Monthly Archives: March 2015

Laurentian U Emet Students and Profs On IAW

March 31, 2015

This Letter-to-the-Editor (reproduced in full, below) was published originally in The Lambda, and written by Sidney Shapiro-  the CAMERA Liaison of the Emet for Israel group at Laurentian University, LUJSA. It was signed by: Sidney Shapiro, LUJSA President Kirk Unger, LUJSA VP Jordan Feldberg, LUJSA VP Emily Caruso Parnell, President, Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Dr. Jacques Abourih, Associate Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine Dr Sheldon Tobe, Full Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine Dr. Marion Briggs, Associate Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine Dr. Carita Lannér, Associate Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine

The Laurentian University Jewish Students Association strongly condemns Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) and the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on our campus and as a whole. Though IAW’s stated intent is to advocate for Palestinian human rights, their actions serve to demonize and delegitimize Israel.

First and foremost, the idea that Israel is an “apartheid state” is not grounded in reality. In Apartheid South Africa, South African citizens of colour were completely – excluded from the civil services afforded to whites by South African laws. Those marginalized did not Israeli_Apartheid_Week_2009_posterhave access to the same medical care, could not attend the same schools, visit the same beaches, or even use the same public restrooms. Needless to say, they also could not vote or run for public office.

Israel is a modern democracy that, under its Basic Laws, affords equal rights to all citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, et cetera. This includes Arab Israelis, who possess the exact same rights and privileges as Jewish Israelis. There is no legal distinction between the two. Arab Israelis can vote, can run for government, and are elected to the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), serve in the judiciary and on the Supreme Court, and participate in all aspects of public life. Since the state’s inception, Israeli Arab women have had full civil liberties in Israel, in contrast to some Arab countries, where women cannot legally vote, cannot run for public office, and, in at least one case, cannot even travel without male accompaniment.

The people living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank are not citizens of Israel and have their own elected governments. As such, the comparison of modern-day Israel to Apartheid-era South Africa lacks integrity – it either ignores what Israel is today, what South Africa was then, or perhaps both.

Beyond its factual ignorance, IAW further outrages us for its insincerity. Norman Finkelstein, a prominent critic of Israel, berated the BDS movement for its “disingenuousness”, saying its leaders “think they’re being very clever” for their “three-tier plan” which includes “the end of the occupation…the right of return…and equal rights for [Palestinians] in Israel”, knowing full-well that “the result of implementing all three is…no Israel.”
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Society cannot afford to accept that goal. Rather, we must strive for the peace that Israel has pursued endlessly for decades, and continues to do so.
Israel has twice attempted to help establish a Palestinian state, once in 2000 and again in 2008. In August 2005, Israel enacted a unilateral withdrawal plan from Gaza. Since January 24, 2009, there are no Israeli settlements or soldiers in Gaza. In 2006, Palestinians had the opportunity to elect a democratic government that would strive for peace with their neighbours; instead, they elected Hamas (which Canada and other democratic nations consider a terrorist organization), who immediately targeted rival Palestinian political party Fatah, and began encouraging other groups to carry out attacks against Israel.

IAW and the BDS movement are an impediment to real peace and meaningful dialogue. Their fight to delegitimize Israel precludes discussion, serving only to further divide the two sides and promote the agenda of the few. The Legislative Assembly of Ontario unanimously condemned IAW, and at the national level, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, and the NDP have all denounced it.

IAW’s efforts are not progressive, but are based on a dangerously distorted reality. Even as Zionists, we would never call Israel perfect. We believe that, like any nation, Israel does need to be held accountable. Accountability and progress is best made through diplomacy, not rhetoric. As a society, and as inquisitive students who deserve more than propaganda, we must do better than Israel Apartheid Week.

Signed, Sidney Shapiro, LUJSA President Kirk Unger, LUJSA VP Jordan Feldberg, LUJSA VP Emily Caruso Parnell, President, Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Dr. Jacques Abourih, Associate Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine Dr Sheldon Tobe, Full Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine Dr. Marion Briggs, Associate Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine Dr. Carita Lannér, Associate Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine

U Mich CAMERA Fellow Presents: Noam Bedein on Sderot

March 30, 2015

University of Michigan CAMERA Fellow Lindsay Hurwitz hosted Noam Bedein on campus to speak about Israelis living under Hamas rocket fire. A reporter for the university paper, the Michigan Daily, attended the lecture and published an article about the presentation! The article is reproduced in full below.

Israeli speaker highlights fear in border city Sderot

By LARA MOEHLMAN, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 12, 2015

If you were given 15 seconds to seek shelter from an approaching rocket, what would you do?

For Israelis living in Sderot, a city near the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip, this question is not a hypothetical one.

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Noam Bedein, director of the Sderot Media Center on the border of Gaza in Sderot, Israel, presents Israeli children’s drawings about the realities of living under constant rocket fire during a talk at the Michigan Union Thursday. Photo by Andrew Cohen, Michigan Daily

Noam Bedein, a native Israeli photographer, is the director of the Sderot Media Center, a nonprofit media advocacy center dedicated to spreading the individual voices of Sderot to the international media and public. His presentation “What could YOU do in 15 seconds?” on Thursday evening drew roughly 30 people to the Michigan Union.

Last October marked Sderot’s 15th year under Qassam rocket fire from Hamas. Bedein said that since August of 2005 — when Israel gave up the Gaza strip territory — more than 24,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel.

Bedein focused on the normalizing effect that the constant threat of rockets has had on Israeli societies such as Sderot.

“I came to this town to become a student, not knowing too much about this rocket reality,” Bedein said. “I noticed how there’s no public office, government office or press center to speak out for the residents. I’ve established the Sderot Media Center to try becoming a voice and face of the region, pursuing this ongoing rocket reality, which somehow became acceptable.”

In a photograph he shared with the audience, a playground in Sderot featured a bomb shelter that was painted to appear like a caterpillar.

“For me the sum of this entire presentation in one photograph … this is it… when you picture a playground and a bomb shelter in one photograph. What other country in the world has a bomb shelter right next to a playground?” Bedein asked.

In a video clip he showed the audience, kindergarten students were seen playing outside when sirens went off. The students immediately ran inside to the nearest bomb shelter and began counting down. At the end of the countdown they sang a song. Bedein explained that the children are taught to sing the song to distract them from the sound of explosions hitting Sderot.

Bedein, who dedicates much of his time to interviewing and photographing those affected by the threat of rocket attacks, told the audience that virtually everyone living in the western Negev region of Israel has his or her own unique story about an experience with a rocket explosion.

Bedein also discussed the effect of media bias on the issue of coverage in Israel. He said many people know about the humanitarian issues in Gaza but not of those in Sderot or neighboring Israeli communities.

Due to Israel’s missile defense system, Bedein said recent conflict has produced unbalanced fatalities — 72 Israeli deaths compared to the over 2,000 deaths of civilians in the Gaza strip.

Since last summer, members of the University student group Students Allied for Freedom and Equality held candlelight vigils in response to the violence. The University’s chapter of J Street, a national organization advocating for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, also held a vigil in September.

Siren systems implemented in Israeli cities warn residents of approaching rockets roughly 15 seconds before they hit the ground. Israel has also provided extensive funding to at-risk communities for bomb shelters, minimizing rocket fatalities as a result.

At the end of his presentation, Bedein shared with the audience several drawings from elementary school students in Israel who are under the threat of rockets. Many of them were addressed to children living in Gaza, asking for peace and showing support for children their own age who are under the threat of violence as a result of the conflict as well.

LSA freshman Rachel Byrd said she had knew about the situation in Sderot, but found the presentation was still eye opening.

“Those videos were pretty powerful, to see how normalized rocket fire has become in Israel and how little I knew,” Byrd said. “(The presentation) definitely made me want to look into different resources or different news outlets because I’ve definitely been getting different information than what I heard today.”

LSA sophomore Ben Siegel was especially affected by the drawings Israeli children had made for Palestinian children.

“What stood out to me the most would probably be that even through all these kids are going through, they still have this good sentiment towards Palestinians and they want peace even though they’re constantly under pressure,” he said.

The Israeli Genocide Myth

March 27, 2015

This piece was contributed by our Emet for Israel Liaison at the University of Windsor, Trevor Sher. It is a follow up to this piece, and was originally published in the Times of Israel. It is reproduced in full below. Trevor-Sher1-medium

In the first part of this article I discussed the myth spread by Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) and its supporters that Israel is an apartheid state, and how the situation in Israel – a liberal democracy which provides equal rights to all of its citizens – is incomparable to apartheid. In this second part I will deconstruct the other big myth spread by IAW’s supporters: the idea that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.  The word ‘genocide’ was actually coined in 1944 by Polish attorney Raphael Lemkin to describe the atrocities of the Nazi regime against the Jewish people during the Holocaust. In a span of four years, the Nazis managed to murder six million Jews – more than a third of the world’s Jewish population at the time – in addition to five million gypsies, homosexuals, communists, holo
and people with physical and mental disabilities.  Other well-known genocidal events in recent history include the Armenian Genocide, in which 1.5 million Armenians were murdered at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey during WWI, and the Rwandan Genocide, in which 800,000 Tutsi were murdered in a span of three months.  These travesties were targeted murders of specific groups of people for the express purpose of wiping these groups off the face of the earth, falling in line with the UN’s current definition.

Israel’s self-defensive actions, on the other hand, clearly do not fall under the UN’s definition of genocide or any other reasonable definition.  The Arab-Israel conflict has spanned nearly 100 years and has resulted in terrible casualties on both sides.  The Arab side of the conflict includes not only the Palestinians, but also Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and a number of other Middle-Eastern countries that have at various points waged war against Israel.  Every war in which Israel has been involved has been the result of either Israel being attacked (e.g. the 1948 War, the 1973 War, all three Gaza wars) or Israel preemptively defending itself from an impending attack (i.e. the 1967 War).  Israel’s sole intent in all of these wars has been to ensure its own survival, not to eliminate Arabs or Palestinians as a group. This is reinforced by Israel’s efforts to establish peace with its neighbors, which resulted in the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in 1979 and the Israel-Jordan peace treaty in 1994.

Israel has made numerous attempts to establish peace with the Palestinians, including three comprehensive offers for Palestinian statehood in the past two decades – all of which were rejected by Palestinian leaders – and the complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.  These peace attempts were made in spite of ongoing terrorism against Israel, including suicide bombings, shootings, firebombings, and rocket attacks.

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A Jews Against Genocide protest outside the Knesset in 2014

Israel also takes great care to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties.  Despite Hamas having launched over 14,000 rockets into Israel since the Gaza withdrawal, Israel has avoided engaging in conflict except during extenuating circumstances. Even during these periods of war, Israel still provided electricity, water, medical treatment, and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.  As well, there is no army in the world that undertakes as much effort as Israel to warn civilians of pending air strikes through actions such as dropping leaflets, making phone calls, sending text messages, and dropping warning shells. Despite Hamas illegally launching attacks from schools, homes, and hospitals and forcing civilians to stay in targeted buildings, Israel has managed to maintain a substantially lower civilian casualty ratio (ratio of civilians killed to terrorists killed) than the world average, and certainly much lower than the United States’ and Britain’s civilian casualty ratios during the recent war in Afghanistan.  As the former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan Colonel Kemp testified at the UN in October 2009,

The Israel Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.  Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.

These are decidedly not the actions of a country intent on Palestinian genocide. While Israel’s military strategy can certainly be criticized, it would require an astonishing degree of deliberate ignorance to dismiss the facts that Israel has made numerous efforts at establishing peace, that it only uses military intervention defensively, and that it takes great care to minimize casualties.  Israel faces more and graver threats to its existence than any other developed country in the world, and the claim that Israel’s legitimate defensive actions amount to genocide raises alarming questions about either the claimant’s understanding of the history of the Arab-Israel conflict or their underlying intentions in making the claim.

As a subset of the genocide myth, many anti-Israel activists make the egregious claim that Israel’s actions are similar to those of the Nazis during WWII.  The comparison of the Jewish state’s self-defensive actions to the Nazi regime’s barbarism is patently and unequivocally false, but it’s also something that people are apparently willing to believe. I have heard people say that Israel is systematically murdering the Palestinians the way Hitler systematically murdered the Jews, despite the fact that the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank has more than quadrupled in the past 50 years. I have heard people compare Gaza to a concentration camp, despite the fact that Gaza is under an embargo that is legal under international law and that will cease as soon as Hamas foregoes its mandate to destroy Israel and kill Jews. In Auschwitz, hundreds of thousands of Jews died from starvation. In Gaza, senior Hamas official Khalil Hamada reported in 2010 that “there is no starvation in Gaza. No one has died of hunger.”

It may be that some people find something darkly poetic in the idea that the Jews, who suffered one of the most horrible tragedies in history, are now inflicting that same horror against someone else.  But Nietzscheism aside, it takes only a modicum of scrutiny (if that) to understand that the comparison of today’s Jewish state to yesterday’s Nazi regime is not only false, but also a targeted political strategy – and a disgustingly anti-Semitic one at that – which is being exploited in order to turn the Jewish people’s saddest and most horrifying moment in history against them.

Noam Bedein: Life in a War Zone

March 26, 2015

On February 23rd, CAMERA Fellow Kailee Jordan hosted Sderot-based journalist Noam Bedein to SFSU to discuss life under constant Hamas rocket fire.

In hosting the event, Kailee said that she wanted people on campus to catch a glimpse of a tangible and realistic experience in Israel, as well as how strong the Israeli citizens must be in order to survive and even prosper, despite the fear of rocket fire every day. Understanding the effects of living under fire is crucial to understanding Israel’s situation as a whole, and is therefore important to acknowledge when educating others about Israeli society.

NoamSFSU1One particularly touching aspect of Noam’s presentation, according to Kailee, were the videos of and drawings by young Israeli children who are forced to run with their families to bomb shelters. Many of them display symptoms of trauma, induced by frequent warning alarms which mean that a rocket is about to fall somewhere in the civilian area.

Despite having difficulty with the school administration, which had been reluctant to allow Kailee to use a university space for the event on the grounds that the event was “controversial,” Noam’s talk drew 30 students and fostered a robust discussion about Hamas and IDF policies.

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GWU President on Swastika Incident

March 25, 2015

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Earlier this month, students at George Washington University found and reported a swastika posted at the International House at George Washington University. This latest act of “swastika-tagging” at GW comes after several other such incidents were reported in February.

GWU’s president, Steven Knapp, issued a public statement regarding the most recent of the swastikas:

March 16, 2015

All of us were shocked several weeks ago by the discovery of swastikas in International House. With the help of GW Hillel’s executive director, Rabbi Yoni Kaiser-Blueth, and leaders of Jewish student organizations, the university has offered support and reassurance to students affected by this abhorrent act. Meanwhile, officers who have received anti-bias training have worked with our Office of Diversity and Inclusion in investigating the incident.

In light of that event, we were dismayed to discover this morning a new posting of a swastika, once again in International House, on the bulletin board of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. When the university learned this morning about the swastika’s presence, officers of the University Police Department responded immediately, both removing the swastika and launching a new investigation, which now includes the Metropolitan Police Department.Knapp_460x260

A member of Zeta Beta Tau has now admitted posting the swastika, which he says he acquired while traveling in India over Spring Break. While the student claims his act was not an expression of hatred, the university is referring the matter to the MPD for review by its Hate Crimes Unit. At the same time, information we have developed through our investigation of the swastikas discovered several weeks ago has led us to conclude that that incident should also be referred to the Hate Crimes Unit.

Since its adoption nearly a century ago as the symbol of the Nazi Party, the swastika has acquired an intrinsically anti-Semitic meaning, and therefore the act of posting it in a university residence hall is utterly unacceptable. Our entire community should be aware of the swastika’s association with genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people and should be concerned about the extremely harmful effects that displaying this symbol has on individuals and on the climate of our entire university community. The university will embark on a program of education to ensure that all members of our community understand the damage that symbols of hatred do to us all.

The George Washington University has a deep commitment to principles of inclusion, consistent with our namesake’s affirmation of religious freedom when he wrote in his letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island that the government of the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction.” We must work together to guarantee that all our students are safe from expressions of bigotry and hatred.

In March, several concerned organizations, including CAMERA, signed an AMCHA Initiative letter to Mr. Knapp, asking him to take a more aggressive stance toward anti-Semitism on his campus:

“In the last year, more than 10 college and university campuses around the country have been defaced with swastikas, in each case causing particular distress to Jewish students.

“Therefore, we believe it is imperative for you to take the following steps to deter future acts of anti-Jewish bigotry and help protect Jewish students and all students on your campus:

“Publicly acknowledge that a swastika is an anti-Semitic symbol associated with genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people, and that the swastikas found inside the International House were particularly upsetting to Jewish students on your campus, who felt targeted for hatred and discrimination.”

Achy Breaky Heart at UCLA

March 24, 2015

This piece was contributed by Arielle Yael Mokhtardazeh, a student in the Emet for Israel group at UCLA, Bruins for Israel. 

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On Thursday, February 19th, 2015, Bruins for Israel and GlobeMed at UCLA hosted our fourth annual fundraiser, Achy Breaky Heart. This Valentine’s Day themed event was organized to raise funds and awareness for two unbelievably worthy causes. The first of the two is Israel-based humanitarian organization Save a Child’s Heart. Founded in 1996, Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) aims to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children in developing countries who suffer from heart disease and do not have access to proper medical care in their home countries. Simultaneously, SACH is working to create pediatric cardiac centers in these countries, so that one day, these children and others like them will be able to be treated in their home countries. Since its creation, over 3400 children from over 46 countries have benefited from the work that SACH does.

The second cause is Mpoma Community HIV/Aids Initiative, which was founded in 1999. It has since developed into a major force in the community, developing programs focused on education, food security, health, livelihoods, and orphan care. In 2002, the Initiative founded a primary school providing youth in Mpoma with access to education and a safe environment for them to learn and prosper.

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We had over 150 students in attendance and were able to raise over $2,000 for these two fantastic organizations. The night consisted of carnival games, food, coffee, a raffle, and a date auction. Booths were set up to explain the missions of each of the benefiting organizations and to promote each of our student groups.

Since the event, we have gotten very positive feedback. This was the best of our four Achy Breakys, and enabled two groups of students to unite for a common cause. GlobeMed at UCLA and Bruins for Israel now have a fantastic relationship and look forward to working together in the future.

The event was covered by the Daily Bruin and UCLA’s Jewish News Magazine Ha’am.


 

Campus Director Quoted in JPost

March 23, 2015

Last week, our International Campus Director, Aviva Slomich, was quoted in a Jerusalem Post article about Hillel President Eric Fingerhut’s announcement that he would not speak at the annual J Street Conference.

Check out Aviva’s excerpt below, and read the full article here.

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Divestment Loses at Northeastern University

March 20, 2015

On Monday, March 16, students piled into Northeastern University’s Hillel to meet and discuss the upcoming BDS vote in NU’s student government. The meeting opened with the director of Hillel, Arinne Braverman, offering words of encouragement for the outcome of the vote. Students, as well as community professionals from CAMERA, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Anti-Defamation League, the David Project, and StandWithUs, spoke out against the BDS referendum, talking to students about the dangers and true goals of the boycott, divest, and sanction movement across the US. The President of Huskies for Israel, Elizabeth Levi, spoke about her desire to unite the student population at NU to create a dialogue and work together towards peace.

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Students listening to positive encouragement from their chosen senator who spoke out against Divestment at the closed hearing

The referendum desired to divest from companies that operate in the disputed territories in Judea and Samaria. Nine senators voted in favor of the resolution, and 25 opposed it, with 14 abstentions. The vote and hearing was closed to the public due to fire code regulations, but two senators spoke out against the bill that would, as many students at Hillel and in communities across the country understand, divide the student body in an environment where dialogue of all kind should be welcome and encouraged.

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Students at Northeastern Hillel gather for a strong support of Israel on campus

 

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Students hear from a Catholic student senator concerning the integral relationship between Haifa, Israel and Boston, MA

The strong response to thwart divestment at universities is a celebration in the recent months of schools such as UC Davis and Northwestern University passing anti-Israel legislation through their student governments. NU Hillel released a statement citing that “the outcome of the vote is welcome news to our Jewish student leaders, who feel justifiably proud of all the hard work they have put into lobbying, advocacy, educational efforts, strategy sessions, late night communications, and social media efforts. I particularly wish to recognize the student senators who advocated for this resolution’s defeat tonight, including yielding time to other senators so that the points that were so effective in persuading their peers that this would be harmful for our campus community could be made.”

Divest from the PA Campaign at UNO

March 19, 2015

Our Emet for Israel group at the University of New Orleans, Allies of Israel, has launched a petition and poster campaign to tell students about corruption in the Palestinian Authority.

Chloe Valdary, the president of the organization and a consultant for CAMERA, posted on her Facebook about the campaign on the 17th of March:

Today was both mindblowing, awesome, and inspiring. It’s one thing to say we collected over 80 signatures from students at the University of New Orleans in all walks of life who signed agreeing that we should divest from the Palestinian Authority. It’s quite another to say that one student who WAS PALESTINIAN agreed so much with our premise he stayed with me for 3 HOURS to help me collect signatures.

That’s the power of people-to-people advocacy, baby.
‪#‎keepgoing‬

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An example of the posters that Allies for Israel is posting around campus at UNO

An article in a Louisiana-based paper, The Hayride, covered the story:

Across American university campuses, the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign has been pushing universities to divest their holdings in Israeli companies, ban Israeli goods on campus, and have an academic boycott of Israel. The movement has had varying degrees of success.

But at UNO, some pro-Israel students decided to turn the tables on the BDS crowd. They’re organizing an on-campus petition drive against the Palestinian Authority.

Breitbart recently covered the story as well, interviewing Chloe. The full piece is reproduced below.

Signs of a new twist on the divestment phenomenon have recently been popping up on the campus of the University of New Orleans. Unlike the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign that began infiltrating college campuses nearly a decade ago, this divestment campaign targets the Palestinian Authority.

Started by Allies of Israel, a self-described “grass roots college organization dedicated to the promotion of the Jewish state of Israel as a sovereign nation,” this campaign asks students to sign a petition that states:

“To raise awareness about the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Palestinian Authority against the Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank; to call for accountability in the foreign aid given to the Palestinian Authority and ensure it is not used to persecute Palestinians or Israelis.”

Campaign organizer and student activist Chloe Valdary released a statement to the Salomon Center:

In order to give expression to the Jewish struggle for freedom, my organization, Allies of Israel, has launched a campaign to symbolically divest from the Palestinian Authority. Because we understand many Palestinians are employed by the P.A., we do not wish to literally pull off the shelves products which are produced by the PA. However, we do seek to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters who are imprisoned and persecuted by the P.A. This includes Palestinian women, gays, religious minorities and political dissidents. In addition, we stand in solidarity with Jews in Israel and around the world and call upon the P.A. to cease sponsoring, financing, and/or encouraging the lynching of Jews and the segregation of Jews from areas that are currently off limits to Jews in Israel.

The “DIVEST FROM THE P.A.” petition drive, currently a two-day event, March 17-18, is under consideration for taking the campaign online to expand awareness and draw attention to the persecution of Palestinians and Israelis by the Palestinian government, focusing on the human rights abuses perpetrated against women, gays and religious minorities.

Our New Emet Group Publishes: The Apartheid Myth

March 18, 2015

This piece was contributed by our Emet for Israel Liaison at the University of Windsor, Trevor Sher. It was originally published in the Times of Israel, and is reproduced in full below. 

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As Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) sweeps university campuses across Canada, well-intentioned students who want to make a positive difference in the world are led astray by the political machinations of the anti-Israel movement. IAW promotes itself as a campaign for Palestinian rights, but its real goal is to harm Israel through the spread of disinformation and the encouragement of enmity towards the Jewish state. How many other countries in the world suffer through a dedicated week, or for that matter even a dedicated day, of targeted and disproportionate condemnation? How many other countries in the world suffer through patently false accusations of some of the worst atrocities known to mankind by groups whose sole purpose is to perpetuate these false accusations?

Two of the most egregious lies spread by IAW and its supporters are that Israel is an apartheid state and that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people. In this two-part article I will deconstruct each of these myths, beginning here with the myth of Israeli apartheid.

“Apartheid” refers to the legally-entrenched system of racial segregation in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. Implemented by the minority population of white European colonists, apartheid laws denied fundamental rights from the indigenous people of colour and subjected them to severe discrimination. Despite being a majority population, black people under apartheid did not have freedom of movement, speech, or assembly, could not vote, could only live in designated areas, and had to use separate amenities from the white population. Those who non-violently protested the regime were often subject to imprisonment or even death.

The situation in Israel is incomparable to the horrors of apartheid. Israel is the only true liberal democracy in the Middle East and the only country in the region that ensures equal rights for women, members of the LGBT community, and religious and ethnic minorities. Its legal system upholds equality, universal suffrage, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom from discrimination for all of its citizens, including the 1.7 million Arabs who make up a fifth of Israel’s population. Many Israeli Arabs serve in high-ranking positions in the government, military, and judiciary, and Arab politicians are often the government’s harshest critics. Arabs in Israel have more freedom, higher standards of living, and higher rates of education than in any other country in the Middle East. As well, contrary to Western stereotype, Jews are not categorically “white” and “European” – the Jewish diaspora stretches across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and more than half of Israel’s Jewish population is descended from these areas. The Jewish people are indigenous to the land of Israel and have had a continuous presence there for at least 3000 years.

Image by Philippe Assouline. Taken from the blog post: http://www.israellycool.com/2014/01/09/israel-palestine-whos-indigenous/

Image by Philippe Assouline. Taken from the blog post: http://www.israellycool.com/2014/01/09/israel-palestine-whos-indigenous/

The people in the Palestinian territories are governed by Palestinians: Gaza is governed by the terrorist group Hamas, and the West Bank is governed by the Palestinian Authority. These two governments have deprived their own people of many fundamental civil rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and equality rights for women and gays. Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank cannot criticize their governments or speak favourably about Israel without fear of imprisonment, and journalists in these areas who seek to do either are frequently threatened and silenced. Women and non-Muslim Palestinians are oppressed, and gays face imprisonment, torture, or hanging. Israel, which has no presence in Gaza and only a limited presence in the West Bank, has nothing to do with the denial of these rights – the blame falls squarely on Palestinian leaders.

Israel has tried on numerous occasions to establish peace with the Palestinians and end the conflict. In 2000, 2001, and 2008, Israel made increasingly accommodating peace offers to establish a sovereign Palestinian state in all of Gaza and nearly all of the West Bank, with a capital in East Jerusalem and a $30 billion fund to compensate Palestinian refugees. In return, Israel asked that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and cease hostilities against it. Palestinian leaders rejected all three offers for statehood. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in an effort to move towards peace; since then, the terrorist group Hamas has taken over Gaza and has launched over 14,000 rockets at Israeli civilians. The rejection of peace by Palestinian leadership and the continuing terrorism against Israel are the primary barriers to peace and are the reasons for Israel’s continued presence in the West Bank. Measures such as checkpoints and the security fence are not intended to create separation by race or religion – they are security measures intended to prevent terrorists from murdering innocent Israeli civilians. Above illustration is by Sarah Lazarovic of Tablet Magazine

Israel’s pluralistic and democratic society, its provision of equal rights to all of its citizens, and its good faith attempts to give Palestinians sovereign statehood and definitively disproves the apartheid myth. Of course, Israel is not a perfect country, and discrimination and unfairness exist there just as they exist in Canada, the United States, and every other country in the world.  For example, Arabs in Israel are substantially overrepresented in the lowest quintile of household income, are underrepresented in the government, and have both lower life expectancies and higher mortality rates than the Jewish population.  These are legitimate and pressing concerns, and Israel should rightly be criticized for these and other issues which reflect the gap between equality at law and substantive equality.  However, the labelling of Israel as an apartheid state is plainly inaccurate and crosses the line from legitimate criticism to outright slander. By making the false and egregious claim of Israeli apartheid, IAW engages in disproportionate condemnation of Israel, which raises red flags about anti-Semitism and, at the very least, seriously calls the campaign’s alleged “social justice” motives into question.  Not only is the apartheid myth offensive to Israelis and world Jewry, but it also demeans the suffering of the South Africans of colour who endured actual apartheid.