IAW: piling protest upon volatile protest
At IAW Israel will be called an apartheid state, its behaviour likened to Nazis and attempts made to convince South Africans that the Palestinian struggle matches black South Africans’ anti-apartheid fight.
In the context of recent campus violence by frustrated black students fighting their own cause, attempts will be made to link them to Palestinian students. In response, Jewish students and organisations will defend Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and many will promote the two-state solution. It is a volatile minefield of different agendas.
Natan Sharansky, Israel’s former Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, created a three-part test to identify when legitimate criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitism, called the “3D Test”.
Firstly, is Israel being demonised and problems of the world or Middle East blamed on it?
Secondly, is there a double standard, with Israeli faults exaggerated and far worse human rights violations elsewhere ignored?
Thirdly, is there an attempt to delegitimise the Jewish state, with the Jewish people denied the right of sovereignty?
The United States government recently also formulated a response to anti-Semitism camouflaged as criticism of Israel. Its 2005 Report on Global Anti-Semitism condemns the “demonisation of Israel, or vilification of Israeli leaders, sometimes through comparisons with Nazi leaders, and through the use of Nazi symbols to caricature them”.
What about Jews joining anti-Israel protests, particularly those with special credentials like anti-apartheid Struggle activists and Holocaust survivors?
Past examples in South Africa include former government minister and Struggle hero Ronnie Kasrils, who likened Israeli measures against Palestinians to Nazi behaviour and got the Human Rights Commission to agree this does not constitute hate speech.
Overseas, an Austrian event to honour women survivors of the Holocaust which included survivor Hedy Epstein, a Jewish pro-Palestinian activist who has likened Israel to Nazi Germany, was recently cancelled by the Austrian Parliament.
Invitations had described her as a peace and human rights activist. The Anti-Defamation League in 2005 listed statements made by German-born Epstein, who spent most of the Second World War in Britain, among examples of anti-Israel activism that “would meet both the United States government’s and Sharansky’s definitions of anti-Semitism”.
Israel is situated in the world’s most dangerous region which is drowning in massacres and atrocities between different Muslim groups, surrounded by people and countries who want only its destruction.
Many Israeli governments in the past have tried sincerely to reach peace with the Palestinians, offering major concessions and an independent Palestinian state, only to be rebuffed and subjected to terrorism aimed at destroying Israel.
A lot of its measures derive from genuine security needs which even fervent Jewish human right activists endorse.
It is also true, however, that the country today has an extremely rightwing government methodically encouraging further Jewish settlement of the West Bank, and appearing to place peace with the Palestinians low on its agenda.
In the South African context, the point must be hammered home that there are huge differences between conditions in South Africa during apartheid and those in the land between the Jordan River and the sea.
However, they share one important feature: the claim of two peoples to the same land. How this gets resolved is incredibly complex, requiring enormous goodwill. South Africa’s model is not necessarily applicable. Students on our campuses must understand this.
Read Geoff Sifrin’s regular columns on his blog sifrintakingissue.wordpress.com