This coming week marks the beginning of the annual farce of the global campaign to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state, as anti-Israel activists and student groups on campuses around the world hold events marking the eighth annual “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW).
According to organisers of IAW, the purpose of the movement is “to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns.”
First, attempts to brand Israel as an “apartheid” state or compare it to white South Africa are, at best, uninformed; at worst, they are maliciously dishonest and anti-Semitic.
As Muslim Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh says:
Israel is not an apartheid state… [it] is a free and open democratic country. The law of Israel does not distinguish between a Jew and an Arab… I would rather live as a second class citizen in Israel, even though I’m not, than a first class citizen in any Arab country.
Notably, those using IAW to demonize Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, are holding no such events for Syria, where Assad has already butchered 7,500 pro-democracy protesters.
Nor are they holding events to protest injustices in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Iran, China or Russia.
Why is Israel then the only country singled out for opprobrium?
During the IAW, people will hear all sorts of lofty humanitarian labels such as “justice”, “equal rights” and “peace”. But don’t be fooled. It is all a charade. They have no such interest. The sole purpose of the BDS Movement is the vilification, delegitimization, and destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.
Marwan Barghouti, one the founders of the BDS Movement (and, incidentally, a PhD student of ethics at Tel Aviv University), has described the “Right of Return” for Palestinian refugees as the “litmus test of morality for anyone suggesting a just and enduring solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
To put it a little more bluntly, he added: “I clearly do not buy into the two-state solution… [I]f the refugees were to return, you would not have a two-state solution, you would have a Palestine next to Palestine, rather than a Palestine next to Israel.”
Still, the most illuminating of all statements by BDS leaders was undoubtedly made by Ahmed Koor, who in April 2010 said: “Ending the occupation doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t mean upending the Jewish state itself… BDS is not another step on the way to the final showdown; BDS is the final showdown.”
The similarity between Koor’s “final showdown” and Hitler’s “Final Solution” is as unmistakable as it is revealing about the BDS movement’s true motives.
Whereas Hitler’s Final Solution sought to bring about the end of the Jewish people, the BDS Movement’s ‘”final showdown” seeks to bring about the end of Israel as the Jewish state, by endorsing a one-state solution and the Palestinian “Right of Return.”
So what can, and should, pro-Israel activists do in response?
First, education is key. The term “apartheid” is not merely a powerful slogan with which to adorn banners at Palestinian solidarity rallies; it is the institutionalised segregation of a population solely on the basis of race.
It is imperative to get the message out that, although Israel is not perfect, and problems exist in the country — as they do in any democracy — Arab citizens still enjoy full rights and are treated as equal citizens. They serve in the Knesset and on the Supreme Court. They hold high positions in the armed forces, in universities and in hospitals. They play football for the national team.
Israel is an open, inclusive and diverse society in a region of tyrants and despots. And the irony is that Arab citizens in Israel enjoy more rights, freedoms and liberties than their neighbors in any number of Middle East countries currently fighting and dying for these very same privileges.
Second, the blatant hypocrisy of the BDS Movement and the true motives of those who advocate it must be exposed. This is not a movement to advance human rights and equality. This is a movement which seeks to sever the sole Jewish state from the world and attack any person or company that dares to show support for it. It is a shameful return to the “don’t buy from Jews” campaigns of generations past, except the ‘Jew’ in this case is Israel.
The tactics of the BDS movement are shameful, racist and frequently illegal. Ultimately, their goal is not to advance Palestinian rights, but to deny and strip Israel of its rights, and in their view, the end (the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state) always justifies the means.
But it is not enough to merely challenge the BDS Movement. We need to also present an alternative, one which brings the parties closer together rather than seeking to drive them apart. Peace can only be achieved through a mutual recognition of national aspirations and through genuine economic, commercial and political cooperation.
Perhaps the greatest failing of the BDS Movement is that it derails joint Arab-Israeli initiatives, which genuinely advance the interests of peace, and instead breeds further separation of Jews and Arabs. It creates a cycle of division and promotes extremism at a time when cooperation and understanding is most needed.