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Israeli Apartheid Week: Political Theater at Its Worst

Posted By Phyllis Chesler On March 8, 2011 @ 12:45 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 32 Comments

The mob roars its hoarse, ear-splitting chants. “Death to the Jews,” “Death to Zionism,” “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free.” Keffiyas abound: On heads, over faces, around shoulders.  The Arab “street” is on the move—in Toronto, Montreal, Amherst, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, St. Louis, Houston, Berkeley, and in Oxford, Belfast, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, and many other Western cities.

Liberal-fascist westerners are busy “slumming,” all dressed up as presumably persecuted Arabs, but real Arabs are also mob-dancing in the streets of Nablus, Ramallah, Jaffa, Bethlehem, Amman, and Gaza, and in at least five cities in South Africa, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban—yes, Durban, the site of the infamous and sickening United Nations conferences of 2001 and 2009, where, in the name of “anti-racism,” UN members attacked only the Jewish state.

In 2001, the delegation from the United States at Durban withdrew after reviewing the working document which, once again, equated Zionism with Racism. The U.S. boycotted the second Durban conference. In 2009, the European Union delegates withdrew during President Ahmadinejad’s speech, in which he referred to Israel as “totally racist,” and to the Holocaust as an “ambiguous and dubious question.” However, many of the other delegates, from more than 100 countries, remained and applauded him.

The second Durban conference was chaired by a Libyan diplomat.

The lunatics have indeed taken over the asylum—but this time, they are armed with nuclear weapons, surface-to-air missiles, rockets, suicide killers, sarin gas and mustard gas. What’s new is that the supposedly sane people, the truth-tellers, the progressives, the “good people,” have joined them.

Yes, it is that time of year again. March is not only Women’s History Month. It is also the month in which Israeli Apartheid Week is appearing in 55 cities around the world. I use the word “appearing” advisedly. This is political theatre at its worst (or at its diabolical best), the kind of Living Theatre (pace, Judith Malina, I am not writing about your Living Theatre) that is meant to end with a genocidal attack on the Jewish state or, at the very least, its dismantling. There is no such thing as truth, everything is relative, there is no reality, only theatrical subjectivity. One of Berkeley’s Apartheid Week activities is “Resistance Through Rhymes,” a free concert and presentation including various hip-hop artists.

Oh, I am such an alarmist. So selfish, so provincial. The Arab Muslim Middle East is on a major meltdown; even as I write, Daffy Gaddafi is brutally massacring his own people, and here I go again, concerned with the Jews. There are eighty million non-Jews in Egypt alone, and here I am, concerned with the fate of, at most, 13-14 million Jews world-wide, of whom a mere six million live in Israel. Have I no shame?

But Israel is the symbol of what’s best about the West: the rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to dissent, individual rights, human rights, gay rights. Israel even provides a safe haven for Arab women in flight from being honor murdered and gay Arabs from the disputed territories who would otherwise be tortured and murdered either by their families, their neighbors, or their leaders.

Allow me to say, not once, but a hundred times: Israel is not now and has never been an Apartheid or Nazi nation state. It is nothing—absolutely nothing–like the former South Africa. However, Muslims are the world’s largest practitioners of both gender and religious apartheid. You can quote me on that. Please do.

Whenever the innocent are punished, the guilty get away scot free. It is the Muslim world, not Israel, which is the world’s greatest practitioner of gender and religious apartheid. Islam has a long and bloody history of imperialism, colonialism, racism, and slavery. Indeed, ethnic Arab Muslims, in Sudan for example, still keep slaves, usually black African Muslim, Christian, and animist slaves. The West, including our so-called progressives, must understand that the West has not caused such barbarism and misogyny in the Muslim world. Some customs are endemic to cultures which have, so far, refused to evolve.

According to Dr. Catherine Chatterley, the founding director of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism:

The first [Israeli Apartheid Week] event was held at the University of Toronto in 2005. The following year, it included Montreal and Oxford. In 2007, it grew to eight cities; in 2008, to 24 cities; in 2009, to 38 cities; last year, to over 40 cities. This year, IAW will be held in over 55 cities worldwide.

Four years after Durban I, in 2005, Israeli Apartheid Week was born in Toronto. That July, 170 Palestinian civil-society organizations released an official call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (better known as BDS) against Israel. The document clearly stated that the call was modelled on the example of the South African struggle against Apartheid.

As with the original anti-apartheid movement, the goal of IAW is explicitly political. And yet the rhetoric of IAW is left open enough to incorporate: (1) critics of Israel who still support a two-state solution; (2) those who support the dismantling of the current Jewish State and its replacement with a single (highly theoretical) secular democratic state; and (3) those who support the destruction of Israel by any means necessary. All three camps are included amongst supporters of IAW and the BDS campaign, and therefore the lines are often blurred between harsh criticism of the state of Israel, outright condemnation of its continued existence, and calls for its eradication. This is a serious problem, and one that appears to be designed quite consciously by IAW and the BDS movement.

 

In my view, the world-wide political left, especially the New Left, which came of age in the 1960s, cannot abandon its own youthful and exceedingly self-righteous identities. They continue to fight against American capitalism, American racism, and American foreign policy, and refuse to give up the political “high” of fighting South African apartheid as an international movement. That was their Good War, their best Broadway production, and they cannot bear to ring the curtain down.

Please understand: Israeli Apartheid Week takes place both on and off campus and lasts anywhere from four to eight days. For example, this year at Berkeley, the political festivities  began on March 1st on campus and featured Susan Abulhawa: “Telling the Palestinian Story.” The programmers proclaim that “Palestinians are not always given the opportunity to share their experiences and their struggle. In Susan’s best seller book, Mornings in Jenin,  she expresses fully the human dimension of the Palestinian struggle.”

This is a Big Lie since the pro-Palestinian point of view has flooded our culture not only on campus but in the media, on the internet, at the United Nations, in books, and at every human rights organization.

Other Berkeley Apartheid Week activities are planned at the Memorial Glade Church, the Multi-cultural Community Center of the Student Union, and the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, as well as on campus. The week also features a screening of the documentary “Soweto to Berkeley” which has interviews with South African Bishop Desmund Tutu and Berkeley Free Speech activist, Mario Savio. Their last event will take place on March 9th, and is a panel on Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.

I do not think that UC Berkeley is providing its students with an even-handed presentation of both sides. Do you?

It is also important to note that the Muslim Student Association is a key sponsor as well as a group which reflects the vision and does the bidding of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Canada’s Dr. Chatterly believes that Israeli Apartheid Week is the linchpin of a “global strategy to weaken Israel’s connection to the West by delegitimizing Zionism.” This strategy includes boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israelis in all areas “from culture to sport to business to academe” and includes having “Western courts issue arrest warrants for visiting Israeli officials…and (seeks) to justify anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism as legitimate forms of anti-Zionist or anti-racist resistance.”

She is right.

Today, anti-Semitism is not only the province of Islamists or of right-wing racists but is precisely what characterizes the Stalinized and “Palestinianized” western intelligentsia and their trendiest members: Gay liberationists.

Six years ago, then Israeli Minister of Global Anti-Semitism, and Russian refusenik hero, Natan Sharansky, asked me whether I thought that “leftists, feminists, and gay liberationists could be turned around on the question of Israel.” I told him that I did not think this was possible but that I would work on the problem.

The “queers,” including the Jewish “queers,” marched up front in all the anti-Israel pro-Palestinian rallies; they were and still are heavily overrepresented in the Israeli Apartheid Week activities.

True, over the years, but only privately, a few Jewish lesbian or bisexual feminists told me, quietly, that they “wished they had my courage” or that I was “definitely right about Israel.” Lady-like stuff, nothing too loud, too pushy or too Jewish. When Christian lesbian feminists started coming around on this subject they were more outspoken, (still in private), less torn or ambivalent.

In the last year, a few Jewish lesbian feminists, together with StandWithUs, have actually been gathering on a regular basis in Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, holding an Israeli flag. They have lost all their friends and former political comrades who now stand opposite them holding a Palestinian flag. This was the first and possibly only break within the ranks that I knew about.

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when New York’s LGBT Center canceled an anti-Israel “Party to End Apartheid” which was scheduled to take place on March 5th, just before Israeli Apartheid Week. This was a small but significant “first” of its kind. The cancellation took place after Michael Lucas, a gay celebrity and “adult entertainment” producer, threatened to organize donors. Nevertheless, on March 5th, LGBT anti-Israel protestors descended on the center en masse, recreating the excessive rhetoric of Act Up, to protest the cancellation. They claimed they had been censored, that free speech was on the line, that LGBT Jews with money had shut down their hate speech party.

The March 5th Israeli Apartheid Week party was planned by a group called Siege Busters, which is working to raise funds for a new flotilla to challenge the Israeli navy’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. (No, they are not working to free Israeli captive Gilad Shalit). Its online petition protesting the cancellation of the anti-Israel “party” has so far garnered more than 1,600 signatures, including those of Joan Nestle, Judith Butler, Matt Forman, and Scott Long, who formerly headed the LGBT desk at Human Rights Watch. However, the majority of signatories do not seem to be “known” intellectuals and activists, which means that the poisoned propaganda has filtered right on down to the people.

Lucas and his supporters are outraged. “If the LGBT Center wants to host a fundraising and awareness party for anti-Semites,” Lucas said in a statement, “they might as well go all the way and host a tea dance for Fred Phelps (the gay-hating head of the Westboro Baptist Church).” Steven Goldstein, a rabbinical student and chair of Garden State Equality, pointed out: “I find it impossible to separate Zionism and Judaism. Those who try to separate them don’t have a clue as to what Judaism is all about…To call it an apartheid state, that is meshugge. It is a word designed to hurt and designed to de-legitimize the state of Israel.”

But the Israel = Apartheid charge is not only anti-Semitic and therefore racist; it is ridiculous on its face. How can Israel be an apartheid state when there is no legal separation between Arabs and Jews in Israel? Unlike black South Africans under apartheid, Arabs (“the Palestinians”) are citizens. Fourteen of the 120 members of the current Knesset are Arabs. Arabs can work in the same offices, learn in the same schools, receive medical treatment in the same hospitals, and relax on the same beaches. Yes, there is some discrimination against Muslim and Christian Arabs, (as well as discrimination against Jews from Arab countries), and some de facto racial segregation in Israel—just as there is in America, Canada and Europe, and in every other country where Israeli Apartheid Week events will be taking place.

Please realize: The Arab, mainly Muslim Middle East, is almost entirely “judenrein;” Jews have been ethnically cleansed from these lands. For that matter, Christians, cannot worship openly and are savagely persecuted. Muslims who convert to Christianity are honor murdered. Finally, both Jews and Palestinians are denied citizenship, residency, and certain jobs in the Arab Muslim countries of the Middle East.

These week-long/nearly month long Israeli Apartheid Week pageants provide no such balance, no context, no historical or moral perspective. They fail to note that Muslim-majority countries are religious supremacists; that Muslims feel “persecuted” when infidels have rights of any kind, and have persecuted, exiled, force-converted or slaughtered Hindus, Sikhs, Ba’hai, Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews—who are also peoples of color.

What makes the LGBT center’s initial decision to sponsor the anti-Israel Apartheid party so outrageous is that Israel is the safest haven in the Arab and Muslim world—get ready for it, here it comes—for Arab Palestinians who do not have the same civil rights in Gaza, on the West Bank, or anywhere else in the anti-Palestinian Muslim Middle East. Michael Lucas is also right: Israel is also the only safe haven for gay people, especially for “out” gays in the Middle East. Palestinian homosexuals are tortured and murdered by the gangsters, Islamists, and terrorists who are now running Gaza. Israel grants Palestinian gays asylum.

Lesbian feminist Sherry Wolf, associate editor of the International Socialist Review, and her comrades, accuse Michael Lucas of using his money and influence to censor them, to squelch their First Amendment rights. But this is absurd; there is a difference between being censored and being unsponsored by one organization. Those who condemn Israel as an Apartheid state, are allowed to trumpet their Big Lies everywhere,  which they are doing to great effect on campuses, (which should teach the truth but do not do so), at rallies, at human rights organizations, at the United Nations, and in the world-wide media. The fact that Wolf claims to be speaking for and defending the rights of Palestinian “queers” is a nonstarter.

Wolf is not alone. She, and so many other gay people, including leftists and feminists, are so afraid of   being called “racists,” that their fear trumps any interest they may have in women’s rights, human rights, or even gay rights.

In reality, this “politically correct “  position  is meant to help all those whose self-perceived psychological safety lies in merging with the trendiest-victim-of-them-all. This choice is all about maintaining one’s own social, career and funding status.

This pro-Palestinian position is not an anti-racist position; it is an opportunistic and cowardly position. What’s more: It is actually a racist position. If one is genuinely an anti-racist, one does not condemn Arab and Muslim women, gays, and dissidents, including Palestinians, to a lower sub-human standard of human rights and reserve for oneself a higher and different standard.

How and why has Israeli Apartheid Week come into being and remained in existence for six years? The monied Saudi Lobby, the former Soviet Lobby, the Arab League Lobby; the influence of Edward Said’s work on the post-colonial anti-racist western academy; the world-wide rise and influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestine Liberation Movement, Hamas, Hezbollah and Khomeinism; the anti-American and pro-“Palestinian” Western Left (with its penchant for theatrical politics)–have all played a part in this grotesque tragedy.

In addition, Charles Jacobs, President of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, has suggested that the extraordinarily ugly, and really out-of-control anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hatred on American campuses is due, in part, to the failure of American Jewish organizations to both acknowledge and combat it. And to a long-term, patient, and little-noticed Arab-American strategy. Jacobs writes:

In 1990, (more than 20 years ago), James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, explained on Jordanian TV how the Arab Lobby can and will match Jewish political and organizational success in America. Zogby and his allies recognized that the campus and the media, unlike Capitol Hill, are two battle grounds that Arabists could win by allying themselves with the American left. In both venues they already had beachheads and feet on the ground. The campus was in transition politically, influenced by ’60s tenured radicals who had adopted the dogma of post-colonialism, and its Palestinian version, Professor Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism.’

Moreover, America was experiencing a significant increase in foreign born Muslim students as well as increased Muslim immigration (many from countries with a culture of vicious anti-Semitism). Zogby focused on forming alliances with Marxist professors, die-hard socialist activists, African- American student groups, gay-lesbian groups and, most importantly, Jewish progressives.

Zogby’s strategy, together with massive Arab funding, has quite clearly worked.  The world now believes that the most important and most persecuted group alive are the Palestinians and that the Israelis oppress and torment them, are the sole cause of their enormous suffering, and that Israel is, indeed, an Apartheid nation state.

However, the real victim is not the barefoot Palestinian peasant but the Jewish state. Israel is engaged in an asymmetrical battle for its very existence According to Elliott Chodoff, a major in the Israeli Defense Force and a political and military analyst whom I met and worked with at the Advocates for Civil Liberties conference last month in Toronto, (“When Middle East Politics Invade the Campus”) there has only been one, long, still ongoing war against Israel since the state first came into being. “Israel’s many enemies want to destroy the Jewish state; Israel does not want to be destroyed.  Our enemies want to make it impossible for us to defend ourselves. If Jews defend their lives it is seen as criminal.”

And if Jew haters viciously attack Israel it is seen as…self-defense or as freedom-fighting or as “anti-racist” work.

The propaganda war against Israel, especially as personified by Israeli Apartheid Week  has grown grotesquely out of hand. It will not be simple or easy to reverse.

Canadian corporate consultant Joel Shapiro suggests that pro-Israel groups “go to universities which allow/enable/facilitate/sponsor” an anti-Israel Apartheid week and “insist that they also allow an anti-Pakistan, anti-Saudi, or anti-Iran week.” Once the University  admits the impossibility of allowing a major event that is critical of an Islamic country, they will almost always be forced to likewise cancel the anti-Israel week. If they won’t do one, they shouldn’t do the other. And if they continue with the one but not the other, then we should follow up with a STRONG media campaign on how they are targeting Israel but refusing to even contemplate legitimate critique against other nations, and hence are complicit in promoting racism.”

Professor Catherine Chatterly calls for “intelligent discussion and debate that employs meaningful, ethical, and accurate language to describe what are truly difficult, complex, and contested histories. People need to take responsibility for their own personal feelings of rage and frustration and they must be encouraged to exercise self-control in multicultural public spaces.” She wants to teach students to “unpack” the gross propaganda against Israel, she wants better academic programming, fact-driven objective truth to be taught on campus. She wants disagreements among informed truth-tellers to be civil and respectful.

As a scholar and former professor, I have always prized hunting the truth down and then teaching it—along with the views of others–to my students. I do not think that I am obliged to teach Big Lies or to welcome such Lies on campus merely because they may be protected by the First Amendment.

I do not trust the “truths” of those who heckle, jeer, mock, interrupt, physically menace, and in so doing, silence and censor any speech with which they disagree. This decidedly uncivil and menacing behavior most resembles  the Arab, Soviet, and Maoist Streets at their worst, the 1960s old New Left in America, including the Black Panthers–and, for that matter, their late 20th century and early 21st century admirers and descendents such as Act Up, Code Pink, Acorn’s bullies at the American voting booth, and Alinsky-style labor union thugs in Madison, Wisconsin.



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