Jonathan Kay: The return of the Israel Apartheid Week cult
Feb 25, 2012 – 10:52 AM ET | Last Updated: Feb 25, 2012 11:47 AM ET
In Syria, the Assad regime continues to rain artillery on rebel positions in the city of Homs, killing journalists and innocent civilians alike. Iran's mullahs are set to execute a Canadian citizen for the crime of operating a web site they don't like. The new Libyan regime is torturing Gaddafi loyalists. And Egypt's rulers are prosecuting NGO leaders on trumped-up charges. And so next week, Canadian left-wing activists will congregate in Toronto to express their hatred of … you guessed it: Israel.
The events of March 5-9 will take place as part of the 8th annual Israel Apartheid Week (IAW), and will feature presentations such as "Cutting the Ties to Israeli Apartheid: Cultural and Academic Boycott," and "Rhymes Of Resistance And The Sounds Of Existence — with poets Remi Kanazi, Red Slam and Chand-nee." The IAW website is full of the usual rhetoric about Israel's "criminal" actions. There is not a word of acknowledgement about how utterly ridiculous it is to run a week-long event vilifying Israel when right next door in Syria, the government has just exterminated more Arabs than were killed in both Intifidas, the 2008 Gaza conflict, and the 2006 Lebanon war combined.
The timing of IAW this year truly does represent something of a farce. The eyes of the entire world are focused on Syria and the Strait of Hormuz. Even West Bank Palestinians themselves now seem more concerned with building up their economy than with grand international gestures aimed at the Jewish state. And in the "occupied" Golan Heights, Druze Muslims have been stirring — not against Israel, but against the Assad regime that many once looked to for "liberation." In the streets of Cairo, Sana'a and Tunis, no one is talking about Israel — only about when they will get the democracy they were promised. Only among cultish, single-minded anti-Israel activists has the news of the Arab Spring failed to circulate.
The word "cultish" is used here advisedly — because even some veteran anti-Israel activists are getting tired of the false mantras that circulate at IAW events. This includes no less an anti-Zionist than Norman Finkelstein (who has called Israel a "vandal state" that "relentlessly and brutally and inhumanly keeps these vicious, murderous wars"). Speaking to an interviewer earlier this month, he attacked the animating philosophy behind IAW — the movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel (BDS) — as a "cult," and an unsuccessful one at that.
National Post editorial writers have attended BDS events here in Toronto, and they all contain the same rousing assurances that the BDS movement will bring Israel to its knees. The self-consciously enforced spirit of viva la revolución solidarity that permeates these rallies reminds one of communist rallies in the days before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Year after year, we hear the same clichés about how the BDS movement is on the cusp of victory. Yet the Israeli economy continues to prosper, and the only groups that have fallen into line with the boycott call are scattered NGOs and low-tier universities. "All [the BDS] claims about 'victories' [against Israel]: These 10 fingers more than suffice to count their victories," Mr. Finkelstein said this month. "It's a cult. The guru says: 'We have all these victories,' and everyone nods their head."
Of greater concern to Mr. Finkelstein, a former university professor and the author of many controversial books, is the sheer dishonesty that permeates the BDS movement.
"We have to be honest: They [BDS activists] don't want Israel. They think they're being clever. They call it their three tiers. 'We want to end of the occupation,' 'We want the right of return [for Palestinian refugees],' 'And we want equal rights for Arab citizens.' But they know the result of implementing all three is — what? You and I both know: There's no Israel. [If you ask them about it, they say] 'Oh we're agnostic about Israel.' No. You're not agnostic. You don't want it [to exist]."
In fairness to the IAW activists who will be assembling on campuses in coming days, not all of them seek the outright destruction of Israel — though many certainly do. Some are merely naive undergraduates who truly do believe in two secure, peaceful states living side by side. Others are bored veterans of other activist movements, such as anti-racism and gay rights, looking to the Middle East to recapture the sense of moral purpose once provided by the (successful) fight against discrimination here in Canada.
But all of them should understand that IAW and BDS are not what they seem: As some of Israel's own fiercest critics themselves now admit, these are dishonest cults meant to enlist ill-informed activists in a campaign to destroy the Jewish state.
— Jonathan Kay is Managing Editor for Comment at the National Post, and a fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.