by Alexander H. Joffe
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
March 24, 2013
The return of Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) makes it necessary to review some of the better and less well-known features of this annual, global event. By doing so, it will become possible better to understand the nature and scope of the problem and to improve our focus on potential responses.
The first and most important fact regarding IAW is its clearly stated goal of destroying Israel. This is sometimes glossed over by individual events and specific speakers. It may also be lost in the emotionalism that surrounds the agit-prop rhetoric and guerilla theatrics. But the “Basis of Unity for IAW International Coordination” makes the goals and methods of IAW and its local affiliates clear:
We are against the racist ideology of Zionism, which is the impetus for Israeli colonialism, because it inherently discriminates against those who are not Jewish. We are against all forms of discrimination, and believe that there can never be justice without the restoration of full rights for everyone, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or nationality. Our demands are based upon the Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, issued on 9 July 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations, which states that:
Boycott, divestment and sanctions should be imposed and maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands, dismantling the Wall and freeing all Palestinian and Arab political prisoners;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN General Assembly resolution 194.
To be part of the Israeli Apartheid Week International Network, organizations should commit to:
a) the basis of unity above
b) coordination with the international network
c) building, as part of Israeli Apartheid Week activities, local BDS awareness and campaigns.
As will be noted below, the nature of these goals raise questions regarding responses from pro-Israel and pro-peace supporters.
Another obvious but unappreciated feature is that IAW is a highly professional, coordinated international effort with unknown sources of funding. It is not a series of loosely affiliated grassroots initiatives that happens to be taking place simultaneously in over 100 cities around the world. It is explicitly based on the “Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel” of 2005, which in turn was based on the “Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel” of 2004. But the roots of these efforts have been traced by IAW organizers back to at least 2000, who also make reference to two additional sources of legitimacy, international efforts that opposed apartheid in South Africa and, more ominously, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 of 1975 that declared “Zionism is Racism.”
Thus, in ideological and practical terms the IAW movement justifies itself in two ways. Firstly, that it promotes the will of Palestinian organizations that supported the first call. These are primarily professional, trade and labor organizations controlled by the Fatah movement and other members in the Palestine Liberation Organization, as well as non-governmental organizations in Israel and the Palestinian territories that receive American and European funding. Secondly, IAW sees itself as part of the anti-apartheid tradition endorsed by the international community. This is of course part of the movement’s name and a key element in its marketing. But the lineage back to Resolution 3379 is another indication of the IAW’s true origins and goals.
IAW is also an explicit structural as well as ideological component of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The ideological and practical links between IAW and the BDS movement are seen in the regular use of the same speakers at events. Professional activists such as Omar Barghouti, and academics such as Ali Abunimah, Judith Butler, and Saree Makdisi are among the notable individuals who have appeared at IAW and BDS events recently. The rhetoric of IAW differs slightly from that of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which calls for the “right of return” and BDS activities but which also emphasizes Palestinian and broader Arabic culture as well as political lobbying in the United Kingdom.
Espousing the dissolution of Israel and the “right of return” in favor of single state explicitly denies Jews the right to political sovereignty. Since only Jews are denied this right, IAW and BDS are explicitly antisemitic. The lack of any clear political proposals on the part of IAW, in the form of the desired unitary state, such as “secular” and “democratic,” or any articulation of its political and legal systems, not least of all protections of minorities, is another indication of the IAW’s nature and goals. IAW is fundamentally antinomian, that is, it is more opposed to the existence of Israel than it is in favor of concrete and workable, much less fair, solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict. This, along with the explicit situation of BDS as part of anti-colonial, indigenous rights, and anti-globalization movements, speaks to BDS and IAW as heirs to the Soviet tradition of antisemitism in the guise of anti-Zionism, which reached a peak with Resolution 3379, and its current position firmly within the global left.
Read more at Middle East Forum
Alex Joffe is an archaeologist and historian. He is currently a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow of the Middle East Forum
Must see —-> The Myth of Israeli Apartheid