Apartheid Week– Now Visiting a Campus Near You!

Those who are familiar with my Roro’s Rantings blog know that I am not above jumping on my well-used (and sometimes abused) soap box to share my opinions on a variety of subjects that range from musings about my aliyah to full-blown venting sessions. So when it comes to the odious Israel = Apartheid equation, this former South African, who grew up in the country during the waning days of Apartheid, feels that the proverbial horse must repeatedly be flogged until the truth rears its head.

February 20th marked the kick off of  Apartheid Week, An anti-Israel hate fest masquerading as concern for  human rights that plays out on university campuses around the world. From Canada to South Africa,  the wolves in sheep’s clothing will rant (okay, so I don’t have the monopoly on that!) and point fingers, ignoring real human rights travesties such as mass murder in Syria or the Iranian nuclear programme.  The dubious intent of these campus crusaders is their favored target: Israel. According to  the Apartheid Week official website, Apartheid Week will proceed as follows:

Europe: February 20 – March 10

Palestine: March 12-19
United States: February 26 – March 3
Canada: March 5-9
Arab World: March 5-11
South Africa: March 5-11

I grew up in South Africa and bore witness to the horrors of Apartheid I now live in Israel and while the country is hampered by its own set of social issues and challenges, including the scourge of racism, comparing the two makes my flame red hair stand on end.

On many occasions I have lamented the tragic hijacking of the word “Apartheid”, which in fact was the codification of racial segregation via legal code, judicial fiat and enforced laws. Apartheid legally defined the black citizens of South Africa as disenfranchised and second class.  If we want to put a more legal spin on the definition, then  The ‘crime of apartheid’ means inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to and committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.

Instead, use of the word Apartheid has become a sexy way to package, market and sell anti-Israel hatred. The word Apartheid is provocative, emotive and evocative – inspiring a variety of strong emotions. In their haste to demonize Israel, detractors have forgotten to define what Apartheid was! The black people of South Africa suffered tremendously under the Apartheid regime and by comparing Israel, an imperfect but thriving democracy, to the former South Africa makes light of their suffering. It is a scurrilous  comparison to say the least.


This campaign of hatred is nothing more than an attempt to delegitimize the State of Israel. One must note that even in the darkest days of Apartheid, NOBODY questioned South Africa’s right to exist as a country, no matter how much the world objected to its racist policies. Calling into question Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State or the rights of Jews to organize themselves along political lines and call it Zionism IS racism. It has become decidedly politically incorrect to attack Jews . After all, the greatest propagators of anti-Israel  drivel will tell you that it is nonsense that they are anti-Semitic as some of their best friends are Jewish. Mazel Tov! Gefilte Fish! We love you Jews – your state which has become your brand , your international symbol, , well, not so much! By painting Israel as a pariah state that has little right to exist and ignoring true racist states says more about those pointing fingers than our plucky little country.

Sadly, South Africa has become one of the most important centres for this campaign of delegitimisation because it is the country that is both the ground zero for Apartheid’s ultimate defeat and a major exporter of anti-Apartheid activists to campuses and rallies to promote their Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel and spew forth their vitriol. Naturally disguised as concern for human rights abuse, BDS has become the weapon of choice to continue the delegitimzation campaign against Israel- all the while ignoring those human rights infringements perpetrated by the leaders including of Hamas, Iran and Syria – to name but three.

Those advocating BDS assume that by “punishing” Israel with cultural, economic, sporting and other sanctions it will bring us to our knees, and we will abandon the idea of a Two State Solution. They assume that by isolating Israel,  it will result in Palestinians and Israelis living  happily ever after in a giant rainbow nation like South Africa and everything will be sunshine, lollipops and roses. Except for one small detail. Palestinians want to live only with Palestinians while we would like to retain our identity as a Jewish State that treats its minority communities with respect and equality.  Oh yes, and we would like to do this in peace, please.

By advocating a One State Solution, BDS advocates not only patronize Palestinian national aspirations but Jewish ones as well. They are well aware that demographically Israel would not survive as the only Jewish state in the world. Our numbers would diminish, rendering the idea of a Jewish majority null and void.

Even notorious anti-Israel protagonist, Norman Finkelstein, has come out and publicly called the BDS movement a “Cult”. While I don’t think he will be pledging allegiance to the Israeli flag or singing Hatikvah anytime soon, it is certainly quite a coup to have someone like Finkelstein speak out against BDS and expose it for what it really is. This has ruffled some feathers in the anti-Israel camp!

It has become trendy for students to join the anti-Israel frenzy on campus.  It saddens me that in order to become pro-Palestinian the trend is to become as anti-Israel as one can possibly be. Academic institutions are supposed to be hotbeds of free thinking so I am going to send this message to students: start a new trend – buck the system by becoming pro peace and  being informed of the realities in this part of the Middle East. Rebel by choosing not to harass Israeli speakers, diplomats and IDF soldiers who visit your campus. Come on students, this is YOUR time to challenge authority….

Perhaps it would behoove the organizers of Apartheid week to dedicate this time more productively. If you want to have a week that commemorates Apartheid, think of those in South Africa who were victims or use the time more positively to think of peaceful solutions to the conflict. Remember, some of the most famous cults no longer exist….

About the Author
Rolene Marks is a passionate advocate for Israel and has appeared on radio, television and has been published in numerous publications. Rolene is a member of the Media Team Israel, an advocacy body that fights media bias against Israel.