Universities across the globe mark Israeli Apartheid Week

By Danna Harman, Haaretz Correspondent in Europe

LONDON – A filmmaker, anthropologist and economic researcher are among those headlining events marking what pro-Palestinian organizers have declared as “Israeli Apartheid Week” – and all three speakers are Israeli.

University campuses in more than 40 cities around the world are marking the week with lectures, films, multimedia events, cultural performances and demonstrations.

Since they were first launched in 2005, the events have become some of “the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity calendar,” according to its organizers.

Its aim, they state on their Web site, is to “contribute to this chorus of international opposition to Israeli apartheid and to bolster support for the boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) campaign.”

Though many of the details about those events were not being promoted on the Apartheid Week Web site, it did list several events being offered by Israelis.

Among them is Shir Hever, an economic researcher at the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem, who is scheduled to give a series of lectures at the University of Amsterdam entitled “Could the Economic Policies of Israel be Considered a Form of Apartheid?”

In addition, Israeli activist and filmmaker Shai Carmeli-Pollak is screening his 2006 documentary “Bil’in Habibti,” about Israel Defense Forces violence, at Boston-area universities.

Jeff Halper, the Israel-based professor of anthropology who is co-founder and coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, was scheduled to speak on “Israeli Apartheid: The Case For BDS” at Glasgow University.

The participation of several Israelis in the anti-Zionist events is “atrocious,” said David Katz, a member of Britain’s Jewish Board of Deputies who grew up in South Africa and has long fought the comparison between that country’s racial segregation and Israel’s ethnic divisions.

“They are free to do as they please, but it’s atrocious,” he said of the participating Israelis. “I think they don’t understand the analogy they are making… which is insulting to those who suffered under apartheid.”

“It’s like calling things ‘holocaust’ which are not the Holocaust or terming something ‘genocide’ which is not genocide,” said Katz.

As part of efforts to counter the Apartheid Week events, one Jewish charity brought over Benjamin Pogrund, a South African immigrant to Israel who is the former deputy editor of the Johannesburg-based Rand Daily Mail, to speak to British university students about why Israel is not an apartheid state.

“The game plan of those who seek the destruction of Israel is to equate us with South Africa, a pariah state which had to be subjected to international sanctions,” Pogrund has said. “Israelis coming to take part in this week should know better.”

In Canada, the legislature in the province of Ontario unanimously condemned Israeli Apartheid Week, voting for a resolution that denounced the campus events.

“If you’re going to label Israel as Apartheid, then you are also… attacking Canadian values,” Conservative legislator Peter Shurman told Shalom Life, a Toronto-based Jewish Web site.

“The use of the phrase ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ is about as close to hate speech as one can get without being arrested, and I’m not certain it doesn’t actually cross over that line,” he said.

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