It’s ‘apartheid’ time again. Pick your villain. -

It’s ‘apartheid’ time again. Pick your villain.

Students boycott Israel, but are blasé about Syria. Why?


Syrian demonstrators. Daniel Etter/Redux

March is upon us, which means the Oscars have been awarded, and that other harbinger of spring is around the corner: Israeli Apartheid Week.

Ordinarily, both events are masterpieces of predictability, with the Academy Awards ushering the usual suspects to the podium (Meryl Streep anyone?), and Israeli Apartheid Week featuring the usual anti-Zionist suspects on megaphones (among them the now famous IAW sub-group, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, which I’d argue is largely composed of gay Jewish girls who didn’t have fun at summer camp.)

This year the Oscars have come through in predictability, but Israeli Apartheid Week is shaping up quite differently. It’s traditional at Passover seders for the youngest member of Jewish families to ask the “four questions,” which inquire why “this night is different from all other nights.” This year it might be prudent to ask a fifth: why is this Israeli Apartheid Week different from all the others?

The answer is just northeast of Israel, in Syria. In the past 11 months, almost 9,000 civilian protesters and nearly 3,000 anti-government rebels have been murdered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Ba’ath party dictatorship. Approximately 400 children have been imprisoned and tortured. Meanwhile, Assad’s government claims that 89.4 per cent of Syrians had approved a new constitution that could keep Bashar in power for another 16 years, along with the 12 years he’s already ruled, and the 29 years his father Hafez held power before him.

You’d think that anyone committed to the cause of justice in the Middle East would put the atrocities in Syria at the top of their to-do list. But the Canadian organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week—loudly devoted to ending oppression and achieving social justice for all—won’t be talking about Syria this year. Instead, they’ll spend March 5-9 railing exclusively against the “Zionist regime” at a university campus near you. Events will include slam poetry renditions, hip-hop shows, and an apartheid poster contest with a top prize of $400.

You could accurately call this tunnel vision activism. Most hopes for mainstream credibility IAW activists might have in their criticism of Israel tends to be destroyed by their singular abhorrence of the Jewish state. No country deserves a free pass because its crimes don’t add up to its neighbour’s, but to boycott one injustice and ignore the far bloodier one next door isn’t just odd: it’s a clear statement that those at the helm of Israeli Apartheid Week hate Israel more than they hate oppression itself.

This is a reality noted by even the anti-Zionist darling and American intellectual Norman Finkelstein, in an interview at Imperial College this month. Finkelstein, who has long been a supporter of the BDS movement, named for its focus on punishing Israel through boycotts, divestments, and sanctions, now claims, scathingly, that the BDS is doomed to irrelevancy by its gross “disingenuousness” on the subject of whether or not Israel should exist to begin with. “I support the BDS,” he says, “[but] their goal has to include the recognition of Israel, or it’s a non-starter.” Finkelstein is right. If you want to uproot a country’s policies, you should make it explicitly clear that you don’t want to uproot the country itself. Unless, of course, you do.

That the folks behind Israeli Apartheid Week wouldn’t mind if the country disappeared is evident in their blasé response to terrorism against Israelis. The movement’s promotional video features a series of cartoon slides about the conflict, one of which reads: “When a people fight the occupier / It is not terrorism / It is resistance.” But there is nothing noble or necessary about blowing up innocent civilians at a falafel stand. Such terrorism is not resistance. It’s murder—something IAW leaders have accused Israel of time and time again.

Hypocrisy aside, the movement’s reluctance to recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist (they claim to be “agnostic” about Israel’s existence), coupled with its failure to stand up for any other oppressed or occupied peoples, is an open invitation for Jews to cry anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, anti-Zionists argue, but Israel’s unique distinction in their ideology as the very worst place in the entire world has most Jews begging to differ. In my final year of university, a friend of mine—who we’ll call Sandy Cohen—wanted to organize a non-aligned event to run alongside Israeli Apartheid Week, to educate uninformed students about the conflict from a neutral standpoint. Organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week were less than pleased with the idea—they were having a party, and she was trying to crash it. One organizer even compared her to a Nazi and claimed that, like “all Zionists,” she had a knack for “twisting her words.” Not once did Cohen declare herself a Zionist. The only thing her detractor knew about her was her name—which is, undeniably, Jewish.

If all people who criticized Israel were anti-Semites, I’d be an anti-Semite. But it’s this kind of nastiness and hypocrisy that makes you wonder if the week isn’t an indictment of so-called Israeli apartheid, but rather a morbid celebration of a problem none of the protesters really wants solved. Haaretz columnist Bradley Burston argues that peace isn’t the product of “freedom for one people at the expense of another, but freedom and independence for both.” Until the Israeli Apartheid Movement acknowledges this, it will remain nothing more than a thinly veiled anti-Semitic frosh week for the far, far left.


It’s ‘apartheid’ time again. Pick your villain.

  1. Let me get this straight: your problem with Israeli Apartheid Week is that it focuses on Israeli Apartheid?

    If a movie about the persecution of the Falun Gong is being shown on campus, do you also complain that there is too much focus on the Falun Gong and not enough on Palestinians?

    Do you take a class in calculus and complain that there is too much focus on calculus and not enough on psychology?

    Also, you should look into the campus chess club. I hear they have a singular focus on the game of chess and don’t talk at all about backgammon.

    • Sorry, but you’re argument just proves the point of the article. Is the issue the existence of ‘Israel’ (i.e. the country) or the eradication of Appartaid (I.e. persecution)?

      If the former keep the Israel week as is, if the latter, than protest against those countries who are really oppressing. It’s a bit weird that no one seem to mention that the 1.5 million Israeli arabs (20% of Israel’s citizenry have more human rights, including right to free speech, press, healthcare, profession, vote, etc…, than any other Arab in the Middle East!!

    • If the movie about persecution of Falun Gong is called “Chinese Pedophile Persecutors” some people might object, don’t you think? Israel means a lot of things to a lot of people but there is no apartheid there, by a mile. Nice try though….

  2. Everyone, please disregard the fact that the author is asking us to point fingers towards brutality in Syria in the hopes of making us forget the crimes Israel is committing. It has only been 63 years. NBD.

  3. “. . . the crimes Israel is committing. ”

    To most people involved in this wrongheaded movement, the only “crime” is the existence of the legitimate state of Israel. And to them, the only solution (the Final Solution?) is for the Jews to go away and for Israel to be replaced by a Palestinian state.

    In fact, the real crime is the repeated missed opportunities for the Palestinians to have a state alongside Israel. And people who don’t acknowledge that don’t truly want peace. It is the Palestinian leadership who are victimizing their own people, using them as pawns and preventing them from having a more prosperous, contented life. It’s really a shame, actually.

    • Dan, Israel is as illegitimate as the apartheid that existed in South Africa.

      “The Crimes” The Zionist terrorists came, with guns blazing, to occupy Palestine only 63 years ago. They killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions of Palestinians and replaced them with Jews from all over the world. And they continue to do the same to this day. With this in mind, YOU should be ashamed to say that “the real crime is the repeated missed opportunities for the Palestinians to have a state alongside Israel”. Those so called opportunities were based on the Israel government’s impossible and unjust demands from the Palestinians.

      Also, it is the Israeli government alone who is victimizing the Palestinian people by continuously stealing more of their land and refusing to negotiate in good faith. And no amount of truth twisting will change this fact.

  4. IAW is nothing more and nothing less than a festival of hatred. It does absolutely nothing to advance progressive values, understanding, or peace-making. Those difficult tasks are done by Israelis and Palestinians of goodwill on the ground who rarely make the news.

    IAW is just a chance for radicals to bask in the media spotlight for a week.

  5. The biggest crime was the ethnic cleansing of 1 million Jews from Arab lands

  6. Dan, great response. The problem with those that support IAW is not that there isn’t a Palestinian state but that there is a Jewish one. They like their Jews as victims, that is what they are comfortable with. They never seem to acknowledge any Palestinian crimes such as blowing up civilians as they sit on buses or in restaurants, or push their own dissenters off tall buildings. To them, anything Israeli is inherently bad and anything ‘Palestinian’ is inherently good.

    • Well said Emma.

  7. James Watson says: Dan, Israel is as illegitimate as the apartheid that existed in South Africa.

    Apartheid still exists in South Africa. It is new and more subtle. Brutality and dehumanization of Afrikaners, and white famrers is growing at a rapid pace. It is a ‘revenge aparthied’ now. A time for reparation. A white person no matter how poor or disadvantged a back-ground now will not get a job before the race quota system is filled.

    Israel does not do this to the Arab citizens.
    It’s a fact that children in Israel, whether Arab or Israeli are far more loved, cared fro and protected than their counterparts in the refugee camps. What do I mean? Just this. That in Israel it is a severe crime to strap explosives to a child and brainwash them that glory in paradise waits them the moment the explode into smithereens killing their enemies. Whereas in Gaza this is regarded as a glorious deed, worthy of emulation, valiant and heroic! Israel loves children and seeks to protect them, The ideologues of Gaza think nothing of urging on their youngsters to self-destruction in the name of their hatred and their religion, which by the way, they claim is a religion of peace!

  8. Thumbs up, well said Emma!!