The Rabbinical Alliance of America (Igud HaRabbonim), representing over 950 American rabbis, publicly corrects United States House of Representative Rashida Tlaib’s inaccurate comparison of Israel to United States segregation. Representative Tlaib stated that “there is continued dehumanization and racist policies by the State of Israel that violate international human rights, but also violate my core values of who I am as an American.” Tlaib’s comments were published in an interview this past Saturday by Jacobin, a Democratic Socialist magazine based in New York that offers leftist perspectives on American politics.
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, stated, “Nothing could be more inaccurate than this bold misrepresentation of Representative Tlaib’s comparison of Israel to United States segregation.”
The treatment of Arabs by the State of Israel cannot be compared in any way to the treatment of African Americans under United States segregation. There is no Israeli ideology, policy, or plan to segregate, persecute, or mistreat the Arab population.
Segregation, Jim Crow laws, and the “Separate but Equal” doctrine recall an ugly period in this country’s history. They were part of a uniquely repressive system that persecuted African Americans through racist laws that immorally and unjustly targeted them. Segregation was a racist injustice because it targeted African Americans solely due to their skin color in a way that attempted to strip them of human dignity. In short, it was an evil, bigoted, and corrupt use of law to harm innocent human beings in a harsh and cruel way.
No such discriminatory laws against Arabs exist or ever existed in Israel. In its Declaration of Independence, Israel pledges to safeguard the equal rights of all citizens. Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the full range of civil and political rights, including the right to organize politically, the right to vote, and the right to speak and publish freely. Israeli Arabs and other non-Jewish Israelis serve as members of Israel’s security forces, are elected to Parliament (the Knesset), and are appointed to the country’s highest courts. They are afforded equal educational opportunities and benefit from ongoing initiatives to further improve the economic standing of all of Israel’s minorities. These facts serve as a counter to the United States segregation comparison and demonstrate that Israel is committed to democratic principles and equal rights for all its citizens.
To be sure, Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip encounter hardship as a result of Israeli policies, including checkpoints, limited access into Israel, the security barrier, and other issues. However, these procedures and structures have been developed to promote security and thwart potential terrorist action, not to persecute or segregate. Sadly, these security measures are employed all over Israel as a precaution against terrorism.
Finally, boycott, divestment, and sanction campaigns singularly demonize Israel and designate the Jewish state for pariah status, while ignoring other states, including many in the Middle East, that systematically abuse human rights. If anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanction activists were truly interested in aiding Palestinians and promoting Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, they would advocate constructive initiatives between Israelis, Palestinians, and others. Unfortunately, most of these activists ignore such initiatives, and focus solely on bashing Israel and promoting punitive actions against the state. Indeed, former South African Constitutional Court Justice Richard Goldstone wrote in a New York Times op-ed that accusing Israel of apartheid “is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.”