Israeli Apartheid Week: The shame of UK students

Cross posted from the blog of David Collier

During these weeks across the UK, universities are holding ‘Israeli apartheid week’. I have sat and viewed with revulsion as images have emerged of students on campus being fed raw radical Islamic propaganda. It has turned into a show, with each of the universities trying to outdo each other. This year Cambridge received praise for placing a military checkpoint in the centre of the Sidgwick lecture site at the University.

Did I just call it raw radical Islamic propaganda? Yes, I did, but more on that later.

Just last night (24th Feb) I was at SOAS to hear yet another incessant and libellous attack against Israel. The usual tales were told, replete with examples of how Israel is randomly shooting at people in the street. The evening started with the host boasting about being able to recognise Zionists in the crowd and deliberately not letting them have the microphone when questions are tabled. They actually took photos at one event on Monday of a person they identified as ‘Zionist’ who had his hand up constantly.

What they did is take pictures of him and Photoshopped different things into his hand and shared it amongst themselves. What type of university believes this is acceptable? SOAS does, we know Kings does too. In Oxford we have seen claims of rabid antisemitism. In Cambridge some simply want to intimidate the Jewish presence into submission first. In Westminster and others across the land, I’ve spoken to Jews, Zionists and Israelis who hide their identity whilst in University. This is the ‘safe space’ that has been created on UK campuses in 2016; safe to intimidate, safe to scare, safe to shout down, safe to silence, safe to lie and safe to hate.

Israeli apartheid week is a recruiting tool for BDS on campus. It aims to flatten the complex situation in the Middle East into the binary black/white issue of Apartheid. If Israel can successfully be labelled an apartheid state, then the reservoir of the anti-Apartheid sentiment across the globe can be reawakened and directed towards Israel. Ironically, it is in universities, the very places that simple issues are meant to be opened up and investigated, one of the most complex and multi-faceted conflicts on the planet is reduced to propaganda rhetoric and blatantly false, one-sided accusations of absolute guilt.


Let me firstly deal with this ridiculous and slanderous notion.

Take two brothers, both Arabs living in the British mandate in 1946. How they got there, how long their families were there is not relevant. According to the UN definition of the Palestinian refugee, even if the family had come looking for work in 1945 from Syria, they count as Palestinian. So do their children and grandchildren, even if they themselves were all born and lived all their days back on Syria or Lebanese soil. So be it. These are just elements that contribute to the absurdity of the conflict, and have to be accepted as factual without adhering to any ethical, moral or logical position.

During 1948, the two brother’s lives took different paths. One, having moved to a village near Haifa that worked in friendship with the local Jewish towns, remained a passive bystander as civil war erupted in the region. The civil war erupted because the Arab population, egged on by regional Arab dictatorships, had refused to accept the UN decision on Jewish independence over any part of the land. Some people do argue that the Jewish acceptance of the deal was a ploy, and the Jewish national aspirations dictated that the area should turn violent regardless. This too is irrelevant. Factually we know the Arabs rejected the deal and turned violent, the Jews accepted the deal and responded to the violence by defending against those that openly sought to destroy them.

The other brother had gone to work elsewhere, in a town that was infiltrated by irregular Arab forces in very early 1948. The irregular Arab forces were arranged, manned and financed by Arab states such as Egypt, Syria and Jordan. These fighters came into the British Mandate area with the express purpose of killing Jews and destroying the UN partition plan. They recruited as they went and their actions resulted in significant losses to the Jewish forces in the conflict. We are not sure if the brother assisted in the civil conflict, stood as an idle supporter of the Arab forces or looked in horror at a conflict he wanted no part of. We cannot know this and it isn’t relevant, as he was brought into the conflict by those around him who were fighting. The village/town he was in eventually succumbed to the Jewish fighting forces. The irregulars left the area and some of the residents of the local villages fled, some were expelled; again it is not relevant and we have no way of knowing which precise description works with the brother in question.

We do know he ended up in the West Bank, in a refugee camp in Tulkarm. But he was now a refugee of Palestine, living in the lands given to the Palestinians by the UN. Again don’t worry about the absurdity of the situation of being a refugee inside your own land, you just have to nod politely and accept it. This is simply the way the Arab states (along with the soviet bloc), strong-armed the UN and the West into dealing with the humanitarian crisis that emerged from both the civil and regional conflict of 1948/9.

Today one brother lives as an Arab citizen of the democratic state of Israel. He freely votes. He is, without much argument, part of the freest Muslim community in the entire middle east. All of the neighbouring states are Muslim majority states and not one provides the same type of freedoms as Israel does. Again this is factual. His life is not perfect but the other brother has not been so lucky. That brother has been dictated to for most of his life. He has been used as a pawn and in 1967 he was once again thrown into conflict as Jordan, the nation who had taken his town, attacked Israel during the Six Day war. Israel captured the territory.

It doesn’t really matter how you view this. It doesn’t matter what you think the cause of the failures to find a peaceful solution are. It doesn’t matter where you wish to lay the blame, whether with Arab intransigence or Israeli strategy. All this is irrelevant. These are merely opinions and each is entitled to their own. I would prefer it if those that suggest they are Pro-Palestinian were actually to spend their time taking actions that were pro-Palestinian (like building, investing educating) rather than measures that are simply anti-Israel and divisive, but this is their free choice to make. I would also prefer it if the stories that were spread around, actually had basis in fact, but more of this in a moment.

What is certain, what is factual, what is beyond argument, is this:

What separates these two brothers, the Israeli Arab and the Palestinian refugee. The free and the ‘occupied’. What divides them and has caused this separation? Whatever it is and however you wish to explain it, they are brothers. It is not a binary ‘black’, ‘white’ issue. It cannot possibly be an issue of race.

Therefore, the argument for Apartheid fails the most simple of tests.

Given the geographic source of so much of the hatred, this brilliant infographic from Edgar Davidson highlights the sheer absurdity of the claims of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide:


Disseminating lies

Now onto myth-making. Spreading radical Islamic propaganda. The false accusations that unite the cause.

During this week, the anti-Israeli PR machine goes into overdrive. At this time each year, the factories that output false stories about Israel, regurgitate everything in their arsenal and push it onto the anti-Israel activist camp. From there is gets shared in the hope that revulsion at Israel’s ‘barbarity’, will swell the numbers supporting the ’cause’. So on Monday, on the first day of the ‘celebration’, the Middle East Media News Centre published an item about Israel deliberately opening the dams to flood Gaza. The source of the story (The Palestinian News and Info Agency -WAFA) had released a similar story almost one year before, also at the start of UK Apartheid week. February is a time for possible heavy rain in Israel. Two days ago a shopping mall roof in Be’er Sheva, just a short drive from Gaza, collapsed due to flooding.

So on the 23/02, at about 21:00, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign website shared the story. Within an hour it had almost 300 shares.



The error was brought to their attention almost immediately. People posted on the site, sent messages and clearly highlighted the entire story was based on a lie. The Al Jazeera retraction from the year before was brought to their attention. As of noon on the 24/02 it has been shared 1000 times.

What is also worthy of note is some of the responses of those who entered into discussion on the question of ‘veracity’. ‘So what’, was the general response. It is indicative of the BDS movement as a whole. ‘Truth doesn’t matter. Sentencing has been passed, ‘Israel is guilty – get out of our way and let us pass the punishment.’ The classic witch hunt. BDS is the mob outside the door with the torches, screaming ‘Burn the witch’, ‘burn the witch’.

As the post reached 1000 shares (that’s 1000!), the PSC responded to the criticism, by posting a ‘myth-busting article’ on the story from the year before. A post from Feb 2014 by the ‘Palestine Project. It went on to claim the ‘dam’ story was indeed true and went into great detail as it set out to prove it. Except the PSC clearly hadn’t read their own source, because in their link, the one the PSC posted, there was a note to suggest it had been corrected. The correction led to a page that apologised for the lie:


1000 shares. How many views is that? How many people added this accusation to the already long list of false ideas they have about Israeli actions? Last night at SOAS people were told that Israelis randomly kill civilians in the street, yesterday they read on the PSC website that Israelis deliberately flood refugees. The PR machine churns out ever-increasing slander and the Israel haters lap up every word. This is what our universities give a platform too?

And this of course is the result.


The shame of UK students

This is the ‘exploration of truth’ that results in Jews being afraid to identify themselves on campus. Who justifies this?

And what of the PSC? Well, they disseminate propaganda indistinguishable from the PR machine of Hamas and hand it to activists on campus so they can convert vulnerable students to the ’cause’.

Even when they have been outed, they simply take the piece down without comment. But the damage is done – 1000 shares.  The article on the flooding details the original source of the slander as being from Gaza’s CDD (Civil Defence Directorate). Which means this is raw Hamas propaganda. CDD are one of the groups used to claim the Shifa hospital incident was the work of Israelis rather than misfiring Hamas rockets.  (It is no surprise the PSC have had bank accounts closed and have been designated a ‘terrorist group’ themselves on the World-Check database.)

They don’t even apologise or correct their members once *they know* they have disseminated lies.

The question is not whether or not PSC have a right to disseminate disinformation. The question is simply why universities provide an incubation chamber for Jew hatred? Why is Apartheid week supported by the public purse? Is it right that Jewish students at Cambridge, who paid for the right to be there, should have to face the intimidation that they faced this week?


But let us not just focus on the universities, let us look at the students too – the naive ‘do-gooders’ lining up for apartheid week, in addition to the radical left and Islamic societies. As we look around the world, scores of worthwhile causes scream out for attention. But these students have not just chosen a toxic cause, they’ve picked one that is dangerous and actually perpetuates rather than solves a conflict. Characteristic of an age where research, truth and depth no longer count, our students rally behind lies that at source evolve from the minds of PR gurus from an extremist group that persecutes and subjugates its own people.

Anti-Zionism isn’t antisemitism they cry, and I happen to agree with them. You can dislike nationalism without specifically picking on Jews. But go figure the SNP’s position on this.

How about an ‘anti-Africa week’. It isn’t racist. We could boycott all African products because well, Africa is a continent that knows almost no human rights. We can boycott anyone coming from Africa because their institutions support human rights violations and war crimes like genocide (actual rather than imagined), the sex trade, female genital mutilation and so on. Only good Africans, that is, Africans willing to reject the African continent as being barbaric would be allowed to get up and speak. Any African who takes pride in his nation, in his culture would be shouted down. Remember – it isn’t racist because we have the ‘good Africans’ on our side.

As students at our universities have historically lined up behind civil rights movements and fought for racial equality, now they align behind a hyped-up cause of a people who are actually in control of their own destiny. They vote to boycott, spread the hatred and share the lies. Rather than strive for a better life and a peaceful outcome, the Palestinian cause today is everything but productive.

The targets that BDS and Israeli Apartheid Week have in their sights are Jews.

The fact that some UK students are actively helping them, or sitting idly by and ignoring what is going on, is their great shame.

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