Apartheid Week 2012: All the Usual NGO Suspects
For a number of years, the campaign to demonize Israel has organized around the so-called Apartheid Week (also known as “IAW”), an initiative that fuels the conflict but has largely been a failure. The following report provides information on the main NGOs perpetrators, but with the realization that the activities discussed herein are marginal.
In 2012, IAW events will take place on university campuses and in communities between February 20 and March 19. IAW serves as a platform for a small number of fringe organizations that already lead campus-related BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns.
This anti-Israel activity, based on the attempt to falsely label Israel as an “apartheid state,” is part of a larger “Durban strategy” that was devised at the NGO Forum of 2001 UN Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. The “Final Declaration” of the NGO Forum calls for “a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state…the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links… between all states and Israel.”
Politicized NGOs have been central to implementing this strategy since 2001 through BDS campaigns, “lawfare” cases against Israeli officials, and other activities. IAW is part of this delegimization effort, as are conferences such as the “One State” Conference to be held at Harvard University.
The website for this year’s IAW references an open letter from Palestinian students, which calls on European students to “put BDS at the forefront of your campaigns and join together for the Israeli Apartheid Week, the pinnacle of action across universities worldwide.” Reflecting IAW’s rejection of Jewish self-determination and the legitimacy of Israel irrespective of borders, the letter demands an “end [to] all collaborative research between European Universities and Israeli universities…with those directly complicit in the war crimes and colonial subjugation of us the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank,‘48 Palestine and throughout the Diaspora” (emphasis added).
As in previous years, NGO speakers at IAW 2012 events include representatives from:
- Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
- Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)
- Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign – Stop the Wall (STW)
- Electronic Intifada (EI)
- Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP)/”Who Profits?” Campaign
- The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP)
Screening of NGO films:
- “Roadmap to Apartheid”
- “Occupation 101”
- “This Land is my Land Hebron,” with video footage provided by B’Tselem.
- “Israel vs Israel”
See below for more details about the NGO connections to these events.
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) –PACBI co-founder Omar Barghouti will speak at IAW New York on “Apartheid in Israel/Palestine: Legality and Morality” on February 27, and in Paris on February 28. Barghouti frequently levels the false charge of “apartheid,” despite the fact he was a PhD candidate at Tel Aviv University. He will share the podium with Nora Erakat, Legal Advocacy Coordinator for Badil, a Palestinian NGO whose joint funding from the Swiss, Dutch, Swedish, and Danish governments (via the Ramallah-based NDC) was frozen because the organization published antisemitic material on its website. Riham Barghouti, founding member of both Adalah-NY and PACBI, will moderate a panel on February 28 in New York entitled “Solidarity in Action: Witnessing Apartheid, Supporting the BDS Call.”
PACBI is one of the leading bodies in global BDS activity. It falsely refers to Israel as an “apartheid state” with “racial exclusivity,” alleging that “the apartheid character has been part of the design of Israel since its inception,” and claims that “resistance in all its forms is a legitimate right” of Palestinians. PACBI accuses Israel of “war crimes,” “crimes against humanity,” and “genocidal policy,” and calls Gaza a “concentration camp.” PACBI calls on international artists to boycott Israel, and advocates for the isolation of Israeli academic institutions. It dismisses efforts of “peacemakers” who promote mutual understanding and civil dialogue as “deceptive” and “false hypocrisies.” [Click here for more information on PACBI]
Electronic Intifada (indirect funding from the Dutch government, via ICCO, was criticized by Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal) – Ali Abunimah, executive editor of Electronic Intifada, is speaking at Brandeis on February 29 about “Who is Afraid of the One State Solution,” and at Oberlin on February 28. Abunimah is one of the leading proponents of hate speech on university campuses. He has accused Israel of ethnic cleansing, calls Israeli settlements “Jim Crow colonies,” and says Zionism “is one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today,” claiming that it “dehumanizes its victims, denies their history, and has a cult-like worship of ethnoracial purity” (Twitter; October 26, 2010). He frequently invokes antisemitic comparisons of Israel to Nazis and has said that “Supporting Zionism is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.” (Twitter, October 25, 2010). Abunimah refers to Salam Fayyad and Mahmud Abbas as “collaborators.” (Collaboration is punishable by death in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-run Gaza.) Abunimah also spoke at IAW 2011. [Click here for more information on Ali Abunimah]
Ben White, a regular contributor to Electronic Intifada, the Guardian, and Al Jazeera English, spoke in London on a panel about “Legalised Discrimination in Apartheid Israel” on February 22 and promoted his new book Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimation, and Democracy at an event of the same name at Leeds on February 21. In recent articles, White accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid,” “war crimes,” and “atrocities,” and refers to Israel’s founding as “the Nakba, the catastrophe that occurred when the state of Israel was established in 1948.” He further states that “The Nakba is not finished.” White is a strong proponent of the BDS movement and a one-state framework.
[Click here for more information on Electronic Intifada]
Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) – Michael Deas Europe Coordinator for BNC, will speak in Gothenburg, Sweden on “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (March 4). Deas will also speak in Lund (March 1 and 3) and Stockholm. Rafeef Ziadah, secretariat member of BNC, chaired the “Legalised Discrimination in Apartheid Israel” panel in London on February 22.
BNC is “the Palestinian coordinating body for the BDS campaign worldwide.” It works to “strengthen and spread the culture of boycott as a central form of civil resistance to Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid” and “serve as the national reference point for anti-normalization campaigns within Palestine.” In 2011, BNC publications claimed “Since its violent inception through the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestine more than 60 years ago, Israel has inflicted endless death, injury, forced displacement, dispossession and destruction upon millions of Palestinians and other Arabs in neighbouring countries” and the existence of “a Zionist lobby serving Israel’s colonial and belligerent agenda that directly conflicts with the interests of the peoples in [the United States].”
Stop the Wall (STW) – Aghsan Barghouti, media coordinator for STW, spoke throughout Scotland, in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee.
STW campaigns against Israel’s security barrier, erasing the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign that killed and injured thousands and necessitated the barrier’s construction. Claiming the barrier serves as “an integral part of the Zionist project to remove Palestinians from Palestine,” the organization calls for the controversial Palestinian “right of return” and accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” “Judaizing” Jerusalem, and creating “Bantustans” in the West Bank – another example of exploiting South African apartheid.
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine – With no judicial basis, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) uses a legal façade to create a false image of neutrality and credibility. This is a marginal organization, whose efforts to create publicity through an event in Cape Town failed in November 2011. Michael Mansfield, RToP “juror,” and Salim Vally, RToP attendee, along with CWP activist Abir Kopty, will discuss the most recent Russell Tribunal on February 29 in Gothenburg, Sweden. The panel will “describe the tribunal, South Africa’s apartheid, Israel’s apartheid, international law.” The RToP activists will also join Kopty on panels in Lund (February 27 and 28) and Stockholm (March 1). Frank Barat, RToP coordinator will speak at IAW Toronto.
Coalition of Women for Peace/”Who Profits?” Campaign – Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) is a leader in the global BDS movement and lobbies foreign governments to stop investing in Israeli companies. In 2009, it called on the British government to “Enable Prosecution of Israeli War Criminals.” Its “Who Profits” campaign aims at “exposing companies and corporations involved in the occupation” in order to target them with boycotts [Click here for more information on CWP ]
Dalit Baum, founder of Who Profits?, will speak in Toronto. Baum is an advocate of BDS, and trains activists to lobby the American government against Israel. She claims that Israeli weapons manufacturers “praise their products as being tested on Palestinians.” She has also raised funds for Anarchists Against the Wall.
Abir Kopty, active with CWP and a former spokesperson for Mossawa, will speak throughout Sweden (see above). Kopty has referred to Israeli soldiers as “war criminals,” uses “apartheid” rhetoric, and accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing.”
Born in Haifa, Israel and a student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Yara Sadi spoke at the University of Leeds (February 22) and the University of Sheffield (February 23) on “Universities of Apartheid.” Though Sadi studies at an Israeli university, the lectures discussed “the nature of apartheid at Israeli universities,” “as well as the campaigns of two organizations she’s active within: the Coalition of Women for Peace and the Who Profits from the Occupation project.”
Screenings of NGO videos
“Roadmap to Apartheid,” narrated by RToP “juror” Alice Walker, was screened in Dublin (February 23), and will be shown in several South African cities, including Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Port Elizabeth (March 5-11). Through footage that juxtaposes scenes of apartheid South Africa with the actions of Israeli security forces, the film attempts to create the false perception that “The effectiveness of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that helped end apartheid in South Africa is also compared to its effectiveness in the Israeli context to end the occupation, and bring justice and dignity to all.” The movie features interviews with Ali Abunimah, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions co-founder and director Jeff Halper, and coordinator of the Stop the Wall Campaign Jamal Jumah.
On March 5, Cape Town is also screening “Occupation 101,” which also interviews numerous NGO officials, among them: Jeff Halper , Rabbi Arik Ascherman (Rabbis for Human Rights), Peter Boukaert (Human Rights Watch), Yael Stein (B’Tselem), and Dr. Iyad Sarraj (Gaza Community Mental Health Programme).
IAW in New York City will screen “This is My Land Hebron,” which contains interviews from B’Tselem Executive Director Jessica Montell, founder of Gush Shalom Uri Avnery, and founder of Breaking the Silence Yehuda Shaul. B’Tselem also provided video footage.
“Israel v Israel” will be screened in Boulder, Colorado on February 26. The film features interviews with Rabbi Arik Ascherman and Yehuda Shaul.