Although barely a week has passed since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection, Israel’s enemies are already gearing up to besmirch the Jewish state.
A new governing coalition hasn’t been formed yet, but that hasn’t stopped the critics from invoking the “A” word – apartheid – to demonize the country’s democratically-elected administration even before it takes office.
Take, for example, a column in a major South African newspaper, under the headline “Isolate the Israelis and their apartheid,” which warned that, “The Israeli people have spoken, and their choice is occupation and apartheid. The world must respond with isolation.”
And then there was a blogger on The Hill, an American political website which covers Congress, who declared ominously that, “Netanyahu’s reelection is a call for war on Palestinians everywhere…It is a mandate for the Israeli government to murder Palestinians. It gives Netanyahu license to continue Israel’s seven-decade policy of racism and apartheid towards the people from whom they stole the land.”
Obviously, this kind of preposterous poppycock bears little connection with reality. After all, the chairman of Israel’s Elections Commission, who oversaw the balloting, was a Christian Arab judge, Salim Joubran.
And the Joint Arab List is now the third largest party in the Knesset, beating out Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi on the Right and Meretz on the Left.
Moreover, there were plenty of Israeli Arabs who backed the Likud and its right-wing allies, such as the Galilee village of Arab al-Naim, north of Haifa, where 76 percent of the vote went for Netanyahu and his party.
I’m sure the village’s residents would be quite surprised to learn that observers abroad view them as having chosen “racism” or “occupation.”
Nonetheless, it is clear that a major push is coming to isolate Israel and hit it hard with various sanctions and boycotts, making it imperative that the Jewish state and its supporters abroad gear up to wage an intensive hasbara, or public diplomacy, campaign.
It is of course essential to respond to each slur, to counter the lies and slander that have become de rigueur in the international media. We have the truth on our side, so we might as well deploy it as much as possible.
But beyond the usual defensive tactics, it is no less important that we go on the offensive in countering our hate-filled opponents. We must bring the battle to their territory and highlight the hypocrisy of their stance.
A good place to start would be to emphasize that the real practitioners of apartheid are those who oppose Zionism and seek to segregate Israel from the international community and treat it differently than other nations.
Apartheid, an Afrikaans word which literally means “apart-hood” or being apart, was a system that discriminated against a group of people because of their identity.
That is precisely the kind of policy that anti-Zionists who support boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) are seeking to impose against the Jewish state. They want Israel to be confined to pariah status, tossed out of respectable society and barred from an equal opportunity to engage in culture, commerce and trade.
But Zionism, by definition, is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. It represents the collective yearning of Jews for two millennia to exercise sovereignty in their ancient homeland, the Land of Israel.
To deny Jews such a right, or to seek to punish them for upholding it, is therefore inherently discriminatory and entirely unjustifiable.
And the proof that they are motivated by hatred for who we are, rather than what we do, is evident from the fact that they do not apply a single standard of behavior to all states. Instead, they focus only on democratic Israel while ignoring the conduct of our less-than-democratic neighbors.
Just take a look around the Middle East and this becomes readily apparent. At the same time that Israel’s critics are lambasting its duly-elected leadership, there are at least five Arab governments whose armies are currently bombing their own territory.
In Yemen, government planes have been used by the president and the rebels to bomb each other in Aden and elsewhere.
In Syria, military helicopters have been dropping barrel bombs in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, indiscriminately killing civilians.
In Iraq, the air force has been carrying out raids against targets in Tikrit in an effort to take the city back from rebels belonging to Islamic State.
Libya and Sudan have also seen air power deployed against their own people in recent weeks.
Yet despite this surge of violence in the region, and the daily trampling of human rights it entails, it is Israel that is being singled out for special treatment by supporters of the Palestinians.
This cannot and must not go unchallenged. Anyone who opposes Zionism, or who seeks to treat the Jewish state in a discriminatory fashion, needs to be condemned for what he is: a bigot, a racist and an anti-Semite.
People have every right to criticize Israeli policy, disagree with it and protest against it. But disenfranchising Israel or subjecting it to trade embargoes or sanctions is nothing more than a form of diplomatic apartheid and it cannot be allowed to stand.
So instead of sitting back and watching as others smear our national integrity, let’s turn the tables on those who do so and preserve our good name.
Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post