Twisted version of Israel flag, Apartheid flag 311.
(photo credit: Richard Millett)
Supporters of Israel will battle with supporters of the Palestinians over public
opinion on campuses around the world when Israeli Apartheid Week – a series of
talks, film screenings, parties and protests equating Israel’s treatment of
Palestinians and Arabs with white minority rule in South Africa – kicks off on
The annual event organized by the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and
Solidarity) movement and other pro- Palestinian and anti-Zionist groups, has
gathered steam since it first began in 2005, and will take place in 55 cities
and several countries this year.
Israel supporters are planning a series
of counter-protests aimed at highlighting Israel’s democratic and egalitarian
values while undermining claims it is intentionally and inherently
discriminatory against its Arab citizens and against Palestinians in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip.
StandWithUs, one of a coalition of Israel advocacy
groups organizing pro-Israel rallies this month, said it had adopted a nuanced
approach toward debunking the analogy between Israel and Apartheid-era South
“Each campus climate is different,” said StandWithUs co-founder
and CEO Roz Rothstein in a press release.
“A hard-hitting, aggressive
response might work at one school but alienate students at another school,” she
explained. “At some schools, students feel that materials highlighting Israel’s
democracy and remarkable achievements would most influence the student body. Our
philosophy is that the students usually know best about their campus climate,
and they have many great ideas.”
Rothstein said her group’s mission on
campuses was to “empower students to educate their campus
We help them develop strategies, programs and slogans for
flyers and signs that we then produce, and we help with funding for speakers and
other events,” she said. “If they request a certain custom flyer or booklet, our
graphics team designs and produces it.”
StandWithUs has helped students
organize numerous events across the US. It assisted in arranging a lecture by an
Israeli soldier at Boston University the day before famed linguist and leftist
activist Noam Chomsky was set to speak.
This week, students in Austin,
Texas, will throw a block party where they will pass out information on Israeli
democracy while Ivry Lider, a gay Israeli pop singer, will appear at Case
Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, in a bid to emphasize Israeli
society’s liberal attitude on gay rights.
Organizers of Israeli Apartheid
Week seek to isolate Israel in order to obtain their stated goal of “full
equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, an end to the occupation and
colonization of all Arab lands – including the Golan Heights, the Occupied West
Bank with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – and dismantling the Wall, and the
protection of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes and
properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”
While the title of the
campaign suggests it lasts for seven days, Israeli Apartheid Week activities are
planned for the entire month of March. The first official day of events,
according to its Website, is on Tuesday.
The opening salvo in the jostle
between the opposing camps was fired last week when gay columnist and porn
producer Michael Lucas claimed victory in his bid to cancel an Israeli Apartheid
Week event from taking place at a gay center in New York. Lucas issued a press
release threatening to boycott the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT)
Center if it hosted an event called Party to End Apartheid, saying its
organizers were “anti-Semites” and noting that Israel was the only country in
the Middle-East that respected gay rights.
The center responded by
canceling the event and banning the organization that planned it from meeting on
Sherry Wolf, an anti-Zionist author who helped organize the
event, launched a petition aimed at reversing the center’s decision, slamming
Lucas and calling him a “liar.”
This year the Ministry of Public
Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs is directly involved in efforts to counter
pro-Palestinian groups on campuses in the US. Last week it sent a delegation of
black Israeli Jews, gay rights activists and Israeli Arabs to speak from their
own experience as members of minorities in Israeli society.