Asking questions, bringing balance, confronting predjudice

Israeli Apartheid Week 2014 – a Western political aberration

IAW_2014_350Spring is in the air, the daffodils are blooming, birds will soon be nesting. It must be time for the annual university hatefest called “Israel Apartheid Week”!

Unless your world is academia and campus life, there is no reason why you should have heard of IAW, because it doesn’t normally make the mainstream media. It is also a rather long and diluted ‘week’ for an international campaign, running from the last week of February to the end of March.

Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) is ten years old this year and is making its normal claims to be setting the world’s campus’ on fire for Palestine. They are perhaps better organised than in some past years, but many of their claims of success do not bear deep investigation.

According to its website, IAW “…seeks to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.”

It also claims to reflect “…global grassroots rejection of Israel’s military and political aggression.” This assumes, of course, that Israel has such objectionable policies in place at all, as “proof” of Israel’s aggression usually comprises half-truths and wild accusations.

IAW encourages student groups and BDS campaigners to wreak political havoc on campus through lectures, film screenings, exhibition displays and BDS actions in local cities. There is no shortage of speakers on hand to help out, of course, and there are now a good number of easy to stage films circulating the BDS-sphere.

I said that IAW’s claims to success do not bear deep investigation. Two years ago I did just that and found no trace of events in just under half of the 77 cities listed as participating. I did the same again this year and found some interesting trends.

Firstly, the IAW website claims that 135 cities in 29 countries are taking part. Impressive! Except that only 13 countries are showing any events at all.

Of the countries that are advertising IAW events, nine are in the EU (why am I not surprised) and both the UK and US are holding lots of events, but the only two countries outside of “the West” showing any interest appear to be Brazil and Morocco (one event each). So not quite global, then!

With no events at all being held in “Palestine”, supposedly the focus of the whole campaign, this just reinforces what we already knew – the BDS campaign has become a Western political aberration, just out to hammer Israel at any cost! After all, even many Palestinians don’t want Israeli goods boycotted and 70-80% of Palestinian imports come from Israel.

Of course focussing on young and impressionable students around the Western world, as IAW does, makes sense. These will be among tomorrow’s business leaders, politicians and diplomats. Infect them now with “occupation rhetoric” and false claims of Israeli apartheid and you set the scene for everlasting BDS.

Even if you could get the students to listen to someone else’s story, there are very few co-ordinated and effective efforts to counter the deception of IAW. Almost alone voice is the Jerusalem Institute for Justice, which held events in Canada and Finland last year and is holding others this year in San Francisco, Sweden and Israel.

A detailed paper, “The Apartheid Smear”, just published by the British Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM) is a superb tool to answer the Israel-hating IAW and BDS campaigners, but much more is still needed to bring balance to the debate and to present the opposing narrative coherently.

The truth about these annual IAW events, sadly, is that they are an abuse of academic freedom and indeed of the whole democratic principle of freedom of speech. No other narrative is ever allowed to surface but the “Israel as an apartheid state” one.

An attender at a recent Scottish BDS film event disgustedly reported to me that he only heard “…outrageous, abusive and provocative propaganda.” That sums it up pretty neatly!

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