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10th annual Israeli Apartheid Week kicks off globally
Published Friday 07/03/2014 (updated) 14/03/2014 17:11
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Students at Brooklyn College form a mock apartheid wall with their
bodies (Julieta Salgado).

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestine solidarity activists launched the 10th annual Israeli Apartheid Week in North America and the UK last week, as their counterparts around the world prepared to mobilize throughout the month of March.

Israeli Apartheid Week is a global campaign that seeks to raise awareness about the discrimination faced by Palestinians and to rally support in favor of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Activists are organizing IAW events in more than 150 cities around the world this year, including 36 locations in North America, according to organizers.

Activists credit the week of events -- which takes place at different times in late February and throughout March depending on local schedules -- for encouraging a major shift in discourse on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the last decade. Once a major taboo, criticism of Israeli policies against Palestinians has become mainstream, and thousands have become involved in pro-Palestine solidarity groups around the world.

Nowhere has this shift been more noticeable than on university campuses in North America and much of Western Europe, where majorities traditionally supported Israeli policies.

In the last year, a number of academic associations have come out in favor of the boycott of Israel, including the 5,000-member strong American Studies Association, while student associations in Toronto, Scotland, and California have voted in favor of resolutions to divest from companies linked to the Israeli occupation.

Danya Mustafa, an IAW national coordinator in the United States, told Ma'an that much of the work in the United States emerges from coalitions formed by local chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, a grassroots national organization.

"IAW has fostered critical discussion and is getting people talking about Israeli state policies," she said, highlighting that the focus of IAW has shifted over the years from education to campaigns to pressure university administrations to divest from companies that do business with the Israeli occupation.

IAW is also creating "more momentum in mobilizing other social justice organizations behind divestment," Mustafa said, as student groups from a wide variety of backgrounds increasingly take part in Palestinian solidarity events and actions.

"The conversation on Palestine is now at the forefront of discussions at universities," Mustafa added.

The 'criminalization' of student activism

Max Geller, an SJP leader at Northeastern University in Boston, argues that widespread participation in IAW "symbolizes changing times on US campuses in particular and the country in general," as criticism of Israel has increasingly become the norm rather than the exception.

At the same time, however, Geller pointed out that this success has been met by repressive measures, highlighting a widening gap between how student leaders think about Israel compared to university authorities.

Last week, for example, students affiliated with Geller's group posted mock eviction notices on student dorms to raise awareness about Palestinian home demolitions.

"We wanted to simulate the all-too-common Palestinian experience of waking up one morning to discover that your presence on your land has suddenly become illegal," Geller explained, highlighting that the flyer stated in large letters that the eviction notices were not in fact real.

Within a day of the flyers' distribution, however, Geller said that members began receiving "harassing phone calls" from university police, which he claims was spurred on by the campus' local chapter of Hillel, a national Jewish student organization.

The Northeastern University police department did not respond to an email seeking comment, but a statement released by the university Hillel said that they had prompted the university administration to work with the police department to begin a "thorough investigation."

"This criminalizing of student activism only goes to show the extent to which Zionist campus groups are willing to go to prevent criticism of Israel on campus," Geller said.

"While it feels like we in the US are finally catching up to the rest of the world in terms of identifying with the Palestinian cause, the reaction to our mock evictions also indicates how far we have to go and how much we have to overcome," he added.

Opponents use 'deflective strategies'

Divestment efforts have taken off at campuses across the United States, as students have launched numerous campaigns to pressure university administrations to ensure that official funds are not linked to Israeli policies against Palestinians.

Sarah Rahimi, a member of SJP at the University of California Los Angeles, stressed how their campus' version of Israeli Apartheid Week (entitled "Palestine Awareness Week") had laid the groundwork for a divestment campaign which culminated last week and targeted five companies involved in Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians.

During the week, "there was a specific focus on our university's investments and involvements," she said. Students would "come and learn about the situation and be upset, but when they found out that the university's funds are invested in such human rights violations, they were shocked."

Despite the campaign's success in allying with a diverse array of student groups, the divestment bill was not able to pass student government.

"There were very few arguments against the bill itself," she told Ma'an, arguing that "it's difficult to argue against a bill that essentially says, 'we should not be giving money to and making money off of violence.'"

Instead, Rahimi pointed out that outside Zionist organizations had rallied against the bill, and on-campus opponents utilized "deflective strategies" including the accusation that the "bill is designed to simply alienate the Jewish community."

Students read a mock "Israeli apartheid wall" at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA SJP)

An atmosphere of 'hatred'

Critics counter that Israeli Apartheid Week itself contributes to an unproductive campus environment for debate and the "demonization" of Israel.

Hannah Brady, the founder and manager of the "Rethink 2014" campaign in opposition to IAW, told Ma'an that the week of events "encourages hatred towards Israelis and those who support Israel on campus."

Rethink 2014, however, seeks to "open space for dialogue and discussion as possible," Brady said, adding that Zionist students often feel intimidated by IAW events like the construction of mock separation walls and checkpoints on campuses.

"Improving campus climates is what leads to better discussion, by creating an environment in which more people feel able to enter into conversation," she added.

Brady argues that IAW does not foster this kind of environment, as the week "exaggerates and emphasizes division and cultivates an 'us and them' attitude," highlighting a student submission to the Rethink 2014 campaign that argued IAW "tries to force Jewish students to choose between their heritage and their humanity."

A photograph from the campaign

'There is nothing unsafe about granting basic rights'

Israeli Apartheid Week organizers, however, are not convinced.

Sarah Rahimi, the UCLA student activist, responded to accusations about Israeli Apartheid Week and divestment campaigns creating an "unsafe" environment by highlighting how unsafe campuses already are for pro-Palestinian students.

"There is nothing safe about having to prove your humanity daily and being forced to fund violence against your own people," she explained, adding: "There is nothing unsafe about granting someone their basic rights as human beings, unless someone is trying to imply that their rights depend upon the oppression of others."

"It speaks volumes about the amount of privilege behind such a comment, when the most threatening or unsafe thing imaginable to someone is a bill that seeks to attack corporations that enable human rights violations," she said, referring specifically to opponents of the divestment bill at UCLA.

Despite the divestment bill's failure to pass, Rahimi is optimistic about the future and about IAW's role in mobilizing a global movement in solidarity with Palestinians.

"I am incredibly hopeful because I see that the movement is only gaining solidarity and, in its own ways, inspiring other movements for other, similar causes," she said, adding: "Whatever the tipping point was, we passed it this week and from here on onwards, I see us gaining a lot of momentum."

1 ) j / usa
08/03/2014 00:47
Waste of time and money. Palestinians will never win. This campaigns drive them farther and farther from state. Israel was never scared of anything. It is not afraid of no boycotts or sunctions. The so called apreheid wall was build because of palestinian stupidy. If there was no bombings there would not have been a wall. Before second intifida for 52 years there was no wall. So palestinians should blame themselves for all their problems

2 ) Rona / FR
08/03/2014 02:25
The world ended South African apartheid and the people of the world will end Israeli apartheid. Together we stand with the Palestinian people and we won't stop until they are returned to THEIR land!

3 ) hmp49 / us
08/03/2014 03:04
Unsafe for pro-Palestinian students ROFLMAO. Go to YouTube search for "uncivil tactics at UC Irvine." Pro-Palestinian hooligans prevented an invited speaker from being heard, Even after he invited them to a dialog. "Pro-Palestinian" = thug

4 ) Keep up the CULTURE of / MISERY!!!
08/03/2014 08:29
far it will get you in this world/ Keep crying Keep begging Keep throwing stones instead of going to school Keep Perpetuating the "refugee" status GOOD LUCK!

5 ) You should walk into any / HOSPITAL in
08/03/2014 09:48
Israel Most of the workers there and MANY DOCTORS are ARABS Israeli Arabs receive the BEST TRETMENT of ANY ARAB in the MIDDLE EAST Your talk about Apartheid is such a stupid joke!

6 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
08/03/2014 17:53
And of course, the pro-Palestinian crowd can only choke and hope that nobody starts a counter campaign showing the tens of thousands of black Africans who are trying to get into Israel to live there! If the Palestinians stopped lying so much and started showing they were a modern, legitimate society they would get so much more support. But then again, if they did that 20 years ago they'd probably have an independent state already. No, the Palestinians want intifada #3 instead of peace.

7 ) Mel / USA
08/03/2014 18:12
Bravo! You can go back 80 YRS to the beginning of Zionist apartheid schemes in Yaffa,where the Zionist mafia unions began their brutal apartheid schemes of separating Arab &Jewish"fruitful"Orange business partners,in plans to set up Avadoh Ivrit(Hebrew Labor)Kibush Ha'avodah(Jewish-only Labor).Zionists poured petrol on Arab products at the port&shops, & beat up Jewish customers who bought Arab products.APARTHEID! So, BDS,all the WAY!

8 ) Mel / USA
08/03/2014 21:00
I support the BDS of S/Africa then,because we KNEW the ruling old-Dutch colonial regime of SA did not speak for,or have any interest in,non-whites(outside of cheap local slave labor)at heart!Just WHITE minority DOMINATION thru' money,arms & foreign patronage/protection,while LOOTING SA lands/resources & being barbaric to indigenous humans.That's the MIRROR-image,if not WORSE,in Zionist(Boer)led Israel.It's not about JEWS/anti-Semitism!It's about HUMAN Equal Justice Under(Fair)Law! So,BDS!

9 ) carine / UK
08/03/2014 21:47
7 posts so far - the majority from paid parrots - must be costing the Israeli govt an absolute fortune to keep up with this lot who are crawling, like lice, all over every forum on the internet!

10 ) Colin Wright / USA
09/03/2014 04:55
To Brian Cohen #6: 'And of course, the pro-Palestinian crowd can only choke and hope that nobody starts...' Sorry Brain. This one's barely worth responding to. So Israel's better than Eritrea? Congrats. Hey: you even top the Sudan. Man, you guys are GOOD. What's your secret?

11 ) Colin Wright / USA
09/03/2014 04:58
'10th annual Israeli Apartheid Week kicks off globally.' Week, schmeek. What about Israeli Independence Day? That'll mark the start of the 66th Annual Israeli Apartheid YEAR. Partay...

12 ) Colin Wright / USA
09/03/2014 05:04
To You Should Walk into... #6: 'MANY DOCTORS are ARABS.' Mmm. And apparently Israel's taking steps to do something about that. See http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/28/world/la-fg-israel-med-students-20120528 It's comic: every attempt to defend Israel just sheds light on more of the sewage.

13 ) Colin Wright / USA
09/03/2014 05:07
To hmp49 #3: 'Pro-Palestinian hooligans prevented an invited speaker from being heard, Even after he invited them to a dialog.' Backwards. The 'hooligans' were engaging in exactly the sort of heckling that has been the norm on colleges for fifty years now. The distinction is that because they were Palestinian, and the speaker was Israeli, criminal charges were filed against them.

14 ) Colin Wright / USA
09/03/2014 05:09
To You Should #5: 'Israeli Arabs receive the BEST TRETMENT of ANY ARAB in the MIDDLE EAST' You know, that is EXACTLY what the defenders of the South African variety of apartheid used to say...except that they probably spelled 'treatment' right.

15 ) Colin Wright / USA
09/03/2014 05:14
To Keep up #4: 'Keep begging Keep throwing stones instead of going to school Keep Perpetuating the "refugee" status GOOD LUCK!' Your problem is that Palestinians DO go to school -- not that they don't. See the link I posted.

16 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
09/03/2014 11:02
Colin, don't you have anything else to do in your retirement? Or are you getting paid to sit on Maan and write so much garbage? Seriously, you sound like just another marxist-leninist has-been who hates Jews, and will use any words no matter how wrong they are. Like I said, Israel cannot be apartheid if there are tens of thousands of blacks wanting to break in and live hear, and hundreds of thousands of more blacks and coloureds living here with full rights. You're a liar. And a bad one too.

17 ) Larry Snider / USA
09/03/2014 13:58
Violence is a bad thing and the violence of the Second Intifada ultimately led to the construction of the Separation Wall. Was is necessary. Yes. Was it/is it used for political purposes? Yes. Does BDS and IAW generate understanding and promote peace between Palestinians and Israelis or incite anger and resistance on both sides? Is the right path to Two States built on resistance or engagement?

18 ) uncle sam / phil
09/03/2014 14:13
palestine is a reality. israel must exist with palestine. two state solution is at risk by settlers and aipac

19 ) Giacomo / USA
09/03/2014 16:02
One brave woman calls for peaceful dialogue and all people do is attack each other. Resist resistance to peace.

20 ) Now & / Later
09/03/2014 20:06
- Now its just a "10th annual Israeli Apartheid Week", but If Palestinians do Not start a peace process, make tough compromises, and reach an agreement with the State of Israel, - Later it will be a 100th or 1,000th annual Apartheid Year.

21 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
09/03/2014 21:06
The bottom line for Colin is still the same: 70% of Americans support Israel. Less than 10% of Americans support Palestine. Why? Because Arabs have rights in Israel and Americans know that Israel is not apartheid. They also perceive the Palestinians as supporting violent attacks against Israel, and remember the Palestinians for their terrorism: blowing airplanes out of the sky, murdering Olympic athletes, blowing up buses and rocketing schools. You're a loser, Colin.

22 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
10/03/2014 13:49
Great read about apartheid, but not for people who don't want to hear the truth about how Israel is a failed state: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/israel-a-failed-state/

23 ) Mel / USA
10/03/2014 18:44
Again! The main thing to remember about Israel,aside from all the fantasies about,"the only democracy in the Middle East"crap,is that Israel,under Facist Zionism,has always been&continues to be,an ethno-Judocracy founded on militarist invasion,segregation,VIOLENCE,discriminatory laws for Jews & other laws for non-Jews(conveniently) i.e.Absentee Property Law,Land Aquisition Law,Nakba Law(censoring books),Closed Military Zones etc etc &LAND/RESOURCE theft. Israel is absolutely APARTHEID.

24 ) Arnold / Canada
10/03/2014 21:09
If Israel is apartheid then why so many ethnic minorities living there. Why do so many people want to sneak through its borders to find work and a future for their families. Nobody but nobody was trying to sneak into S. Africa.

25 ) Outlier / USA
10/03/2014 22:39
Attempts to redefine apartheid reflect badly on those attempting to do the redefining.
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