SPME is taking on Israel Apartheid Week


By • Edward S. Beck, President, SPME, February 8, 2008

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East is encouraging all faculty of good will to address the current historical distortions, fabrications and falsifications being made in local newspaper campus and community newspaper articles and on campuses both in the classroom and student activities programming during the well-funded and highly organized “Israel Apartheid Week” on college campuses throughout the world.

In cases where university policies may have been violated in terms of incitement or hate speech, we ask that faculty take the inititiative to call for sanctions.

In cases where Israel is being demonized we ask that faculty issue public statements addressing the demonization with actual facts.

At the time of this writing, colleagues at the SPME Chapter at Stanford and SPME Chapter University of Toronto are preparing statements for publication.

Stanford University is circulating the following document for Stanford University professors Signatures. Interested professors should contact Amichai Magen, at merav@stanford.edu

Stanford SPME Chapter Statement

    We are saddened and concerned by the malicious propaganda campaign being waged this week by the Stanford student organization, SCAI, against Israel. In falsely seeking to smear Israel with the stain of apartheid, SCAI is sowing divisiveness, bigotry, and discord in our academic community. Demonizing Israel so irresponsibly is contrary to our shared values of mutual respect, and the vital quest for true co-existence, peace and justice for all in the Middle East – Christians, Jews and Moslems.

    Apartheid was the vicious policy of the old South Africa that kept races separate and caused untold suffering to the Black majority and other people of color. The anti-Israel movement is cynically exploiting the memory of African suffering in order to score points in the fraught field of Middle East politics. To describe Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, as apartheid, trivializes the South African past while doing a grave injustice to the most pluralistic and open society in the Middle East today.

    Under apartheid, people were legally classified into racial groups and forcibly separated from each other. A wide range of laws ensured racially based discrimination, including the prohibition of Blacks from voting, using Whites-only schools and hospitals, or even mixing with Whites in public places. Apartheid South Africa was also ruled by a Whites only minority government. Apartheid South Africa maintained brutal control over its whole territory, never ceding an inch. In contrast, Israel is negotiating with the Palestinian Authority to achieve the two-state solution that will establish the first independent Palestinian state in history.

    The State of Israel has nothing in common with apartheid. In the only country in the world where Jews happen to be a majority, all minorities – including the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arab Christians and Moslems – enjoy equal civil, political, economic and personal freedoms. Israeli Arabs form political parties, compete in free and fair elections, and are represented in the legislature, executive and judiciary. Israelis of all religions and ethnicities can legally live in any public residential community in the country. Arabic is an official language in Israel. Arab Israelis attend Israel’s top universities, and contribute richly to Israel’s science, culture and sport.

    To equate Israel with apartheid displays a profound ignorance of the horror that was South Africa as well as a contempt for democracy in Israel. The difficult path to peace in the Middle East can do without this sort of empty vilification.

Anti Israel bias (the new anti-Semitism) at the University of Toronto

    The University of Toronto is a world-renowned institution, generously funded by the taxpayers. It is the place where insulin was discovered. It is also the birthplace of “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW), an annual, week-long, anti-Israel symposium with associated anti-Semitic activities that in four short years has spread to campuses throughout Canada, as well as in the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The stated aim of IAW is “to push forward the analysis of Israel as an apartheid state and to bolster support for a boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign”. The IAW includes presentations by individuals that are on record either calling for the destruction of Israel, supporting terrorism against Israel, denying the Holocaust, and/or expressing anti-Semitic views. This event has also been used as a platform to spread anti-Semitism outside of the university system. In 2007, the IAW at the U of T included a “Day of Action” to initiate a boycott of a book retailer owned and operated by prominent Jewish philanthropists with ties to Israel.

    A UN resolution designates “apartheid” as a crime against humanity. Therefore, to label Israel as an “apartheid state” is to convict supporters of Israel at the university and elsewhere as accessories to a reprehensible international crime. IAW creates an atmosphere on campus that is hostile to Jewish students and to students and faculty that have affinity for the Jewish people or Israel. A Jewish student organization on campus has filed formal grievances with the University administration in response to this event. Faculty members have also asked the administration to shut it down. Indeed, last year, 70 non-Jewish and Jewish Professors signed a letter respectfully requesting that it be stopped. In addition to student and faculty groups, Hillel, the Canadian Coalition for Democracies and B’nai Brith have all expressed concerns over the hosting of IAW by the U of T.

    The University administration has acknowledged that members of the University community have raised concerns about these events and have reported feeling deeply offended and hurt as a result. Despite this, their position is that Freedom of Speech must be protected. However, the application of this critical university policy would appear to be somewhat biased. The University would rightly prevent any student group from organizing an overtly racist or sexist symposium, but the IAW, which incites hatred of Jews, is tolerated. The administration notes that its Student Code of Conduct does not apply to IAW since the activities could not be described as “vexatious conduct directed at one or more specific individuals”. Surely, vexatious conduct against visible minorities or against women would be considered unacceptable, even if not directed against a specific individual.

    Finally, this is more than an issue of unpleasantness on campus. The IAW comes at a time when Israel is being threatened with nuclear annihilation by Iran, when Israel is under constant attack from terrorists targeting civilians, and when anti-Semitic attacks world-wide have reached levels not seen since the Second World War. While the administration insists that it does not endorse IAW, by allowing it to take place on campus, the University of Toronto legitimizes its message and goals. The University has stated that it will not tolerate homophobia, racism, and Islamophobia on campus. Why then does it hostIsrael Apartheid Week?

SPME welcomes to learn of other efforts by faculty in response to “Israel Apartheid Week” at spme@spme.net .

February 10, 2008 | 1 Comment »

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