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Monday, April 22, 2024

I am deeply disturbed by Jordan MacKenzie’s column from Wednesday, “The meaning of the word ‘apartheid.’” First, I am always amazed when a Floridian criticizes Israel, given how Floridians live and work on land stolen by force from Native Americans who were “ethnically cleansed.”

Second, to call Israel an “apartheid state” is a patent falsehood. I do not dispute the horrors of the occupation. The present right-wing government does nothing to solve the problem. Israel is a democracy, and sooner or later the people will elect a government that does deal with the issue. However, to defame and slander Israel by calling it an “apartheid state” not only twists the facts on the ground, but also trivializes the real apartheid practiced in South Africa.  

How can Israel be called an “apartheid state” when Israeli Arab citizens sit as judges in Israel’s courts, including the Supreme Court?  Is it apartheid when Arab students attend all of Israel’s major universities and sit side-by-side with Jewish students?  When Israeli Arab citizens are police officers in Israel? When all Arab citizens of Israel vote and sit in the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) in a large voting bloc?  

Is it apartheid when Arab and Jewish doctors work together in Israeli hospitals? When the Druze serve with distinction in the Israel Defense Forces as officers and enlistees in combat and other roles? When Arabs and Jews travel together on the same public transportation and — in some cases such as the major Israeli city of Haifa — live in the same neighborhoods and buildings?

When the terror stops and the Arab/Muslim world recognizes this tiny state as the ancestral home of the Jewish people, there will no longer be any need for an “occupation” or stringent security measures. I realize it is not fashionable to defend Israel on today’s college campuses. However, I always thought education included an honest rendition of the facts. Criticizing Israeli policy is fair game. Demonizing Israel by slandering and defaming the country with a word like “apartheid” is cheating students by telling them less than half of the true story.   

Harold Cohen

Retired Florida circuit judge now 

residing in High Springs, Florida

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