Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an anti-Israel campaign hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine on college and university campuses that spreads falsehoods about the State of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The central claim of “Israeli Apartheid Week” is that Israel institutes apartheid against Palestinians and Arab citizens living within its borders. This is an outright lie.
Apartheid was a system of de jure discrimination and segregation in South Africa that was instituted from 1948-1994. During apartheid, a white minority ruled and oppressed a majority black population with housing, employment, and freedom of movement restrictions. This system was based on racial classifications.
No circumstances exist in Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza that constitutes apartheid against Israeli Arabs or Palestinians.
First and foremost, all citizens of Israel, whether they are Jewish, Arab, Christian, Druze, or identify with another ethnic group, have the same legal rights.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the country, affirms this:
“[The State of Israel]…will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture.”
Not only does Israel affirm this in principle, but it has also upheld its commitment to the best of its ability. Arab citizens serve as ambassadors, judges, legislators, journalists, professors, artists, political parties, and leadership roles in Israeli society.
Furthermore, Israel’s relationship with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is incomparable to apartheid. A report by Gilead Ini, a senior researcher at CAMERA, identifies the oversimplifications and falsehoods levied by B’Tselem, a self-declared human rights group with a history of anti-Israel bias.
In this report, Ini points out that most of B’Tselem’s report props up the claims of “apartheid” and “Jewish supremacy” on the rights of citizens versus non-citizens of Israel.
This is incredibly deceptive considering that while Palestinians living in Area A of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not citizens of Israel, they are citizens living under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas governments, respectively.
Any grievances about the civil rights of Palestinians should be directed toward these government officials, not Israel.
While it is true that Israel isn’t perfect and entirely free of discrimination, no country in the world is. It is not, however, an “apartheid state,” as Students for Justice in Palestine often claim.
Although their campaign lacks the substance to support their claim of “apartheid,” SJP chapters across the country, including those at Harvard, and UC Berkeley, host “Israeli Apartheid Week”, demonstrations and events hoping to convince college students to join their antisemitic cause.
This year, Palestine Solidarity Committee, a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at Harvard College, held numerous community events and even built a mock “apartheid wall” on campus.
PSC’s “apartheid wall” misrepresents the nature of the security barrier that exists along the borders of Israel and sections of the West Bank. This barrier, mostly a fence, was built to stop Palestinian terrorism against Israelis after thousands of Israelis were killed or injured in suicide bombings, stabbings, and shootings, not to separate people based on race or power.
A panel of their “apartheid wall,” seen in this screengrab of their official Instagram page, claims, “There is no Zionist state without racism, colonialism, and ethnic cleansing.”
The truth is that Zionism is the movement for the liberation of the Jewish people, and Israel, the country established by the leaders of that movement, is a democracy that, as I made clear from the onset of this article, grants rights to all citizens within its borders, including non-Jews.
Furthermore, Jews aren’t colonizers; Israel has always been our home. One cannot colonize their homeland, where their language, religion, and identity originate.
Jews have long sought peace, with multiple offers that would have avoided war entirely.
These Arab states began a war of aggression that resulted in the displacement of both Jews and Arabs. Where is SJP’s condemnation of the role of these Arab states in creating the Palestinian refugee crisis? Furthermore, why does SJP not mention the 800,000 Jews expelled from Arab and Muslim lands?
PSC’s apartheid wall also accuses Israel of “pinkwashing.” The ludicrous assertion that Israel’s status as a legal and social haven for the LGBTQ+ community is somehow disingenuous. This is a harmful canard that ignores the fact that Israel is the only truly safe place for the LGBTQ+ community in the Middle East where someone does not need to hide their sexual orientation for fear of facing persecution, jail time, or worse yet, the death penalty.
The promulgation of falsehoods isn’t limited to the Ivy League. In California, Jewish students face similar challenges with anti-Israel propaganda.
Bears for Palestine (BFP), an SJP affiliate at the University of California, Berkeley, also built a mock “apartheid wall” in the center of campus. They unsurprisingly featured many of the same falsehoods as the mock “apartheid wall” at Harvard.
BFP went further by sharing an Instagram post calling for people to “help us paint our own wall as a reclamation & a way to understand the call to Palestinian liberation.”
An examination of rhetoric from Palestinian leaders reveals that “reclamation” and “Palestinian liberation” are synonymous with calls for the elimination of the State of Israel and Palestinian terrorism.
For instance, Palestinian leaders have a documented history of using such rhetoric in their fiery, antisemitic speeches.
On March 9th, 2023, Palestinian Authority advisor Mahmoud Al-Habbash explained that “liberation” means eliminating the State of Israel, even if it must be done in stages.
Representative of the Fatah Women’s Commission Nufouz Al-Fara, another PA official called Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who orchestrated the murder of 37, including 12 children, the “best example” who sacrificed her life for the “liberation and establishing our Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem.”
It is incredibly concerning that BFP fails to disclose the true nature of “Palestinian liberation” and “reclamation” when it is rhetoric most often used to campaign for terrorism and the ethnic cleansing of Jews.
SJP at UC Davis encouraged attendees to support the “Palestinian liberation movement,” a campaign that whitewashes Palestinian terrorism and extremism that often includes calls for the elimination of the State of Israel and the murder of Israelis.
UC Davis SJP ended their weeklong “Israeli Apartheid Week” by discussing the so-called “ relationship between policing in America and Israeli military violence.” Often called the “Deadly Exchange” by anti-Israel groups, this campaign is built upon lies as joint training between Israeli and US police is centered on counter-terrorism, not policing.
We have established that the lies of “Israeli Apartheid Week” serve only one purpose only; to demonize the State of Israel and most Jews like me, that retain strong ties to their national homeland.
In 2021, CAMERA on Campus began a yearly campaign refuting the lies spread during “Israeli Apartheid” Week called ApartheidWeek Exposed. The campaign is built around a website with a virtual apartheid wall that addresses most, if not all, of the claims propagated by Students for Justice in Palestine during “Israeli Apartheid Week”.
This year, CAMERA on Campus’s campaign proved especially helpful. It was a privilege for BUZO (Binghamton University Zionist Organization) to support CAMERA on Campus’s campaign and to host social media activist and author Hen Mazzig as a part of the campaign. Hen spoke on strategies to help us best combat the falsehoods that college students might encounter on a campus with an active Students for Justice in Palestine chapter.
University administrators need to examine better the rhetoric and actions of Students for Justice in Palestine and hold them accountable when they cross the line into antisemitism. Until then, members of BUZO and I will continue to share the truth about Israel and refute SJP’s lies.
This article was first published in JNS.