Spring is here and so too are Israel Apartheid Week and poison ivy. Apartheid Week is an insult to all thinking Americans in and out of academia, just as poison ivy is an irritant to our skin and well-being. Charles Jacobs, founder of the Boston-based Americans for Peace and Tolerance, reminds us of the venality of the Apartheid Week movement as it personally attacks and intimidates individual students while playing havoc with the truth on campuses throughout the country.
“At Harvard”, he tells us, “students personal space was violated when ‘eviction notices’ were pasted to the doors of their dormitory rooms by members of the so-called Palestine Solidarity Committee. This kind of Saul Alinsky in-your-face type of intimidation goes beyond the norms of society and it, along with the threat and reality of physical harm, is behavior that ought not be tolerated.”
Nasty ‘apartheid walls’ — a mockery of the barriers Israel has used to effectively defend its citizens from the real and present danger of terrorism — and other symbolic constructs are springing up on campuses around the country as a way to push forward lies about Israel’s alleged discrimination against its Arab minority. Meanwhile, no matter how depraved and vile the mendacity of the Arab effort, college administrators generally, under the false flag of ‘free speech,’ stand aside. It is a stretch to interpret the actions of these Apartheid Week demonstrators as speech that is free if it is aimed at those it targets and bullies.
Almost more egregious than the lack of college reaction to the intimidation of Jewish students is the lack of a full-throated response from key elements of the Jewish community. Yes, there are groups that are active. Charles Jacob’s American Peace and Tolerance, The David Project (another group Jacobs helped found), the Zionist Organization of America, Stand-With-Us, Campus Watch, CAMERA and others are now working on many campuses, but coordination is yet to happen and much goes undone.
Hillel, in the best position of any Jewish organization to respond on campus, has a mixed effort with a Shaliach program on 56 campuses and active support for the Israel on Campus Coalition, an organization it helped start. But it does not deal with Apartheid Week directly nor does it confront this systemic threat on all campuses.
There are, of course some stellar participants who rise to the occasion. A stalwart cadre of Hillel leaders around the country who have seen this all before deal with it bravely and with intelligence. But there is also a passivity on a number of campuses and not just where there is an absence of any organized Jewish presence. Even more difficult though, are campuses where faculty and/or administration aid and abet the intimidation of Jewish students and demean pro-Israel opinion. Columbia University and Brooklyn College stand out as recent examples of this type of travesty. Federations too are more often than not capable of only the most pro forma actions, and rarely connect with students and faculty on campus who have to confront these falsehoods.
The Apartheid Week people, on the other hand are well programmed, intrusive and without opposition too often have free reign on campus for their hatred and lies.
The proper answer for the besieged pro-Israel students and faculty on every campus, of course, is the ultimate one: the truth. Not a defensive truth or a partial one. But a focus on the Israeli reality in which five million Jews and two million Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, live together in a democratic open society.
It is the Arab Middle East where the mirror image of Israel exists. That is the land of hatred and apartheid. That is the land where the ancient Jewish presence was excised by either forced emigration or violent intimidation, and the slaughter of Christians, Jews and other minorities, including Muslims who don’t practice Islam in the way the majority prescribes it, continues. That is the land where women are demeaned and gays persecuted. It is the land of countries where personal freedom exists hardly at all.
For some reason, our organizations and leaders shy away from these truths and because of that they are absent from this very argument.
It is Israel where all citizens have the right to vote. It is Israel where democratic institutions such as a free media exist. In a more rational world it would be Arab apartheid that would be highlighted this month, while Israel’s bravery for being that lonely beacon of individual rights and democracy for all would be celebrated.
Israel Apartheid Week as we know it is a total fabrication meant to snare the unknowing and seduce the uninformed. It is foreign to our soil and ought to be opposed by every American.
Two things you can do:
1) Ephraim Karsh of the Middle East Forum provides an excellent essay on the previous page. Read it and forward it to anyone on a college campus whose email address you may have (the essay may also be forwarded from the Ledger website, www.jewishledger.com).
2) Support organizations and individuals actively involved in this struggle; work with Hillel and urge them to stand tall; take steps to fill the void on campuses without any Jewish organization. Working to bring the Jewish world together on this issue is the best way to let those who malign Israel and murder the truth know they can’t do it with impunity.
It’s unfortunate that this apartheid accusation occurs every spring. But as we pointed out, so does poison ivy. Poison Ivy and the lies of Apartheid Week never fully go away, but when summer comes we usually have them both under control.