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Is Israel an apartheid state?

Israel is a country known by many names such as the holy land but in some parts of the world, it is becoming known by a more sinister name - the apartheid state.

HEBRON: Israel is a country known by many names such as the holy land, the only democracy in the Middle East or the Jewish nation

But in some parts of the world, it is becoming known by a more sinister name - the apartheid state.

The comparison with white South Africa's domination of its black majority conjures up images of legalised racism which Israeli activist Micha Kruz believes is appropriate.

"If it helps people to understand what is going on by using the term apartheid, I will use it. No two conflicts are the same. There are pluses and minuses about bringing up the comparison," said Kruz.

And each year, for one week, people around the globe rally around the comparison.

Events and demonstrations are organised to highlight Israel's alleged apartheid policies towards Palestinians.

Although not without controversy, the so-called Israel Apartheid Week has been criticised for being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

And at the heart of the comparison is Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the ancient city of Hebron where some 700 Israelis live among a quarter of a million Palestinians on land both say is theirs.

An uneasy truce allows Arabs to use some roads, while Jews use others.

In addition, Palestinians live on one side of the road while Israelis on the other.

Ask any Palestinians in Hebron and they will say Israel in an apartheid state. Ask an Israeli and they will disagree. But perhaps the best people to know are those South Africans who have experienced both apartheid and Israel.

One of them is Benjamin Pogrund, a South African residing in Israel.

The well respected South African journalist and former newspaper editor was put on trial, sent to prison and investigated as a threat to the South African apartheid state by security police

For the past 15 years, he has been living in Israel where he recently authored a book disputing the claim that Israel is an apartheid state.

Pogrund said: "Look at what apartheid was. Based on the colour of your skin, racial discrimination was driven into every nook and cranny of society. Now you look at our part of the world. The central point about the Arab community is they have the vote and the vote means power. That is totally unlike the situation of the majority of people in South Africa under apartheid."

However, Pogrund's voice is drowned out by the growing chorus on student campuses where it's becoming popular to demonise Israel.

Israel Foreign Ministry's deputy spokesperson Paul Hirschon said: "They've seen the history of how the very legitimate and just struggle against apartheid played out. They’re trying to do the same thing on Israel which doesn't hold water."

But hold water or not, the comparison is damaging for Israel and its reputation

US Secretary of State John Kerry recently came under fire for saying in a closed-door meeting that if a Middle East peace agreement was not achieved, Israel risked becoming an apartheid state.

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