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Israeli Apartheid Week Heats Up

Samara Greenberg

The Sixth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week is now in full swing. The week, which takes place over 14 days (March 1-14, 2010), aims “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,” according to the event’s official website. Events will be held in 40 major cities across the globe, including Beirut, Boston, London, Montreal, Copenhagen, San Francisco, Johannesburg, Hebron, New York, and more.

Apartheid Week, whose name implies a moral equivalence between Israel and apartheid South Africa, aims to discredit Israel in the international community, and has understandably raised serious concerns within the Jewish community. Tellingly, the organizers do not address the peace process at all, rather they are “devoted to the demonization of Israel.” Various pro-Israel organizations have come out in support of the country, including Aish HaTorah, whose Hasbara Fellowship graduates founded Israel Peace Week. The program runs concurrently with Israel Apartheid Week on 40 campuses in North America and Australia.

In Canada, where Apartheid Week began six years ago, politicians are denouncing the event. The city of Edmonton’s MP is calling on the House of Commons to recognize that Israeli Apartheid Week “expedites anti-Semitism.” His proposed motion states: “That this House considers itself to be a friend of the State of Israel; that this House is concerned about expressions of anti-Semitism under the guise of “Israeli Apartheid Week”; and that this House explicitly condemns any action in Canada as well as internationally that would equate the State of Israel with the rejected and racist policy of apartheid.” Interestingly, the motion may cross partisan lines. According to Federal leader Michael Ignatieff, “The very premise of Israeli Apartheid Week runs counter to our shared values of mutual respect and tolerance, regardless of nationality, race or creed. It is an attempt to heighten the tensions in our communities around the tragic conflict in the Middle East.”

In response to Apartheid Week, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold asks: “What – if anything – makes the Israeli case similar to South Africa?” Nothing. “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…Israeli Arabs vote for the Knesset…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.” As Gold concludes, “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.”