LEANNE CUMMING

Please note that the Israeli Apartheid Week has been postponed indefinitely. More information to follow.

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an annual international event that aims to create awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies towards Palestine and highlights the daily problems Palestinians face. The 11th international IAW will take place on 2-8 March 2015 and includes a series of events such as rallies, protests, workshops, films and cultural performances to help build support for the expanding Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

According to BDS South Africa, IAW is “held [in] over 250 cities, communities and campuses across the globe. It’s endorsed in South Africa by more than 75 organizations, trade unions, political parties and other groups.” During the apartheid period in South Africa thousands, if not millions, of people held protests, rallies, lectures, films and free Mandela events in order to build support and create awareness for the a similar campaign against apartheid South Africa. Boycotting played a large part in forcing the apartheid government to agree to change their policies and become a democracy. BDS South Africa hopes to achieve the same “by joining the international movement in solidarity with the indigenous Palestinian people, and their progressive Israeli allies, who are struggling against Israel apartheid.”

South African academic, newspaper columnist, journalist and activist Steven Friedman from the University of Johannesburg stated at an IWA campaign in 2012 that there is a principle of the “Iron Wall” within Israel that makes Israel an apartheid state. Friedman explains that the assumption is that the Palestinian people will never accept that their land and occupation was taken over by an alien group. “At the end the only way… to maintain this state is to reduce the Palestinian people to such a state of fear that they cannot resist. Now, apartheid [in South Africa] did not think of that. Apartheid did not think of trying to so cow, so humiliate, so dehumanize them that they would comply simply because they felt that there was no alternative,” says Friedman. Friedman added that “if one takes away the rather grotesque elaboration of the Iron Wall, then one is left with a fairly straightforward apartheid system. You are dealing with a system in which one group uses ethnicity and race as a criterion, dominates the land of another group, in which that group in effect denies citizenship of another group.”

South African journalist Stan Goodenough, who has been living in Israel for the past 25 years, says that there is no apartheid present in Israel in a video from Youtube channel HereIsIsrael titled “IAW-South Africa National- Israel Apartheid is a Sham!” In the video Goodenough says that IAW and the BDS campaign are trying to make comparisons between the Zionist Jewish faith in Israel and the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. Goodenough explains that he grew up in apartheid South Africa where he witnessed segregation. “In South Africa a system was set in place which would lock the majority of the black population out of the country in terms of citizenship, in terms of where they could live, where they could work and what they could benefit from. Every aspect of their lives would be affected, impacted and restricted by the system of laws known as apartheid” explains Goodenough. Goodenough further states that he became a journalist because he was anti-apartheid. He says that there are 8 million people living in Israel and about three-quarters of the Israeli population is Jewish.

Goodenough is of the opinion that “there is no apartheid between Jews and Arabs in Israel. There is no robbing Israeli Arabs of their citizenship, there is no limit on their ability to live where they want to live, work where they want to work. They can get full education and in fact enjoy all the privileges of life that Israeli Jews enjoy. There is no comparison, nothing remotely similar in modern day Israel with the old South Africa, the South Africa I grew up in.” Goodenough further says that Israel is blamed for being an apartheid state because of their relation with the Palestinian Arabs. Goodenough is of the opinion that this concept is misdirected. “The Palestinian Arabs are the same as the Israeli Arabs, except there are those who never accepted Israeli rule and chose not to live in Israel.” Goodenough says that Israel relates to Palestinian Arabs as non-Israeli because they are not from Israel and are therefore not entitled to the rights Israeli citizens have. “No country in the world would allow people who reject their sovereignty and their very existence as a country to act as citizens,” he says. Goodenough adds that Israel is a democratic state where all citizens are allowed to vote, are represented in parliament, have access to large houses and education and there are no laws suppressing them. Friedman on the other hand states that Israeli Arabs are only allowed to vote in Israel because they are such a small group and their vote does not make a difference. Friedman explains that there is apartheid in Israel because civil right groups have been trying to have “Israeli Citizen” stamped in passports for a long period of time. This has been rejected because the only thing that can be stamped in an Israeli passport is “Jew”, “Arab” or “other”, explains Friedman. Friedman further states that only Jews can own land in Israel because of the Jewish Agency Mandate.

First-year BA law student Emmanuel Olusegun and third-year BCom accounting science student NqobiliMbhele say that there is no apartheid in Israel. Both students visited Israel after the 50-day war on a tour. Both Olusegun and Mbhele said that they were scared that they would not make it back to South Africa because of the violence and war that was going on. However, both students were pleasantly surprised when they arrived as the country was not the poverty stricken war zone that the media had portrayed. Olusegun and Mbhele said that the media portrays Israel as a “bully”, but there was no segregation among the people whatsoever. “The media coverage distorts information. They compromise the truth in favour of sensationalism.” explains Olusegun. Mbhele says that people are ignorant and do not know the truth about Israel.

Olusegun and Mbhele point out that if people want to boycott Israel they should do it properly. They should reject all things from Israel, like medication and certain technologies, and go back to the dark ages. Israel makes all the Intel Pentium and Celeron processor chips found in laptops, personal computers and note pads. Other technologies like mobile phone manufacturing, algorithms used to send emails, antivirus software, add-on application software for Facebook and Whatsapp were all made in Israel. Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals is the largest drug company in the world and manufactures medicine for cancer, diabetes, HIV and Aids among many other diseases. Olusegun and Mbhele state that if you are going to join the BDS campaign, then you should switch off all devices made in Israel and should not use any medication supplied by Israel. Olusegun and Mbhele are in the process of forming an organization called “Defend Embrace Invest Support Israel (DEISI) International”. They hope to encourage students to find out the facts about Israel before joining campaigns like IWA and the BDS campaign. “Just because we are pro-Israel, does not mean we are anti-Palestine. We are pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace,” states Olusegun and Mbhele.

During the week there will be events taking place around campus. This would include movie screenings, high profile speakers, silent marches, and painting of the graffiti wall.

Adrian Eckard, secretary of the SRC, says that the SRC will not be taking sides with organisers of these events but they will be supplying equipment for some of the talks that are taking place.

Whether you are for, against or indecisive about IAW and the BDS campaign, be sure to find out all the facts first and then make your stand accordingly.

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