What to Do About Apartheid Week? A New Approach

With the arrival of spring, the buds begin to blossom and flowers begin to bloom.

But on college campuses across the country it means something different: Those who hate Israel and who wish to ostracize the Jewish state come out in full bloom to launch their “Anti-apartheid week.” On college campuses across the country, the mock “die-ins”, posting of eviction notices, and construction of walls and checkpoints to dramatize the suffering endured by Palestinians come out this time of year in full bloom.

Although Hamas is the one inciting violence against Israelis, it is Israel that is put on the defensive. The well-orchestrated campaign is designed to portray the Palestinians sympathetically and to cast Israel as the oppressor, to intimidate Jewish and pro-Israel students. The aggressive confrontational approach seeks to sever the ties, attachment and sympathy students have for Israel.

Most of the Jewish students were raised in comfortable suburban environments, where they were raised to be polite and taught good manners. They are not prepared for the in-your-face onslaught and do not know how to respond. Further adding to the inability of these nice kids to counter the negative images is the paucity of their knowledge about Israel and the conflict.

Pro-Israel students on most campuses are advised to avoid and not engage with the Israel haters, for there is no hope the minds of the antagonists can be changed. But while there is little hope of changing those leading the charge against Israel, repeated lies have an impact on those who are not engaged in the activities, as well as on the self-image of those who are inclined to support Israel.

But what if students were to try a different approach?

What if instead of ignoring, and trying to avoid them, and pretending these propaganda ploys did not exist, the Jewish students tried something different. I advise not confronting them, but what if pro-Israel students were to adapt the tactics of Israel’s adversaries to make their point?

I propose pro-Israel campus activists consider the following response:

Kids love kites. Fly kites on campus. Each kite could have attached to it a piece of paper that lets students know that similarly-looking innocent kites are equipped with incendiary devices to burn Israeli fields.

Distribute harmless plastic play knives. Let college students know that Hamas gives real knives to innocent children so they will stab and kill Israelis.

Distribute flyers inviting kids to a free summer camp. And on the same flyer, include pictures of kids at a Palestinian summer camp dressed like paramilitary brigades where they are brainwashed and indoctrinated to hate Israel.

Pass out colorful papers with math problems taken from Palestinian textbooks, with Arabic writing translated, such as – “If you have 4 Jews and you kill 2, how many are left?”

Let students dress up as if they are pregnant, with replicas of explosives under their garments to show the deceptive means used by Hamas to get past Israeli soldiers and checkpoints to carry out dastardly acts in Israel.

Give out Monopoly money to show how families of Palestinian terrorists are financially rewarded by the Palestinian Authority for killing Jews.

Students could have backpacks, with strings hanging out of them to simulate the explosives inside to show what suicide bombers carry with them into Israel or to checkpoints.

Let the students pass out pictures of the smoke coming from tires being burned at the border with Gaza with information about the damage this does do the environment.

The commons or quads on campus could have a sign proclaiming it “David Duke Square” so students would understand what it is like for Israelis to see terrorists honored by naming schools after them.

This is just a preliminary list to get the ball rolling. I am confident that creative students will be able to come up with other creative ways to counter the propaganda being spread against Israel.

We do not gain anything by ceding the field and being silent in the face of the well-organized, well-financed anti-Israel propaganda which harms Israel’s image among young people. By challenging Israel’s detractors we can provide a fuller picture of the conflict and change the narrative. This will give context to what Israelis must endure and students will begin to understand why there are evictions and checkpoints and other measures to prevent Palestinian terrorists from entering Israel to kill Jews.

About the Author
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt founded Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Maryland in 1988, a vibrant Conservative synagogue of 620 families. He is president of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America, Director of Israel Policy and Advocacy for the Rabbinical Assembly and member of the National Executive Council of AIPAC. He has taught Jewish history and theology at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. In recognition of Rabbi Weinblatt’s leadership role in the community and as an outstanding teacher and speaker, he has received many awards from community organizations such as the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Greater Washington Chapter of ORT. He is the author of, “God, Prayer and Spirituality,” a compilation of his sermons, writings and articles.
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