Former UK chief rabbi joins battle against Israel Apartheid Week

Three events have been cancelled at UK universities.

February 28, 2017 17:01
1 minute read.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. (photo credit: BLAKE EZRA PHOTOGRAPHY)


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Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the UK’s former chief rabbi, spoke out Monday against Israel Apartheid Week as the annual event kicked off at university campuses around the world, posting an animated video to social media explaining why he sees the BDS movement as dangerous.

“Jews, humanitarians of all faiths and of none, and all those who value a free society, must stand up against it,” he wrote in a Facebook post accompanying the six-minute video.

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“Beneath the surface, it’s an attempt to delegitimize Israel as a prelude to its elimination,” he argued in the video. “No Jew and no humanitarian can stand by and see that happen.”

“I support the rights of Palestinians to a state of their own, and the right of Palestinian children to a future of dignity and hope, but the BDS campaign will achieve neither of these things,” Sacks stated.

The video will be available in the coming weeks on YouTube with subtitles in Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

According to British media, three universities – one in Lancashire, London and Exeter – have canceled individual Apartheid Week events.

At Exeter University, plans for the installation of a mock Israeli checkpoint were nixed, with the spokesman saying that it would restrict students’ freedom of movement. The University of Lancashire barred an event it said contravened the recently UK-adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, while University College London also made a cancellation, citing a procedural issue.

These developments have sparked backlash by pro-Palestinian activists. Almost 250 academics, including 100 professors, signed a letter published in The Guardian condemning “this attempt to silence campus discussion about Israel, including its violation of the rights of Palestinians for more than 50 years.”

“It is with disbelief that we witness explicit political interference in university affairs in the interests of Israel under the thin disguise of concern about antisemitism,” the letter stated.

The Union of Jewish Students, meanwhile, has focused on encouraging constructive debate.

In collaboration with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the student body last week launched a #Bridges- NotBoycotts campaign to promote dialogue, coexistence and peace on campus, in response to what they called “the smears of so-called Israel Apartheid Week.”

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