Arab (and Iranian) apartheid: where are the progressives?

Arab (and Iranian) apartheid: where are the progressives?

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Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby refuses to shake hand of Israeli Or Sasson TWITTER PHOTO

It was hard to miss the apartheid images from the recent Rio Olympics: the Egyptian judo competitor who pointedly ignored the outstretched hand of his Israeli opponent; the Lebanese team captain who forcibly blocked the Israeli team from boarding the bus to the stadium; and the Saudi athlete, in time-honoured tradition, who faked an injury to avoid the possibility of facing an Israeli in the next round.

This form of apartheid – practised against Israel and Israelis for 68 years, is still going strong. It is not a minor and childish “spat” as depicted in some media headlines, (“Olympics spat as Lebanese stop Israelis joining them on bus,” according to the Associated Press), but reminiscent of the refusal to allow blacks in South Africa before 1994, or in the United States before the civil rights movement, to sit with whites on buses or drink from the same water fountains.

Many Israelis have experienced this racism in one form or another. I have been at academic conferences and diplomatic receptions around the world where Palestinian, Tunisian, Saudi and Iranian participants, including government officials, have demonstrably avoided shaking my hand and being contaminated. In South Africa, the practice of apartheid reflected disgust and the image of blacks as subhuman, encouraging a climate of brutal violence against this population. In the anti-Israel version, the degradation is the same, and the results take the form of anti-Semitic attacks, not only against Israelis and Israeli institutions, but also targeting non-Israeli Jews.

In academic, cultural and sporting events, Arabs and Iranians often go to great lengths to demonstrate adherence to apartheid. A video from 2013 shows a young Iranian wrestler, Peyman Yarahmadi, being reduced to tears when his coach put an ice pack on his arm to make it seem that he was injured rather than enter the ring with an Israeli. During the 2012 London Olympics, the Lebanese judo team went as far as refusing to practice in view of the Israelis, forcing organizers to erect a separation barrier (an Arab “apartheid wall”).

For the most part, these are not isolated individual acts, but rather a reflection of the prevailing social and political norms in the Arab world, and the fear of reprisals from apartheid enforcers. The Egyptian athlete in the Rio Olympics reportedly walked past the Israeli in order to avoid “complications” upon returning home. In Lebanon, the Hezbollah terror group congratulated the team captain from blocking Israelis from boarding the Olympic bus – one can only imagine what Hezbollah would have done to him had he welcomed them, or even sat passively.

Avoiding being seen in the company of Israelis or being contaminated by this proximity is getting harder and more ridiculous in the age of phone cameras and selfies. Recently, Arab social media users “exploded with rage” when Tunisian television star Saber Rebai posted a picture of himself with an Israeli military officer – an Israeli Arab, as it turned out. Rebai quickly deleted the photo in response to brutal threats on social media.

Amid these and many more examples of anti-Israel apartheid, the silence of the self-appointed guardians of human rights, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, is striking. Indeed, they are very active in promoting the apartheid inherent in the BDS movement (boycotts, divestment and sanctions), the 21st-century version of the old economic boycott of Israel.

Perhaps more disturbing is the silence of the liberal and progressive Jewish groups claiming to be pro-Israel, such as J Street and the New Israel Fund. The campus activists who are quick to protest the appearance of discrimination against others and to fiercely attack Israeli policies regarding Palestinians are strangely blind to the many and widespread instances of anti-Israel apartheid. If these groups are serious about equality and tolerance, their voices must be heard protesting acts of hate targeting Israelis, including on college campuses.

  • TerrorIsEvil

    Great article. The Jew hate in the Muslim world is unnatural and abnormal. It is fed to the children from birth. Most of the Muslims in the world have never met a Jew or an Israeli and yet they hate them nonetheless.

    It is driven by a political religion which is all about the life and times of a man who found popularity in insularity, perversion, in supremacy and in hatred of the infidel. Most of the holy books are about this man, not about Allah.

    It is entirely ridiculous and absurd that people who call themselves “progressives” back regressive idiots who carry out genocide, ethnic cleansing and actually hate the “progressives” who operate as their dhimmi political slaves.

    The leftists are pathetic weak propagandists espousing hate and violence and it is about time we call them out for their prejudice.

    The United Church, IJV, various so-called “peace” groups and Islamic groups on campus and in the community; unions, university academics who are tired of making 120k per year just teaching their subjects and figure that they can recapture their hippy days by taking on Jews as their new targets and enemies, various Imams — these people need to be challenged and proven wrong at every opportunity. Our civilization depends on educating the world what exactly is at stake and about what these Islamist and Leftists really represent and believe.

    • moosehorn

      What sort of koolaid have you been drinking?