5th Israel Apartheid Week bigger than ever

5th Israel Apartheid Week was more popular, better attended than ever.

iran israel flag burning 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
iran israel flag burning 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
The fifth annual Israel Apartheid Week, which ended on Sunday, was a more popular, better attended, and more aggressive series of anti-Israel rallies and lectures than ever before. "Forty-four international cities held IAW events, which is twice as much as last year, and in Toronto thousands of people attended events. Almost every building was filled to maximum capacity," Golda Shahidi, spokeswoman for Students Against Israel Apartheid, told The Jerusalem Post by phone from Toronto on Wednesday. The rise in participation was largely due to the world's reaction to the recent war in Gaza, said Amos Hermon, the head of the Jewish Agency's Task Force to Combat Anti-Semitism. "We haven't seen a wave of anti-Israel feelings this strong in the last two decades." "After Cast Lead, it was easier for certain 'students for life' to manipulate opinion on campuses. They're equipped and very well funded by Arab countries and anti-Israel organizations to set up an agenda against Israel. They get away with it too because many faculty members on campuses are anti-Israel and don't try hard enough to keep the balance," Hermon told the Post on Wednesday. Dr. Edward S. Beck, co-founder of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, explained that from the universities' perspective, "it is a very fine line between free speech and hate speech and can be difficult to discern. But this year's IAW event definitely had faculty members in many universities rattled. We're worried that the campus is no longer a civil place." "It's the same rhetoric, but it's being delivered in a more aggressive and sometimes even violent fashion," said Orna Hollander, executive director of The Canadian Center for Israel Activism. In one example of such violence, Isaac Apter, a Jewish alumnus of the University of Toronto, attended an Israel Apartheid Week event on the campus and was assaulted. According to Apter, one of the paid speakers evaded a difficult question regarding Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel, prompting him and his friends to yell, "Answer the questions!" A private security guard hired by Students Against Israel Apartheid then approached Apter from behind. He turned around, only to be grabbed by the neck and pulled face to face with the guard, who repeatedly yelled, "You shut the f*** up!" Another Jewish student was threatened with beheading. Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International, said Israel Apartheid Week must be taken seriously. "This anti-Israel activity has been going on for a long time, but it was worse this year," he said. "For example, Holocaust deniers recently became engaged in IAW's events. This shows an unsettling link between Israel bashing and anti-Semitism that cannot be ignored," Mariaschin told the Post. Some are less concerned. Leor Ben-Dor, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, explained that Israel's position on Apartheid Week was just to ignore it. "If we were to react, we'd only be giving them more media coverage," he said. While Apartheid Week has definitely grown since it began in Toronto in 2005, the organizers still try to prevent media coverage inside the events. Apartheid Week has faced censorship on some campuses. The administrators of the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, also in Ottawa, ordered the removal of posters that portrayed a Palestinian boy about to be hit by a rocket from an IDF helicopter. Nevertheless, 2009's Israel Apartheid Week was the most "successful" yet, the Students Against Israel Apartheid's spokeswoman said. "People are slowly becoming aware of Israel's hostile nature and can no longer ignore the apartheid," she said. "Next year it will be even bigger."