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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

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How about Arab apartheid week?

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In Syria, one of the Middle East’s most oppressive regimes (after the fall of the Ghadhafi clan in Libya) has killed thousands of its citizens, but university campuses in North America and Europe are silent.

There are no demonstrations, no moral outrage, no conferences and no boycott campaigns. There is also no “Saudi apartheid week,” no protests against the killings of members of the Coptic community in Egypt, and no boycott of Turkey for systematic discrimination against its Kurdish citizens, or of Iran for systematic attacks against non-Shiite minorities.

Instead, the self-proclaimed voices of liberalism, progressivism and peace are using all of their energies and resources for an obsessive attack against Israel with another round of “Israeli apartheid week.” The use of the “apartheid” libel is inherently racist and discriminatory, targeting the existence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The political warfare accompanied by boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns is a direct continuation of the Arab rejection of the November 1947 UN Partition Plan. This strategy was also embodied in the infamous 1975 UN “Zionism is racism” resolution. In the words of Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, “Let there be no mistake about it: to indict Israel as an apartheid state is prologue and justification for the dismantling of the Jewish state, for the criminalization of its supporters, and for the consequential silencing of their speech.”

This campaign immorally exploits the suffering of the real victims of apartheid and racism, and transforms a political dispute into a racial conflict. The comparison was categorically rejected and denounced by Judge Richard Goldstone in the New York Times. Goldstone, a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court, wrote that, “In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute.” Goldstone added that “while ‘apartheid’ can have broader meaning, its use is meant to evoke the situation in pre-1994 South Africa. It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.”

Many others who had experienced the real apartheid expressed similar views. Benjamin Pogrund, who was a journalist in South Africa, wrote “Use of the apartheid label is at best ignorant and naive and at worst cynical and manipulative.”

The reality is that Israel’s Arab citizens own property, have full voting rights, are proportionately represented in the Knesset, and are appointed to the High Court of Justice. Arab and Jewish patients receive identical medical treatment, and while there is room for improvement in the distribution of income, the differences in Israel are not simply due to ethno-religious distinctions.

In the face of these blatant double standards, the power of the “apartheid” campaign is derived from the resources that are available, in both political and financial forms. Politically, as noted, this divisive agenda is supported by the Arab and Islamic blocs at the United Nations and its associated institutions, providing numerous platforms, as well as access to the media.

Financially, the availability of significant European government funding for ostensible human rights organizations that actively promote the “apartheid” libel is a major factor, including Adalah, Badil, Al Haq, and Al Mezan. Similarly, Electronic Intifada, which is indirectly funded through Dutch government humanitarian aid, plays a central role in this political warfare, as do various Palestinian solidarity committees, whose funding sources are entirely hidden.

If the officials of these governments and of the groups they support under the banners of human rights and democracy actually took these principles seriously, they would use their resources to protest the real oppression of the Arab and Iranian dictatorships. Similarly, if students and faculty on university campuses who preside over the attacks on Israel were sincerely concerned about morality, they would be leading protests against these abuses. Their silence speaks volumes about the double standards and cynicism that has captured and distorted the moral agenda beyond recognition.

This column will appear in the March 15 print issue of The CJN

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