Israeli Apartheid Week is an anti-Israel campaign hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on college and university campuses that spreads libels about the State of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The central claim of Israeli Apartheid Week is that Israel practices apartheid against Palestinians and Israel’s Arab citizens. This is an outright lie.
Apartheid was a system of de jure discrimination and segregation in South Africa that was existed from 1948-1994. During apartheid, a white minority ruled and oppressed a majority black population with restrictions on housing, employment and freedom of movement.
Nothing like this exists in Israel. All citizens of Israel, whether they are Jewish, Arab, Christian, Druze or otherwise, have the same legal rights. This is enshrined in constitutional law.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the country, affirms that Israel “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”
Not only does Israel affirm this in principle, it has upheld it to the best of its ability. Israel’s Arab citizens serve as ambassadors, judges, legislators, journalists, professors, artists, politicians and other leadership roles in Israeli society.
Furthermore, Israel’s relationship with Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza cannot be compared to apartheid. Gilead Ini, a senior researcher at CAMERA, proved this in his debunking of a report issued by B’Tselem, a self-declared human rights group with a history of anti-Israel bias.
Ini pointed out that most of B’Tselem’s report based its claims of “apartheid” and “Jewish supremacy” on a comparison between the rights of citizens versus non-citizens of Israel.
This is deeply deceptive, because Palestinians living in Area A of Judea and Samaria, along with the Gaza Strip, are not citizens of Israel. They are citizens of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas governments, respectively.
Any grievances about the civil rights of Palestinians should be directed towards those governments, not Israel.
While it is true that Israel isn’t perfect, no country in the world is perfect either. Unfortunately, there is discrimination in every society. This does not mean that Israel is a uniquely wicked “apartheid state,” as SJP claims.
None of this means anything to SJP. This year, the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), an SJP chapter at Harvard College, held numerous community events and even built a mock “apartheid wall” on campus.
PSC’s “apartheid wall” misrepresents the nature of the security barrier between Israel and parts of Judea and Samaria. This barrier, which is mostly a fence, was built to stop Palestinian terrorism after hundreds of Israelis were killed or wounded in suicide bombings, stabbings and shootings. It does not separate people based on race or any other criteria.
A panel from PSC’s “apartheid wall”—seen in this screengrab from their official Instagram page—claims, “There is no Zionist state without racism, colonialism and ethnic cleansing.”
This is yet another lie. The truth is that Zionism is the movement for the liberation of the Jewish people. Jews are not colonizers. Israel has always been our home. You cannot colonize your homeland, where your language, religion and identity originate.
PSC’s “apartheid wall” also accuses Israel of “pinkwashing.” This is the ludicrous assertion that Israel’s fair and equal treatment of its LGBTQ+ community is somehow disingenuous. This lie ignores the fact that Israel is the only truly safe place for the LGBTQ+ community in the Middle East. It is the one place where members of the community do not need to hide their sexual orientation for fear of persecution, jail or, worse yet, the death penalty.
Such campaigns of defamation aren’t limited to the Ivy League. In California, Jewish students face similar challenges.
Bears for Palestine (BFP), an SJP affiliate at the University of California Berkeley, also built a mock “apartheid wall” in the center of campus. BFP then went further by sharing an Instagram post calling for people to “help us paint our own wall as a reclamation & a way to understand the call to Palestinian liberation.”
An examination of the rhetoric employed by Palestinian leaders reveals that “reclamation” and “Palestinian liberation” are synonymous with calls for the elimination of the State of Israel and Palestinian terrorism.
For example, on March 9, 2023, Palestinian Authority advisor Mahmoud Al-Habbash explained that “liberation” means eliminating the State of Israel, even if it must be done in stages.
Another P.A. official, Nufouz Al-Fara, representative of the Fatah Women’s Commission, called Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who orchestrated the murder of 37 people, including 12 children, the “best example” of someone who sacrificed her life for the “liberation and establishing our Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem.”
BFP’s employment of such murderous rhetoric is deeply troubling.
SJP at UC Davis also encouraged attendees to support the “Palestinian liberation movement,” which whitewashes Palestinian terrorism and extremism.
UC Davis SJP ended their weeklong Israeli Apartheid Week with a blood libel: The so-called “relationship between policing in America and Israeli military violence.” Often called “Deadly Exchange” by anti-Israel groups, this debunked conspiracy theory claims that joint training between Israeli and U.S. police is the source of police violence against Americans of color. In fact, this training is centered on counterterrorism, not policing.
In 2021, CAMERA on Campus began an annual campaign refuting the lies spread during Israeli Apartheid Week called Apartheid Week Exposed. The campaign is built around a website with a virtual apartheid wall that addresses most, if not all, of the claims propagated by the Apartheid Week libelists.
This year, CAMERA on Campus’ campaign proved especially helpful. It was a privilege for the Binghamton University Zionist Organization (BUZO) to support CAMERA on Campus’ campaign and host social media activist and author Hen Mazzig. Hen spoke about strategies to combat the falsehoods that college students encounter on a campus with an active SJP chapter.
University administrators need to condemn SJP’s rhetoric and actions and hold them accountable when they cross the line into antisemitism. Until then, members of BUZO and I will continue to share the truth about Israel and refute SJP’s lies.
Hannah Kirsch is a junior at Binghamton University.