Urging “rethink,” Zionist students fight Israeli Apartheid Week with recycled tactics

From the ‘Rethink2014’ Facebook account

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).

“Be emotional”

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.




“....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.”

By this definition there is no apartheid in Israel. Jews are not a racial group. Neither are Palestinians for that matter.

There is no oppressive regime based on race. There is oppression, but an oppression that stems from a 100 year old historical, national conflict between Jews and Arabs in Israel/Palestine.

There is no apartheid based on color or race in Israel. If there were, there wouldn't be white, black, and brown Jewish Israelis with rights that brown and white Palestinians lack. Nor would their be Palestinian citizens of Israel or Palestinian political parties in the Knesset. There wouldn't be Palestinians and Jews living in the same neighborhoods, sharing the same resources, attending the same Universities, and even voting for the same political parties.

My apartment building has several Palestinian families. We share the same building. We vote for the same political party. Some of them are just as white if not whiter than I am. Where is the racial apartheid?

Does oppression, occupation, and violence exist? Yes.

Is it based on color or race? No.

It's a national conflict.


Using semantics to avoid the obvious really has limited application.

In 1973 the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The ICSPCA defines the crime of apartheid as "inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group ... over another racial group ... and systematically oppressing them." In 2002 the crime of apartheid was further defined by Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as encompassing inhumane acts such as torture, murder, forcible transfer, imprisonment, or persecution of an identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, or other grounds, "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime."
In a 2007 report, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Palestine John Dugard stated that "elements of the Israeli occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, which are contrary to international law" and suggested that the "legal consequences of a prolonged occupation with features of colonialism and apartheid" be put to the International Court of Justice. In 2009 South Africa's statutory research agency the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) published a report stating that "the State of Israel exercises control in the [Occupied Palestinian Territories] with the purpose of maintaining a system of domination by Jews over Palestinians and that this system constitutes a breach of the prohibition of apartheid."

Conclusion its Apartheid.


Just a thought on Ben in Jaffa's concluding remark "It's a national conflict."

Does that stance not presume there is only one nation?

The phrase "national conflict" means a conflict that that occurs within a nation. Were it presumed that there were two nations in question, we would say "international conflict" or a "conflict between nations."

So: "It's a national conflict." That would be Israel, right? And where is the nation of Palestine? Anywhere but in historic Palestine. . . ? Or are you willing to share the nation as equal citizens? History has shown the brutality of a fundamental sense of exclusive entitlement by those of Jewish faith and culture. Those who have not been deemed "chosen" have been killed, exiled or oppressed.

The term "race" became associated with skin-colour due in large part to the white-skin people claiming supremacy over brown-skin people, to put it crudely. But "race" also refers to a group of people who share a common geography, culture and history. Palestinians are a racial group and Israeli policy is racist.

Perhaps the term "bigoted" would clarify things a bit, as the non-acceptance is more focused on "those who get in our way, which most of the time happens to be Arabs, but even if our favourite Western friends get in our way we despise them too."

Of course the natural solution to the issue of the apartheid-label is to let the ICC make a ruling. How about it?


You Hasbara?

Official dictionary definition
2. any system or practice that separates PEOPLE according to race, caste, etc.

That will likely include religion too. Its a religious apartheid as well. Also Jews see themselves as totally separate to Arabs and as a race. Jews are also counted as a thus as a separate race. Ethnoreligious group. 'An ethnic group of people whose members are also unified by a common religious background. Ethnoreligious communities define their ethnic identity neither by ancestral heritage nor simply by religious affiliation, but often through a combination of both'. Its why you can call someone anti-jewish racist.


responding to your argument, the point you just touched is crucial and sensitive, but to explain all of this to you, go a bit back with the time, exactly a week ago, israel has issued a new item law depriving Palestinians who live inside israel of their rights as the rest of so-cold (israeli) citizens , which deals with Palestinians as a separate dependent group who has to deal with their issues by themselves, don't you think it is an apartheid? ?


Please look at the group for yourselves! Ben White has cherry picked the emotional rethink posts to paint a false picture of a lack of refutation.


You might also want to point out that the Civil Rights Movement in America during the 1960s used 'recycled tactics' like sit ins... don't see anyone endorsing a negative portrayal of their 'recycling' do we...

My Jewish friends cannot advertise outside their Society building as a precaution against anti-Semitism, and don't feel comfortable wearing their kippas either... and you're criticising them for being emotional? I've been to Israel and the West Bank and seen nothing except inclusion and integration so I don't know what glasses you've been using...


In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians live under military law (no civil rights - taxation without representation, no right to protest, detention without charge or trial, the list goes on). Israeli settlers live under civil law. Two separate legal systems for two separate ethnic groups. How is that 'integrated'? Until 1966 it was even like this for Palestinian citizens of Israel and they still face huge problems today, with around 50 discriminatory laws targeting them (such as the Admissions Committee Law, which allows Jewish communities in the Negev and the Galilee - the two areas with large Arab populations - to screen potential residents and reject them on grounds of 'social incompatibility').

As for inclusion, is a Palestinian allowed to buy a house in a settlement? No, but he can get a job there sweeping floors or doing other menial work. Is this 'inclusion'?

If you go on a nice shiny tour to Israel, they won't show you the prisons where Palestinian children can be detained without access to a parent or a lawyer (it's different for Jewish children, of course), or point out that certain roads are forbidden to certain people, or tell you about home demolitions or government plans for population transfer. (In 2012 the government drew up plans to forcibly transfer 27,000 Bedouin from West Bank Area C, as part of its settlement policy.) Instead you'll get to eat hummus in an Arab restaurant - look, inclusion, we eat in Arab restaurants! - and hear all about Israel's technological innovations. But for Palestinians under occupation, divided up by an arbitrary ID and classification system (much like 'blacks' and 'coloureds' in South Africa), that's not the reality. And it makes more sense to consider their daily reality rather than that of privileged students complaining about hurt feelings thousands of miles away. At least they get to go uni - Palestinians can't depend on that: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news...


The following is a study conducted by the UN detailing how Lebanon is the real apartheid state, not allowing Palestinians refugees in Lebanon to hold certain jobs which other Lebanese are allowed to hold. These same jobs are allowed to be held by Palestinians in the Palestinian Territories under Israeli law. Think about it.....


Let me clarify this to you, I'm a Palestinian citizen , Israeli don't employ Palestinians with there different institutions, and that is for one reason (Apartheid), Israel uses the intelligent power that my people have and they put a crucial borders on them if they left their jobs, and that is for one reason (Apartheid),, Palestinians apply for either Palestinian governmental institutional fields , or for non-governmental companies, Palestinians don't work for Israel, because they have their own space as israeli think they do ,!!
on the other hand, the thing with Lebanon and Palestinians you just made it up

Ben White

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Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. His articles have been widely published in the likes of The Guardian‘s Comment is free, Al Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ (2009, Pluto Press) and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination & Democracy’ (2012, Pluto Press). Ben is a researcher/writer for the Journal of Palestine Studies.