Every year in the diaspora anti-Israel activists on university campuses globally unite to host ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’. Concerningly, as opposed to promoting any productive (let alone constructive) solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, it instead fosters an unpragmatic approach, cultivating a hostile environment for many Jewish and Israeli students.

Exacerbating the potential for peace is done so effectively by one notable campaign at the forefront of ‘Apartheid Week’: ‘BDS’ (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions). A self-proclaimed ‘movement for freedom and equality’, BDS purports to be modelled on the measures taken against Apartheid South Africa in the late 20th century. Nevertheless, behind the façade of a ‘just’ social cause endeavouring on political change, in reality, the movement is rooted in antisemitism.

In the last century, one way in which antisemitism has manifested itself is through boycotts, namely boycotts of ‘Jewish goods’ and that of ‘Zionist goods’. Similar to the ‘Don’t Buy’[from the Jewish State] stickers found plastered on some Israeli produce in the diaspora, it is concerningly reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s ‘Don’t buy from Jews’ slogan. Significantly, it is on this basis that in 2019 the Germany Parliament passed a legislature renouncing BDS as evocative of the most “terrible chapter in German history”. Simultaneous to Nazi Europe boycotts, the same permeated the Arab world too: in 1933, the Palestinian Arab Executive Committee, headed by Nazi collaborator Haj Amin al-Husseini, enforced boycotts against Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine. In December 1945, the Arab League organised the Arab Economic Boycott of Jewish (‘Zionist’) goods and industry.

It accordingly raises the question of whether BDS is simply another manifestation of this historic trend, and with this casts doubt on the moral integrity of the ‘social movement’, being merely another instrument for antisemitic boycotts.

Indeed, the very act of singling out Israel as the ‘perpetrator of the world’s worst iniquities’, to the extent that a week every academic year is dedicated to highlighting the illegitimacy of Israel, does render one’s moral compass – if present at all – highly questionable.

UK university Palestine societies have arguably exacerbated this issue by inviting overtly anti-Israel speakers onto campuses. Notably this year, King’s College London’s Palestine Society hosted, along with 19 other Pal Socs nationwide, the leader of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti. Concerningly, Barghouti, despite having studied at Tel Aviv University, has accused Israel of (as expected) ‘apartheid’, ‘ethnic cleansing’, as well as ‘Nazi practices’. 

21 Palestine societies also co-hosted Mohammad El-Kurd for an ‘Israeli Apartheid Week event’. El-Kurd has compared Israelis to Nazis, negated the historic Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, and vilified Jews,  El-Kurd has used his social media platforms to spew gross and inflammatory statements, many of which employ traditional antisemitic rhetoric, notably the use of blood libel in May 2021, he tweeted that Zionists have an ‘unquenchable thirst for Palestinian blood’ and that Zionism is ‘blood thirsty’. Further, he has used Holocaust inversion, stating that Israel is guilty of ‘lynching’, ‘Kristallnachting’ and ‘gassing’ Palestinians.

Not only is the hosting of speakers such as Barghouti and El-Kurd at university campuses in itself deeply concerning, the holding of these events as a part of ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ certainly makes one question whether anti-Israel activism is under the guise of antisemitism, contrary to what such activists so firmly deny.

It goes without saying, it is these hostile environments tolerated by universities that neglect the safety and security of those Jewish and Israeli students, the vast majority of whom consider the Jewish State to be a part of their cultural, ethnic, and religious identity. Beyond this, it is ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’s zero-sum approach to the conflict, seemingly incompatible with any constructive dialogue that renders the event unsustainable and simply hateful.

This article was originally published in JNS.

Image Credit: Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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