It’s not often that I take to the New Voices blog to disagree with one of our writers, but I’d like to respond to Sam Melamed’s post from earlier today.
Sam defends Israeli Apartheid Week as an effort “to louden international calls for the BDS movement â€“ that is, the boycott of Israeli goods, the divestment from the Israeli economy, and the placement of sanctions on Israeli imports,” and calls it â€œTwo Weeks of Bashing Bibi and His Cronies in Israelâ€™s Military-Security Complex, But NOT Jews In General, While Also Shedding Light on Legitimate Palestinian Grievances.â€
He continues that Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) will not fan the flames of anti-Semitism and says that “to call Israel an Apartheid state is not without provocation.” He adds that we should not be “so quick to dismiss Israeli Apartheid Week as Anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist.”
The fact is that Sam is wrong in his characterization of both IAW, as well as of Israel as an apartheid state. Sam writes that IAW is not anti-Zionist, but IAW’s website states that “Prominent Palestinians, Jewish anti-Zionists, and South Africans have been at the forefront of this struggle [emphasis mine].” In addition, the IAW logo illustrates the land of Israel/Palestine in completelyÂ PalestinianÂ colors, flanked by two Palestinians. In its own words, IAW is anti-Zionist.
Sam says that IAW is a week of activism against “Bibi and His Cronies in Israelâ€™s Military-Security Complex,” but IAW is in its sixth year. Six years ago Bibi was an exile in his own party. Since then a center leftÂ government ran Israel for about three years while Bib led the opposition. IAW took place each of those years.
Sam implicitly supports IAW’s advocacy of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement by supporting IAW, but at present Sam is living in Israel, contributing to its economy and enjoying its services.
Furthermore, Sam writes that in many ways,Â IsraelÂ is an apartheid state–and cites his extensive study of South Africa’s history in support of that claim. I have not studied South African history, but I do know that Israel does not have an apartheid policy specifically because “apartheid” was a policy unique to South Africa’s government and society. The word comes from South Africa and was the technical name for a set of racist laws. Call Israel racist, discriminatory, prejudiced, whatever, but don’t call it an apartheid state, because the only possible apartheid state–ever–was South Africa pre-1994.
Sam writes that we should get past IAW’s name and look at the policies it advocates. First of all, we cannot dismiss the name: the movement’s founders chose it and it is the firstÂ andÂ most prominent thing that outsiders see, as well as the way organizers have chosen to identify themselves. If they want to talk about apartheid, weÂ shouldÂ talk about it. Moreover, the policies the week advocates are entirely counterproductive to the peace movement. If we want to create real peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, we need toÂ stopÂ blaming one side or the other and focus on ways we can collaborate. Stripping Israel of its economic growth and demonizing it internationally does none of this.
Finally, IAW does fan flames of anti-Semitism. Sam is right that there are anti-Semites who will hate Jews no matter what, but giving those “crazies” a voice in an international forum and aligning them with a group that Sam calls “intelligent, rational people” does indeed increase anti-Semitism.
I do not support Netanyahu’s policies and I am wholeheartedly against the occupation. I believe that Israelis’ and Palestinians’ top priorities need to be reconciliation, justice and peace with each other, and that a real effort toward that end needs to start as soon as possible. IAW, however, works against that end, and calling Israel an apartheid state is at best inaccurate and at worst dangerous to theÂ livesÂ of millions of people, both Israeli and Palestinian.
I welcome Sam’s response to this post.