This past week on NYU’s campus was deemed “Israel Apartheid Week.” Spearheaded by Boycott, Divest Sanction and supported by Students for Justice in Palestine, the week hopes to bring to light alleged atrocities. But, in truth, it seems these actions are more about a strategy of deflection, which neglect addressing the dysfunction of many Arab societies.
In fact, the Palestinian plight is a pan-Arab issue, and events like NYU Israel Apartheid Week miss the bigger picture. In 1959, the Arab League passed Resolution 1457, which states: “The Arab countries will not grant citizenship to applicants of Palestinian origin in order to prevent their assimilation into the host countries.” In Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Egypt, Palestinians have been marginalized through a series of laws, royal decrees and security measures, often banning them from education, healthcare and certain jobs. In Libya, Palestinians have been forced to pay a special tax, and have recently been banned from entering the country. In Syria, thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes and killed in the civil war.
But countries within the Arab League go further than just discriminate against Palestinians. Their policies include depriving many groups of their civil, religious and political rights. Throughout the Arab League, persecution against religious minorities, such as Christians, Jews and Baha’is, has become rampant. Beyond persecution, rampant inequality plagues large swathes of the population in Arab countries, particularly with women. A 2002 United Nations report states: “women in Arab League countries suffer from unequal citizenship and legal entitlements often evident…In voting rights and legal codes [and] from inequality of opportunity.”
And yet, these human rights infringements are met with little uproar. Across the country, universities have become complacent with the hypocrisy of allowing anti-Israel organizations to assault the one Middle Eastern country that guarantees equality for all of its citizen across all religions, races and genders.
Around 1.4 million Palestinians are given full rights as Israeli citizens and more freedom than any other Arab country grants, while Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank enjoy far more rights, as well as a far higher standard of living, than they would in almost any other Arab League Nation. Palestinians have held seats in the Knesset and served as diplomats, mayors and ambassadors. In civilian life, Palestinian Israelis are distinguished academics, doctors and businessmen. Arabic, along with Hebrew, is an official language of the state of Israel.
The claim that Israel is an apartheid state is a malicious falsehood. While the supposed objective of Apartheid Week is to lead to justice, it ends up ignoring actual instances of apartheid. If these actions are truly about injustice, those at the forefront should turn towards the rampant bigotry that is systemic throughout the Arab world, rather than attack the one democratic state in the Middle East.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 18 print edition. Email Joseph Stern at [email protected]