Israeli Apartheid Week 2014

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Israeli Apartheid Week this year is February 24 through March 2. IAW is the annual event to educate Americans about the reality of the situation in Israel/Palestine. Some events are planned across the state include film showings and panel discussions. Since the week overlaps with the end of African American History Month, there are also events planned to celebrate both African Americans and Palestinians.

Educating Americans about Israel/Palestine has always been an uphill battle. The facts have been out there, but the media, academia and government have ignored all but a single narrative. I believe, like Alison Weir, that Americans are good and ethical people, and if they just knew the facts, they would never tolerate the inhumane treatment of Palestinians. The journalist Alison Weir founded the website ifAmericansKnew.org, a wealth of facts, statistics and reports about Israel and Palestine.

Like most American Jews of my generation, I grew up in a liberal Zionist household. My parents were Holocaust survivors and I never questioned the predominant narrative about the Middle East “conflict” until the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps. Because I didn’t understand why Palestinian refugees were living in Lebanon I was forced to ask some uncomfortable questions and come to even more uncomfortable conclusions.

After reading just about everything I could find on the topic I finally went to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in 2008 to see the situation for myself. I thought my reading would have prepared me for what I would encounter, but I was shocked by a 28-foot high wall bisecting Palestinian villages; checkpoints preventing Palestinians from getting to work, schools and hospitals; farmland appropriated and destroyed to make room for illegal Israeli Jewish-only colonies; graffiti on walls wishing for the death of “Arabs” by gas chamber. The situation is unlivable for Palestinians, which is of course, the idea. Zionists want all the land with none of the wrong kind of people on it. If life is unlivable, Palestinians will choose, so Israelis hope, to live elsewhere.

But that’s not happening. Palestinians’ motto is “Existence is Resistance.” As the films “Five Broken Cameras” and “Budrus” show, the resistance is predominantly non-violent, yet the reaction from the Israeli military and settlers is frequently horrifically violent. A quick scan of reports from the UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) – Palestine, shows that Palestinians are almost always the victims of violence directed against them by Israeli military and civilians, and that this violence is increasing dramatically every year.

The international community has responded in solidarity with Palestinians and especially with their 2005 call to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel until it complies with international humanitarian law. The BDS movement is winning significant victories around the world and even in the United States. Churches, including United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to boycott products from Israeli settlements. Labor unions in South Africa, Ireland and Scotland have voted for boycotts. Businesses including Veolia, SodaStream and Ahava, which operate or produce their products in illegal settlements, are being boycotted all over the world. A Norwegian pension fund has divested from Israeli banks, as has a Danish fund. And at many Minnesota precinct caucuses on February 4 a resolution was put forward that Minnesota shall divest from Israel bonds. In most precincts the resolution passed overwhelmingly.

Israel and its supporters are desperately trying to prevent the word “boycott” from being mentioned. When John Kerry said the B word at the Munich Security Conference, several Israeli ministers called his comments “offensive” and accused him of amplifying anti-Semitism. More than the economic impact of a boycott, Israel does not want to be seen as a country that deserves to be boycotted. It continues to claim that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, that it is a bastion of culture and science. It claims that its actions against the Palestinians are purely for self-defense. Yet Israel’s actions include horrible human rights and international law violations such as detention and torture of children, denial of basic requirements of life (water), theft of land and resources, house demolitions. All of these abuses are well documented.

Israelis and their supporters would like to go back to the days when people like me didn’t question their narrative. But the world has changed. It is no longer possible to keep people from knowing about human rights abuses when there is You Tube, Facebook and Israeli Apartheid Week. Israel must face the facts that the world will no longer tolerate its abuses. When those abuses end, boycotts, sanctions, divestment, and Israeli Apartheid Week will also end.

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