Next, Makdisi turned his attention to so-called Israeli “apartheid”:
If you look at the all of the laws that constituted South African apartheid, all the major laws, they have [the] exact equivalent in Israeli law inside pre-‘67 Israel with respect to the Palestinian [Israeli-Arab] population.
As evidence, Makdisi cited the South African Population Registration Act, which assigned every citizen of the Republic of South Africa a racial identity that determined which neighborhoods they could live in and which schools they could attend, among many other restrictions. Makdisi claimed that, because Israel also notes on state-issued identification the religious background of its citizens, it practices apartheid. Yet Makdisi noted, “the main feature of South African apartheid was to exploit black labor…. Israel has never been interested… in Palestinian labor.” Makdisi failed to mention the numerous other states who require citizens to register their religion with the government, including Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, and until 2000, Greece. His attempt to undercut the legitimacy of Israel within its pre-1967 borders adds Makdisi’s voice to the insidious Arab propaganda whose notion of a Palestinian state includes not just the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, but the entire area of Israel.
In his final defense of the one-state solution, Makdisi argued that the “democratic and secular” nature of such a potential new state would, “treat all its citizens equally; that would safeguard the rights of everybody.” No suggestions were offered on overcoming the barriers to a single-state solution: economic integration, issues on immigration, and the control of the defense forces, to name a few. Furthermore, Makdisi disregarded a century of poor relations between Jews and Arabs in the region, offering no explanation of how such historical legacies would be overcome in a new bi-national state. As for self-determination, Makdisi said that it, “can take many, many, many forms” and asked, “why can’t we invent our own forms? Why do we have to import the ones that work [from Europe]?”
As to what these new “forms” of self-determination might be, he offered only vague references to “cultural and aesthetic autonomy.” Asked by an audience member how Jews and Israelis should react to the fact that a single-state solution would leave Jews without their own state and Arabs with twenty-two states in which they are the majority of the population, Makdisi responded with the uncaring and prejudiced suggestion that Jews have to, “just get on with their lives.” So much for Makdisi’s “just” peace.
Despite his criticism of the two-state solution and its impracticability, Makdisi suggested few realistic strategies to implement a single state. His lecture rested upon pipe dreams of Israeli-Palestinian unity, all undergirded by the implicit desire to undercut and destroy the Jewish nature of the state of Israel. Like other anti-Israel academics before him, Makdisi has an uncanny ability to propagate double standards and fallacy as fact. Penn and its Middle East Center would do well to invite specialists in Middle East studies capable of offering straightforward, unbiased analyses of the region’s problems rather than those from unrelated disciplines whose principal qualification, so to speak, is their hostility to Israel.
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