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The Apartheid Slander


Credit: The Israel Project (License)

In recent years the label “apartheid” has been used to demonize Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. This label is offensive, false, and an insult to the millions of black South Africans and others who have suffered under true apartheid regimes. 

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“I tried to find a comparison between how we lived under the apartheid regime and the situation in Israel and I could not find one.”[1]


—Mesoia Lekota, President of the Congress of the People party,  former South African Defense Minister and senior African National Congress official

Many who accuse Israel of apartheid do not understand what it really is and was.

  • Apartheid was the South African system under which a small minority of whites subjected the majority black population to severe political, economic, and social discrimination. They could not be citizens, vote, or participate in the government, and they were segregated in every aspect of daily life.

  • International law defines apartheid as establishing and maintaining an institutionalized regime of oppression by one racial group over another.[2]

  • “Few of those who suffered from apartheid directly have bought into [the apartheid analogy]… racism and discrimination do not form the rationale for Israel’s policies and actions… Israel respects freedom of speech and human rights” —Rhoda Kadalie, former Commissioner at the South African Human Rights Commission (appointed by Nelson Mandela)[3]

  • “I am shocked by the claim that the free, diverse, democratic state of Israel practices apartheid. This ridiculous accusation trivializes the word apartheid, minimizing and belittling the racism and suffering endured by South Africans of color.” —Rev. Dr. Kenneth Meshoe, Member of the South African Parliament[4]

  • “Apartheid… was a project that aimed to rob a specific race of its history, culture, dignity, and humanity. Those who apply the term “apartheid” to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse are guilty of perpetuating that same theft, by denying the uniqueness of the racism and hatred that we faced, and which we have overcome with much blood and tears.” —Nkululeko Nkosi, Wits Branch Chairman of the African National Congress Youth League[5]

  • Judge Richard Goldstone, who was asked by Nelson Mandela to help with the transition out of Apartheid in South Africa, has called the apartheid analogy slanderous.[6]

Glass Buildings

International organizations have pushed back on the label. 

“The Red Cross was very familiar with the regime that prevailed in South Africa during the apartheid period, and we are responding to all those who raise their claim of apartheid against Israel: No, there is no apartheid here, no regime of superiority of race, of denial of basic human rights to a group of people because of their alleged racial inferiority. There is a bloody national conflict, whose most prominent and tragic characteristic is its continuation over the years, decades-long, and there is a state of occupation. Not apartheid.”- Jacques De Maio, Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation to Israel and the PA [7]


Israel is the opposite of an apartheid regime. It is a multicultural liberal democracy with a legal system that upholds equal rights for all citizens.

  • Israel is a diverse society of people from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East. Their rights are equal and protected by law.[8]

  • Israel’s founding document states that Israel, “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”[9]

  • 25% of Israel’s citizens are not Jewish and have always had equal voting and political rights. Arab citizens of Israel were elected to the first Knesset (parliament) in 1949 and have won as many as 17 seats in a single election.

  • From 2021-2022, Israel’s government included and relied on the support of Ra’am, an Arab party representing religious Muslim Arab citizens of Israel. This government allocated $16 billion to increasing the security and prosperity of its Arab citizens.[10]

  • In 2015 Arab-Israeli Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran oversaw Israel’s national elections, as head of the central elections committee.

  • Adv. Mariam Kabaha became Israel's national Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner in 2015, and is now the highest-ranking Arab woman in civil service.

  • Israeli Druze, Bedouins, and Arabs fight in the Israeli Defense Forces and have attained ranks as high as Major General.[11] In 2016, Colonel Dr. Badar Tarif became the first Druze officer to be appointed as the head of the IDF Medical Corps.

  • Israel’s Arab citizens tend to have a complicated relationship with the country. In polls. most have said they face discrimination in Israeli society, but also believe Israel treats them equally under the law and would prefer to live in Israel than under a Palestinian government.

​Israelis fight discrimination.


  • Like all multi-ethnic democracies, Israel struggles with discrimination and the disadvantages its minorities face. However, its laws are meant to eradicate—not institutionalize—these problems.[12] 

  • There are many Israelis, both in the government and in the thriving NGO sector, who devote their lives to ending discrimination and helping minority communities.[13]

  • The Israeli government has launched multiple initiatives to get Arab women into the workforce and to ensure Arab men and women receive quality high school and university education.

Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza do not constitute apartheid either.


  • Israel has not annexed the West Bank or Gaza, and Palestinians living there are not Israeli citizens. Palestinians have their own national movement and most do not want to be part of Israel. For example, in 1967 Palestinians in East Jerusalem were offered full Israeli citizenship but nearly all of them refused for political reasons.[14]

  • Israel removed all soldiers and civilians from Gaza in 2005, and all Palestinians there have been governed by the terrorist group Hamas since 2007. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority governs nearly all Palestinian communities (representing roughly 40% of the territory), while Israel governs the rest. This is based on treaties between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, which call for the two parties to decide the final status of the West Bank through direct peace negotiations.[15]

  • Israel made peace offers in 2000 and 2008 that would have led to an independent Palestinian state in nearly all of the West Bank and Gaza, but Palestinian leaders rejected both offers.[16]  In 2014, Israel reportedly said yes to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's framework for peace negotiations, while the Palestinian leadership said no.[17] Thus, Israel is still in the West Bank primarily because Palestinian leaders have rejected multiple peace proposals.​


  • When Palestinian leaders launched the 2nd Intifada in 2000, including a brutal suicide bombing campaign against Israeli civilians, Israel had to protect its people. The checkpoints, bypass roads, and security barrier in the West Bank and blockade against weapons entering Gaza were put in place to prevent terrorists from attacking Israeli civilians. The purpose of these measures is not to oppress or dominate Palestinians. They remain in place because Israelis still face massive amounts of violence, with over 6,500 attacks from Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem in 2021.[18]​

  • The facts above do not negate the hardships Palestinian civilians face as a result of Israel's efforts to protect its own civilians. However, they provide crucial context about why the tragic status quo has continued up until now. Only a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians can end the conflict and ensure the wellbeing of all people in the region.

  • Palestinians do face apartheid-like conditions in some Arab states, where they are oppressed and discriminated against by law. In Lebanon, Palestinians are legally denied access to education, property ownership, medical care, and many forms of employment.[19]

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Falsely accusing Israel of "apartheid" does not advance the cause of justice and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It only fuels more hatred, division, and conflict.​​​

Additional Reading:


[1] Ariel Kahane, “From Cape Town to Jerusalem,” JCPA, June 19th, 2017, at

[2] UN, “Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” July, 2002, at

[3] Rhoda Kadalie and Julia I. Bertelsmann, “Franchising ‘Apartheid’: Why South Africans Push the Analogy,” Z Word, March, 2008, at

[4] Kenneth Meshoe, “Pro-Palestinian ads misrepresent apartheid,” SF Examiner, May 15, 2013, at

[5] Africans for Peace, “New Perspectives on Israel and Palestine,” 2016, at

[6] Richard Goldstone, “Israel and the Apartheid Slander,” New York Times, October 31, 2011, at

[7] Sever Plocker, "ICRC official: Israel is not an apartheid state, but there is occupation", YNet News,  April 26, 2017,,7340,L-4953648,00.html

[8] Freedom House, “Freedom In the World: Israel,” 2019, at; Jewish Virtual Library, “Human Rights in Israel,” n.d., at

[9] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel,” May 14, 1948, at

[10] Mazal Mualem, "Israeli budget approved in victory for Arab coalition party," August 3, 2021, at 

[11] Na’ama Rak, “First Druze is Chief Logistics Officer,” IDF, November 13, 2009, at

[12] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2012, Israel and the Occupied Territories,” U..S. Department of State, 2013, at

[13] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2012, Israel and the Occupied Territories,” U..S. Department of State, 2013, at

[14] Michael Dumper, “The Politics of Jerusalem Since 1967,” 1997, Institute for Palestine Studies, at 

[15] Jewish Virtual Library, “Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Oslo II),” September 28, 1995, at; Jewish Virtual Library, “The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip Annex III,” September 28, 1995, at; Jurist Legal Intelligence, “Palestinian Authority,” University of Pittsburgh, n.d., at

[16] Jewish Virtual Library, “Actual Proposal Offered at Camp David,” 2000, at; Aluf Benn, “Haaretz Exclusive: Olmert’s plan for peace with the Palestinians,” Haaretz, December 19, 2009, at

[17] Ben Birnbaum, Amir Tibon, "The Explosive, Inside Story of How John Kerry Built an Israel-Palestine Peace Plan—and Watched It Crumble," The New Republic, July 20, 2014, at  

[18] Israel Security Agency, "Monthly Reports," 2022, at

[19] Khaled Abu Toameh, “Where is the Outcry Against Arab Apartheid?” Gatestone Institute, March 11, 2011, at; Human Rights Watch, “Lebanon: Seize Opportunity to End Discrimination Against Palestinians,” June 18, 2010, at

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