From April 3rd to April 7th, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) hosted their annual “Palestine Liberation Week.” also known as “Israeli Apartheid Week”.
SJP is a campus group supported by the radical organization American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), an anti-Israel organization whose members regularly express support for Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization. AMP Executive Director Dr. Osama Abuirshaid had reportedly worked for the discontinued U.S.-based Hamas operatives, Islamic Association for Palestine, and the United Association for Studies and Research.
Each spring, the group leads a propaganda campaign on Bruin Walk, spreading misinformation about the Arab-Israeli conflict. This year, the events were held on the holiest days of the Jewish holiday of Passover, April 5th through April 7th. On these days, many practicing Jews go home for the holidays and cannot attend events that use electricity, such as a microphone or screen. SJP’s decision to host “Palestine Liberation Week” at the beginning of Passover effectively meant that Jewish students did not have an opportunity to counter their anti-Israel propaganda.
This year, UCLA SJP set up a mock “apartheid wall” containing attention-grabbing statistics and buzzwords on Bruin Walk. While SJP purports to advocate for Palestinian human rights, a closer examination of the claims on the mock “apartheid wall” reveals the group is more concerned with vilifying the State of Israel through falsehoods than advocating for Palestinians.
For example, the wall alleges Israel uses 80 percent of the water resources versus 17 percent for Palestinians. These statistics describe Israel’s Western Aquifer, whose springs are located outside the Green Line, within the State of Israel.
Before 1967, Palestinians in the then Jordanian-occupied West Bank had access to only 5% of the water from these wells. Since 1967, that number has increased to 17%. On the other hand, Jordan has not provided the West Bank with water since 1967, despite its legal obligation to do so.
Taher Nassereddin, Director General of the West Bank Water Department, has stated that:
“[Palestinian] consumption for domestic purposes has increased as a result of population growth and that there were no severe restrictions on drilling new wells for these purposes.”
Moreover, over 40 MCM of water is pumped within Israel and exported over the Green Line for Palestinian use in the West Bank.
Another claim on the “mock apartheid wall” is that the security barrier between Israel and the West Bank perpetuates an Israeli system of apartheid against the Palestinians.
The wall does not serve to promote segregation between Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, as SJP failed to note, the wall was established as a security measure in the aftermath of a bloody period of Palestinian unrest, called the second intifada–described by the poster as “predominantly nonviolent”–in which over 1,000 Israelis were killed by suicide bombings, shootings, and car rammings. The wall, which does not enclose the entire West Bank, has since significantly reduced illegal infiltrations and acts of terror against Israelis by 90%.
Moreover, the wall falsely claims that there is religious discrimination in Israel. Below a depiction of the Dome of the Rock, SJP writes: “Israeli restrictions make it difficult or impossible for Palestinian Christians and Muslims to worship freely.” Despite their claim, the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel guarantees religious freedom for all.
Israel fosters religious diversity and is one of the few countries in the Middle East where people of all religions can practice freely.
In fact, Jews are prohibited from freely entering their holiest site and are heavily restricted access to the Temple Mount to maintain religious order between the groups. Today, the Temple Mount and al-Aqsa mosque are controlled by the Jordanian Islamic Waqf, not the Israeli government.
The al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims, was built on top of the Temple Mount, the most sacred site in Judaism. In recent years, al-Aqsa has faced continuous desecration in the riots initiated by Hamas, and Jewish sites of worship, such as Joseph’s tomb, have been targets of Palestinian violence.
This Ramadan, Palestinian rioters barricaded themselves inside al-Aqsa with fireworks and weapons and disrupted peaceful prayer for many Palestinian Muslims. After the rioters refused to exit the mosque, Israeli police removed them to maintain peace and access for all people. In response, terrorists in Gaza fired rockets at the south of Israel, endangering hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians.
This follows a recent trend of increased violence around Ramadan, inspired by Hamas’s efforts to escalate Palestinian terrorism. Last year, Palestinian rioters used the Temple Mount as a base to hurl stones at Jewish worshippers at their adjacent holy site, the Western Wall.
The wall also mentions “Deadly Exchange,” an antisemitic conspiracy theory that blames the Jewish State for systemic anti-Black racism and police brutality in the U.S. The SJP “apartheid wall” accuses Israel of training American cops in “repressive police tactics and weaponry [that] are tested on Palestinians and deployed on Black people.” This defamatory allegation takes security training with the U.S.’s greatest ally in the Middle East out of context.
The Deadly Exchange refers to joint U.S.-Israel counterterrorism efforts such as the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) Homeland Security Program. The JINSA Homeland Security Program was launched in the aftermath of 9/11 to equip local law enforcement with the knowledge to address the growing threat of terrorism in the U.S.
There is no exchange of field training in these trips. Instead, American delegations attend conferences led by Israeli counterterrorism experts to learn how to deter and respond to terrorist attacks. Israeli officials present techniques such as post-blast forensics and suicide bomber ideology to reduce terrorist attacks on innocent civilians.
Given that Israel faces a daily spew of terrorist activities, the country has much to impart to the U.S., as domestic terrorism is rising, as seen in attacks like the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting.
The Deadly Exchange campaign presents no evidence to support its accusations.
However, the Deadly Exchange campaign does capitalize off of the Black Lives Matter Movement by conflating the everyday struggle of institutionalized racism in the U.S. with Israel. As such, it undermines movements for justice for Black people in the U.S. by shifting the blame from U.S. law enforcement to a foreign country.
Another example of biased reporting is the timeline of wars and peace treaties on the wall.
In 2005, Israel forcibly removed all Israelis from the Gaza Strip in an attempt toward peace with the Palestinians. Since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas has taken control of the region, using it as a base for terrorist activities against Israel, often initiating and instigating war by firing rockets into Israel. The Islamic Jihad and Hamas have initiated a war from Gaza.
Operation Protective Edge, described on the wall as an “8-day military offensive in Gaza by Israeli soldiers,” was triggered by the unceasing missile fire and the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens.
The operations listed were a targeted response to the increased threat of Hamas terrorism against Israeli civilians. Hamas strategically stores weaponry in residential areas, launching rockets toward Israel from schools, mosques, and hospitals. Such infrastructure placement deliberately puts Gazan residents in harm’s way. In May 2021 alone, over 4,000 rockets were fired into Israel. Even Human Rights Watch, an organization with a history of anti-Israel bias, acknowledges the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian terror groups as war crimes. These rockets have also fallen within Gaza, accounting for many Palestinian casualties.
Anti-Israel propaganda works against any honest dialogue. SJP chapters have a history of shutting down pro-Israel events. In the fall of 2022, the SJP chapter at UC Berkeley called on student clubs not to host Zionist speakers. Last Spring, at UChicago, the SJP urged students not to take Israel-related courses, calling them “SH*TTY ZIONIST CLASSES.”
According to an ADL report published in 2022, a strong correlation exists between the national rise in antisemitism and the proliferation of anti-Israel propaganda. The AMCHA Initiative, an antisemitism watchdog group, also drew this conclusion in their November 2022 study regarding college and university campuses. Much of the rhetoric on the “apartheid wall” demonizing the Jewish state is reminiscent of the propaganda campaign against Jewish people during Nazi Germany.
As CAMERA senior research analyst Ricki Hollander writes, “In short, they projected their own Nazi brand of evil onto the Jews to demonize them. And in vilifying Zionists and the Jewish state with the same brand of evil, modern-day anti-Zionists are doing much the same.”
The repercussions of anti-Israel misinformation are real and tangible. On U.S. campuses, such propaganda fuels hatred against Jewish students, making many feel unsafe and unwelcome. While it is essential to advocate for the welfare of all people, this can only be accomplished through honest conversations based on facts, not hate-mongering founded on deceit. It is time to expose those who, under the guise of justice, are, instead, an obstacle to peace.