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The Extremist Nature of Israel Apartheid Week
By Pat Mascoe
So it’s that time of year again (March 1st – 14th), when our institutions of higher learning take a week out of their busy schedules to promote and celebrate anti-Semitism week. Oh, I know it’s officially called Israel Apartheid Week, and this year they have expanded to a two week celebration, but really, whatever you choose to call it, it’s nothing short of absurd. Originally started in 2005, by the Arab Student Collective at the University of Toronto, a number of Canadian and American academic institutions have chosen to blindly follow along.
According to the IAW website, the aim of Israel Apartheid Week is to bolster worldwide support in achieving full equality for Arab citizens of Israel, dismantling the wall that divides Jerusalem and the West Bank, and to boycott Israeli products. Of course here in North America people have the right to free speech; however, the extremist nature of this event serves not to enlighten the uninformed but rather to promote hatred and intolerance within our university campuses.
Before we look at the goal of achieving full equality for those Arab citizens of Israel, let’s look at the reason why some Palestinians are actually citizens of the State of Israel, while others are not. On November 29th, 1947, Israel accepted the United Nations recommendation of a two state solution. The Jews accepted the idea while the Arabs rejected the United Nation’s decision. Not only did the Arab population reject the idea they declared war on Israel the very next day. Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, threatened that if the Jewish State ever became a fact the Arabs would drive the Jews into the sea. Although unsuccessful, al-Banna’s threats were far from empty as Israel was attacked by: Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, with help from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Libya.
Contrary to the myth that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were deported by Israel in 1947, the majority of the Arab exodus from Israel was voluntary, and the result of orders by Arab leadership. Arabs were told to leave their homes and that they would be able to return within two weeks after the Arab armies had destroyed the State of Israel. For those who didn’t leave, what terrible atrocity did the Israeli government perpetrate upon them? They were granted full citizenship. Today Arabs in Israel have equal voting rights. Arab women have the right to vote. Arabs can be voted into parliament. Some of the government’s harshest critics are Israeli Arabs who are members of Israel’s government. Israel allows its Arab citizens: the freedom of movement, assembly, free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. In 2002 Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot allocate land based on religion or ethnicity, and may not prevent Arab citizens from living wherever they choose. Although only 20% of Israel’s population is Arab, Arabic is an official language taught in schools and seen on road signs throughout the land. In Israel, human rights organizations operate openly and freely. This hardly resembles the apartheid of South Africa.
At the same time the tolerance shown towards Jews living in predominantly Arab lands was somewhat less generous: mobs attacked Jewish neighborhoods, violence broke out, and synagogues were burnt down. 850,000 Jews had lived in Arab countries before 1948, but with the emergence of the State of Israel, most left for fear of persecution, or were forced to leave. Jews had lived in Iraq, formerly Babylon, since 600 BCE. In 1948, the Jewish population was approximately 150,000 and they were almost all entirely driven out of the country. Today, fewer than 100 Jews live in Iraq. According to Time Magazine (July 2007), only 8 Jews remain in Baghdad, which at one time was the center of Jewish culture.
Why has there not been a large influx of non-Muslims to the Middle East countries? One could argue it is because these countries practice apartheid. If apartheid means the racial segregation or discrimination of one group over another then perhaps many of the Middle Eastern countries fall into that category. Non-Muslims are not treated equally, they are granted Dhimmi status. Islamic law breaks society down into two distinct groups, believers and non-believers. Non-believers (Dhimmi) face suppression of religious beliefs, often cannot hold positions of authority, and have little protection under the law. The Koran describes non-believers as infidels, wrongdoers, evildoers, apes, swine, perverse, unbelievers, and vile creatures. Legal segregation based on one’s religion is no different than apartheid based on racial segregation. So, if Israel is an apartheid state and we view the Middle East based on the same standards as we view Israel, then the conclusion must be that Islamic countries in the Middle East also practice apartheid.
Another serious bone of contention for many Palestinians is the eight meter high separation wall constructed by the Israeli government between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Those opposed to the wall feel it disrupts the movement and lives of thousands of Palestinians trying to get to work or school and see it as an oppressive barrier that demeans the Palestinians. Editor in Chief of the Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz, has a slightly different view on things. “Before the wall was erected and during the second intifada, Israeli citizens never knew if they would make it home from work each day. Bombs were going off every second day. The security wall has been the reason for the radical reduction in suicide bombings in Israel.” According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 2002, 220 Israeli citizens were killed as a result of suicide bombings. By 2007, that number had dropped to 3.
Ironically while the Israel Apartheid Week organizers fight for the civil rights of the Palestinian people, they in turn are denying the Israeli government its right to protect its own citizens. I often wonder why the term “oppressive” is always used in describing Israel’s wall, a wall built for protection, yet the separation wall built by Egypt that keeps Palestinians out is not seen as oppressive and in fact is almost never even mentioned? I wonder if the IAW considers the concrete wall built by Saudi Arabia along their border with Yemen oppressive? According to Yemenite tribes their territory has been reduced as a result of the wall.
Israel Apartheid Week organizers are also pushing for a boycott of all Israeli goods, including academics. Proposals for an academic boycott of Israel have been inspired by the historical academic boycotts of South Africa, which were an attempt to pressure South Africa to end its policies of Apartheid. The proposals have been opposed by many scholars, politicians, and Nobel laureates. They have been called "profoundly unjust" and according to Oxford professor, Brian Klug, based on a "false" analogy with apartheid in South Africa. Facts have been intentionally misrepresented so as to present Israel in a negative light. Herein lies the problem with the IAW, their true goal is not about resolving injustice but rather through their selective use of omission they disseminate propaganda aimed at university campuses with the goal of promoting intolerance.
So, why is there this continuous discontent with Israel? Why don’t we read about boycotts directed towards China and their treatment of Tibetans, or the Myanmar government’s treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi? Why aren’t university campuses focusing on the oppression of women and honour killings, which, by the way are practiced in Palestine and not in Israel? Ultimately and sadly the reason there is a continuous focus on Israel is directly due to Arab anti-Semitism. Labeling Israel as an apartheid state is a deliberate attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish State itself. According to San Diego State professor, Khaleel Mohammed, “95% of contemporary Muslims are exposed to anti-Semitic teachings between the ages of 5 – 8. And we know that things learned at this stage of life become ingrained, almost to the point of being in one’s DNA.” The desire to want to eradicate an entire country goes deeper than just Anti-Zionism. It requires a hardening of the heart, dehumanizing and demonizing the citizens of that country and seeing no value in any of the people who live there.
The fact that Israel exists, and has existed for more than sixty years, is important. In 1949, after Chiang Kai-Shek lost the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong, he moved his government to Taipei. Mao Zedong declared that government an illegitimate entity, yet today Taiwan is universally recognized as a legitimate country. Pakistan was formed in 1947 as a result of Muslim separation from India. Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan in 1971 through an armed conflict. These countries, even those established by violence – once established – became part of the international community.
No one in the international community is asking for the demolition and annihilation of these countries. Why does Israel alone face such scrutiny? Which leaders are still denouncing Israel and still consider it illegitimate? It is primarily the Arab leaders and their followers who openly call for the extermination of Israel. They try to hide their anti-Semitism and pretend that any hatred for the Jews is a contemporary phenomenon, caused entirely by the establishment of the racist Zionist State. This type of propaganda amounts to nothing more than a convenient lie. The real reason for the unrelenting condemnation of Israel is that it is a Jewish homeland. In the Arab Islamic world there is no discernable distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Thousands of students are being exposed to this campaign of propaganda and misinformation.
What is really nothing more than a Middle East regional conflict has been dragged onto North American campuses in an attempt by Pro-Palestinian extremists groups to systematically spread hatred, not just against the State of Israel, but against all Jews. Jewish students at York University last year had to be escorted off campus by security and Toronto police. Jewish students have been harassed, humiliated and bullied. Shouldn’t Canadian students have the right to feel safe while on Canadian campuses? In 2008, one-hundred and twenty-five University of Toronto professors signed and published a letter in the National Post Newspaper of protest against the IAW, labeling the event hateful and divisive.
Last year tension rose at UBC between Jewish students and Palestinian students, who posted Pro-Hamas posters on campus. It was claimed that the Palestinian students were only practicing their right to free speech, but in reality what they were doing was promoting hatred. Many Palestinians support Hamas whose stated aim is not only the obliteration of Israel but also the promotion of Muslims fighting against Jews. Not Israelis, not pro-Zionists, but Jews. How is it then that here in Canada, where we pride ourselves on our multiculturalism and our tolerance, we allow our institutions of higher learning to become breeding grounds for intolerance?
At some point you would think it would get a little old, this blaming Israel and the Jews for everything that is wrong with the Palestinians. Palestinian leaders have time and time again turned down a chance at statehood and yet somehow Israel is to blame for the position they find themselves in today. Israel is of course not completely without blame when it comes to the plight of the Palestinians, however, giving a platform to those Pro-Palestinians extremists who place a higher priority on the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people than on the construction and development of a Palestinian State makes very little sense. The Palestinian people deserve their own homeland but that homeland cannot be built on hatred.
Our universities need to be more responsible, responsible for fostering intellectual debate and higher order thinking, not promoting hatred. Make no mistake Israel Apartheid Week is not about enlightening the world about the troubles of the Palestinians. It is not about the right to free speech. It is a fully accepted, organized, two week long celebration of hatred, intolerance and anti-Semitism.
Patrick Mascoe is a teacher in Ottawa, Canada. He runs a tolerance education program that unites Muslim and Jewish children. His program has been recognized publicly by the Daniel Pearl Foundation, Yad Vashem, and Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty.
from the March 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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