Palestinian claims — while still granting compensation for Palestinians’ abandoned property — the Sheikh Jarrah case seems rather clear. The Palestinian families agreed to recognize the Jewish trusts’ claim, and agreed to pay rent, but they refused to abide by the terms of the agreement.
Yet Hamas and anti-Israeli activists in America falsely claim that Israel is dispossessing these people, even though they have no claim to the land. Even Jordan did not grant them ownership but required them to pay rent.
Velshi, AOC, and their allies use the “Apartheid” label to baselessly accuse Israel of racism. When pressed on this point, they might resort to the claim that Israel treats Palestine the same way that South Africa treated the semi-autonomous race-based states it controlled, but the parallel breaks down on many aspects — most centrally the fact that Israel did not create Palestine, which has allied itself with Israel’s enemies.
The Sheikh Jarrah dispute is not “settler-colonialism” and Israel is not an Apartheid state.
Many Twitter users responded to AOC’s claim by sharing a video from 2018 in which a reporter pressed AOC on her claim that Israel had an “occupation” of Palestine. “I am not the expert on geopolitics on this issue,” Ocasio-Cortez admitted. Perhaps she should have remembered this admission.