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Protesters gear up to fight Israeli Apartheid Week

Pro-Israel activists vow to use information campaigns against what many say is an effort to deligitimize Israel.

March 2, 2010 05:00
4 minute read.
A poster for Israeli Apartheid Week.

israel apartheid week 311. (photo credit: Screenshot)

Pro-Israel activists will launch counter-protests against “Israeli Apartheid Week,” which began Monday, vowing to use information campaigns against what many say is an effort to deligitimize Israel.

A program director at the Kraft Center for Jewish Life at Columbia University in New York City said Monday that students from all of the Jewish and pro-Israel organizations will hand out informative material as part of what the director said is a week of pro-peace Mideast activism meant to counter Israel Apartheid Week (IAW).

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As part of the “Peace Week” events at Columbia, pro-Israel groups such as the Israel Committee, LionPAC, Just Peace and Garin Lavi will host speakers and screen films on a variety of issues.

IAW activists at the university plan to set up a “mock apartheid wall” on the Columbia campus, meant to represent the West Bank security fence, in addition to a series of lectures and film screenings to be held on the campus and elsewhere in New York City.

Group launches "Israeli Apartheid Video contest"

Pro-Israel groups at York University in Toronto, the city where IAW started in 2005, are until Thursday holding “IDF Week” in response to what they calls “the lies and deceptions of ‘Israeli Apartheid Week.’”

IDF week is being run by Hasbara at York in addition to Christians United for Israel (CUFI), Stand With Us and other pro-Israel groups on the York University campus.

In a press release issued on Monday, Hasbara at York said that during IAW they “will be raising awareness and educating students of the necessity of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to defend their people against a brutal terror war that indiscriminately targets civilians.”

CEO of the Israel advocacy group Stand With Us, Roz Rothstein, said Monday her group will use IAW to address “anti-Israel propagandists,” which she says have been trying for years to “demonize, distort and pervert the facts about Israel.”

Rothstein says such distortions and demonization “are why we are making an effort to clear misunderstandings about Israel and use this as an opportunity to educate large numbers of college students and communities about the suffering and the real impediments to peace in the Middle East.”

In North America, IAW events include a wider range of speakers and activities, presenting an almost eclectic range of participants. In San Francisco and Berkeley, events are being organized by the Bay Area Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid, which is run by groups such as Break the Siege, Global Women’s Strike, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism.

In Seattle, activists from the Palestinian solidarity movement have planned to protest a concert by Israeli musician Idan Reichel, saying that Reichel and Israeli artists like him are contributing to confusion about what is really going on in Israel-Palestine, and to varying degrees are engaging in “culture theft.”

In addition, Seattle activists led by Veterans for Peace and Palestinian Voices for Peace plan to hold a boycott outside an American Apparel store, to protest the clothing chain’s opening of stores in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, which it says “was built on destroyed Palestinian villages” as part of “Baron Edmond de Rothschild’s colonization scheme.”

A spokesperson for “Israeli Apartheid Week” told The Jerusalem Post by e-mail Sunday that the 14-day “week” of activism is more popular than ever, saying, “‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ is growing – last year we had 1,000 participants in Toronto alone. It is in its sixth year, and we expect it to continue growing.”

The spokesperson said the efforts are already bearing fruit, citing a vote by students at Sussex University to boycott Israeli goods and a decision by a South African union not to unload a ship carrying Israeli goods following “the Israeli massacre in Gaza.”

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, head of the NGO watchdog group NGO monitor, suggests anti-IAW protesters take aim at the event by “naming and shaming” NGO funders and the “university accomplices of the IAW organizers and BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] campaigners.”

“IAW and the broader BDS campaigns led by NGOs are the core of the Durban strategy, adopted by the NGO Forum at the 2001 UN conference on racism,” Steinberg said. “The goal, as adopted by the 1500 NGOs at Durban and extending to IAW, is ‘the complete international isolation of Israel’ as a racist, apartheid and genocidal state.

“This NGO-led Durban strategy is not directed at the occupation, or to support a two-state solution, but seeks to eliminate the State of Israel,” he said.

IAW events will also be held in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Events in the Gaza Strip, which are hosted in part by a pro-binational state group called “The One Democratic State Group,” will include a screening of Mandela, a documentary about the South African anti-apartheid struggle, as well as Palestinian animated film Fatenah, which it calls “an animation film about suffering under direct military occupation, and the inhumane siege of Gaza.”

Next week, Gaza plays host to talks by way of Skype with Ali Abunimah, the writer and editor of the anti-Israel Web site Electronic Intifada.

IAW events will also be held in Jerusalem, where Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, will on Tuesday send a representative to give a lecture on “Apartheid as it is experienced by Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

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