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Saturday, May 17 2014 11:00 PM

STEVE LEVIN: Face facts: Apartheid not in Israel

It was with interest that I read Glenn E. Robinson's op-ed piece in The Californian ("Apartheid is a reality in the West Bank," May 4).

Robinson would have readers believe he was providing insights into the ongoing conundrum that is the relationship between the state of Israel and what is called a government for the Palestinians.

In fact, his piece merely recycles several of the canards used by those who continue trying to delegitimize Israel's right to exist.

Robinson takes the concept of "apartheid," which originated to describe the white Afrikaner ideology of separation from the black population in South Africa, and like too many of those before him, tries to make the case as he writes that "the concept of apartheid is already well-entrenched in Israel's rule over West Bank Palestinians."

I suspect The Californian's publishing of Robinson's piece on the day before Yom HaZikaron -- Israel's Memorial Day -- was an act of ignorance rather than intent. Whatever, Robinson's piece failed to provide historical context and was short on facts.

My grandmother, may she rest in peace, came to this country as a child from Russia in 1909. Her accent stayed with her always and was particularly strong when she spoke in Yiddish. One of her favorite Yiddish sayings translates roughly to "When a worm sits in horseradish, it thinks there's nothing sweeter."

In this case, Robinson's condiment is populated by academics and advocates well-known for bashing Israel.

Robinson himself has been a party to egregious statements about Israel, ranging from his signature on a 2002 open letter suggesting Israel might use the U.S. war in Iraq as pretext for "ethnic cleansing" against Palestinians, to contributing to a book by loose cannon Pam Weir, who, among her many illogical screeds, claims Israel has no right to its homeland. (For the record, Jews first came to the land of Israel as a nation in 1272 BCE, some 1,800 years before Islam was founded.)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's statement "Israel risks becoming 'an apartheid state'" was the impetus for Robinson's piece.

But Robinson conveniently omits a critical fact when he writes about the Israel-Palestinian relationship. He doesn't mention that Palestinian leadership still does not -- and has reiterated through Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) that it will not -- recognize the Jewish state.

And now his Fatah has signed a unity pact to co-govern with Gaza-based Hamas -- the latter recognized by the U.S. and Israel as a terrorist group and one pledged to the Jewish state's destruction.

Apartheid in South Africa was discrimination based on race, enabling a white minority to maintain domination over the non-white majority. Everything was separate and unequal.

In Israel, Jewish and Arab babies use the same hospitals, the same doctors -- in 2013 more than 180,000 Palestinians sought medical care in Israel. There are no restrictions on buses, taxis or trains.

In his book, "Deconstructing Apartheid Accusations Against Israel," Gideon Shimoni writes that those who accuse Israel of apartheid deprive the term of its original significance.

"This enables them to label as apartheid any controversial policy or action of Israel rather than comprehending it in the context of conflict situations and legitimate security needs," Shimoni writes.

He uses former President Jimmy Carter's book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid" as an example. Despite admitting in the book he's not claiming Israel practices apartheid, Carter chose what Shimoni called "a stigmatic title." Attorney Alan Dershowitz famously commented, "Sometimes you can tell a book by its cover."

In Robinson's case, he's left to wonder mournfully when Israel's "occupation" will end and the Palestinians will have a home.

That's one question not hard to figure out. You just have to be willing to look at the facts.

Steve Levin is The Californian's assistant city editor.

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