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Israeli Apartheid Week shows disregard for Vincentian values

Published: Monday, March 12, 2012

Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08

Israel dove graphic

MCT Wire Service

Planned and carried out by the group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Israel Apartheid Week's mischaracterization of Israel as an apartheid nation serves no purpose but to spread misinformation, generate hostility and further ignite the tensions between students of opposing views.

Beyond its inexcusably offensive nature, the use of the term ‘apartheid' in reference to the state of Israel is a baseless, false accusation, transparent in its intent to mischaracterize Israel. The events, messages, and propaganda used throughout Israel Apartheid Week directly contradict Vincentian values of diversity and tolerance, and the values of any academic setting, by propelling manipulated truths and blatant falsehoods.

The accusation that Israel is an apartheid state, beyond being offensive, is simply false. The term apartheid is defined as the legislatively institutionalized system of systematic segregation on the basis of race. Even the most basic awareness of the demographics and composition of Israeli society would reveal that this accusation of apartheid in reference to Israel could not be further from the truth.

For those who have never been to Israel, the label of "the Jewish State" may be misleading, as it suggests the entirety of the Israeli population is comprised exclusively of Jewish citizens. This, however, is far from accurate. Rather, Israel is made up of citizens from all over the world and has embraced policies of human and minority rights since the day of its declared independence. Not only does Israel grant full rights to all of its citizens, regardless of race, religion or gender, but Israeli society is exquisitely intertwined with diverse people. There are many Israeli Arabs and Israeli Palestinians living within the same borders, towns and communities as Israeli Jews. These individuals are free to exercise, to the full extent, all of the same rights granted to their Jewish counterparts – speech, assembly and religion, to name a few.

So, what about the wall? As many may know, the main point used to support the apartheid accusation towards Israel is the wall – only 3 percent is an actual wall, the rest merely a chain-link fence – that was built along the border between Israel and the West Bank. The truth is that the security fence is an unfortunate necessity of a tragic situation. Following the mass wave of suicide attacks executed throughout the Second Intifada, the Israeli government deemed it necessary to build a barrier along the border of Israel to protect its citizens. However, its existence does not stand in contradiction to Israel's embrace of equal rights. Rather, it is the ultimate demonstration of Israel's unwavering dedication to protect its people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality or political belief.

The effects of the barrier's construction are two-fold. Sadly, the barrier is undeniably obstructive to those whose homes and jobs lay in close proximity. On either side of the barrier, citizens of both Israel and the Palestinian territories are made aware of the conflict by the constant reminder of what its violence has necessitated. Make no mistake, the presence of the security barrier is understood as regrettable and unfortunate to Israelis and Palestinians alike.

On the other hand, however, the barrier has proven effective. Following its construction, the number of suicide attacks has been drastically limited, saving countless innocent lives. Most important in understanding the nature of the barrier and the overall nature of Israeli society is the recognition of who exactly these innocent lives are that are being protected. The security barrier built along the border of Israel serves to protect innocent Israelis.

These citizens are not only Israeli Jews – they are Israeli Muslims and Christians as well. They are black and white, gay and straight, men and women. It is this undeniable fact that stands against the apartheid claim. The barrier effectively protects citizens of Israel from imminent danger, separating its people from the threat of terror. This separation is not made on the basis of race, religion or any other discriminatory factor. It is a matter of safety, not discrimination.

The campaign "Israel Apartheid Week" and others like it serve only to generate hostility and intolerance. Rather than promote dialogue, the events carried out by SJP manipulated and distorted facts in an effort to demonize the state of Israel. In effect, these events targeted pro-Israel students on campus and left no room for constructive, cross-cultural dialogue.

As students on university campuses in America, we have a unique opportunity to engage in dialogue with whose perspectives differ from our own. Removed from the conflict itself, we, as American students, should take advantage of our position, which allows us to explore the claims of different viewpoints.

Israel Advocates proudly stands in support of the State of Israel. However, with equal pride, we stand for openness and tolerance, understanding and communication. While we may disagree with certain opinions, we hope, above all else, to engage in dialogue with those of opposing views and would like to take this opportunity to extend an open invitation to anyone willing to participate in such conversation. We believe that it is by means of this alone that peaceful co-existence can be established.

We want peace, but peace takes two.

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