Today, the sixth incarnation of Israeli Apartheid Week gets underway. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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.” Â But alas, that’s just me.
Whatever we call it, Israeli Apartheid Week cannot be dismissed as quickly as its ill-conceived moniker. Â 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. Â Simply put, the damage is already done; the crazies hate the Jews, with or without reason, and will go on hating us. Â There’s little that Israel, or Jews, can do to change this fact. Â 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.
And like it or not, I consider myself an intelligent, rational person. Â 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. Â Perhaps the most blatant is Israel’s restrictions on where Palestinians can live. Â 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. Â This mirrors South Africa’s Land Act and the later Group Areas Act, which forced many blacks and coloureds from their homes. Â 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. Â True, there are no segregated beaches here, as this author points out. Â But, do there need to be? Â It’s not as if a Gazan – or, for that matter, a resident of Nablus – can leisurely stroll the Tel Aviv promenade. Â In fact, Gazans often can’t even go fishing off their own coastline. Â Israel is segregated; I don’t need a sign on the beach to tell me so.
The fact is, Palestinians are oppressed. Â Does that make Israel an Apartheid state? Â That’s not for me to say. Â 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. Â 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.