South African Charge of Israeli Apartheid Rings Hollow
A recent speaking tour about Israel brought me to South Africa, following a visit to Norway. Both countries are hostile environments when it comes to the Jewish state. In Norway, the three faculties of the Norwegian universities refused to host me, but student groups broke the boycott against pro-Israel speakers by inviting me to speak. In South Africa, the boycott held and I was precluded from speaking at any university.
The South African boycott against me, as an advocate for Israel, was spearheaded by a sitting judge named Dennis Davis, who aspires to serve on South Africa’s highest court and who authored an op ed in the Cape Times headlined “Dershowitz is not welcome here!” It was cosigned by a dozen other mainstream lawyers and academics strongly opposed to Israel.
The justification offered by Davis for trying to censor me is that I have been critical of Bishop Desmond Tutu for calling Israel an Apartheid state and for accusing the Jewish people of being “arrogant,” “peculiar,” “claiming a monopoly” on God, and on the Holocaust. He also accused me of being opposed to peace and of supporting Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, despite my long term support for the two-state solution and the end of the occupation. And he totally mischaracterized my views on torture, collective punishment and academic freedom.
I am critical of Bishop Tutu’s call for boycotts against apartheid Israel, because it is a totally false charge. Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that does not practice any form of apartheid: Jordan prohibits Jews from becoming citizens or owning land; Saudi Arabia practices gender apartheid; all Muslim countries engage in sexual orientation apartheid; Hamas is notorious for its anti-Christian apartheid; and the Palestinian Authority has said that “no Jew” will ever be allowed to live in a Palestinian state. Israel, on the other hand, is a racially diverse country in which Arabs serve in the Knesset, on the Supreme Court, on university faculties and even in the Cabinet. The court that recently convicted Israel’s former president of rape included an Arab judge. Nothing like this ever happened in apartheid South Africa.
Moreover, the South African government, the African National Congress and Bishop Tutu himself have far worse human rights records than does Israel. They have supported some of the most despotic regimes in the world, simply because the despots who head these regimes in Libya, Iran, Cuba, China, Zimbabwe, and the Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza–sided with their legitimate struggle against apartheid in years past.