Students from Brandeis University and other Boston-area colleges disrupted a town hall meeting on 26 March where five Israeli lawmakers from anti-Palestinian parties were due to speak. One student was arrested. According to a statement from Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine, the activists wore blue T-shirts with the word “apartheid” written in Hebrew across the chest, and called out:
Israel is an apartheid state and the Knesset is an apartheid parliament!
We will not welcome Israeli officials to any Brandeis University event until apartheid ends!
Mr. Akunis and Ms. Kirshenbaum are responsible for sponsoring fascist legislation in the Knesset, targeting legitimate human rights organizations.
Mr. Akunis and Ms. Kirshenbaum, how does it feel to be silenced? The Knesset is silencing dissent and civil and human rights!
FREE PALESTINE! FREE HANA SHALABI!
The statement explained the reasoning behind the action:
On Monday, March 26th 2012, members of Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine (BSJP), together with Waltham and Boston area Palestine solidarity activists, disrupted a Town Hall Meeting with 5 members of the Israeli Knesset (MKs) at Temple Emanuel in Newton, Massachusetts. The event, whose sponsors included Brandeis University, the Ruderman Foundation, and a number of Boston-area Zionist organizations, was aimed at strengthening relations between Israeli political leaders and the American Jewish community.
The activists mic-checked the panel, protesting the undemocratic nature of the Israeli apartheid state and notified the offending officials that until their government ceased its discriminatory policies they were not welcome by students at Brandeis University community events. The activists were pushed outside the hall by police officers and private security guards. One Brandeis student was arrested and another was injured while being thrown to the floor by a police officer.
The panel included Knesset members Ofir Akunis (Likud), Lia Shemtov (Yisrael Beitenu) and Faina Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beitenu). Faina Kirshenbaum, who lives in the settlement of Nili in the West Bank, and Ofir Akunis are responsible for controversial legislation aimed at limiting international funding of human rights organizations operating in Israel. The two also initiated a committee to investigate the funding of human rights and left-wing NGOs in Israel. Akunis was recently quoted saying “Senator McCarthy was right in every word”. On November 2010, MK Lia Shemtov sponsored a bill suggesting all workers of the public sector should take a loyalty oath to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
The statement also quoted Seth Grande, a Brandeis student and Palestine solidarity activist:
There exists a clear regime of racialized discrimination and marginalization directed against Palestinian communities inside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. This regime is sustained by policies adopted in the Israeli Knesset. The fact that there are Arab Members of Knesset does not change the fact that Israel is an apartheid state. Israel needs to end its project of colonial occupation in Palestine and stop discriminating against its Palestinian citizens. As long as Israel maintains its discriminatory policies, I, as a Jewish American, will not stay silent.
Last year, students at Brandeis interrupted an event, featuring Avi Dichter, a former head of Israel’s “Shin Bet” internal security force, whom Brandeis SJP called “an international war criminal wanted for crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Convention,” as this video shows:
Extremist politics of Yisrael Beitenu
Likud is the party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while Yisrael Beitenu is the party lead by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, notorious for his anti-Palestinian outbursts.
The official Yisrael Beitenu party platform opposes mixing of religious groups, claiming:
History has shown that there is a dangerous potential for conflict wherever members of two different religions dwell in the same territory. Such was the situation in Northern Ireland for hundreds of years, in the Caucus region of Russia, in the Balkans, and even in Canada.
The party also claims that the cause of conflict in Palestine is Islam:
The premise that the Israeli-Arab conflict is the root cause of the instability in the Middle East is false and misleading. This conflict is but one manifestation of the multifarious drive of the fundamentalist world against every worldview that contradicts the spirit of Islam.
Lieberman has frequently argued for stripping Palestinian citizens of Israel of citizenship and “transferring” them to the jurisdiction of a Palestinian entity. However the party also explicitly opposes a two-state solution in its platform:
Our neighbor’s arguments of the right to self-determination and of a two state solution for two nations have not been met with an effective counter-argument. Israel must explain that the anti-Israel position of extremist Muslim leaders, which can also be found in many circles in the West, is a direct product of classical anti-Semitism and that demands for the establishment of a Palestinian state and the right of return are but a subterfuge, concealing the ultimate goal of the destruction of the State of Israel.
Given all that it opposes, it can only be concluded that Yisrael Beitenu’s agenda is for the expulsion of Palestinians or at the very least a strict form of apartheid – things that are rarely stated openly, but must be inferred from Lieberman’s previous statements, the party’s explicit demands for exclusive “Jewish” sovereignty over all the land, the opposition to mixing of different peoples and the opposition to a two-state solution.
Yisrael Beitenu member Kirshenbaum has also called the UN-commissioned Goldstone report into Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, a “blood libel.”