With campuses across the United Kingdom poised to host Israeli Apartheid Week events, pro-Israel students have launched a propaganda campaign called “Rethink2014.”
Promoted on Twitter — using the hashtag #Rethink2014 — and on Facebook by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), the initiative features students holding signs to up to a camera explaining why they “oppose Israel Apartheid Week.”
At time of writing, there were around 40 images posted on the “Rethink2014” Facebook account.
Much will be familiar: appeals for “constructive dialogue,” comparisons with other countries in the region and, without a trace of irony, claims that reference to apartheid “trivializes an incredibly complex situation with emotive buzzwords.”
One contributor opted for the popular “everything’s not perfect” approach: “the discrimination is real but the word apartheid destroys any road to peace” (the destruction of civilian infrastructure is an unfortunate choice of metaphor given Israel’s actions on the ground).
What is striking is the lack of emphasis on factual refutation. Instead, the messaging is dominated by emotional appeals and a focus on the feelings of the pro-Israel students themselves:
- “I don’t want to feel intimidated on campus”
- “I go to be educated on campus, not intimidated on campus”
- “It promotes anti-semitism on campus”
- “On campus we should aim to include all students – not alienate one group”
- “Demonizing Israel On Campus Demonizes Me”
Israel’s defenders know that the facts of Israel’s systematic discrimination against Palestinians are increasingly well known. The kind of strategy represented by “Rethink2014” is thus one of the few left to pursue.
It is not even particularly new – in 2010, suggested talking points for those opposing divestment at the University of California at Berkeley included “be emotional” and “emphasize feelings of personal attack.”
The crime of apartheid
By contrast, students organizing Israeli Apartheid Week events are raising awareness about documented human rights abuses and institutionalized racism. According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the “crime of apartheid” means “inhumane acts” such as “forcible transfer” and the killing of civilians “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
In 2012, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination drew Israel’s attention to the prohibition “of all policies and practices of racial segregation and apartheid.”
It urged Israel to immediately “prohibit and eradicate any such policies or practices” targeting Palestinians “which violate the provisions” of the anti-apartheid article of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Just since the beginning of 2014, Human Rights Watch has documented how “Israeli soldiers hiding near schools … killed [Palestinian] children who posed no apparent threat,” and a group of international non-governmental organizations has slammed Israel’s “demolitions of Palestinian homes.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli government has discussed how to fight the growth in boycott and divestment initiatives, and revealed its anxiety over potential war crimes investigations by the ICC.
Israel’s apologists may be urging a “rethink” — but their tired tactics are unlikely to sway those presented with this abundant evidence for apartheid Israel’s ongoing crimes.
Editor’s Note: The images used in this post are used under the fair use doctrine set out in Section 107 of the Copyright Act (1976) (United States Code Title 17) which protects the use of copyrighted material “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting [and], teaching” among other non-commercial purposes.