Commentary  Misrepresenting Israel


It becomes flagrantly manifest very early on in Sonia Larbi-Aissa’s article (“Birthright: Ten days in apartheid Israel,” September 8, Features, page 12) that the State of Israel will be depicted solely in a pejorative fashion and that there will be no effort whatsoever made on the author’s part to assume an equivocal and objective approach. Larbi-Aissa, who clearly held deeply entrenched presuppositions about Israel prior to her arrival, set out not to expand her horizons and transcend the parochial scope through which she viewed the land and its people, but rather to substantiate her own skewed beliefs.

Thus, every single incident that she invokes is recounted through a politically motivated lens. The article is rife with slanted interpretations of even the most basic encounters. Pernicious insinuations about Israeli society as a whole are ubiquitous throughout the text, and seething between each line is a tacit indictment of Israeli culture. The author selectively underscores every detail that can possibly be used to bolster the narrative she so rigidly believes in, and somehow manages to warp and transmogrify every experience she had on the trip into some conspiratorial, Zionist machination that she then uses as an all-encompassing condemnation of Israel. A prime instance of this is her oblique allegation that Yad Vashem has been hijacked by the State and is now used to promulgate propaganda. There is also the instance in which she retells some pointless and irrelevant anecdote about the belief system of Orthodox Jews and, once again, uses this to reinforce her racist preconceptions.

In the words of the Black South African parliamentarian Kenneth Meshoe, “Israel cannot be compared to apartheid in South Africa. Those who make the accusation expose their ignorance of what apartheid really is. […] This ridiculous accusation trivializes the word ‘apartheid,’ minimizing and belittling the magnitude of the racism and suffering endured by South Africans of colour.”

—Eton Ziner-Cohen, U0 Arts student