The Conspiracy

Israeli Apartheid Week Begins, Blame Game Commences

Today, the sixth incarnation of Israeli Apartheid Week gets underway.  Aiming to amplify international calls for the BDS movement–that is, the boycott of Israeli goods, divestment from the Israeli economy and placement of sanctions on Israeli imports, respectively–organizers have planned various demonstrations in more than 40 international cities over the next 14 days.  And though 14 days is clearly not a week, I’m sure we can all agree Israeli Apartheid Week sounds much better than the Israeli Apartheid Fortnight.  Personally, I would’ve preferred something like “Two Weeks of Bashing Bibi and His Cronies in Israel’s Military-Security Complex, But NOT Jews In General, While Also Shedding Light on Legitimate Palestinian Grievances.”  But alas, that’s just me.

Whatever we call it, Israeli Apartheid Week cannot be dismissed as quickly as its ill-conceived moniker.  To those who point to its potentially damaging repercussions, claiming the demonstrations are merely means to incite hatred and stoke the flames of Anti-Semitism, I disagree.  Simply put, the damage is already done; the crazies hate the Jews, with or without reason, and will go on hating us.  There’s little that Israel, or Jews, can do to change this fact.  No, the real reason we cannot disregard all the films, the demonstrations, and the speeches is because they’re coming more and more frequently from intelligent, rational people and organizations, many Jews included.

The shaded areas, designated as homelands, took up 13% of South Africas land mass but contained its entire black population.

The shaded areas, designated as 'homelands,' took up 13% of South Africa's land mass but contained its entire black population.

And like it or not, I consider myself an intelligent, rational person.  I’m also a scholar of South African history, and while I see many differences in that country’s Apartheid past and Israel’s current situation, there are also unmistakable similarities.  Perhaps the most blatant is Israel’s restrictions on where Palestinians can live.  While the Palestinians are cordoned off in the West Bank and Gaza, Jewish settlers – with the promise of military protection and generous tax breaks, among other things – continue to seize disputed lands.  This mirrors South Africa’s Land Act and the later Group Areas Act, which forced many blacks and coloureds from their homes.  The fact that Palestinians have no vote in Israel also invites the comparison to Apartheid South Africa.

So, to call Israel an Apartheid state is not without provocation.  True, there are no segregated beaches here, as this author points out.  But, do there need to be?  It’s not as if a Gazan – or, for that matter, a resident of Nablus – can leisurely stroll the Tel Aviv promenade.  In fact, Gazans often can’t even go fishing off their own coastline.  Israel is segregated; I don’t need a sign on the beach to tell me so.

The fact is, Palestinians are oppressed.  Does that make Israel an Apartheid state?  That’s not for me to say.  However, as responsible, rational citizens, we must at least take heed of a movement that’s gaining considerable steam among politicians, religious leaders, and academics.  And before being so quick to dismiss Israeli Apartheid Week as Anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist, take a look at the evidence on the other side.

Sam Melamed is a Masa participant, participating in Career Israel, one of Masa Israel‘s 160 programs.Masa Israel logo

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11 Older Responses to “Israeli Apartheid Week Begins, Blame Game Commences”

  1. charlie radin
    March 1, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    Sam:

    I work at Brandeis, am a former Middle East correspondent for the Boston Globe, and am writing a foreign affairs column for the Jewish Advocate in Boston about Israel Apartheid Fortnight. Please call me either in my office at 781 736-4210 or on cell 617 785-0916 about your recent post on this subject.

    Am on deadline and would appreciate it.

    Thanks

    Charlie

  2. Adl Supporter
    March 1, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    Please see http://contemporaryantisemitism.blogspot.com/2010/03/israeli-apartheid-week-in-us.html for more information on Israeli Apartheid Week.

  3. Ben Sales
    March 1, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    Hi Sam,

    Please check out my response to your post in this blog:

    http://blog.newvoices.org/?p=2854

    I’d love to hear your response!

    Thanks,
    Ben

  4. marce
    March 2, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    Sam,
    Good job on calling others to investigate before defaulting to the ever popular slander of “anti-semitism” to silence criticism. Keep up the good work!

  5. David Olesker
    March 3, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    Sam, the most telling part of your article is, “the crazies hate the Jews, with or without reason, and will go on hating us. There’s little that Israel, or Jews, can do to change this fact. No, the real reason we cannot disregard all the films, the demonstrations, and the speeches is because they’re coming more and more frequently from intelligent, rational people and organizations, many Jews included”. You go on to identify yourself as an “intelligent, rational person”, and announce yourself (at least partially) convinced by the apartheid analogy.

    You seem to fail to grasp that antisemitism is not limited to “crazies”, and never has been. Of the 15 participants in the Wannsee Conference, five held doctorates. Nazism may have started as the ravings of semi-educated street corner orators, but by the time it had triumphed it had won over the bulk of intellectuals. It had made itself appealing to many “intelligent, rational persons”.

    I’ll leave it to others to point out the self evident falsity of the Israel=apartheid analogy. I want to concentrate on why Israel is being compared to apartheid South Africa, rather than, say, the USSR under Stalin.

    The apartheid analogy is a calculated propaganda strategy to enlarge the circle of Jew hatred beyond the vulgar antisemites. Its surface plausibility and co-option of the language of human rights is an attempt to move Jew hatred into the Left. (Many are surprised to discover that the history of Left antisemitism is as long and sordid as that of the Right). The degree of success it (and similar strategies) have enjoyed can be gauged by reading the talkbacks to almost any article about Israel in left of center British papers like the Guardian and the Independent. Naked and unreconstructed antisemitism shades seamlessly into venomous attacks on Israel and then into (apparently) reasonable criticism.

    As long as a “iron Wall” existed between antisemitism and criticism of Israel’s policies, the criticisms could never reach the point of countenancing policide. Blur the distinction between the two enough and even an “intelligent, rational person” can be seduced into seeking to undermine Israel.

    Your piece, Sam, is proof the strategy is working. It’s even more proof that it needs to be resisted.

  6. Pax R
    March 10, 2010 at 10:45 pm #

    Are the crazies the ones who follow the path to peace behind a cardboard robot? Maybe not!

    Find out more about the Pax Revolution for peace on Facebook and Twitter at Pax_101.

  7. Ramiro Agnelli
    March 12, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    Excellent! If I could write like this I would be well happpy. The more I read articles of such quality as this (which is rare), the more I think there might be a future for the Web. Keep it up, as it were.

  8. Devon Regis
    April 11, 2010 at 12:32 am #

    Sam.

    In terms of Israel, well, it’s complicated. I think each side needs to recognize the validity, hopes, dreams and aspirations of the other and until that happens, nothing will be solved. I do agree that Israel must take responsibility for some of the heinous crimes, though I don’t know if integration is the solution. Integration does not seem to work anywhere in the world.

  9. Aviva Goodman
    March 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Sam,

    You claim that Israel is segregated, but doesn’t segregation mean separation between two peoples? If that is so, why is it when I went swimming at a beach in Tel Aviv last summer did I see Arabs, Jews, Ethiopians, Sudanese, and Philippines all swimming together? Doesn’t that completely refute your claims of segregation?
    You mention that Palestinians don’t have the right to vote in Israel, but are you referring to Palestinians with no Israeli citizenship or Palestinian who are legal Israeli citizens, also referred to as Arab-Israelis? If you are referring to the latter, then you are false. Arab citizens from whatever descent are given the right to vote and are voted into positions within the Knesset for instance. If you are referring to the former, I don’t understand why you would expect anyone who is not a citizen be allowed to vote whether they are Palestinian, Jordanian, or American. Can a Mexican or a Canadian vote in American elections,? No. Can Israelis vote in Palestinian Authority elections? No.
    I find it very disturbing that you are participating on a Masa program, meaning that you are actually living in Israel where you are frequenting shops with Arab employees within Israel, but are still disseminating falsehoods. What is your purpose in doing so? Why are you so afraid to admit that Israel is not a racist country and opens it doors to people of different backgrounds? Please stop closing your eyes to the truth. You are only helping to demonize the Jewish State and for what purpose I’m not sure, but if you want to hurt Israel, if you want to hurt the Jewish people and incite violence against them, stop acting as if you care about Israel and your people and proudly show your true colors.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] Filed under: Middle East | Tags: Heeb, New Voices Heeb blogged about Israeli Apartheid Week. So did New Voices, New Voices and New Voices. On the other side of the Abrahamic spectrum, Al Jazeera posted a [...]

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