Campuses across Canada engaged in Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) events last week amid justified rebukes by the federal government. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney linked IAW to anti-Semitism and accused organizers of using “the cover of academic freedom to demonize and delegitimize the state of Israel” and paint it as racist. In pointing to Israel being the only liberal democracy in the Middle East and singled out for condemnation, Kenney also stated that organizers of IAW ignore the brutal slaughter of the Al-Assad regime of its own people and the suppression of basic human rights throughout many countries in the Middle East. Israel Apartheid Week began in Toronto in 2005 after Palestinian organizations called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel. The groups erroneously compared Israel ‘s treatment of the Palestinians to the treatment of South African blacks, when powerful campus movements had lobbied for divestments and boycotts against South Africa for black liberation. In 1983, the UN levied its condemnation of the practice of apartheid at the World Conference against Racism, where over two dozen countries took part in trade sanctions against South Africa. At the 2001 Durban I Anti-Racism Conference, the agenda was hijacked by Israeli antagonists, led by Iran and then Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat. Israel was singled out as a racist regime and a similar course followed as in the South African anti-apartheid movements, only it was a demonization of Israel that was unjustified. Adding fuel was that South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu spuriously compared the conditions of which the Palestinians live to those of South Africa under apartheid.
The goal of Israel Apartheid Week is to erode Zionism and delegitimize the state of Israel. The strategy is a protraction of the Arab nationalist movement and that of Palestinian Radicalism which strives to work against Israel and the Jewish people, evidenced in the collaboration between Adolph Hitler, Adolph Eichmann and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during World War II. In an open letter, Palestinian students urge fellow students worldwide to unite for Israel Apartheid Week in widespread harassment, bullying and intimidation of Jewish students. Organizers also call for BDS. Nowhere is the mention of the Palestinian call for Israel’s destruction as outlined in both the PA and Hamas Charters.
Even before the state of Israel was established, Israel was sensitive to human rights, and Jewish leaders sought to avoid any situation similar to South Africa, as David Ben-Gurion expressed to Palestinian nationalist Musa Alami in 1934. Today, this commitment can be clearly seen in Israel where Arabs are full citizens with the right to vote, the right to establish their own political parties, the right to hold top positions, as they do in Israel’s supreme court, its diplomatic corps, all of Israel’s hospitals and universities, and even as members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Under apartheid, black South Africans were not even allowed to hold citizenship or vote in the very country in which they held the demographic majority. The Palestinian experience in the territories along the separation fence and in the so-called “occupied territories” is a result of the determination of Palestinians – both in the PLO and Hamas to destroy Israel – as could be seen before the fence was built by the bombings of hotels, discotheques, cafes, and buses. The territories under dispute were taken by Israel in wars in 1947 and 1967, in which Israel – the size of Vancouver Island – was forced to defend itself: both times, five neighboring countries invaded Israel in efforts to destroy it. Israel still needs to defend itself, not only from rocket-fire and other attacks, but most recently from continued threats of genocide by Iran, especially should it acquire nuclear capability.
Even after the South African Judge, Richard Goldstone, later retracted his own, UN-sponsored Goldstone report, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said that Israel, like any country, would defend its citizens against Gaza attacks. This is a very different situation than under South African apartheid. Egypt too erected a wall of separation from the Gaza Strip; the barrier was dubbed the Wall of Shame by Arab writers and leaders for isolating 1.5 million Palestinians, yet Egypt has not been branded “apartheid” by their Muslim “brothers.”
While the propaganda of Israel Apartheid Week spreads, the economic growth in the West Bank stands at 4%, compared to 3% in the US, and an astronomical 28% in Gaza. The IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in Judea and Samaria, Major General Eitan Dangot noted that every day, Israel transfers luxuries into Gaza, including LCD screens, Mercedes and Hyundai jeeps, modern refrigerators, and whirlpool bathtubs. He added that Israel has invested over 50 million shekels, or over USD $10 million, in renovating and expanding the Kerem Shalom crossing through which most of the goods enter Gaza. Any segregation of the Palestinians is based entirely on Israeli security needs, not on racism.