“Welcome to Apartheid.”
That was the slogan on a placard brandished by a protester outside a home in Jerusalem’s Old City section, denouncing last week’s removal of illegal Arab squatters from the property.
On one level, it was just another ordinary real estate dispute, the kind that is heard in courts every day in every city in the world. Except that this one involves Arabs, Jews and racists who believe that Jews should not be allowed to live in mostly Arab neighborhoods—like the guy with the “Welcome to Apartheid” sign.
That’s right—the same people who are trying to keep members of one ethnic group out of a neighborhood, which is the very definition of “apartheid,” were standing there with signs accusing the Israeli authorities of “apartheid.”
This one deserves to be added to the dictionary, next to the word “Orwellian.”
In George Orwell’s famous novel 1984, the ironically named Ministry of Truth has three slogans: “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery” and “Ignorance is Strength.” The meaning of words has been reversed to serve an ideological purpose. People are taught that those words actually mean the exact opposite of what they thought they meant. In the Jerusalem case, integration is now called “apartheid.”
This remarkable story began in 1948 when the Jordanian army conquered and illegally occupied Jerusalem’s Old City, the section where the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and the ancient Jewish Quarter are located.
The Jordanians expelled every Jew from the Jewish Quarter, at gunpoint. That’s apartheid.
During the 19 years to follow, the Jordanians refused to allow any Jews to return to their homes. That’s apartheid.
Jews were not even allowed to pray at the Western Wall, which the Jordanians used as a garbage dump. That’s apartheid.
Local Arabs moved into the homes in the Jewish Quarter. Does that seem like a reasonable thing to do? If a racist government in the United States expelled African-Americans from some neighborhood, would it be reasonable for their white neighbors to just move in and take over their homes?
Of course not. That’s called “squatting.” It’s illegal. Police throughout the world are constantly evicting squatters from other people’s properties. And most local governments are far less patient than the Israelis in dealing with such situations.
The Jerusalem case dragged on in Israel’s courts for an incredible 45 years. Israeli judges patiently heard appeal after appeal. They listened to lawyers for the squatters insist they had a right to the property on the grounds that they had been living there since the 1950s.
Think about that. A racist government expelled the Jews. Squatters then occupied the Jews’ property. And they demanded the right to stay there because they stole it a really long time ago. As legal arguments go, that’s not much of a case. So finally, earlier this year, Israel’s left-leaning Supreme Court ruled that the squatters had to leave. And this week, the police made them do so.
After suffering from 70 years of apartheid, the rightful heirs of the original Jewish owners can finally move back to their property. Since most of the people currently living in the immediate vicinity are Arabs, Jews moving back to the property means integrating the neighborhood.
Supporters of Arab apartheid are crestfallen. So, they took out their cardboard and magic markers this week, and set to work making signs to wave at their demonstration. There was just one problem: They couldn’t be honest. They couldn’t make signs that expressed their true feelings. They couldn’t use slogans such as “Jews Keep Out” or “Arabs Only.” (Or that infamous one from America’s past, “No Jews or Dogs Allowed.”) Because being honest would make them look bad.
So, they decided to go Orwellian: “Welcome to Apartheid.” Integration is apartheid. Ethnic coexistence is racism. Diversity is exclusion. Orwell’s Ministry of Truth couldn’t have said it any better.
An interesting footnote to this episode: that “Welcome to Apartheid” sign was in English. Why? The neighbors speak Arabic and Hebrew. Why make a sign in a foreign language?
Because the racists who are trying to keep Jews out of the neighborhood know that most Israelis reject their calls for racial separation. They know they can’t win in the court of Israeli public opinion. And they know they can’t win at the ballot box. So, their only hope is to try to mobilize foreign pressure—that is, to incite the international community to hate Israel. Which just makes their crusade all the more vile.