By Ray Hanania
Many people in Israel and supporters of the country continue to live in denial rather than accept the reality that it commits some of the worst war crimes in the world.
The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) last week released the results of a poll of Jewish-American voters that gauged how they feel about former President Donald Trump and his successor Joe Biden. America’s Jewish community is estimated at about 7 million people — or slightly more than the number of Jews who actually live in Israel (6.7 million) — so any survey of American Jews is significant. What you don’t always hear is what the poll seemingly attempted to downplay when it was released.
The press release accompanying the JDCA survey focused on the aspect that 76 percent of American Jews voted for Biden. But buried deep down in the survey and barely commented upon was the fact that a quarter of those surveyed believe that Israel is an apartheid state — a nation that imposes laws that discriminate against people based on their race, culture or religion. Among those aged under 40, that figure rises to 38 percent.
While pro-Israel activists and journalists might be shocked by this revelation, almost everyone else is not. Israel is officially a “Jewish” state and it has specific laws, more than 65 of them, which discriminate against non-Jewish citizens and deny them equal rights.
One columnist at the Jerusalem Post — for which I wrote opinion columns many years ago in an attempt to open the eyes of Israeli Jews by using humor — argued that the fact so many Jews believe Israel is an apartheid state is the result of Jewish-American parents not teaching their children about Israel. However, having grown up in a community on Chicago’s South Side that was probably more Jewish than Tel Aviv, I know that Jewish parents tend to embrace education, perhaps more so than other ethnic groups.
The truth that many Israelis want to avoid is that their country is an apartheid state. So instead they try to come up with excuses to explain away that realization among Israel’s only core people, the Jews, and especially those in America, who have a powerful role in influencing US policy toward Israel.
If only 25 percent of American Jews think that Israel is an apartheid state, then there is something woefully wrong. American Jews are among the most educated people in America and if only 25 percent believe Israel is an apartheid state, you have to wonder about the remaining 75 percent being brainwashed against the truth.
For Israeli Jews, who spend their entire lives in denial when it comes to Israel’s disrespect for civil and human rights, the results of this poll reflect what they deem to be a “failure” on the part of American Jews to teach their children about Israel. I agree. American Jews are not teaching their children the truth about Israel: They are teaching them lies. If they were told the truth, the percentage of American Jews who recognize that Israel is an apartheid state would be far higher.
I think the majority of American Jews, and even a majority of Jews in Israel, know that Israel practices racism and discrimination when it comes to how it treats non-Jews and Palestinians in particular. The real problem is that only 25 percent of American Jews who are asked that question have the courage to be honest and embrace the truth. Like most Jews in Israel, many American Jews prefer to close their eyes to the brutality that Israel’s government inflicts on people simply because they are of a different race, ethnicity or religion.
As I said, I grew up in a Jewish community in Chicago. In fact, I wrote a book about it called “Arabs of Chicagoland.” At that time, in the 1960s, American Jews and American Arabs were very close despite the conflict in Palestine. We knew each other and I learned to respect the American Jewish community. American Jews played a significant role in speaking out against the country’s racist anti-black segregation laws and policies. In the 1970s, they were at the forefront of the condemnation of South Africa’s apartheid policies, eventually forcing the government there to collapse. At the same time, Israel’s government embraced similar policies and used them to justify its growing oppression of Palestinian rights, especially after the 1967 occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank.
I believe that, deep down, most American Jews know that Israel practices a form of apartheid. They also fear what might happen if the Palestinians are not oppressed.
Many would expect me to write this being an American of Palestinian origin, although they will ignore the fact that I am married to a Jew. Years ago, I learned from Jewish civil rights activists who stood up to anti-Semitism and racist hate that the truth is the only thing that will set a people free. If Israel wants to stop being perceived as an apartheid state, then it should simply stop acting like one.