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Chatterley Makes Presentation on IAW at Conference in T.O. sponsored by Advocates For Civil Liberties

by Catherine Chatterley, February 16, 2010

Dr. Catherine Chatterley delivered this presentation at a conference entitled When Middle East Politics Invade Campus, sponsored by the Advocates for Civil Liberties, held in Toronto on February 16, 2011.

Audio of the presentation is available on CISA’s blog


The History and Purpose of Israeli “Apartheid” Week (IAW)

I would like to provide a brief outline of the history and purpose of Israeli “Apartheid” Week (or IAW) and the connection it has to a larger global political strategy to delegitimize and dismantle the Jewish State.

IAW is a Canadian invention. The first event was held on one campus—at the University of Toronto—from January 31-February 4, 2005. The following year it included Montreal and Oxford; in 2007, it grew to 8 cities; in 2008, to 24 cities; in 2009, to 38 cities; last year, to over 40 cities; and this year, IAW will be held in over 55 cities worldwide.

While the event is new, the ideology at the heart of IAW is not. The accusation that Zionism is racist and imperialist by nature has existed since the establishment of the State of Israel. The Soviet Union was the leading proponent of this conception of Zionism and it drew on the long history of left antisemitism identifying Jewish nationalism and capitalist imperialism with Judaism and the Jewish bourgeoisie. Within this tradition, Jewish nationalism was seen as divisive and reactionary, opposed to progressive politics, and based upon an artificial ethnic-religious construct that elevated Jews above other peoples. Within a year of the establishment of the State of Israel, Stalin began to see Zionism as a serious threat to the Soviet Union and its interests. Zionism was perceived to be working in tandem with American imperialism, both in the Middle East and as a conspiracy inside the USSR. From 1949 until his death in 1953, Stalin engaged in a full assault on the Jews of the Soviet Union, who were then considered “bourgeois nationalists,” “rootless cosmopolitans” and a Zionist fifth column.

The Six-Day-War in June 1967 was a crushing defeat not only for the Arab armies, but also for the USSR and its international prestige. From this point forward, Soviet anti-Zionist rhetoric regularly used Nazi analogies, accusing Israel of behaving like Hitler, practicing racism, fascism, and genocide against the Palestinian Arabs. In a re-deployment of classic European antisemitic tropes, the Zionists were accused of having a controlling influence in the Western media, industry, and banking, and were accused of working with the United States to advance their interests against those of international communism.

In his most recent history of antisemitism, entitled A Lethal Obsession, Robert Wistrich discusses the historical development and distribution of this Soviet anti-Zionist ideology in explicit detail, and illustrates how its strategy to isolate and delegitimize Zionism precipitated the 1975 UN Resolution 3379, which stated that “Zionism is a form of racism and racist discrimination.” Another Resolution that same year, number 77, stated that the “racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regime in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin, forming a whole and having the same racist structure and being organically linked in their policy aimed at repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being.” And again, that year, the non-aligned countries released a Political Declaration and Strategy to Strengthen International Peace and Security, which condemned Zionism as a “threat to world peace and security and called upon all countries to oppose this racist and imperialist ideology.” Two years earlier, a UN Resolution 3151 had condemned “the unholy alliance between South African racism and Zionism.”

UN Resolution 3379 was finally annulled in 1991, the same year that the Soviet Union collapsed, but its echoes were heard again at Durban I, the World Conference Against Racism, held from August 31 to September 8, 2001 under UN auspices in South Africa. Charged with discussing a number of controversial subjects including slavery and reparations, much of the conference was dedicated to the so-called racist crimes of Zionism. Iran and Syria inserted six references to Zionism as a form of racism into the draft documents produced before the official conference, which were eventually removed from the final documents. It is important to note that, at this supposed anti-racist conference, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion—arguably, the most libelous, antisemitic text in history—was distributed to delegates by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee of South Africa.

Four years after Durban I, in 2005, Israeli Apartheid Week was born in Toronto. That July, 170 Palestinian civil society organizations released an official call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (better known as BDS) against Israel until it complied with International Law. This document clearly stated that the call by Palestinian civil society was modeled on the example of the South African struggle against Apartheid:

“We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace. These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by: 1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; 2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and, 3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.” (source: http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52)

Given the fact that Nazism  fails as a comparison to Israel in the minds of most of us in the West (not so in the rest of the world however), pro-Palestinian activists developed a deliberate strategy to delegitimize the State of Israel by comparing it to racist South Africa instead. Those of us who attended university in the late eighties and early nineties know how powerful and effective the anti-Apartheid movement, including its calls for divestment and boycotts, was on Canadian campuses. By 1983 the United Nations had twice condemned South Africa at the World Conference Against Racism, and a significant movement was pressuring investors to disinvest from South Africa and from companies involved in its economy. By the end of the 1980s, 25 countries, including the US, Canada, and the UK, had passed laws placing trade sanctions on South Africa and forbidding corporations in their jurisdictions from doing business with South African companies. South African apartheid finally collapsed in 1993 and the international campaign dedicated to its delegitimization, including well-organized campus activism, was thought to be the major catalyst in its dismantlement.

This, then, is the successful model chosen by Pro-Palestinian activists today to dismantle so-called “Zionist racism” in the Middle East. By framing Israel as a racist apartheid state, boycot

 
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