What apartheid state?

Students will be marking occasion with call for boycott, divestment, sanctions.

apartheid week poster 311 carlos latuff (photo credit: Carlos Latuff)
apartheid week poster 311 carlos latuff
(photo credit: Carlos Latuff)
Today marks the beginning of the Sixth Annual Israel Apartheid Week taking place in more than 40 cities worldwide. Students will be marking this occasion with a strong call for the boycott, divestment and sanctions against the one Jewish state. The week is said to be from March 1 to 14. One can only imagine that the organizers’ definition of the “week” is as incorrect as their definition of “apartheid “when applied to the State of Israel.
My first visit to South Africa was in 1987, when I was invited by WIZO South Africa to address various groups throughout the country. I will never forget the horror I felt when in Durban seeing large notices saying “black only beach,” “white only beach.” This was just the beginning of coming face-to-face with a regime that separated every aspect of life for its citizens. Separate transport, separate health clinics, separate schooling – it went on and on.
Today, I live in Herzliya Pituah, close to the marina. We often wander down to there to enjoy the wonderful view of boats as well as to enjoy all the facilities of a seaside resort. There is never an occasion when we do not see a cross section of what makes up Israel’s multifaceted population. Whether the haredi section of the community or the Muslim and Christian Arab sector – all are enjoying what this seashore city has to offer and doing so together. This is something of which we can be exceedingly proud.
Last year my husband was admitted to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba. The doctor who admitted him was an Arab, the nurse who attended him was a Muslim and the guy who was cleaning the floors sported a kippa. My husband’s hospitalization took place in August. The gardens of the hospital were full of both Jewish and Arab patients and their families sitting together on the lawns. Is this “apartheid”?
Israel has given refuge to thousands of Africans – many of whom have made their way across the Egyptian border to find a home here. A number have escaped the horrors of Darfur to find both homes and jobs here – these were the lucky ones to have escaped being shot by the Egyptian border guards as they strove to find shelter in our little country.
SADLY, OUR Jewish students on campus throughout the world will be facing a two-pronged attack in these coming weeks, for it is not only the Palestinian students who will be leading the campaign but also some of Israel’s own academics and politicians. In London, for example, as this newspaper has already reported, Adi Ophir, an associate professor at Tel Aviv University, will be opening “Israel Apartheid Week” at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the London School of Economics and University College London. At Oxford University, Israeli-born academics Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim together with Knesset member Jamal Zahalka, chairman of the Balad party, will be addressing students on “Israel’s apartheid regime.”
If ever there was a contradiction in terms this has to be it – the freedom accorded current salaried members of an Israeli university together with a member of Israel’s parliament having the freedom to travel abroad in order to ask that the world boycott, divest and take out sanctions against the country that has both educated them and continues to provide many of them with a livelihood.
Having come from the UK and as a former chair of the Hillel Foundation working closely with the Union of Jewish Students, I am particularly familiar with the challenges confronting our Jewish students on campus.
What is especially disturbing is the increasing number of Jewish students who are taking on board the overwhelming anti-Israel rhetoric with which they are being confronted. They simply do not have the tools or the knowledge to cope with this situation. When the chair of the Israel Society at Cambridge University sees fit to cancel a visit of Israeli historian Benny Morris for fear of upsetting the Islamic Society, the time has come to recognize the seriousness of the challenge.
It is the students at universities today that will provide theleadership of tomorrow in their respective countries. Surely it isbeholden upon Jewish communities worldwide together with the State ofIsrael to accord priority to ensuring the younger generation is giventhe facts rather than the fiction to which they are being subjected ona daily basis. Better still, let us bring many more here so that theycan see for themselves the reality that is Israel.
The writer is co-chair Europeans for Israel and Public Relations chair World WIZO.