In nearly three dozen cities across the world, a coordinated series of events is being held this week with the express aim of demonizing Israel. Now in its sixth year, the annual hate-fest known as "Israel Apartheid Week" has sought to portray the Jewish state as a bastion of bigotry, inequality and discrimination.
The organizers do not mince words in describing their objectives, asserting on their Web site that they aim "to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns" against the Jewish state. This, they confidently declare, is a key part of "the battle to end Israeli apartheid," whatever that means.
Naturally, behind the sloganeering stands a clear political platform, one which essentially seeks to dismantle the Jewish state by stripping it of territory and flooding the country with millions of Palestinian refugees through the so-called right of return.
The first step in this campaign, of course, is to equate Israel with the evils of apartheid-era South Africa, thereby laying the groundwork for increased diplomatic and economic pressure to make far-reaching concessions. And so, as usual, the only democracy in the Middle East
once again finds itself on the receiving end of yet another indefensible canard, accused of one of modernity's greatest political sins without any basis or justification.
SIMPLY PUT, this slur cannot be allowed to stand. It is an insult to Israel and its democracy and dangerously analogous to asserting that Zionism is a form of racism. If allowed to take hold in the public's consciousness, it could have far-reaching and extremely damaging
effects on support for Israel in the near- and long-term. In the past, the typical response by pro-Israel activists to such charges has been to go on the defensive, responding to the slanders and explaining in great detail the myriad differences between democratic Israel and the racist regime that once ruled South Africa.
Well, I say the time has come to stop playing defense and to bring the offense out onto the field. We need to turn the tables and fight back against our opponents by taking the struggle toward their end-zone.
A good place to be start would be to organize an annual "Arab Apartheid Week," which would highlight the decrepit state of human and political rights throughout the Arab world.
There is a solid case to be made that the Arab states remain the last great outpost of despotism and tyranny on earth, and people need to be reminded as much. Indeed, the Arab world today is a living encyclopedia of outmoded forms of government, from sultanates such as Oman and emirates such as Qatar, to thuggish dictatorships such as Syria and dynastic monarchies along the lines of Jordan. It may be a political scientist's dream, but it is a nightmare for the hundreds of millions of Arabs chafing under oppression and tyranny.
Basic and fundamental freedoms such as personal autonomy and individual rights are routinely trampled upon, and ethnic and religious minority groups suffer extreme discrimination and
intolerance. Just ask Coptic Christians in Egypt, Baha'is in Iran or Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia for starters.
This was borne out most recently by a report issued by Freedom House, the independent Washington-based group that advocates for freedom worldwide. Its annual survey, "Freedom in the World 2010," would make for eye-opening reading for all those who cry "apartheid" whenever they see a flag with a Star of David.
Consider the following findings:
Of the 18 countries in the Middle East that Freedom House surveyed, only one is considered to be "free."
And just who might that be? Yep, you guessed it: Israel.
Not a single Arab country – not one! – did Freedom House consider "free." Three Arab states – Morocco, Lebanon and Kuwait – were labeled "partly free," while 13 other Arab states as well as Iran merited the dubious distinction of being branded as "not free."
In effect, then, this means that of the approximately 370 million human beings currently residing in the Middle East, only 2 percent enjoy true freedom – namely those who live in the Jewish state.
So much for "Israeli apartheid."
NOT SURPRISINGLY, in a press release announcing the report's publication, Freedom House concluded that "the Middle East remained the most repressive region in the world." It is this message that Israel and its supporters need to begin highlighting. By casting a spotlight on the subjugation, oppression and tyranny that typify nearly the entire Arab world, we can open some eyes out there and educate the Western public as to who really shares their democratic values.
As Prof. Bernard Lewis has written, the Arab states are little more than "a string of shabby tyrannies, ranging from traditional autocracies to new-style dictatorships, modern only in their apparatus of repression and indoctrination."An annual Arab Apartheid Week, held on campuses and at community centers, could be an effective vehicle for driving home this fundamental truth.
Doing so will reframe the debate. More importantly, it will help Westerners to finally begin recognizing the Arab regimes for what they are: a dangerous mix of despotism and dictatorship.