Anti-Israel groups in the United States are using a recently passed Israeli law to ramp up false claims of apartheid. The "nation-state" bill defines Israel as "the national home of the Jewish people" with Jerusalem as its capital.
"Israel arrogantly enshrines Jim Crow laws," the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at New York's New School blasted on Facebook.
"Apartheid is a legal term, not an insult. It's the most suitable label to describe Israel's treatment of millions of Palestinians over the last seven decades," read a graphic shared via Facebook by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
"What this law really does is it enshrines racisms and discrimination and like you said apartheid into the foundational constitutional law of the state of Israel," JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson said in an interview with MSNBC's Ayman Mohyeldin. "So that means the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish are being told, and the state is actually now obligated with this law to treat them unequally."
"Formalizing de facto apartheid, the Israeli Knesset passes the racist nation-state law, which officially designates Palestinian citizens of Israel...along with all other Palestinians living in historic Palestine under Israeli sovereign power—as second-class citizens," claimed Columbia University's Students for Justice in Palestine chapter.
Apartheid is a term used by anti-Israel activists and groups to smear and delegitimize Israel. And unlike apartheid South Africa, both Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis receive full voting rights, hold elected office, serve in the military and prominently on Israeli courts.
The nation-state bill passed the Knesset in a 62-55 vote. Israel's Druze community voiced concern over the bill. But President Reuven Rivlin assured a delegation "that is the basis of the state we founded – the Zionist movement in full partnership with all who live here in this good land, which is good for all of us and where we can exist in equality without any problem."
Still, the bill's passage prompted Stanford University SJP member Hamzeh Daoud, a residential assistant, to threaten to "physically fight" pro-Israel students. He later changed the wording in his Facebook post from "physically" to "intellectually" and noted that "I edited this post because I realize intellectually beating Zionists is the only way to go. Physical fighting is never an answer to when trying to prove people wrong."
Both Daoud's Facebook and Twitter accounts have been deactivated.
Most analyses conclude the law is more symbolic than substantial. It does nothing to change the rights of Israeli Arabs, although many are displeased at its recognition of Hebrew as the country's official language, seeing it as downgrading Arabic.
People are free to criticize Israel and the bill. But it's clear that groups like SJP and JVP will do anything to bash Israel and delegitimize its existence.