Edited version first published in The Silhouette on March 15th 2012

The Israeli propaganda machine is in full swing as Israeli Apartheid Week rolls onto campuses across the globe. It has organized massive public relation campaigns, initiated events such as Israel Peace Week and has sent out delegations on speaking tours all over the world. Condemnations of IAW pour in from right-wing politicians and media outlets continue to brand IAW as a hate fest which is rooted in misinformation and anti-Semitism.

So, in the spirit of education, let’s get some facts straight here. A recent report by the United Nations concluded that Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories ‘exhibit features of colonialism and apartheid’. B’Tasleem, Israel’s leading human rights organization, published in its report Land Grab that Israel ‘has created a system of legally sanctioned separation based on discrimination that has, perhaps, no parallel any where in the world since the apartheid regime of South Africa’.

Furthermore, the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa conducted a study examining the legal applicability of apartheid crimes to Israel. It found that ‘Israel has introduced a system of apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories’. New York based Human Rights Watch documents Israel’s racist policies in its latest report Separate and Unequal. The Russell Tribunals on Palestine, which were held in Cape Town, South Africa, also found Israel guilty of apartheid crimes.

The greatest support for Palestinians has come from birthplace of apartheid itself. The earliest critics of Israel’s policies were anti-apartheid activists from South Africa who actually felt the Palestinian situation was far worse. This list includes Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, Fareed Esack and John Dugard.

Israel has maintained its belligerent occupation of Palestinian lands since 1967, which is in clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international law. It continues to confiscate land from Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and bulldozes their homes to make room for illegal Jewish-only settlements. It subjects settlers to Israeli civilian law while indigenous Palestinians in the same area are accountable to brutal military ones. It has effectively created cantons like the Bantustans of South Africa; Palestinian Arabs living in one area and Israeli Jews on the other – first world standards on one side and subhuman living conditions on the other.

Israel has connected Jewish settlements through a network of super highways on Palestinian land, yet these roads are off limits to the average Palestinian. It has taken control of water reserves and deprives Palestinians of the minimum requirements set by international standards. Check points have been setup throughout the West Bank severely restricting the freedom of movement; young IDF soldiers humiliate and debase Palestinians at these check points on a daily basis. All this is guised under the false pretext of ‘security’ – any resistance to the occupation is deemed as ‘terrorist activity’.

Condemnations from misinformed Zionist supporters is proof for the continual need for having Israeli Apartheid Week on campus; most people reading this article will also be shocked to read the facts mentioned here. As Israel, with unequivocal support from Canada and the US, continues to sugar coat its oppressive policies, the responsibility of raising awareness rests on activists, academics and human rights organization.

The charge of anti-Semitism against the organizers of IAW is preposterous. It represents nothing but a sleazy attempt to stifle the voice of those that dare to speak out against Israel. It is as absurd as a labeling the movement against South African apartheid ‘anti-white’ or ‘anti-Protestant’; or dismissing criticism of Saudi Arabia and Iran as ‘anti-Muslim’. This charge also ignores the reality that IAW has backing of prominent Jewish organizations such as Independent Jewish Voices and Jewish Voices for Peace. As an organizer of IAW, I know with certainty that anti-semitism has no tolerance amongst the IAW leadership, especially considering some are Jewish themselves.

I will, however, acknowledge that there is a small faction of people who mistakenly assume that Israel represents all Jews and its oppressive policies are sanctioned by the Jewish faith. Thus, these people wrongly direct their anger towards the Jewish people, as opposed to the State of Israel. This logic is unacceptable and part of IAW’s goal is to educate people so they can dissociate Judaism from the actions of the Zionist state. IAW organizers actually work to suppress anti-Semetic rhetoric on campus, instead of propagating it.

Apartheid is not an analogy; it is a crime against humanity as defined under international law. More and more legal scholars are issuing the guilty verdict against the State of Israel. These apartheid policies are a reality, not rhetoric and it’s about time people start calling it what it is. If you are offended by the term; then I encourage you to reconsider your stance on this issue. You don’t want to look back in history and realize you took the side of the oppressor.

Israeli Apartheid Week will continue to be commemorated on campuses across the globe as long as the Palestinians are not given the freedom, dignity and rights that all humans deserve.

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