Jewish Journal

Israeli Apartheid Week- bigger than ever. Can we fight the hatred?

by Noga Gur-Arieh

February 27, 2013 | 11:15 am

The first time I heard the combination of the words "Israel" and "Apartheid" was a year ago. I just started writing Israelife and was only at the beginning  of my learning process of how different people worldwide see Israel.

It was when I encountered "the Israeli Apartheid Week," and I was in  a bit of a shock. Something in the words "Israel" and "Apartheid" put together simply didn't  add up. I couldn't believe that people actually allow themselves to use this very intense, horrible word, which links to history's darkest times, to describe Israel.  I couldn't believe  that people sat at home, watched some imbalanced news, and allowed themselves to simplify the complex situation here by simply attaching the word "apartheid" to my country.

It has been a year now  since that blog post I wrote about the Apartheid Week. In this period of time, I grew to learn a lot about the ways people worldwide see Israel. Unfortunately, I realized that neither my posts at Israelife nor others’ posts online and in traditional media, did not have the massive impact I thought they would have. In fact, in this year, the crusade aimed to make us look like the animals Jews were once haunted by, has just grown bigger and bigger.

Nowadays, 200 cities worldwide take part in the 9th annual Israeli Apartheid Week. This is one scary fact. There is a formal, worldwide event, named "Israeli Apartheid Week." Take a moment, let those words sink, and tell me you didn't just get the biggest chill of your life.
The IAW (yes, it also has formal initials)  "is an annual international series of events (including rallies, lectures, cultural performances, film screenings, multimedia displays and boycott of Israel’s actions) held in cities and campuses across the globe. Last year’s IAW was incredibly successful with over 215 cities participating worldwide. IAW seeks to raise awareness about Israel's apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to build support for the growing “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel “  campaign. This quote came from the IAW's website (yes, it has a website, too), which calls people to join the "battle" against Israel's apartheid against Palestinians.

I know things around here are complicated. In fact, I think the situation in Israel can replace the existing dictionary definition of the word "complicated." But the way from "complicated" to "apartheid" is just as far as the way from "reason" and the people "fighting" this so called Israeli agenda.

I must state that even within Israel there is a certain amount of criticism on the way Palestinians are being treated, even I have some criticism, but once again, it is a very complicated situation. On the one side, Palestinians are after this small piece of  land. They had the chance to get half of this country, but refused, because they wanted it all. Now, they are under not-so-equal conditions, and yes, it is very unfair for those who weren't even born in 1947. On the other hand, Israel also exists here, and is willing to fight for its existence, especially while some Palestinian leaders have stated before it is not peace they are after, but the entire land and the death of all Jews. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of complexity.

As for the Israeli-Arabs, I agree that there are some problems with their status as equal citizens, which reflec mostly in the way some people which I have zero respect for, think of them less than they think of themselves, but  these people are minority. According to the law, they Israeli-Arabs are as much Israeli citizens as any one of us. They work in the same places as the rest of Israelis, they ride the same busses, they study in the same classroom, and I think you got the point.  Moreover, try and show me an Arab country that treats women, for instance, as Israel does. Show me one Arab country where Arab women serve in various roles in the army, where Arab women sit in the parliament, where Arab women reach the finals of reality shows, where they are allowed to vote.

Is this Apartheid? No, it's not. It is a complicated situation being flattened and simplified by narrow minded people who refuse to have a proper conversation or open their eyes and ears. I am angry with these people, because they convince others who are confused and unaware of the truth, but I also feel sorry for them. They will never know what a beautiful place Israel really is. They will never know the truth. They will spend years of their lives fighting something that does not exist, struggling  against windmills, trying to change a non-existing reality. I will never be able to understand those people, because when I want to fight for something, I usually try and learn the facts. All of the facts.

I try and listen to the other side,too. I know that Israel has problems when it comes to Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs. I know that some things must be changed and that the situation here can sometimes be unfair to them. I can honestly say I don't have all the answers, and that even after a year of hearing many opinions on the subject from both sides, I don't own the objective truth, because there is none.  It is a conflict, another gray area where there is  an upside and a downside to every decision.I understand that the reality has many shades of gray, and I understand that there are haters here as much as there are haters there. The people who stand behind the IAW see the world in black and white, which is why they will never truly accomplish anything.

Unfortunately, our haters will not change their minds. They will always refuse to listen or have a proper conversation, because deep in their hearts they know that if they will have one, they will understand that there IS a bigger picture, which is very far from apartheid. However, there is a group of people who are unaware and still confused and not sure which way to go. More and more people of this group are being influenced by Israel's haters, which outnumber Israel's supporters, who speak their mind in public.

We, Israelis, cannot speak at your universities, and be a counter voice to the IAW advocates. But we can provide you, Israel's supporters abroad, with more information, which will allow you to be Israel's voice.  It is you who can be the voice of the truth, stand in opposition to our haters and talk to the confused, and help them realize the complexity of the situation, rather than  believe the easy lies. I guess this is why I wanted to write this blog so badly-to show you the Israel I know; to  give you a different perspective of everything that's going on here and eventually  to show what is being twisted into accusations that break my heart.

I had the incredible opportunity to take part in an international conference held in Israel last year and hear Malcolm Hoenlein, one of the most famous Jewish figures in the United States. He said something that I carry with me every day, in every conversation I have with my American friends. He said that the only way we can put an end to this twisted hatred is to work together: Israelis and Jewish Diaspora. Only by cooperating we can help mitigate the misunderstanding about the situation in Israel. If  we, Israelis, put everything on the table for you to get a better understanding, without hiding a thing, and you will spread the word and rationally debate those who make false accusations towards us- only then- we may be able to show the world a different, more correct, perspective.

Nowadays, a powerful counter-force to Israel's haters  in the States hardly exists. There are few against many. Israel is a remarkable example for a few against many. We've won many battles against bigger, greater armies, just like David was able to beat Goliath. But now we play a different game. We are fighting the Media War, where the recognition you get depends directly on the amount of people supporting your cause. We can still win this war. All we have to do is unite. This is our chance to show the world something different. This is our chance to stand up to false accusations instead of hiding behind them.

My friends and I are powerless  against the Israeli Apartheid week and similar events, but you and your friends are not. Standing still and keeping quiet is agreeing. Disagree. SHARE THE TRUTH!

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My name is Noga Gur-Arieh, and I’m an Israeli Journalist, currently studying for my B.A degree in Media and Political Science, at Tel Aviv University.

I am very socially...

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