Looking back at a week in which varying degrees of anti-Semitism and racism exploded across international headlines, Glenn Plummer – bishop of Israel for the Church of God in Christ – said he would not compare Whoopi Goldberg’s "ignorant" statements about the Holocaust to Amnesty International's characterization of Israel as an apartheid state.
In an interview with ALL ISRAEL NEWS, Plummer unpacked several layers and three separate issues of the recent news: first, the apartheid accusation; second, Goldberg’s comments; and third, discrimination and bigotry in Israel including persecution by some Jews of Christians and Messianic Jews in Israel.
As a bishop in the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination and as an African American, Plummer is no stranger to racism. But he was surprised by a different sort of discrimination in Israel – a country he came to in order to bless and support.
Let’s take these issues in order.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF APARTHEID?
From this website: “Translated from the Afrikaans meaning 'apartness', apartheid was the ideology supported by the National Party (NP) government and was introduced in South Africa in 1948. Apartheid called for the separate development of the different racial groups in South Africa.”
Amnesty International released a scathing report in which it accused Israel of “crimes against humanity” and referred to it as “an apartheid state.”
But Plummer said that an organization of Amnesty’s caliber has a responsibility to stick to the truth when making such sweeping accusations.
“We have to live by the same definition,” Plummer said. “Accusing Israel of apartheid, by Amnesty International, is absolutely ridiculous.”
In 1988, Plummer was invited by the apartheid government of South Africa to visit the country. He and seven other black Americans toured the four divided sectors of society: the Blacks, the Coloreds, the Indians and the Whites.
He said the divisions were obvious – and the poverty of the Black sector was worse than he had seen anywhere in the world including the primitive conditions of the Jewish community in Gondar, Ethiopia. With little to no running water and electricity, Plummer said the conditions for Blacks in apartheid South Africa was worse than that of Palestinians in Gaza today.
“I’m telling you from my own life experience, as an American living in Israel, what apartheid really was. I am sure a black South African could tell you better, but this was my perspective,” he said. “I saw up close what apartheid was and it is not what Israel is and it is not what Israel ever has been.”
“I want to be clear about my denouncement of Amnesty’s statement on Israel,” he continued. “If they are now going to redefine apartheid, as some people choose to do, let us know. We are all working from the South African definition of apartheid and what that was.”
“It’s a government-mandated division of the races and there’s a lot packed into that,” Plummer said.
He also said Amnesty International should know better: It is the South African government itself promoting the accusation of Israel and apartheid, Plummer said, noting that the country tried to prevent Miss South Africa from attending the Miss Universe contest in Israel.
“This nonsense comes from the South African government – let’s call it what it is,” he said. “This is just to condemn Israel for even existing, that’s what this is really about.”
RACISM VS. IGNORANCE
On the other hand, Plummer said the criticism against Goldberg was disproportionate compared to that against Amnesty.
Goldberg’s comments – which got her suspended from her host position on The View for two weeks – were not on the same level as Amnesty’s report, Plummer contends.
“It was not premeditated. She said a dumb thing and said ‘whoops,’ and she apologized,” when confronted by the ignorance of her statement, Plummer said. “Many people were hurt by the dumb statements she made.”
On The View earlier this week, Goldberg said “the Holocaust isn't about race.” She insisted that it was “two white groups of people” – the Nazis vs. the Jews.
“No! It’s not about race,” she said. “It's about man's inhumanity to man – that’s what it was about.”
Plummer contrasted the gravity of Amnesty’s statement with Goldberg’s flippant remarks on TV – and later saying she “stands corrected.” Amnesty only doubled down on its report.
“Whoopi is not fully informed. It was a dumb statement, it was wrong. But she admitted she was wrong,” Plummer said. “To jump on her – it is not the same.”
DISCRIMINATION – EVEN RACISM – DOES EXIST IN ISRAEL
Then Plummer dealt with his third point: Despite clearly condemning Amnesty’s report, he said racism does exist in Israel.
“What I find offensive is that there is no condemnation of the open, racist, hate-filled attitudes coming out of the ultra-Orthodox community against everybody,” he said. “They don’t even recognize Reform Jews as being Jews. They hate Messianics. They hate Christians.”
Plummer and his wife – who are both on our Advisory Board – experienced violent threats firsthand from radical ultra-Orthodox Jews when they first came to Israel.
“I don’t hear the same condemnation against them… and these guys get violent,” Plummer said. “They attacked an African church in Tel Aviv, they set a church on fire in the Galilee and there’s not an open-throated condemnation of this. Why not?”
“If you’re gonna blast Whoopi, don’t give others a pass,” Plummer insisted.
“Is there discrimination and is there racism in Israel? You betcha. Is there discrimination and is there racism in the United States? Horribly so,” Plummer said. “But we don’t call it apartheid. Amnesty International – they know better. They are fully informed about what apartheid is.”
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.