Sarah Leah Whitson, the Human Rights Watch official who raised funds for her organization by blasting Israel in uber-racist, slavery-tolerating Saudi Arabia, has made one of the most odious analogies possible. She writes,
Israeli President Shimon Peres visited Washington earlier this month, hot on the heels of an announcement that Israeli authorities had approved yet more housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. In a week when the U.S. paused to recall the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, President Peres might have considered King’s message — an end to segregation — and why such a system of racial inequality remains in place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Back in 1968, when Dr. King was murdered, the debate about discrimination was live and real. Most governments have long since stopped trying to justify separating people based on race or national origin, whether for ostensible security concerns, like the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, or plain old bigotry, like the Jim Crow laws of the American south.
Yet in the areas of the Occupied Palestinian Territories where Israel has moved almost half a million Jewish “settlers,” not only do Israeli laws and policies strictly segregate Jews from Palestinians, they deliberately deprive Palestinians of the most basic needs, in many cases forcing them out of their communities.
If Whitson is suggesting that the ‘Palestinian cause’ is anything like the civil rights movement in America — clearly she is — she is living in an alternate universe.
Civil rights workers did not fire antitank missiles at school buses, nor did they slit the throats of babies and children. American blacks did not blow themselves up at holiday celebrations, and Mexican and Canadian ones did not launch rockets into American towns and cities.
In fact, try as I might, the only way that Dr. M. L. King and Ismail Haniyya are alike is that they both say they are struggling for their people’s rights. Of course, Dr. King actually was, whereas Haniyya is a racist, genocidal antisemite who wants to wipe out the Jews in Israel and take their country. King indeed represented an oppressed racial minority that was discriminated against in law and custom, while Haniyya is supported by the considerable resources of the Arab world and Iran in his murderous cause. If the analogy makes sense at all, Jewish Israelis are the ones discriminated against in the Middle East and in the broader international community.
But Whitson isn’t interested in reality — as she wasn’t interested in the very real human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia — she is interested in pushing buttons.
So she claims that Israel maintains a system of ‘racial inequality’, when the concept of race has nothing to do with relations between Jews and Arabs, who are genetically closer to each other than to non-Jewish Europeans. Of course she doesn’t have to use the word ‘race’, she could claim that there was a system of cultural or linguistic discrimination. But that wouldn’t push the button.
Whitson refers numerous times to the ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’. What are these territories? They are part of the lands that were set aside by the League of Nations for a “Jewish National Home” after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI. Various Arab states were also created at the same time, but this was the only area specifically designated for Jewish settlement. These territories were never ‘Palestinian’. They are not ‘occupied’ by Israel, since there was no sovereign authority there since the end of the Mandate — they are at most ‘disputed’, and an argument can be made that if any party ought to control them, it’s Israel, the representative of the Jewish people.
With little regard for the blatant racial inequality of its policies, the Israeli government provides Jewish settlements with water, electricity, housing, schools, hospitals and roads, while it severely restricts access to these necessities to Palestinian communities under its control.
Race doesn’t have anything to do with it. The territories are not part of Israel. Israel doesn’t have to ‘provide’ anything — there is a Palestinian Authority (PA) which gets enormous sums of money from the West and which governs the areas of Judea and Samaria (Areas A and B) which contain more than 90% of the Arab population. Arabs connected with the corrupt PA have well-paying positions or lucrative business concessions. They live in large villas, much more elaborate than the housing found in Israeli settlements.
Whitson, by the way, refers to the “the 60 percent of the West Bank known as ‘Area C’ where Israel has complete control without mentioning that Area C contains only 4% of the Arab population! The rest is mostly uninhabited desert and mountainous areas, along with the Israeli settlements of course.
In 1967, only 20% of the Arab population in Judea and Samaria was connected to a water system — now 90% are connected to Israel’s national water grid. Even Gaza, ruled by the bellicose Hamas, receives most of its water and electricity from Israel. This leads to ironic situations, such as the time Hamas snipers shot and wounded an Israel Electric Company worker who was climbing a tower near the border. And it is upsetting to know that the factories that make the Qassam rockets fired at Israel are powered by Israeli electricity.
A particularly pernicious accusation is that Israel has built ‘apartheid roads’ on which Arabs are not permitted to drive. What is actually the case is that Jewish residents were subjected to frequent deadly drive-by shooting attacks on certain roads — in August of last year four people were killed in a single incident — and so the Israeli authorities chose to close the off-ramps to the Arab villages in the area. Arabs, both Israeli Arabs and residents of the territories do drive on the roads — again, there is nothing racist involved, unless it is the racist murderers who shoot at vehicles containing Jews.
Israeli hospitals routinely treat patients from the territories and Eastern Jerusalem. During the Gaza war, the Palestinian Authority stopped paying for its patients on the grounds that the Jews were ‘making propaganda’ by treating them. There is no separation between Jewish and Arab patients, and in fact even wounded terrorists are treated.
Whitson goes on:
Israel’s security justifications fall far short of the strict and narrow limits on differential treatment permitted under international law between people of different ethnicities or national origins. A state should never apply such measures categorically against an entire group and must limit them to specific individuals who pose a threat.
One of the security measures that Whitson and others find to be unacceptable profiling are the checkpoints, which do present an inconvenience for the entire Palestinian Arab population. But almost every day, potential terrorists are stopped at the checkpoints with weapons or explosives. How would it be possible to do this without everyone passing through the checkpoint? Should security personnel only check “specific individuals who pose a threat?” How would they know who the are?
The fact is that Israel is at war, and many of those fighting against it are embedded in the Palestinian Arab population. You cannot understand the relationship of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs outside the context of this war, and you cannot understand the Israeli-Palestinian part of it outside the context of the broader war — whose goal is the elimination of Israel — that has been prosecuted by the Arab world (and now Iran) since the beginning of the state.
Pretending that this is a question of civil rights, that there is ‘racial discrimination’, completely falsifies and distorts this reality.
But it’s great for pushing buttons.