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March 8, 2013

Anti-Israel Activity Reached Fever Pitch This Week

Anti-Israel activists took a multi-faceted approach to attacking Israel in the public sphere this week. In the span of 7 days, divestment resolutions were considered at three college campuses, ten anti-Israel billboards were put up in Atlanta, over 30 college campuses hosted Israeli Apartheid Week programs and two daylong BDS conferences were scheduled.

These initiatives are formally or informally part of a global effort to advance the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. They demonstrate the anti-Israel movement’s commitment to employing multiple tactics and campaigns to attract support for its positions.

A flyer advertising the first public discussion on the divestment resolution at UCSD

Here’s a closer look at what’s taken place this week:

  • Campus Divestment Resolutions: Student governments at Stanford University, the University of California (UC), Riverside, and UC San Diego considered divestment resolutions targeting multinational companies that work with Israel like Caterpillar, General Electric and Northrup Grumman. The results were mixed: the resolution at Stanford was voted down; UC San Diego did not vote on its resolution (after a discussion that lasted until 2am) and will resume discussing it next week, while UC Riverside passed its resolution in a stealth manner reminiscent of the recent resolution at UC Irvine. The divestment resolution at Riverside was introduced without advance notice and seems to be part of an effort to ensure that pro-Israel students are left in the dark and are therefore not present at the public discussion to voice their perspective and advocate against the bill.
  • Israeli Apartheid Week: At least 35 college campuses in the U.S. are participating in IAW this year, the ninth consecutive year that the program has been held in cities around the world. Most of the events in the U.S. were formally scheduled to take place March 4-8 but some are stretching into next week as well (due to various university-related scheduling conflicts). IAW events this year have primarily included anti-Israel speakers, mock “apartheid walls” and checkpoint displays on campus, and screenings of two critical of Israel films,  the Oscar award-nominated “5 Broken Cameras” and a more extreme film called “Roadmap to Apartheid.” “Roadmap to Apartheid” is narrated by The Color Purple author Alice Walker and analogizes Palestinian refugees to Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto and partially condones terrorism as a “symptom” of the conflict.
  • BDS Conferences: This past Saturday the University of Texas, Austin, hosted a daylong “BDS Conference” that featured extreme speeches by Nada Elia, a faculty member at Antioch University in Seattle, and Sherry Wolf, a Jewish socialist and activist. Elia avowed that she would not reject Palestinian extremism because Palestinians “have a right to resist” and compared Israelis to American slave-owners. Wolf used the platform to claim that the notion that Israel is the Jewish people’s homeland is “bulls–t” and accused Israel of “terrorism” and institutionalized racism against the Palestinians. She further described Zionist Jews as “white supremacist racist[s].” On Saturday, March 9, a similar conference will take place on the Auraria campus in Denver. Participants will “learn about the history of both Palestine and the global BDS movement, hear what coalition groups are working on, and participate in BDS and coalition-building training,” according to the event flier.
  • Anti-Israel Billboards: The Council for the National Interest, an anti-U.S. aid to Israel group based in DC, recently started a campaign called “Stop the Blank Check to Israel” which hopes to place billboards in cities across the country. Ten such ads, which read, “$8 Million a day to Israel just doesn’t make sense! STOP The Blank Check.org,” have recently been erected in Atlanta. Ads with similar messages have appeared in the past year in Den­ver, Detroit, Los Ange­les, Chapel Hill and New York.

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March 5, 2012

A Round-Up of Israeli Apartheid Week Events

With Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) drawing to a close in cities around the United States, here is a sampling of what took place on college campuses and elsewhere this past week:
  • Brandeis University: Ali Abunimah delivered a talk in which he discussed his support for a one-state solution and described Israel as a “sectarian government.” Abunimah was quoted saying: “The claim that Israel should be a Jewish state can be asserted, not defended—not legally, politically or ethically…Israel has reached a moral, political and ethical dead-end. The notion that Israel can be both Jewish and democratic violates the rights of Palestinians, which is fine if you don’t see Palestinians as humans, but, if you do, it is wrong.” He also offensively compared the Holocaust to the “Nakba,” a term Palestinians use to describe the 1948 War of Independence and the establishment of the state of Israel. He said, “We must condemn Nakba denial as strongly as we must condemn Holocaust denial.”
  • George Washington University: Members of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter tried to disrupt an event organized by GW’s pro-Israel organization MEOR. The event hosted a former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier, Sergeant Benjamin Anthony.
  • Columbia University: Members of SJP staged a “house demolition act” that was intended to mimic Israel’s demolition of illegal Palestinian homes. One of the activists argued that these demolitions are made possible by U.S. tax dollars and Columbia University’s investments, which fund “special Caterpillar bulldozers for Israel to demolish Palestinian homes.”
  • New York City: Approximately 100 members of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) gathered in the lobby of the LGBT Center to protest the Center’s decision not to host events related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [In March 2011, the Center had decided not to host an IAW event.] Protesters held signs that read “Stop Pinkwashing Israeli Apartheid” and “End Israeli Apartheid,” and accused the center of “succumbing to the outspoken in power” and “betray[ing] its historic mission.” After an hour indoors, the protest moved outside to the sidewalk.

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February 29, 2012

Mock “Apartheid” Wall Kicks off Palestine Awareness Week at UCLA

Monday, February 27, marked the start of Palestine Awareness Week at the University of California – Los Angeles. The weeklong event, timed to coincide with the Israeli Apartheid Week is sponsored by the university’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the primary organizer of anti-Israel activity on campus.

A large outdoor “apartheid wall” containing extreme anti-Israel imagery and text has been erected at the university’s central public gathering space, Bruin Plaza.Texts on the panels include accusations that Israel is an apartheid state that persecutes and deprives Palestinians of their fundamental rights.

“Apartheid Wall” at UCLA

There are also Holocaust analogies comparing the Nazi ghettos of Europe with conditions facing Palestinians in Gaza. Comparisons to the Holocaust are displayed under the banner of “Never Again? History Repeats Itself.” The panels also feature statistics and “facts” portraying a skewed and inaccurate image of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The “apartheid wall” has also been displayed at a public area across the Student Activities Center in Wilson Plaza in order to more broadly reach the student public.

In addition to the “apartheid wall,” SJP members gathered Tuesday evening to denounce Israel with delegitimizing slogans like “Israel is a terrorist state.” Other events scheduled for Palestine Awareness Week include a one-state solution lecture by UCLA professor Sari Madison and a panel on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

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