Just like BDS, Israeli Apartheid Week has become a large part of the conversation about Israel on campuses across the country for many years. Similar to BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions), Israeli Apartheid Week is full of factually incorrect and misleading information.
Israeli Apartheid Week was brought to our campus at the same time as a large delegation of pro-Israel Ohio State students attended the AIPAC Policy Conference (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the largest pro-Israel conference all year.
By planning this week during a time in which so many pro-Israel students are not on campus, it effectively divides the narrative even further and ceases any further conversations. Not only does this week spread inaccurate information across the greater Ohio State and Columbus communities, it destroys the possibility for future dialogue.
One of the main inaccuracies of Israeli Apartheid Week lies in the name: Israel is not and never has been an apartheid state, and calling it such is disrespectful both to Israel and to victims of apartheid around the world.
One example of this is the “apartheid wall” that was built on campus on Tuesday, March 26. This was meant to represent the “apartheid wall” in Israel, which could not be further from the truth. What is commonly referred to as the “apartheid wall” in Jerusalem is, in actuality, a security barrier made up of 97 percent fence and just 3 percent actual wall.
Israeli Apartheid Week also refers to the supposed genocide of the Palestinian people in Israel, ignoring the fact that the Palestinian population grows by about 2.4 percent per year, 33 percent higher than the growth rate of the Israeli population.
Another issue with Israeli Apartheid Week is that it destroys any chance at dialogue, driving a wedge between those looking to have a conversation about Israel. By having events like an “apartheid wall” and inaccurate displays in the Union, apartheid week takes a hard-line stance on Israel, leaving no room for nuance or discussion. These events are loud, flashy, and divisive, and to bystanders, there is no evidence of another side to the discussion.
This not only alienates both sides of the conversation, creating animosity and barriers to cooperation, but also puts those who have not yet formed an opinion in a tough situation. Especially for students who have friends on both sides of the issue, they must immediately make a decision, and take a hard-line stance on a very nuanced issue.
By demonizing Israel in this way, Israeli Apartheid Week not only criticizes and attacks Israel, but also Ohio State students who support Israel. Creating a hard line, where there is a right and a wrong, a good and an evil, inherently portrays Israel and its supporters as wrong, demonizing pro-Israel students.
The timing of these events at Ohio State is also questionable at best. It was during the largest gathering of pro-Israel Americans all year, meaning that the majority of pro-Israel advocates on campus were not on campus for it. This effectively removes any possibility of dialogue, both between educated sources on both sides of the conflict, as well as presenting a false and inaccurate picture to those just beginning to learn about the intricacies of the issue.
By choosing one of the only weeks of the year when the pro-Israel community is not on campus, the organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week have shown that they have no intent to include pro-Israel voices in the conversation about Israel on campus. This is not the first example of this we have seen.
In past years, BDS debates have taken place on a wide range of Jewish holidays, including Passover and Purim, two of the most celebrated Jewish holidays. The timing of these events continually forces Jewish and pro-Israel students to choose between their faith and protecting their beliefs on campus, a choice that many members of other communities do not have to make.
In conclusion, as Israeli Apartheid Week becomes a part of the conversation about Israel on campus, we need to hold Ohio State students to higher standards. Israeli Apartheid Week is simply a way to demonize and delegitimize Israel on campus, and does nothing to further the nuanced discussions that need to happen.
Originally published in The Lantern.
Contributed by 2018-2019 Ohio State University CAMERA Fellow Sarah Disselkamp.