‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ returns to US, UK campuses

Annual event to be held in over 200 cities, but Foreign Ministry says it is in decline as Jewish groups counter message

Students at the University of Toronto during 'Israeli Apartheid Week,' 2012 (photo credit: CC-BY monad68/flickr)
Students at the University of Toronto during 'Israeli Apartheid Week,' 2012 (photo credit: CC-BY monad68/flickr)

University campuses across North America and the UK kicked off “Israeli Apartheid Week” (IAW) Monday, the tenth anniversary of the international protest against the Jewish state.

The IAW is a major advocacy event of the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment) movement, and offers seminars on what is termed the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Israel’s “racist” practices toward the Palestinian people. It also holds public demonstrations.

According to IAW organizers, there has been “a sharp increase of literature and analysis that has sought to document and challenge Israeli apartheid, including reports issued by major international bodies and human rights organizations and findings published by political leaders, thinkers, academics, and activists.”

The movement’s goals were outlined in 2005, stating that it wanted “full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, an end to the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands.” Many have claimed the week-long initiative — held in over 200 cities — aims to hurt Israel more than to help the Palestinian cause.

This year organizers produced a short video highlighting their achievements in the past decade, including the decision of the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli academic institutions — one of three US academic organizations to do so in the last year. The video also included quotes by Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, and Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters.

In spite of the movement’s self promotion, officials of Israel’s Foreign Ministry stated that the week-long event has little impact and that the strength of the organizations running it has significantly decreased over the years.

Pro-Israel groups, such as “Stand With Us” and “The Israel Project,” in addition to representatives of the Jewish Agency, will be arranging activities to counter the narrative of IAW.

According to Shelley Kedar, who organizes the Jewish Agency’s Campus Israel Fellows program, “by the time Israeli Apartheid Week arrives, we hope to be in a position where there is a broad student coalition and faculty who are more connected to Israel.”

“Israeli Apartheid Week” is being held in the United States and United Kingdom between February 24 and March 2.

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