Debunking the ‘apartheid wall’ at UCLA

Students for Justice in Palestine’s lies about Israel correlate with a national rise in antisemitism.

An anti-Israel "apartheid wall" on display at Columbia University during "Israeli Apartheid Week" in 2017. Source: Facebook.
An anti-Israel "apartheid wall" on display at Columbia University during "Israeli Apartheid Week" in 2017. Source: Facebook.
Kylie Heering
Kylie Heering

From April 3-7, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) hosted their annual “Palestine Liberation Week,” also known as “Israeli Apartheid Week.”

SJP is a campus group supported by the radical American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), an anti-Israel organization many of whose members support Hamas. Each spring, SJP leads a propaganda campaign on UCLA’s Bruin Walk, spreading misinformation about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This year, this campaign was held during the Jewish holiday of Passover. Many practicing Jews went home for the holidays and could not attend events that use electricity, this includes microphones, lights, and screens.

SJP’s decision to host “Palestine Liberation Week” at the beginning of Passover meant that Jewish students did not have an opportunity to counter their propaganda. It is difficult to believe that this was not a deliberate move.

This year, SJP set up a mock “apartheid wall” on Bruin Walk with attention-grabbing statistics and buzzwords. While SJP claims to advocate for Palestinian human rights, a closer examination of the claims on the “apartheid wall” reveals the group is more concerned with vilifying Israel.

For example, the wall alleges Israel uses 80% of the area’s water resources versus 17% for Palestinians. These statistics describe Israel’s Western Aquifer, whose springs are located mostly inside the State of Israel.

Before 1967, Palestinians in Judea and Samaria—then occupied by Jordan—had access to only 5% of this water. Since 1967, that number has increased to 17%. Jordan has not provided the area with water since 1967, despite its legal obligation to do so.

Taher Nassereddin, Director General of the West Bank Water Department, has stated that water supplies for the Palestinian residents of the area have increased with their population growth and they are allowed to dig new wells. Moreover, Israel exports over 40 million cubic meters of water for Palestinian use.

Another claim on the “apartheid wall” is that the security barrier between Israel and Judea and Samaria perpetuates an Israeli system of apartheid against the Palestinians.

The wall does not segregate Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, as SJP fails to note, the wall was built as a security measure in the aftermath of the second intifada. The “apartheid wall” falsely claims that this intifada was “predominantly nonviolent.” In fact, more than 1,000 Israelis were killed in suicide bombings, shootings and car-ramming attacks. The security barrier has reduced illegal infiltrations and acts of terror by 90%.

The “apartheid wall” claims that there is religious discrimination in Israel. Below a depiction of the Dome of the Rock, SJP writes: “Israeli restrictions make it difficult or impossible for Palestinian Christians and Muslims to worship freely.” In fact, Israel’s Declaration of Independence guarantees religious freedom for all.

By contrast, Jews are often prohibited from visiting the Temple Mount, their holiest site, which is controlled by the Jordanian Islamic Waqf, not the Israeli government. The Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims, has been repeatedly desecrated in riots initiated by Hamas. Jewish holy sites, such as Joseph’s Tomb, have been targets of Palestinian violence.

This Ramadan, Palestinian rioters barricaded themselves inside Al-Aqsa with fireworks and weapons and disrupted peaceful prayer. After the rioters refused to exit the mosque, Israeli police removed them to maintain peace and access to the site. In response, terrorists in Gaza fired rockets at Israel’s south, endangering hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians.

This was part of a recent trend of increased violence around Ramadan, inspired by Hamas’ efforts to escalate Palestinian terrorism. Last year, Palestinian rioters used the Temple Mount to hurl stones at Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall below.

SJP’s wall also promotes an antisemitic conspiracy theory known as “Deadly Exchange,” which claims Israel is the cause of systemic anti-black racism and police brutality in the U.S. The wall accuses Israel of training American police officers in “repressive police tactics and weaponry [that] are tested on Palestinians and deployed on black people.”

This is a lie. The truth is that U.S.-Israel counterterrorism efforts such as the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) Homeland Security Program were launched in the aftermath of 9/11 to help local U.S. law enforcement address the growing threat of terrorism. They did not deal with field training.

SJP’s lies include false depictions of Israeli military operations. “Operation Protective Edge,” described on the wall as an “8-day military offensive in Gaza by Israeli soldiers” was triggered by Hamas missile fire and the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens. Unsurprisingly, SJP fails to mention these facts. Other operations listed on the wall were also targeted responses to the increased threat of Hamas terrorism.

Moreover, SJP covers up the fact that Hamas stores weaponry in residential areas, launching rockets towards Israel from schools, mosques and hospitals. Even the NGO Human Rights Watch, which has a history of anti-Israel bias, acknowledges that these rocket attacks are war crimes.

SJP’s lies are not harmless. They encourage racism and violence. According to a 2022 ADL report, there is a strong statistical correlation between a national rise in antisemitism and the proliferation of anti-Israel propaganda. The AMCHA Initiative reached the same conclusions in their November 2022 study of college and university campuses.

The repercussions of anti-Israel misinformation are real and tangible. On American campuses, such propaganda fuels hatred against Jewish students, making many feel unsafe and unwelcome.

While it is essential to advocate for the welfare of all people, this can only be accomplished through honest conversations based on facts, not hate-mongering and incitement based on deceit. SJP propagates misinformation about the Israel-Palestine conflict that will only continue to create a divisive and unsafe environment for Jewish students on campus. Disseminating and perpetuating lies and hateful rhetoric will serve no one and, as history has proven, is never the answer.

Kylie Heering is the 2022-23 CAMERA on Campus Fellow at UCLA.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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