Israel Apartheid Week (IAW), held last month at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, was surprisingly subdued this year, with events sparsely attended.
This year’s itinerary included events like “Zines Against Zionism,” various workshops and documentary screenings on BDS and how to fight against “colonialism,” a poetry night, and, perhaps, most intellectually dishonest of all, “Reclaiming Queer Arab Narratives,” where a gay Arab gave a presentation claiming Israel’s LGBT record is nothing more than “pinkwashing” and that LGBT rights in Arab countries are not nearly as dire as often portrayed. (I would point out that this queer activist wouldn’t have been able to speak so openly about his sexuality in Gaza, where homosexuality is illegal, but, silly me, that’s obviously Israel’s fault, too.)
I personally witnessed the vitriol and overt hatred that Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) activists have for Israel when a non-Jewish colleague of mine recently posted a picture of a beach in Tel Aviv with a caption expressing his admiration for the beautiful scenery as his Facebook cover photo.
Within minutes, he was hit with a barrage of mean-spirited comments from SAIA executives, voicing disgust that he would show a beach that was “ethnically cleansed of Palestinians.” One even said my friend would go down in history like former South African president P.W. Botha.
Within moments, a flame-war had erupted.
The SAIA executives refused to address any legitimate counterpoints and repeated the same tired narrative of “Israel committing colonialism and genocide.” Their hatred became more and more overt as they began writing things along the lines of “We’re done arguing with white Zionists.”
Their hatred for Israel’s very existence became especially clear when they were asked three times if they believe that Israel had the right to exist at all within any borders and they either ignored the question or deflected.
This exchange seemed to illustrate what most Jews on campus already knew: SAIA uses the issue of Palestinian self-determination and human rights to masquerade blind hatred of Israel and only Israel.
In reality, it’s quite clear that they don’t care about Palestinians at all because they never voice even an iota of concern about issues like Amnesty International’s report about Palestinians being tortured in prisons in the West Bank and Gaza – http://tinyurl.com/kgtsfx3 – or the more than 3,000 Palestinians who have been killed in Syria by the Assad regime since 2011. http://tinyurl.com/mjerhxc
They also don’t seem to have a problem with the existence of Pakistan, even though it’s a state that was partitioned on religious lines, resulting in the death and displacement of hundreds of thousands and which, to this day, remains a hotbed of terror and extremism.
Would SAIA activists have commented about human rights had my colleague posted a photo of a Lebanese café, a Pakistani mountain or a Saudi Arabian desert? I’m sure not. It’s only Israel that gets such nasty treatment.
In a world where Zionism is becoming increasingly viewed as a monolithic movement, it’s more important now than ever to have Zionists with diverse opinions speak to those who are interested in genuine dialogue.
That’s why I’m so proud to have taken part in “Exploring Perspectives: A Panel Showcasing the Zionist Spectrum,” an event organized by the Israel Awareness Committee, where I was able to speak about the liberal Zionist perspective on Israel alongside two panellists who gave right-wing and Arab Zionist perspectives.
It was an excellent opportunity to show just how wide the Zionist spectrum is, how, even though the sides may disagree with each other, they’re all equally “pro-Israel.” The hour-long discussion was followed by a half hour Q&A, where the audience was able to ask any questions they had.
By the end of the night, it was clear that this one event did more to bring real dialogue to campus on the Israel-Palestine conflict than all the combined IAW events ever did.