Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Israel Apartheid Week: Rethink

Every so often you read something that makes you shake your head in disbelief and wonder if it is really worth your time to even engage with the material. Today was one of those days. A friend pointed in me in the direction of an article written in Warwick's student newspaper, The Boar, on Israel Apartheid Week. The piece, worth reading only to give this response some context, can be found here. Frankly, I should have stopped reading when gender segregation in universities was described as, “...sometimes questionable.” No, ma’am, it is not just sometimes questionable, it is always wrong. Anyway.

Let’s ignore the debate about Israeli policy, we’ll be here until the cows come home for Kosher slaughter. Rather, let’s focus on some horrific comments in the article that simply must be challenged:

  • Israeli Apartheid week is about raising awareness of apartheid in Israel.
Perhaps this is worth a read: http://www.adl.org/assets/pdf/israel-international/Israeli-Apartheid-Week-Year-by-Year-Report.pdf

IAW is an attempt to associate Israeli policy towards the Palestinians with the Apartheid policies in South Africa, a comparison not only insulting to Israel (and wrong) but also to those South Africans who suffered under Apartheid. Anti-Israel campaigners would do well to avoid such inaccurate, harmful and insulting comparisons. 

  •  “...We should concentrate on more ‘pressing’ or ‘worthy’ issues such as civil war in Syria, or gay rights in Russia” 
The reason Israeli Apartheid week is wrong has absolutely nothing to do with the Syrian Civil War or Russia’s gay rights record (though, the writer should make a better attempt at not belittling either). The fact that pro-Palestinian (read anti-Israel) activists have no concern for the Palestinians at the mercy of Assad because Israel is not to be blamed (unless you subscribe to one of the many Zionist conspiracy theories that suggest Assad is actually an Israeli proxy) is really neither here nor there. Though it is something that perhaps can be considered…
  • Mandela supported the Palestinian plight
So what?! Mandela was an avid supporter of peace, freedom, self-determination and, wait for it, Israel. It is clear what the writer is trying to do here. Mandela is a man who is respected across the world so if he supports the Palestinian plight, then we must all support the Palestinian plight. I call ad hominem. Hitler loved dogs, ergo we should all hate dogs? I don’t think so! Besides, the writer conveniently ignores that Mandela believed that Israel deserved and needed security and had the right to exist as a Jewish state, something many speakers at Israeli Apartheid week fundamentally disagree with. 
  • IAW is important because Ariel Sharon was painted as a hero in Western media
Consider it this way:
  1. Ariel Sharon was painted as a hero
  2. We must paint Israel as an Apartheid state
Yep, makes perfect sense.
  • "To critique the politics of the state of Israel is not anti-Semitism – indeed, many Jewish organisations such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians also oppose Israel“
The first point is, of course, correct. It is interesting, however, how her proof of this is that there are Jews who oppose Israel. So? Jews can be anti-Semitic. And besides, no one ever denied that it is possible to critique the policies of the State of Israel without being an anti-Semite. It just seems that the majority attending IAW are unaware of this - read the report above. I need only note one example - the number of Nazi comparisons made by supporters at rallies during IAW. Critiquing the policies of the State of Israel is one thing, in fact, it is encouraged in a democracy like Israel. What is, and will always be, unacceptable and downright anti-Semitism whether the writer likes it or not, is any comparison between Hitler’s Nazi regime and Israel. The fact is IAW makes no efforts to distance itself from such comparisons. 
  • "I abhor the politics of Saudi Arabia – does that make me an Islamophobe?”
Well no. Saudi Arabia is an Arab state, not a Muslim state. There is nothing else really to say about this point, other than the lazy flippancy in which it is made is very telling. 

(Note, the US state department designates Saudi Arabia as an Islamic state; Wikipedia as an Arab state.)
  • "We must not ignore Palestinian blood because the news has deemed Syrian blood more worthy of attention”
I find this the most troubling point in the entire article. I am not sure where the writer has been the past few years (probably on an anti-Israel rally in a country with freedom of speech) but this is an absurd statement. We do not need to get into the ins and outs of news outlets and whether they focus to much attention on Israel or count the UN resolutions on Israel compared to those on Syria. Instead, let’s ask the following question: “Has a body of a child or family murdered in Syria ever gained international recognition and outrage as a photo of the aftermath of a supposed Israeli attack?” Unfortunately, the answer is yes. More than once. We live in a world where we are sheltered from those murdered in Syria until someone can con us into thinking they were murdered by Israel.

Perhaps I can suggest an addition to the writer’s list at the end. We can support the Palestinian cause, we can oppose Putin’s homophobia, we can deplore Assad’s slaughter and we can oppose anti-Semitism and the poison, lies and hate that is Israeli Apartheid Week. And damn it, we should.