The violent rhetoric of Israel Apartheid Week

Two weeks ago the Pro-Palestine group at Cornell organized Israel Apartheid week. This is an event that happens at college campuses all over the US, and I can’t speak for what happens at other colleges, but the way the week was advertised and executed at Cornell spoke to the larger issue with campus pro-Palestine advocacy: its violent and destructive rhetoric. The week before Israel Apartheid Week, Cornell Hillel planned Israel Week, which is meant to showcase Israeli culture and included events such as a movie screening of Yossi & Jagger, a film about two gay IDF soldiers, an Israeli dance workshop and a panel with IDF soldiers.

The day of the soldier panel, I found out that the pro-Palestine group had vandalized the posters for the panel. They had printed out photos of the Facebook event and crossed out words, replacing them with words such as “occupation” and “war crimes.”

I expected there to be several representatives from the Pro-Palestinian group at the IDF soldier panel, however, none showed up. Instead of attending the event and asking questions, the members of the group chose to vandalize posters with provocative and untrue claims.

This has been a theme on campus. Last November, during the Gaza conflict, pro-Israel students held a rally that had been officially registered with the university. When the pro-Israel students asked to hold a moment of silence for victims on both sides of the conflict, pro-Palestine students started shouting and screaming, so that the moment of silence became impossible.

Around the same time as the rally, the pro-Israel group put up flags on campus to show the number of rockets that had been launched from Gaza to Israel. The next day, the pro-Palestine group had rearranged the flags to spell “apartheid.” Instead of putting up their own display, the Palestinian activists chose to vandalize a display that simply sought to educate students about the damage of the continual rocket fire Israelis have been facing for years.

Pro-Palestine activists on campus have over and over again shown an inability to make their own arguments and have instead resorted to childishly sabotaging any efforts by pro-Israel students. Instead of advertising their own events and spending time campaigning for their causes, they have chosen to vandalize and undermine the events of the other side.

The irony in this is that while this strategy is mildly annoying to pro-Israel students it actually ends up harming the Palestinian cause the most. I found out about the vandalized posters from some non-Jewish students who themselves said they were not particularly involved with the conflict. However, the posters had been so offensive that they felt ashamed that the students had put them up and wondered whether to notify the Cornell administration to take them down.

As for the rally, the pro-Palestine protestors took away an opportunity for unity between both sides to acknowledge and grieve for both Palestinian and Israeli victims of the conflict. This made me wonder whether they even care about the Palestinian victims or whether they simply use this as an excuse to voice anti-Semitic accusations.

About the Author
Josefin Dolsten currently lives in Jerusalem, where she is pursuing an MA in Jewish Studies and Religious Studies from Hebrew University. Previously she studied Government and Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. She enjoys writing about religion and politics.