On October 23, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz published a front page article entitled Survey: Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime in Israel, written by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy. The author outlines and interprets the findings of a survey conducted by Dialog and commissioned by the Goldblum Fund, according to which 58% of the Jewish Israeli interviewees believe that “there is apartheid in Israel”.
The author, recurrently labelled as an “anti-Zionist self-hating Jew” for condemning Operation Cast Lead and the construction of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories, among other government-backed policies, asserted in an accompanying commentary piece entitled Apartheid without shame or guilt that the survey “lays bare an image of Israeli society”.
According to Ha’aretz, Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi, from the United Arab List-Ta'al, corroborated Gideon Levy’s assertion: “The data is an ugly mirror image, but an accurate one, of Israel”. Furthermore, Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka, the head of the Balad party, affirmed that “the Israeli regime is not a carbon copy of South Africa's apartheid, but it is certainly from the same family”.
Indeed, under international law, for example, according to the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court definition of apartheid, among other legal sources, the State of Israel practises apartheid. The former crime is defined as acts “committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups, and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime”. And, arguably, given the dubious methodology of the survey, the findings depict Israeli society.
Nevertheless, the author’s analysis of the data certainly does not.
Noam Shelef, Deputy Communication Director for the New Israel Fund, stated the following in an Op-Ed entitled That Poll’s Apartheid Problem for The Daily Beast: “I admire Gideon Levy. He's had the courage over the years to document some of the ugliest aspects of the occupation. But the manner in which his column presented the information —under the headline Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime in Israel — seems to amount to a misrepresentation of the data.”
For example, question number 17 of the survey notes: In the territories, there are some roads where travel is permitted only to Israelis and others where travel is permitted only to Palestinians. Which of the following opinions are closest to your own: A. It is a good situation. B. It is not a good situation, but what can you do? C. It is not a good situation and it needs to be stopped. 24 percent of the interviewees answered A, it is a good situation; 50 percent, B, it is not a good situation, but what can you do?; and 17 percent, C, it is not a good situation and it needs to be stopped.
Gideon Levy affirms that: “A sweeping 74 percent majority is in favour of separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. A quarter - 24 percent - believe separate roads are a good situation and 50 percent believe they are a necessary situation”. Actually, interviewees who answered either B or C, a 64 percent, believe “it is not a good situation”.
Misrepresenting the data is expensive, especially in a context hostile to criticism. It cost Gideon Levy his credibility. Those who, like myself, advocate the end of the political Zionist colonial enterprise in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and discrimination against Arab Israeli citizens, must refrain from unfounded criticism and articulate a very needed type of criticism: the legitimate and constructive one.