For the twelfth year in a row, campuses around the United States and now even around the world are promoting an event known as Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW). The decade old movement has picked up quite a bit of momentum in the last few years as we can see on their interactive map of events around the world. The vast majority of anti-Israel events will take place in the United States and Western Europe, with more in South Africa and South America. The claim is made that Israel is guilty of apartheid just like South Africa was. In a short video, a spokesperson for the AJ+ news website explains apartheid and leads the viewers to connect South African protest against it to Palestinian protest against Israeli apartheid. While her description of South African apartheid is somewhat accurate, her linking it to Israel is a giant stretch based on many false presuppositions. Yet, that well produced video and many more of the sort are fueling organizations such as Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW).
In their mission statement, which they call their “Basis of Unity”, IAW claims that:” The aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.” furthermore, they also state that they are “against the racist ideology of Zionism, which is the impetus for Israeli colonialism, because it inherently discriminates against those who are not Jewish. We are against all forms of discrimination, and believe that there can never be justice without the restoration of full rights for everyone, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or nationality.”
Their promotional video has a message of unity and social justice accompanied by a catchy reggae-style tune. It starts with a bold statement saying:” One has to keep telling the story in as many ways as possible, as it insistently as possible, and in as compelling a way as possible, to keep attention to it, because there is always a fear it might just disappear.” In and of itself the message is true, but what they apply it to isn’t. Over the years, the IAW organizers have invited Israel haters, antisemites, historical revisionists and Holocaust deniers alike. People such as Noam Chomsky, Illan Pappé, who while not blatantly denying the Holocaust, accuses the original victims [the Jews] of perpetrating a new Holocaust on the new victims [the Palestinians] and Rabbi Yisrael David Weiss from anti-Jewish (you read it right!) group Neturei Karta, to name just a few. Or even Omar Barghouti from Qatar who along with his anti-Israel BDS stance has also pursued a PhD at Tel Aviv University. So much for apartheid Mr. Barghouti!
So, if I understand IAW promoters, it is appropriate to further tell the story–as unfounded as it might be–of Israeli occupation and crimes against Palestinians, and it is equally appropriate, if not expected, to perpetuate the notion that the Holocaust never happened or was grossly exaggerated.
Over the years, what started as a series of meeting over a few campuses in America and even fewer across the globe, has grown to over 150 locations globally. IAW sympathizers go out of their way to encourage others to boycott Israel and divest any funding they could from the only democracy in the Middle East, all in the name of social justice. Recently they have used what is known as intersectionality. This approach to social justice connects all types of oppressions and abuses under the same banner. Writer and lecturer Ziva Dahl explains “Proponents of intersectionality see a world of all-encompassing oppression, where racism, classism, sexism, homophobia and ableism constitute an intersecting system. All injustices are interconnected, even if occurring in unconnected geographic, cultural and political environments. This is the rationalization for building alliances among unrelated causes like LGBTQ rights, fossil fuel divestment, prison reform, racial discrimination and immigration.”
Anti-Israel organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace, are quick to add the Palestinian struggle to all other minorities’ fights against injustice. So, now we can save the whales, promote transgender people and divest from Israel all in one fell swoop! After all, it is all about minorities being abused! This also leads to having groups who share no common ground ideologically, hold hands against Israel and the Jewish people. This builds a stronger case for what I call End-Times antisemitism as it illustrates incredible irrationality.
But where is the outrage for all the other countries of the world that commit or have committed crimes against humanity? According to the International Criminal Court in La Hague, Netherlands, a crime against humanity, as defined in their “Rome Statute” is any of the following:
• Deportation or forcible transfer of population
• Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law
• Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity
• Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious and/or gender
• Enforced disappearance of persons
• The crime of apartheid
• Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.
Where is the call to boycott China, Sudan, North Korea, Rwanda, Congo or Syria among others? Where is the public cry to denounce the multiple genocides and ethnic cleansing around the globe? It is a stretch, but even if these people were to continue pointing the finger at Israel for crimes that they haven’t committed, why are they not also pointing the finger at Hamas for crimes that they are committing? Sure, it can be argued that not all Palestinians are terrorists, but regarding those who are, why are they still being given “carte blanche” to commit more crimes? Israel Apartheid Week is more than blindness or ignorance, it is a willful vilification of Israel and it has absolutely nothing to do with global social justice.