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PART I ‘ISRAELI APARTHEID’ ROADSHOW COMES TO TOWN: A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF ANTISEMITIC DELEGITIMATION

 

 

 

WE ALL MUST CONDEMN ISRAELI APARTHEID WEEK
Editorial
Prince Arthur Herald, March 3, 2011

 

This March, cities and university campuses around the world will take part in the 7th annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW)—a 13 day global event (in contrast to its name) aimed at attacking the state of Israel and what is claimed to be its “apartheid system.” Started in Toronto in 2005, the annual series of film screenings, demonstrations, and lectures has expanded to include 63 cities in 5 continents. Despite its continued growth however, IAW remains an unfortunate and ill-advised campaign whose activities undermine the spirit of goodwill between Canada and Israel and further hinder the peace process by misinforming the public and stirring up anti-Israeli, and far too often anti-Semitic, sentiment.

The problem is not that IAW supporters attempt to deal with a sensitive and complex issue such as Israeli-Palestinian relations. Rather, it is the way in which they approach the subject that begs condemnation. Rational and thoughtful discourse on the situation in Israel and Palestine, and any issue for that matter, will always have a place in Canadian society where they can be debated in a respectful and free manner. In this regard IAW has failed at bringing any amount of substance or civility to the current debate. Instead, it has often distorted reality and favoured tactics aimed at evoking blind emotional response over substance. As a result, IAW has done a disservice to those informed citizens who realize that demonizing Israel will accomplish little.…

Perhaps the greatest issue of contention is with IAW’s use of the word “apartheid” to describe what they believe to be Israel’s unjust treatment of Palestinians. The word, as it is strictly defined in most dictionaries, refers to the specific policy of segregation and discrimination employed in the Republic of South Africa between 1948 and 1993. As such, it is a highly negative and charged word used by IAW organizers with the explicit intention of unfairly associating the crimes of the former National Party of South Africa with the state of Israel.

To be certain, Israel’s human rights record like that of many nations is not perfect by any measure, but to imply that its actions represent a systematic attempt to render all Palestinians second-class citizens is folly. Israel after all, like Canada, is a liberal democracy that guarantees the rights of all of its citizens regardless of their religion, race or gender whereas South Africa’s former apartheid government denied non-whites even the most basic civil liberties and, at times, their citizenship. In Israel, all citizens, 20% of whom are Arab, vote in elections, participate in government and serve in the army—opportunities that were not afforded to non-whites in South Africa under apartheid. Thus, when IAW organizers call Israel an apartheid state, they offend both the millions of non-white South Africans who lived under actual apartheid for decades as well as numerous free Israelis and Palestinians who call Israel their home and whose name has been ignominiously sullied.…

The belligerent attitude of IAW supporters towards Israel, and in particular their accusation of it being an apartheid regime, has sometimes blurred the line between legitimate criticism of the state and its policies and a more general attack on the ideological and religious nature of Israel and Zionism. Likewise, the gross over-simplification of the current situation in the region, as presented by organizers of the IAW, has created the illusion that Israel is the primary, if not the only, obstacle standing in the way of a harmonious Israel and Palestine when the reality is that blame can rightfully be laid at the feet of many parties. Simply put, the complexities of Israel’s current predicament cannot be reduced to a simple analogy of “apartheid”—a statement which is as oblivious to the historical and current political reality as it is unwarranted.…

Certainly, many valid criticisms can be levelled at the Israeli state. [However, it is imperative] to work with Israel rather than against it in an open and mutually respectful dialogue. But for this dialogue to truly be effective, it must be conducted in good faith and without prejudice—something which IAW seems incapable of or unwilling to provide. It is thus imperative that we oppose Israel Apartheid Week and all of its activities which only serve to push us farther away from our common goal of ending the tragic and enduring conflict in the Middle-East.…

(The Prince Arthur Herald is a Canadian, student-run newspaper,
that seeks to widen the plurality of media voices available to Canadian universities.
)

 

A HISTORY OF ISRAELI APARTHEID WEEK
Catherine Chatterley

National Post, March 3, 2011

 

…While [Israel Apartheid Week (IAW)] is [relatively] new, the ideology at the heart of IAW is not. The accusation that Zionism is racist and imperialist by nature is as old as Israel. The Soviet Union was a leading proponent of this conception of Zionism; and it drew on the long history of leftist antisemitism, identifying Jewish nationalism and capitalist imperialism with Judaism and the Jewish bourgeoisie.

Within a year of Israel’s establishment, Stalin began to see Zionism as a serious threat to the Soviet Union. Zionism was perceived to be working in tandem with American imperialism, both in the Middle East and as a conspiracy inside the U.S.S.R. From 1949 until his death in 1953, Stalin engaged in a full assault on the Jews of the Soviet Union, who were then considered “bourgeois nationalists” and a Zionist fifth column.…

In his most recent history of anti-Semitism, entitled A Lethal Obsession, Robert Wistrich illustrates how the Soviet strategy to isolate and delegitimize Zionism precipitated UN Resolution 3379 in 1975, which stated that “Zionism is a form of racism and racist discrimination.” Two years earlier, UN Resolution 3151 had condemned “the unholy alliance between South African racism and Zionism.”

UN Resolution 3379 was annulled in 1991, the same year that the Soviet Union collapsed, but its echoes were heard again at Durban I, the World Conference Against Racism, held in 2001 under UN auspices. Charged with discussing a number of controversial subjects including slavery and reparations, much of the conference was dedicated to the so-called racist crimes of Zionism. Iran and Syria inserted six references to Zionism as a form of racism into the draft documents produced before the official conference (which were eventually removed). The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was distributed to delegates by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee of South Africa.

Four years after Durban I, in 2005, Israeli Apartheid Week was born in Toronto. That July, 170 Palestinian civil-society organizations released an official call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (better known as BDS) against Israel. The document clearly stated that the call was modeled on the example of the South African struggle against Apartheid.

Those of us who attended university in the late 1980s and early 1990s know how powerful and effective the anti-apartheid movement, including its calls for divestment and boycotts, was on Canadian campuses. By 1983, the United Nations had twice condemned South Africa at the World Conference Against Racism, and a significant movement was pressuring investors to disinvest from South Africa. By the end of the 1980s, 25 countries, including the United States, Canada and the U.K., had passed laws placing trade sanctions on South Africa.

This is the model chosen by pro-Palestinian activists today to dismantle so-called “Zionist racism” in the Middle East. By framing Israel as a racist apartheid state, BDS is presented as an entirely appropriate and morally correct plan of action. If Israel can be characterized as the new South Africa, it will have fewer and fewer supporters. This is precisely the stated purpose of IAW: to “contribute to [the] chorus of international opposition to Israeli apartheid and to bolster support for the BDS campaign in accordance with the demands outlined in the July 2005 statement.”

If the goal were actual education and informed discussion about the Arab-Israeli conflict, IAW programming would incorporate competing points of view. All subjects central to the conflict would be on the agenda—such as the many wars fought by Arab armies against Israel, the historical and contemporary arguments of Arab nationalism, the Islamization of the conflict itself, and, the very real question of whether anyone in the region actually wants to accept the existence of a Jewish State.

As with the original anti-apartheid movement, the goal of IAW is explicitly political. And yet the rhetoric of IAW is left open enough to incorporate: (1) critics of Israel who still support a two-state solution; (2) those who support the dismantling of the current Jewish State and its replacement with a single (highly theoretical) secular democratic state; and (3) those who support the destruction of Israel by any means necessary. All three camps are included amongst supporters of IAW and the BDS campaign, and therefore the lines are often blurred between harsh criticism of the state of Israel, outright condemnation of its continued existence, and calls for its eradication. This is a serious problem, and one that appears to be designed quite consciously by IAW and the BDS movement.

As with the protest movement against South Africa, we have the creation of a polarized, Manichean context between evil, racist Israel (and its supporters) and the rest of humanity. The difference, of course, is that South African apartheid actually was a vicious white-supremacist ideology that had no supporters on university campuses. Today, students on campuses are learning about Zionism and Israel—and thereby also about the Jewish people—from events sponsored by an organization that conceives of them as racist and imperialist.

Another theme at work here, which some people may not recognize, is the classic antisemitic opposition between “the Jews” and common humanity. In the antisemitic imagination, “the Jews” conspire against the interests of common humanity, against all that is good and just, for their own selfish, particularistic interests. The demonization of Zionism replicates this exact dynamic and places Zionists outside the boundaries of humanity, just as Jews were placed outside Christian humanity, proletarian humanity and so-called “Aryan” humanity over the centuries.

What we need, in response, is high-quality academic programming on university campuses that both unpacks and counters Israel Apartheid propaganda, and that actually engages with the difficult reality of the conflict. I would suggest that it is fundamentally irresponsible to allow IAW and its supporters to re-define Zionism as a racist form of European colonialism when in actual fact it is an emancipatory movement for Jewish self-determination—one that developed a new urgency and legitimacy with the wholesale systematic annihilation of Jewish Europe by a real form of racist European imperialism, better known as National Socialism.

(Dr. Catherine Chatterley is founding director
of the
Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism.)

 

THE HIDDEN AGENDA BEHIND ISRAEL APARTHEID WEEK
Dore Gold
Jerusalem Post, March 6, 2010

 

The organizers of “Israel Apartheid Week” [claim that Israel is guilty of apartheid], yet the arguments against their charge are overwhelming. In fact, given the difficulty in applying the apartheid model to Israel, one wonders what the true hidden agenda is behind this campaign.

To begin with, in apartheid South Africa (1948-1994), blacks were not allowed to vote or to be candidates in the general elections, they could not attend white universities or be treated in white hospitals, and they were forcibly removed from white cities. Anyone who is the least bit familiar with Israel knows that Israeli Arabs vote for the Knesset and that there are Israeli Arab Knesset members, who also serve as deputy speakers of Israel’s parliament; an Israeli Arab judge sits on Israel’s Supreme Court; Israeli Arabs study in all Israeli universities and there are mixed Arab-Jewish cities, like Haifa, Jaffa, Ramle and Jerusalem.

In 2006, Benjamin Pogrund, a former anti-apartheid activist, who now lives in Israel (he also served as a deputy editor of Johannesberg’s Rand Daily Mail) responded to a report in The Guardian comparing Israel and apartheid South Africa. As a journalist, Pogrund had specialized in apartheid, and was even imprisoned by the South African authorities for his reporting. Looking at the situation in Israel, he noted that when he had been hospitalized in Jerusalem for surgery, he looked around and noticed that the patients, nurses, and doctors were both Arabs and Jews. “What I saw in the Hadassah-Mt. Scopus hospital was inconceivable in the South Africa where I spent most of my life,” he said.…

Israel’s accusers also try to focus on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but here too their arguments are extremely weak. The majority of Israelis do not want to annex the whole West Bank, but rather feel that they are entitled to “defensible borders” in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 242. This is not a case of establishing a different legal system for a specific racial or ethnic group within the Israeli state, but rather a territorial dispute between the parties over Israel’s future borders. In fact, it is the Palestinian Authority that has legal jurisdiction over the Palestinians in these disputed territories, not Israel.…

In any case, the organizers of Israel Apartheid Week do not confine their claims to the West Bank, either. In their official film clip…they make mention of Israeli Arabs, and also demand “the right of return”—the infamous Palestinian claim to allow Palestinian refugees to move into Israel and demographically destroy the Jewish state. Thus, what underlies the Israel Apartheid Week campaign is not international law, but rather a highly politicized interpretation of Israel’s history in which the Jewish people are viewed as a colonialist movement that recently came from Europe to usurp lands from the indigenous Palestinian population, rather than the authentic claimants to sovereignty in their historical homeland.

Years ago, former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat picked up these themes, when he argued that the Palestinians date back from the ancient Canaanites and Jebusites. According to this narrative, the Jews arrived only in the late 19th century on the wings of European imperialism. This is why Arafat had to deny the existence of the Temple of Solomon in July 2000 at Camp David, for any evidence of Jewish civilization in the Holy Land clashes with the depiction of the Jewish people as Middle Eastern Afrikaners who only recently arrived in the region.

Here also the Palestinian case falls apart when it faces the force of history. Using Christian and Jewish sources, Prof. Moshe Gil of Tel Aviv University wrote in his 900 page monumental work, A History of Palestine: 634-1099 (Cambridge University Press, 1992), that as late as the seventh century, Jews still had a massive presence in most parts of what had been their sovereign territory up until the Roman invasion. There are some who suggest that the Jews were still the majority. According to Gil, on the eve of the Muslim conquests, the Jewish presence in the land was nearly 2,000 years old.

Moreover, there was a constant effort of Jews to return to their land in the centuries that followed, despite the dangers. By the 1860s the Jews, in fact, reestablished their majority in Jerusalem, well before the arrival of the British Empire. When the League of Nations decided to recognize the Jewish claim to a national home in 1922, it specifically recognized the pre-existing right of the Jewish people to what was to become British Mandatory Palestine.… It was U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt who commented in 1939 that more Arabs came into Palestine since the establishment of the British Mandate than Jews.…

Israel Apartheid Week is not about respect for human rights; it is an incredibly hypocritical initiative that ignores the apartheid practiced by the Palestinians themselves, who make the sale of land to Jews punishable by death. It is also not a movement dedicated to making peace, but rather to denying the historical rights of the Jewish people. The answer to the challenge is to expose the true intentions of its backers, who clearly seek to dismantle the State of Israel and deny its people their inherent right of self-determination.

(Dore Gold is the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
and served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.)

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