Size doesn’t matter …but apartheid does

2 mars 2010 | معتمد Boycott, Canada, Palestine, Quebec
    March 2, 2010 Link newspaper Concordia University, by Aaron Lakoff


Photo Israeli military demolishes Palestinian Labbada house in Nablus, West Bank.

The sixth annual Israeli Apartheid Week is back again in Montreal, and will be featuring events on three campuses in the city from March 4 to 11.

Every year for the last six years, many cities (43 cities participated last year) around the world join together to coordinate this week, which focuses on the growing campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against the state of Israel. And this year, like every year in the past, pro-Israel apologists respond with campaigns which range from outright offensive to bizarre and puzzling.

Critics have accused Israeli Apartheid Week of trying to shut down dialogue and debate on the Israel/Palestine issue, when in fact IAW is striving to create more spaces for these issues to be discussed in a serious and scholarly manner on campuses. What is interesting is that critics of IAW often avoid taking the debate head-on. Rather, the response is often either to try to ban IAW from campuses altogether or to create distraction games.

Last week, pro-Israel groups at Canadian universities launched a campaign called Size Doesn’t Matter. Craftily timed to coincide with the launch of IAW on campuses, Size Doesn’t Matter boasts a flashy website which tries to deflect attention away from the uglier sides of the debate (occupation, the siege on Gaza, Palestinian refugees) while trying to re-brand Israel as a happy-go-lucky, innovative and sexy country.

Size Doesn’t Matter represents an evolution, albeit a miniature one, in pro-Israel distraction campaigns over the years, which have also taken the form of “Islamo-fascism Week” at York University and “Israeli Culture Fests” held in Montreal. I suppose that when you don’t have many winning arguments to contest why Israel isn’t an apartheid state, it’s much easier to talk about falafel, techno music and pretty girls in bikinis on the Tel Aviv beach. I mean, everyone loves those things, right?

And then there’s the more extreme responses to IAW, such as the ones that are put forward by so-called “human rights” groups like B’nai Brith. On Feb. 25, they issued a press release applauding members of the Ontario legislature who had put forward a motion to condemn IAW. What’s more, the organization is calling for an “outright ban on ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’” for the second year in a row. With more and more universities starting IAWs every year, they are evidently failing miserably.

This year, IAW is taking place in the context of a right-wing government in Israel which has continued to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank, despite American President Barack Obama’s empty talk of a freeze on new settlement construction. It’s taking place in the context of the 1.5 million Gazans who, still reeling from last year’s brutal massacre, can’t event import basic construction supplies to rebuild their shattered homes. More importantly, IAW is happening in the context of a tireless campaign of censorship and muzzling from pro-Israel activists, but it is coming out on top.

IAW and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israeli apartheid are threatening to some because they are working. For one, it is a non-violent campaign aimed at social justice for everyone in the Middle East and if Israel’s supporters want non-violent solutions to the problem, then surely BDS is what they’ve been looking for.

In the five years since the the call was issued by Palestinian civil society, there have been major victories as well. Last week, a group of over 500 Montreal-based artists issued a declaration in support of the BDS campaign. Large labour unions and student federations in Quebec and Canada have also pledged their support. Last year, Hampshire College in Massachusetts became the first educational institution in North America to cut its ties to Israel, and just recently, students at Carleton University in Ottawa launched a campaign to push their campus to do the same. Indeed, this is a movement which is gaining momentum.

Finally, there is the old, tired claim that initiatives such as IAW are anti-Semitic and promote hatred against Jews. For years pro-Israel groups have been fishing this argument out of the trash, dusting it off and trying to repackage it. It is a large claim with little substance and negates the fact that BDS is a social justice movement supported by thousands of Jews around the world.

It is often said that you can measure the strength of a social movement by the reactive impulses of its opponents. The fact that IAW is back for another year at Concordia and across Canada, despite the outright attempts to censor it, is in itself a major victory. To the state of Israel and its supporters, size may not matter, but IAW is gaining steam, and they will soon have a lot of questions to answer.

Aaron Lakoff is a communications student at Concordia and a member of Not in Our Name, an anti-Zionist Jewish group on campus.


Aaron Lakoff has one thing right – Size Doesn’t Matter is a ridiculous campaign that avoids the issue. The issue to me is that IAW is a lie and an excuse to divert the world’s attention away from the real suffering in the world which does not include jihadists in their Mercedes luxury vehicles quickly scurrying around Gaza and the West Bank to stir up the population when it meets their political and financial ends and then hide in their foreign villas and behind civilians when things get too hot and their rocket launchers are detected.

What Lakoff is forgetting is that the Palestinian people would be much better off if he and his fellow hate mongers would look around and see what is happening in a world where Islamic values are quickly being adopted as a result of the stupidity and ignorance of those who see no danger in a 6th century mindset where violence, ignorance and bigotry are a way of life. The Islamists have figured it out long ago – make the Jews their enemy, sell Islam as a religion of peace, hide the fact that Islamic regimes are the most brutal and oppressed countries in the world, and make the refugee issue of a small number of their flock such a big deal that leftists will flock to their cause. And it is working – but shows signs of crumbling soon.

I like the idea of a “Truth about oppression education month” where regimes such as Iran and Syria and many others are exposed to the scrutiny that they have avoided up to this point in time. There is no shortage of factual and graphical material to show the hangings, violence, terrorism and brutality of Islamic regimes and other regimes. It will overwhelm the issues of the inconvenient checkpoints that Palestinians endure as a result of their life-long goal to eradicate Israel through violent means.

تعليق Dean — 7 mars 2010 @ 11:35

I would like to commend Mr. Lakoff on fighting for the welfare of the Palestinians. These people have been used and abused for over 62 years now, by everyone. Egypt refused to take back Gaza after 1967 and now are building a wall to keep the Palestinians out of Egypt and arms out of Gaza. Half a million Palestinians in Lebanon still are not allowed to work in that country and another half million in Syria are refused citizenship. There is another million in Jordan kept in refugee camps. Add to that the 1.5 million ‘starving’ in Gaza because their elected government hates the Israelis so much they refuse to bend even a little to help their citizens. Better to have a destitute Palestinian to hold up for the world to see than a happy and healthy one. And then there is the West Bank where under the Israelis people are working and studying and the economy is growing and there is food and medicine and all of the things that Hamas denies to their own people. So Mr. Lakoff, continue to fight the good fight, only aim your explosive words towards the right target if you really care about the poor Palestinians. You see I care about them and that is why I am writing this to you. I know who keeps them in this miserable state. It is NOT the Israelis, rather it is the people who hate the Jews that are responsible for this condition you fight so hard to correct. So stop being a total hypocrite – say like a man that you want to see Israel destroyed rather than using euphemisms like Israeli Apartheid Week. Ask yourself honestly if IAW would even be held if Jewish Israel were just another Muslim country using and abusing the Palestinians like the rest of them. And accept, once and for all, that by regurgitating the deadly rhetoric of groups like Hamas and other haters of the Israeli Jews, you will have contributed to this conflict by facilitating its progression to the next battle. When there is another “massacre” as you put it, look in the mirror and see the person who was complicit in those deaths. Now I know this will be deleted by your friends and that is fine. But at least you will have heard what needs to be said. And I will have the satisfaction of knowing I was right. I will again be shown who the liars and the hypocrites are. I will know once again that it is the demanders of free speech who are the first to deny it to others in typical leftist fashion. And one parting remark – the fact that you and others in your group are Jews does not make you more credible but it does make you more dishonourable. What the hell did your parents do to you?

تعليق Steve4peace — 7 mars 2010 @ 13:49

The truly sad thing is, Mr. Lakoff, is that you and other well-meaning people are so blinded in your zeal to “do right”, that perspective is wholly perverted. Years ago when I met with my academic advisor at Concordia he imparted what he said was the best advice he could give any student; that was to study history, political science and English. Recommending English was because that was his passion; however, recommending studying history and political science was because he lived long enough to appreciate that the world is shaped and narrated by an emotionally driven species, who by their nature often act with ulterior motives other than providing any resemblance of a true historical accounting. The “whitewashing” of history is as old as recorded history itself. What is certain of humans is that instead of learning to overcome our emotional drives, thus dictating our actions, we have learnt instead better ways on how to manipulate and justify. Generally speaking, as a species, while some might mature, far too many do not. This brings us back to the wise words of an educated and thus sceptical academic advisor.
Any honest, objective and comprehensive analysis of the Arab/Israeli conflict would lead any truly honest observer to know that labelling Israel an apartheid state or calling for the Jewish state to be financially and /or politically ostracized, is in no way helping the Palestinian people. If you are going to advocate for Israel’s demise, please do so from an informed perspective. If you are going to advocate for the honest benefit of Arab Palestinian’s, wishing to see them lead a life free of persecution, threat, intimidation, violence, ostarcization, subjugation and hate, then either do something positive and directly for them, not through their corrupt, self-absorbed, leaders who are responsible for their plight. With any honesty Mr. Lakoff, it has to be acknowledged that support for those leaders who preach that “Jews are the descendants of monkey’s and pigs”, who wish to see not only the Middle East but the world free of Jews, or subjugated under strict Sharia law, will not lead to the betterment of the Palestinian people. And with any honesty, it too must be acknowledged that support for events such as IAW or BDS campaigns against Israel, is nothing but support for the destruction of the only Jewish state, and the advocating of replacing it with a repressive, racist theocracy; and that such a country will retard social progress on every front.
So Mr. Lakoff, and other well-meaning people, if you are going to advocate for anything, if you choose to do so with any honest intentions, either do so honestly, stating clearly and openly what your intentions are; be well informed; do not be influenced by peer pressure or allow yourself to be guided by ignorant emotional forces. Please be honest enough to learn from true lovers of the Palestinian people, like Khaled Abu Toameh, an Israeli Arab who for years worked for the PLO, and others like him who do seek to live a peaceful life alongside Israel, for the betterment of all people. Or state openly that you would rather Israel be replaced by a state that closer resembles Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan under the Taliban.

تعليق Hopeful — 9 mars 2010 @ 11:43

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