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At extremist event, Democrat Rep. Betty McCollum accuses Israel of practicing “apartheid”

At extremist event, Democrat Rep. Betty McCollum accuses Israel of practicing “apartheid”

Long hostile to Israel, McCollum is cheered at annual meeting of radical “U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights”

The false claim that Israel is an ‘apartheid’ state underpins the intellectual foundations of the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement. The smear actually originated in anti-Zionist campaigns that were initiated by Communist states during the Cold War.

Since the 2001 UN conference in Durban, which launched the BDS movement, the comparison of Israel with racist apartheid-era South Africa has also been a key leitmotif of anti-Israel activists.

Today, this apartheid smear has become a key strategy of the Islamist-Leftist coalition arrayed against Israel. The tactic has had some success overseas, but it hasn’t really caught on in mainstream U.S. political circles. But now the Israel haters have made inroads by getting a congresswoman with a long history of hostility to Israel to use it at the annual conference of one of America’s most virulent anti-Israel organizations.

Several weeks ago, U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) said that Israel practices ‘apartheid’.

McCollum made the remark about Israel having an apartheid form of government in a speech delivered upon accepting a leadership award at the annual national conference of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR).

The USCPR is a Rockefeller Brothers Fund-supported BDS umbrella group which is leading the anti-Israel movement’s push to isolate and weaken Israel through boycott and divestment drives across the country, ALERT: Anti-Israel coordinating group to launch municipal-level campaigns against Israel in June.

[Cities for Palestine campaigns | USCPR]

McCollum’s remarks are now being considered the “highlight” of its convention, Together We Rise, which was held on September 28-30, 2018 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

As USCPR’s Executive Director Yousef Munayyer put it last week in a fundraising email to his group’s supporters and donors:

Ten days ago, a sitting Member of Congress used the ‘a’ word: apartheid…Smack dab in the middle of our three-day conference, where more than 550 people from around the country came together for 40+ workshops, panels, and artistic performances that organized, energized, and amplified the incredible work people like you are doing, history was made. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) openly, and correctly, named Israel for what it is…This. Is. Huge.”

Munayyer is absolutely right that what McCollum said is a big deal. But best I can tell, the mainstream media has completely ignored this story.

Basically, it’s important because it marks the first time that a U.S. lawmaker has publicly equated the only Jewish state on the planet, and the only country in the Middle East that provides its citizens with rights and liberties that other people in the region can only dream of, with the defunct apartheid regime in South Africa.

Rep. Betty McCollum says Israel is an ‘apartheid state’

As we’ve highlighted in our prior post, it’s important to understand that the USCPR’s focus isn’t really on improving Palestinian human and civil rights but on demonizing Israel and trying to shift U.S. policy against the Jewish state.

So, the fact that Congresswoman Betty McCollum endorses this group actually  says a lot about her views on Israel (as blogger Elder of Ziyon recently noted, McCollum’s appearance as a guest speaker at the USCPR conference along with her egregious remarks should put to rest the false J-Street claim that she’s ‘pro-Israel’).

Rep. McCollum’s presence at a conference put on by the vehemently anti-Israel USCPR was bad enough. But at the group’s national convention in St. Paul her words were even worse.

Taking the podium to accept the USCPR’s Congressional Leadership Award, McCollum described Israel as an apartheid state on account of its legislature having passed the nation-state law back in July:

Friends, the world has a name of that form of government that’s codified in the Nation State Law, and it’s called apartheid.”

According to USCPR co-founder Phyllis Bennis, who attended the conference and recently wrote about it, people were “sitting on the edge of their chairs” as Rep. McCollum spoke, hoping that she would “say the whole truth”. When she used the “a” word:

There was a collective gasp, and the audience, many in tears, leaped to their feet in a massive ovation.”

Why McCollum was wrong to say Israel practices ‘apartheid’

It’s truly disappointing to hear that so many people were overjoyed by McCollum’s words, and that they’re so lacking in basic elementary facts about Israel that they can believe comparing it to South African apartheid is actually an “accurate description.”

The apartheid regime in South Africa was a state-sponsored segregation and subjugation of an indigenous people based on race. It was a structure that doesn’t even in the least bit begin to describe majority-minority relationships in Israel. As scholar Benjamin Pogrund, who was a leading activist in the fight to dismantle the South African apartheid regime, puts it:

Under apartheid, every detail of life was subject to discrimination by law. Black South Africans did not have the vote. Skin color determined where you were born and lived, your job, your school, which bus, train, taxi, and ambulance you used, which park bench, lavatory, and beach, whom you could marry, and in which cemetery you were buried. Israel is not remotely like that…So anyone who equates Israel and apartheid is not telling the truth.”

You can read here the moving story of Tshediso Mangope, a South African human rights activist who firmly believed that the suffering he experienced under apartheid was also visited upon the Arab minority in Israel—until he visited the country and learned just how mistaken he was. Blogger Elder of Ziyon has also curated a powerful series of images depicting societal diversity and pluralism in Israel that puts the lie to the apartheid charge.

And you can watch this just released video, featured yesterday on the IsraellyCool blog, in which a devout Muslim Israeli Arab describes her career successes—all while speaking perfect Hebrew (English subtitles included). There are literally hundreds of thousands of similar stories:

But what of McCollum’s outrage over Israel’s recently passed nation-state law? Is she right that the new law abrogates equality and so diminishes Israeli democracy that it’s now morphed into an apartheid form of governance?

In fact, the Congresswoman’s perspective of the law is so hysterical and over-the-top that it’s complete nonsense.

The reality is that the new law (officially titled Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People) is a necessary corrective to an “aggressive judicial activism” and overreach by Israel’s Supreme Court, exacerbated by the prior lack of any law anchored in the Jewish collective right to a nation-state.

By giving “constitutional force” to Zionist principles without denying rights to any Israeli citizens, the new law now obligates judges to consider the need to preserve Israel’s character as the Jewish state. But it doesn’t do away with the individual rights of Arab Israelis, or in any way subverts Israel’s democratic principles.

The new law has been controversial, and thoughtful critics have taken issue with some of its specific wording and provisions (see, for example, here and here). But the basic contours of the law are really only a serious problem for anti-Zionists who don’t believe that the Jewish people have any right to self-determination in their ancient homeland.

Bottom line: Just like the USCPR which bestowed her with an achievement award, Rep. Betty McCollum seems to think that establishing a narrative in Congress that promotes Palestinian rights requires the slander of Israel as an illegitimate state akin to apartheid South Africa.


In last week’s fundraising email, USCPR’s Executive Director Yousef Munayyer didn’t mention any other portions of Rep. McCollum’s speech.

But it’s actually worth listening to the entire talk because it helps to explain how she could believe the longstanding apartheid smear. The virulently anti-Israel site Mondoweiss has reproduced a transcript and here’s a video of her 23-minute speech, which USCPR posted to You Tube several days ago:

In her remarks, McCollum repeatedly denounces Israel’s “cruelty” and “dehumanizing” and “brutal treatment of Palestinian children”; condemns Israel’s security forces for a “massacre of scores of unarmed protesters in Gaza”; and declares it “appalling” that Israel is “abusing an entire population of people under their control.”

These charges show just how misinformed and misguided the congresswoman is on these issues. She basically works to sanitize the cynical use of human shields by Hamas and its repeated attempts to send armed militants to breach the Gaza border. Further, her comments reveal a profound ignorance about the Oslo Accord jurisdictions. The reality is that over 98% of West Bank Palestinians have been self-governed since the mid-1990s.

As to her accusation that Israel is committing systematic human rights abuses against Palestinian children in military detention, we’ve highlighted in a prior post that these allegations originated with pro-BDS Palestinian NGOs, some of which have ties to terrorist organizations.

So what McCollum said at the USCPR national conference was basically a bogus pack of falsehoods. But even worse than what she said, in my view, is what she didn’t say. She never mentioned the culture of martyrdom fostered by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority or the urgent need for Palestinian educational reform so that young people aren’t constantly inspired to engage in murderous behavior against Jews. She didn’t speak honestly about the horrific abuses and day-to-day indignities visited upon the Palestinian people by their own corrupt and ruthless governments. And she never once pointed to the importance of people-to-people engagement—the economic and social coexistence efforts that are a necessary condition for peace.

Bottom line: At the recent USCPR national convention in St. Paul, Rep. Betty McCollum’s said that she needed to “stand with the children of Palestine and to stand with their parents.” But the reality is that all she did was stand with the haters. Her remarks are a sobering reminder that for U.S. lawmakers on the extreme left-wing of the Democratic Party a professed support for Palestinian rights actually has very little to do with Palestinians—and everything to do with assaulting Jewish identity while spreading misleading and deceptive propaganda about Israel.

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 65 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Recently, Elman was included on the Algemeiner newspaper’s 2018 list of the top 100 people worldwide who are “positively influencing Jewish life.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MiriamElman



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JusticeDelivered | October 14, 2018 at 7:32 pm

When can we give Palestinians what they really deserve? It is a shame that they are too close to Israel to nuke, the next best thing is to start incinerating them with Fuel-Air bombs.

    ButGodsFirst in reply to JusticeDelivered. | October 14, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    Go away, troll. Murder is murder.

      4th armored div in reply to ButGodsFirst. | October 14, 2018 at 7:58 pm

      and the paliis deserve what they are doing to Israeli forests –
      this is not trollery it is self protection.

      JusticeDelivered in reply to ButGodsFirst. | October 15, 2018 at 8:38 pm

      Palestinians keep committing acts of war, Israel keeps slapping their paddies. Since the creation of Israel Palestinians keep right on doing more of the same. They want war, they should be given real war. Self defense is not murder. What the Palestinians do is murder.

    4th armored div in reply to JusticeDelivered. | October 14, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    use air-fuel bursts in the tunnels and use huge fans to send their balloons and kites back to sender.

      JusticeDelivered in reply to 4th armored div. | October 15, 2018 at 9:18 am

      Fuel-air devices suck up all the oxygen, including from the tunnels. So dropping a fuel-air bomb is the safest way to kill everyone in the tunnel while sending a message to Palestinians. It is pretty clear that Palestinians are not going to want peace until after quite large numbers of them are given lasting peace.

legacyrepublican | October 14, 2018 at 7:56 pm

Are there Arabs in the Knesset? Well, yes. So much for the Apartheid theory as it applies to Israel.

Are there Jews in the Palestinian Authority? Well, it would seem no. So, who is practicing Apartheid then?

    Colonel Travis in reply to legacyrepublican. | October 14, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    No kidding.

    Apartheid was state-mandated separation of the races. Arabs can’t own property in Israel? Can’t live in a neighborhood with Jews? Can’t serve in the army? Can’t work in Jewish-owned companies? Can’t vote? Can’t use the same bathrooms? Can’t attend Jewish schools?

    What Arab rights have been removed by this nation-state law?


    Call me crazy, I have never understood the deep, irrational, perpetual hatred for Jews. Never will.

      JoeyFalconi1 in reply to Colonel Travis. | October 15, 2018 at 1:19 am

      It’s really not hatred of Jews. It’s really hatred for Christians. And it’s been going on for about 1,400 years.

        Milhouse in reply to JoeyFalconi1. | October 15, 2018 at 7:19 am

        No, it really is hatred of Jews. By both Moslems and Christians. Christianity has a long and rich history of antisemitism, which it only began to shed in the mid-20th century. Even in the USA, which is probably the center of Christian philosemitism, it’s a relatively new phenomenon, and far from universal. Antisemitism still flourishes in the “mainline” churches, the black churches, and even in some corners of the evangelical churches. Outside the USA it’s still popular, particularly in the Middle East, where traditionally the only thing a Christian hated worse than a Turk was a Jew.

          JoeyFalconi1 in reply to Milhouse. | October 15, 2018 at 9:08 am

          No question that both hatreds have existed for thousands of years. But the hatred of Jews is just part of the hatred of Christians. It’s a 2,400 year old problem.

          JoeyFalconi1 in reply to Milhouse. | October 15, 2018 at 9:09 am


          JusticeDelivered in reply to Milhouse. | October 15, 2018 at 10:13 am

          Palestinians are simply living by Mohammad’s example, kill, loot and take women and girls as young as nine. And lets not forget inbreeding. A 1400 year dark age with no end in sight.

          Milhouse said:
          Antisemitism still flourishes in the “mainline” churches,

          Let me fix that for you Milhouse:

          Antisemitism still flourishes in the liberal churches,

      Zechariah 12:10
      Hosea 5:15, Hosea 6:1-3

      One could write a book detailing these passages.

      Short version: Jews will pray to the Messiah to return and save them. If there are no Jews then He cannot return. Ergo, Satan has always stirred up hatred for Jews hoping to wipe them out.

The last time, each time, leftists claim apartheid, they open abortion fields and force refugee crises to cleanse the native populations. I wouldn’t trust ideologues know to deny individual dignity, deny human life, are politically congruent, and are otherwise Pro-Choice, selective and opportunistic.

That said, the Palestinians have been on a progressive path, poorly served by their leaders, ever since PLO (Fatah) instigated a war against Israel, then a failed coup in Jordan (the second state).

The only option for a “Palestinian” who wants to gain a good education, live in peace, and have their child brought up in an educational system that will not make them cannon fodder is to live in Israel. Or another Western culture, if they’re selective.

    JoeyFalconi1 in reply to Ragspierre. | October 15, 2018 at 1:25 am

    Exactly. Just think of the prime real estate in Gaza City. If the Hamas terrorists would allow it, they could turn that area into a resort that would rival the Riviera.

    Of course, they would have to first give up their dream of destroying Israel. And that’s the rub.

      JusticeDelivered in reply to JoeyFalconi1. | October 15, 2018 at 5:44 pm

      The truth is that Palestinians could have buried the hatchet decades ago, become friends with Israelis, and rode their economic coattails to prosperity. They chose not to do so. Palestinians are a special kind of dumb.

Her opponent in the coming election is Greg Ryan. Please consider supporting him.

And yet ted Deutsch, the Democratic Congressman from Florida wrote an op-ed in the Times of israel saying don’t believe the NYT when it says the Democratic party is anti-Israel. What a joke.

    Milhouse in reply to Chgolaw. | October 15, 2018 at 7:26 am

    The Democratic Party isn’t anti-Israel. Some Democrats are, but so are some Republicans. Betty McCollum is not the Democratic Party. What does seem evident, though, is that antisemitism is no longer a barrier to advancement in the Democratic Party. Keith Ellison and Al Sharpton are not the Democratic Party either, but they are prominent and respected members and leaders despite their antisemitism. The GOP has had its Buchanans and Bakers, but nowadays they’re shoved into the background and told to shut up.

      userpen in reply to Milhouse. | October 15, 2018 at 8:00 pm

      “The GOP has had its Buchanans and Bakers, but nowadays they’re shoved into the background and told to shut up.”

      That’s a true statement right there Milhouse.

    Milhouse in reply to Chgolaw. | October 15, 2018 at 7:27 am

    Don’t forget, though, that the worst US president ever for Israel was not 0bama but Eisenhower.

mccollum knows little of apartheid and even less of south africa or she could not credibly make such a comparison–if you can find a copy, ” my traitor’s heart ” by rian malan(the grandson of the founder,no less) is a first-person account of life under the apartheid system in south africa–banned in the US for many years, had to purchase a copy out of canada in order to read the same

When BDS says Israel is ‘apartheid’ what they mean is, Israel is Jewish. For anyone who looks can see that Israeli Arabs have far more freedom and higher living standards in Israel than they’d have in any Arab country.

A claim of “Apartheid” sounds more respectable than “Palestine free [of Jews] from the River to the Sea.” But no one should be confused about BDS’ ultimate goal.