Of the world's many great lies, this is among the greatest.
How do we know it is a lie? Because when South Africa was an apartheid state, no one accused Israel of being one. Even the UN would have regarded the accusation as absurd.
Israel has nothing in common with an apartheid state, but few people know enough about Israel -- or about apartheid South Africa -- to refute the slander. So let's respond.
First, what is an apartheid state? And does Israel fit that definition?
From 1948 to 1994, South Africa, the country that came up with this term, had an official policy that declared blacks second-class citizens in every aspect of that nation's life. Among many other prohibitions on the country's blacks, they could not vote; could not hold political office; were forced to reside in certain locations; could not marry whites; and couldn't even use the same public restrooms as whites.
Not one of those restrictions applies to Arabs living in Israel.
One and a half million Arabs live in Israel, constituting about 20 percent of that country's population. They have the same rights as all other Israeli citizens. They can vote, and they do. They can serve in the Israeli parliament, and they do. They can own property and businesses and work in professions alongside other Israelis, and they do. They can be judges, and they are. Here's one telling example: it was an Arab judge on Israel's Supreme Court who sentenced the former president of Israel -- a Jew -- to jail on a rape charge.
Some other examples of Arabs in Israeli life: Reda Mansour was the youngest ambassador in Israel's history, and is now Consul General at Israel's Atlanta Consulate; Walid Badir is an international soccer star on Israel's national team and captain of one of Tel Aviv's major teams; Rana Raslan is a former Miss Israel; Ishmael Khaldi was until recently the deputy consul of Israel in San Francisco; Khaled Abu Toameh is a major journalist with the Jerusalem Post; Ghaleb Majadele was until recently a Minister in the Israeli Government. They are all Israeli Arabs. Not one is a Jew.
Arabs in Israel live freer lives than Arabs living anywhere in the Arab world. No Arab in any Arab country has the civil rights and personal liberty that Arabs in Israel enjoy.
Now, one might counter: "Yes, Palestinians who live inside Israel have all these rights, but what about the Palestinians who live in what are known as the occupied territories? Aren't they treated differently?"
Yes, of course they are -- they are not citizens of Israel. They are governed by either the Palestinian Authority (Fatah) or by Hamas. The control Israel has over these people's lives is largely manifested when they want to enter Israel. Then they are subjected to long lines and strict searches, because Israel must weed out potential terrorists.
Otherwise, Israel has little control over the day-to-day life of Palestinians and was prepared to have no control in 2000 when it agreed to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state to which it gave 97 percent of the land it had conquered in the 1967 War. The Palestinian response was to unleash an intifada of terror against Israeli civilians.
And what about the security wall that divides Israel and the West Bank? Is that an example of apartheid?
That this is even raised as an issue is remarkable. One might as well mention the security fence between the United States and Mexico as an example of apartheid. There is no difference between the American wall at its southern border and the Israeli wall on its eastern border. Both barriers have been built to keep unwanted people from entering the country.
Israel built its security wall in order to keep terrorists from entering Israel and murdering its citizens. What appears to bother those who work to delegitimize Israel by calling it an apartheid state is that the barrier has worked. The wall separating Israel from the West Bank has probably been the most successful terrorism-prevention program ever enacted.
So why, then, is Israel called an apartheid state?
Because by comparing the freest, most equitable country in the Middle East to the former South Africa, those who seek to Israel's demise hope they can persuade uninformed people that Israel doesn't deserve to exist just as apartheid South Africa didn't deserve to exist.
Yet, the people who know better than anyone else what a lie the apartheid accusation is are Israel's Arabs -- which is why they prefer to live in the Jewish state than in any Arab state.
There are lies, and then there are loathsome lies. "Israel is an apartheid state" falls into the latter category. Its only aim is to hasten the extermination of Israel.