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Understanding Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW)

BY SUNDUS SEIF
iaw

Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College will host a film screening this week, tabling, a mock-wall display and other educational activities as part of the 9th Annual Israeli Apartheid week.

Every year, hundreds of campuses around the world organize events during this week that raise awareness of Israel’s human rights violations, in particular the system of apartheid currently operating within Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society to boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) Israel until the human rights violations stop.

Recently, President Barack Obama unveiled a full-length statue in honor of Rosa Parks, a legendary civil rights activist known for her role in the Montgomery bus boycott which helped prompt the end to racial segregation on public transit. A week later, Israel announced that beginning March 4th, separate public bus lines would run for Palestinian workers commuting from the West Bank to central Israel.

These events highlight the parallels between the oppression of blacks in the United States during the Jim Crow era and the contemporary systems of institutionalized segregation and oppression in Palestine.

Currently there are over 500 roadblocks and checkpoints that hinder Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank alone, and over 30 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel because of their ethnicity. Carroll Bogert of Human Rights Watch noted in 2010 that, “Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all these state-provided benefits.”

Both South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, two leading figures in the South African anti-Apartheid movement, have strongly condemned Israel’s apartheid policies and disregard for international law. In 2012, Desmond Tutu made further note of the parallels between the current situation in Israel and the subjugation of non-whites during South African Apartheid: “Israel becoming an apartheid state or like South Africa in its denial of equal rights is not a future danger, as three former Israeli prime ministers — Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and David Ben Gurion — have warned, but a present-day reality.”

Even Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak has stated, “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic…If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

So what can we as students do?

Educating yourself about the current situation, and the global nonviolent BDS movement is a great start.

Divestment initiatives have been historically utilized as means of highlighting human rights and environmental violations and calling for government and corporate accountability. This is emphasized by the current nationwide campaigns on U.S. campuses calling for university divestment from fossil fuels. And just as international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns helped to pressure the government of South Africa to abandon apartheid policies, allies—which include a growing number of U.S. and Israeli Jews—call to boycott, divest and sanction Israel in hope that the campaign will help pressure Israel to end the human rights abuses, apartheid policies and allow for “the protection of Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their homes and properties as stipulated in U.N. resolution 194,” as noted in the July 2005 BDS statement.

On behalf of Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College, we hope you are able to attend our tablings next to the Quad and all other events happening throughout the city as part of NYC Israeli Apartheid Week and learn more about the various parallels between Jim Crow policies in the U.S., the history of South African apartheid and the current practice of Apartheid policies in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

(For information about the week-long series of events in NYC, please visit: http://apartheidweek.org/2008/newyork )

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