Chris McGreal’s attack on Israel in the Guardian

What the Guardian refused to publish.
A reply to Chis McGreal’s lengthy, two-part, “explosive” report on Israel
The Editor

The Guardian February 12, 2006

I refer to Chris McGreal’s “Worlds Apart” described by the Guardian as an “explosive comparison” between Israel and the former apartheid regime in South Africa. (Feb. 6). In view of the explosive nature of the report your readers are entitled to an alternative view.

As the report contained over 14,000 words it is impossible to deal with it adequately in a letter to the editor. With due respect to Mr. McGreal’s experience, I believe that, as an early member of the Springbok Legion, an anti-apartheid movement formed by South African soldiers in WW2, (the first mass movement of Whites openly opposed to apartheid), and subsequently as an Israeli resident, I am qualified to credibly address some of the misinformation contained in the report. I would therefore appreciate an opportunity to contribute an article addressing the substance. In the meantime I offer the following comments.

Allegations of a similarity between South Africa’s apartheid regime and the Israeli system are as irrational as the claim that Jews were responsible for 9/11. However, if the intention is to justify an opinion, formed before examining the relevant facts, one can always find a few parallels between Israel and apartheid, as one can find such parallels with almost any other country, even with Mr McGreal’s home territory, Britain. While I would be the last to compare Britain with the old South African regime, facts taken out of context show a much more convincing resemblance of Britain, rather than Israel, to apartheid.

For example, in September 2005, The BBC reported that Trevor Phillips, leader of the Commission for Racial Equality, warned that British society was becoming more divided by race and religion and that the nightmare of fully fledged ghettos could happen in the country.

The London based Independent Race and Refugee News Network (IRR) has produced statistics revealing that in 2003-04, there were 52,694 racist incidents and an alarming increase in racially motivated murders as well as a devastatingly high incidence of Black deaths in custody. Their reports also show that the percentage of persons living in unfit dwellings is much higher for all ethnic minority groups than for their white counterparts. Sounds very much like apartheid does it not?

But any informed logical person realizes that these statistics, quoted out of context, reflect a completely unrealistic picture of Britain, with its laudable history of racial tolerance, universal justice and strenuous efforts to ensure racial equality.

So too, the parallels Mr. McGreal draws between Israel and apartheid are as unjustified as they are offensive. Such comparisons, repeated by persons who should know better are not only intellectually dishonest, they are often lazy repetitions of catch phrases propagated by cynical propagandists.

In South Africa, apartheid was entrenched in the law and strictly enforced. The law not only denied the vote to Black citizens, it legislated to force discrimination in almost every aspect of daily life. Any person interested in making a serious comparison can readily ascertain that in stark contrast to South Africa’s apartheid laws, Israel s Declaration of Independence specifically ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or gender. Israeli Muslims, Christians, Druse and other minority groups enjoy exactly the same civil and political rights as Jews. They serve in the Knesset and speak freely against the government. By contrast, Israel’s Arab neighbors strictly enforce gender and religious apartheid.

Unfortunately, as in Britain and elsewhere, injustices do occur. Mr. McGreal quotes the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, to support his arguments, but logically the very fact that B’Tselem and other human rights organizations operate freely in Israel is a powerful argument against any accusation of apartheid. Israelis are proud of the fact that by contrast with neighboring states, B’tselem frequently wins arguments even against the state. The litmus test is that in complete contrast to the despised South African laws, which enforced apartheid, the Israel high court upholds the civil rights of all citizens without distinction

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