The 10th annual Israel Apartheid Week is being marked this and next week in 87 cities around the world, with Britain having the largest number of them.
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The initiative is part of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement’s campaign against Israel, focusing on its continued control of the occupied territories.
Most of the related events take place on university campuses and are organized by Palestinian student groups or their allies. The events include lectures, meetings with speakers who oppose Israeli policies, including Israeli students who live abroad, film screenings – including several showings of “5 Broken Cameras,” the Israeli-Palestinian Oscar-nominated documentary about the struggles of the village of Bil’in against the security barrier – and demonstrations calling for boycotts of Israel.
In England, events will take place at Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics and other prestigious institutions. Israeli speakers will include professors Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim.
At the same time, there will be several counter-initiatives by pro-Israeli student groups. For example, a Facebook page and Twitter account entitled Rethink2014 were set up that post pictures of students holding a sign reading “I oppose Israel Apartheid Week because…” with their personal reasons for doing so.
An Israeli student at the London School of Economics, Dor Glick, protested the fact that the Global History Department, in which he is a student, sent an email to the entire student body inviting them to Apartheid Week events, without expressing any reservations about the term “apartheid.”
“When the term is not qualified or clarified at all, it can easily be perceived as an indisputable concept,” said Glick. “Just like there’s Breast Cancer Awareness Week or International Holocaust Day, Israel Apartheid Week is becoming increasingly established at British universities.”
Glick emailed a protest to the department administration, which responded by clarifying that it does not support the political positions of the event organizers and does not promote political positions of any kind.
“Israeli students around the world ought not accept invitations to Apartheid Week as an unavoidable decree,” Glick added. “During the coming period, one must write and complain to university officials when such letters arrive. The professors in my department agreed with me; they understood that this was a distorted concept and sought to send around a clarification.”
On Friday there will be an assembly protesting Israel Apartheid Week at the London School of Economics. Orit Kopel, another Israeli student at the institution, who plans to attend, said that as far as she’s concerned, “Apartheid Week is not a demonstration for ending the occupation and establishing two states for two peoples. The messages are very superficial, full of half-truths and lies. The result is not increased awareness of the injustices of the occupation, but a fanning of hatred that reduces the chance for peace.”
Kopel appears on the Rethink2014 Facebook page opposing Israel Apartheid Week because “lies and hatred will not bring peace.”
“I believe in mutual dialogue, in a dialogue toward agreement; I believe in the path of peace,” Kopel continued. “Apartheid Week is everything but that. Its main message is delegitimizing the State of Israel and denying Zionism. That doesn’t promote peace, it promotes hatred.”