From Auschwitz to Israeli Apartheid Week
How is it possible? How is it possible to go from Auschwitz in 1945 to Israeli Apartheid week in 2017? In just 72 years, Jews are once again being told that they “are a people of robbers,” are part of a conspiracy to control the government, and Israelis are being boycotted in an attempt to economically damage them.
In fact, this blog does not need to be more than a few sentences long. It’s simple – the ICC definition states that apartheid consists of “inhumane acts committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression.” Yet in Israel, incitement to racism is a criminal offence. Therefore – by definition – Israel is not an apartheid state. Ever.
I don’t need to talk about the countless other facts and examples of the freedom that Israeli Arabs experience. I don’t need to tell you that Israeli Arabs experience more freedom in Israel than they do in any other Arab country, all of which are equal to Jewish Israelis. LGBT and women’s rights in Israel are light years ahead of any other country in the Middle East. Israeli Arabs hold seats in Israeli Parliament, again a fact that shows that Israel is not apartheid by definition.
Surprised? Don’t be. A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its shoes on. Thankfully, I have my shoes on.
Last week I travelled around Poland in both an emotional and physical sense. Every person in our group came away with their own thoughts and feelings, and I will not attempt to speak for everyone in the group, but will share some of my own thoughts.
A theme I noticed appear several times during the timeline of the Holocaust was the dehumanisation of the Jewish people. It instantly reminded me of several news headlines which attempted to do the same.
In fact, throughout the trip I saw history repeating itself in today’s society. Boycotts of Jewish businesses? Tick. Anti-Semitism coming from political officials? Tick. Anti-Semitic tropes being used to show how Jews are evil? Tick.
As a Jewish student on campus in the UK, the trip to Poland, followed by the start of Israeli apartheid week really hit home. I would perhaps go as far as to say that certain aspects of the Holocaust have not been left behind. Accusations of running the media and the banks, still ring through the student body – in my experience on campus anyway.
One day I stood in Auschwitz-Birkenau learning about how Jews were persecuted, dehumanised and murdered. The next I was listening to someone elaborately deny the fact that Hamas sending tens of thousands of rockets into people’s back gardens in Israel is somewhat inconvenient to people living there. Or the fact that since 2015 the 364 terror attacks committed in Israel are any issue at all. Israelis have already been dehumanised in this individual’s mind.
How do we stop this? How do we stop the lies and hate from spreading through society like wildfire?
We must do more to stand up to that which we see as lies. We have an obligation to help each other, to call out anti-Semitism wherever it manifests. Make no mistake, anti-Israel activities do not affect our brothers and sisters in Israel in any way when compared to how it affects us here in the UK. Jewish students do not feel safe on some campuses in the UK due to despicable anti-Israel activities. Therefore, in my mind if Jewish students do not feel safe then this is clearly anti-Semitism, whether it be explicit or not.
There are campaigns, Bridges not Boycotts organised by UJS, Israel Party and Information weeks, or even a Falafel for Facts campaign I have started in Liverpool. These are the first stage of combatting the lies and misconceptions surrounding Israel, because they are not going anywhere.
You probably disagree with me. Anti-Semitism isn’t a problem in the UK, I’ve never experienced it so it can’t be such an issue, these people are all talk and no action, etc. etc.
Luckily for you you’re in the majority, much of Polish Jewry would have also agreed with you. They made up 10% of the Polish population in 1939, yet they now make up less than 0.01%
We can’t ignore anti-Semitism and must stand up and make our voices heard. I will carry the message of the Holocaust with me onto campus and beyond. I will make sure the world never forgets, never repeats and never stands by as anti-Semitism rises.