Israeli Apartheid Week: A Western political aberration

Shouting is no substitute for the truth. Fortunately, despite loud claims of global appeal, Israeli Apartheid Week enjoys no such thing

Shouting loud no substitute for the truth
Nick Gray
On 3 March 2014 22:02

Spring is in the air, the daffodils are blooming, birds will soon be nesting. It must be time for Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), the annual university hatefest.

Unless your world revolves around academia and campus life, there is no reason why you should have heard of IAW, because it doesn’t normally make the mainstream media. It is also a rather long and diluted ‘week’ for an international campaign, running from the last week of February to the end of March.

IAW celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and, as usual, it claims to be setting the world’s campuses on fire for Palestine. The truth is, this iteration of IAW will perhaps be better organised than previous efforts, but many of its claims of success do not hold up to deeper investigation.

According to its website, IAW “seeks to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.”

It also claims to reflect “global grassroots rejection of Israel’s military and political aggression.” This assumes, of course, that Israel has such objectionable policies in place; “proof” of Israel’s aggression usually comprises half-truths and wild accusations.

IAW encourages student groups and BDS campaigners to wreak political havoc on campus through lectures, film screenings, exhibition displays and BDS actions in local cities. There is no shortage of speakers on hand to help out, of course, and there are now a good number of easy-to-stage films circulating the BDS-sphere.

I said that IAW’s claims to success do not bear deep investigation. I know this because two years ago I took it upon myself to find out. I found, for example, no trace of events in just under half of the 77 cities listed as participating. I did the same again this year and what I found was equally interesting.

The IAW website claims that 135 cities in 29 countries are taking part this year. Impressive – until you find out that only 13 of the countries listed were actually showing any events at all.

Of the countries that are advertising IAW events, nine are in the EU (not in the least surprising) with the UK and US holding the majority of events. But the only two countries outside of ‘the West’ showing any interest appear to be Brazil and Morocco (one event each). Not quite ‘global’, then.

With no events at all being held in Palestinian territories, supposedly the focus of the entire campaign, this just reinforces what we already knew: the BDS campaign has become a Western political aberration, in place solely to hammer Israel at any opportunity. After all, even a significant number of Palestinians don’t want Israeli goods boycotted and 70-80 percent of Palestinian imports come from Israel.

Of course, a strategy pinned on young and impressionable students from around the Western world makes sense for IAW. These students will be among tomorrow’s business leaders, politicians and diplomats. Infect them now with “occupation rhetoric” and false claims of Israeli apartheid and you set the scene for everlasting BDS.

What is more, despite the limited global appeal of IAW, there are perhaps even fewer coordinated and effective efforts to counter its deception. An almost isolated voice is the Jerusalem Institute for Justice, which held events in Canada and Finland last year and is holding others this year in San Francisco, Sweden and Israel.

Others, such as the British Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM) – whose recent paper, “The Apartheid Smear”, is an excellent tool against the Israel-hating IAW and BDS campaigners – are doing their bit, but much more is still needed to bring balance to the debate and to present the opposing narrative coherently.

The truth about these annual IAW events, sadly, is that they are an abuse of academic freedom and indeed of the whole democratic principle of freedom of speech. As one attendee of a recent Scottish BDS film told me, all that is on offer is “…outrageous, abusive and provocative propaganda.”

Within such a suffocating environment, how is any other narrative ever to surface?

Nick Gray is Director, Christian Middle East Watch, a British organisation dedicated to objective and factual discussion of Middle Eastern issues, especially of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Nick, who is a regular contributor to The Commentator, blogs at

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