April 23, 2024
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The Crimson Tide Is Turning: Harvard Undergraduate Council Subsidizes ‘Israel Apartheid Week’

I was actually excited to attend my landmark college reunion this spring, to reconnect with cherished friends and reminisce over one of the sweetest and most fulfilling periods of my life. I had begun spending stolen moments lingering over photographs, depicting a younger me and my multicultural gaggle of friends trying to forge meaningful pathways to change the world for the better. Instead, I now find myself ashamed of the same institution for voting to fund “Israel Apartheid Week” this year. As a Jewish woman and a lover of facts, I am appalled and deeply disappointed that the Undergraduate Council at Harvard, a university whose very motto signifies Truth, has willingly traded in Veritas for a poorly veiled, trendy lie.

If you are going to promote a term as the defining battle cry for your passionate activism, then you should probably begin by knowing what that term means. For those who may be confused, I’ll try to help out here. “Apartheid” indicates a system of segregation based on racial criteria, with specific reference to the white supremacist regime that reigned in South Africa from 1948 until the 1990s. If this were to apply to Israel, it might mean, for example, that Palestinian citizens of Israel were not allowed to hold government positions, vote, matriculate in public educational programs and be awarded the corresponding degrees, be treated equally by Jewish physicians, practice as physicians to Jewish patients, travel freely across the country wherever, however and whenever they’d like, or hold high-level positions in the fields of their choosing. Most importantly, it would mean there was no such entity as the Palestinian Israeli citizen with rights equal to those of the Jewish majority. When you think about it, the term “apartheid” would imply all the things the Jews themselves were prevented from doing during, say, the Holocaust—to name one of many periods of dehumanization peppering our past.

Of course, this is only a theoretical, abstract discussion because none of these scenarios are factual. Currently, Palestinian citizens comprise approximately 20 percent of the Israeli population. Despite being a numeric minority, however, the Palestinian citizens of Israel can easily do everything I listed above, and so much more. They can, in fact, live as equals to their Jewish neighbors. They can, and they do. Because that’s how it works in a country without apartheid. Which is what Israel is.

We have been defiled, disgraced and disenfranchised by too many populations to name. Yet for some reason, it seems we have no lasting taste for vengeance, and are not readily willing to do the same to others. This is probably why the Jewish state is deeply rooted in principles of democracy, human equality and compassion. This statement is not up for debate. Our Declaration of Independence unequivocally proclaims fully equal rights to all Israeli citizens, regardless of race, religion or sex. That, right there, is the polar opposite of apartheid.

In Israel today, healthcare is administered equally to all patients, with absolute disregard for ethnicity. When I worked as a medical student in hospitals across Israel, I saw this rule enforced rigorously and without exception, even if it meant we treated the actual terrorist before the victims of his bombing when all were brought in at the same time. Palestinians are taught right alongside Jewish students in elementary through graduate schools, and are equal recipients of subsidized funding for higher-level education. Palestinian intellectuals, professionals and public figures in Israel are routinely garnered prestigious awards based solely on their merits. Palestinians have their own political parties in the Knesset, several of which tout harsh criticism of the Israeli state, and are allowed to do so because this befits the principles of a democratic, egalitarian society. It is considered a criminal offense to incite racism in Israel, and rogue Jewish vigilantes who do avenge Palestinian acts of terrorism are summarily penalized, despite the pain felt by the entire country every single time we lose a Jewish soul to these murderous acts (a near daily event during certain tense periods). We have Palestinians on the police force, the foreign service and even the Jewish National Fund. Palestinians have equal civil and political rights, equal social rights, equal everything rights. As I indicated above, an Israeli citizen is an Israeli citizen. Period.

The situation in the West Bank—namely the presence of Israeli settlements and military—are cited as foundations of the apartheid claim. Yet 90 percent of West Bank Palestinians live under the direct control of the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, whose military presence is concentrated on the border. Furthermore, despite false claims to the contrary, Israel has every legal and historical right to settle that land. If there is an apartheid movement in the West Bank, it is the one that seeks to cleanse the area of all its Jews. Supporters of BDS have never been able to explain why a Palestinian state must be judenrein, and how that is not apartheid, or worse. The claim becomes even more preposterous in reference to Gaza, which is already judenrein, Israel having uprooted thousands of its citizens and removed all military in 2005. No one is debating that life in the West Bank and Gaza are challenging. But deteriorating conditions for the Palestinians rest on the failings of the PA and Hamas—both of which are viciously corrupt. Most aid money goes into the pockets of leaders, and what remains is used to fund weapons aimed expressly at Jewish annihilation.

There are plenty of brave Palestinians who have risked their lives to publicly declare that life for them in Israel is optimal, that they have more fundamental rights in Israel than in numerous Muslim countries, that the catchphrase “Israeli Apartheid” is a shameful fallacy. It is widely known that individuals often marginalized in areas under Palestinian control, such as women and the LGBTQ community, live a life of considerably greater liberty and opportunity in the state of Israel. Interestingly, it seems the Undergraduate Council at Harvard is unaware that a poll conducted in 2008 by Harvard’s own Kennedy School of Government concluded that 77 percent of Palestinian citizens of Israel would rather live in the “Jewish homeland” than any other country in the world. Yes, in the world.

Since we are discussing the accurate definition of terms, let us be clear: “Israel Apartheid Week” is simply an excuse to bully Jews and demonize Israel, fueled by a runaway anti-Zionist trend and sanctioned by those who have absolutely no factual understanding of Middle Eastern history, or the workings of Israeli government and society. There is a path to peace. The Palestinian leadership must give up its goal of destroying Israel, and truly seek a co-existence. And if it will not, then Israel must continue to defend herself. There is a name for that, but it’s not apartheid. It is self-preservation.

By Talya Toledano Davidovich


Talya Toledano Davidovich works as a radiologist in a hospital in the Bronx. She and her husband, Shmulik, have four boys and live in Teaneck, when not seeking adventures around the world. She dedicates this article to all the brave Israeli soldiers and innocent civilians who have lost their lives in the fight for the Jewish homeland, and to their families.

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