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March 8, 2011 11:52 am

Israeli Hasbara Efforts Combat Apartheid Analogy

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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An Anti-Istrael protest in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Takver.

Apartheid: an institutionalized system of racial discrimination and strict, legally-enforced segregation giving the minority control the majority population.

This is not Israel.

Some sixty years ago, the small state on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea declared its independence.  The country’s citizens are of virtually every color of the human rainbow – a thousand shades of white, black, and brown, Arabs and Israelis; Jews, Muslims, Christians, agnostics and atheists.  All are full citizens, entitled to every benefit, able to share in virtually every aspect of citizenship.  It is a multicultural, multi-racial, multi-talented, multiple society.”

During the past week, Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) an organized effort by anti Israel NGOs and NGO activists held events in cities and on college campuses, presenting disinformation intended to vilify and delegitimize the State of Israel.  The organizations website says it “seeks to build momentum and participation in Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns…to discredit Israel and label it an ‘apartheid state.’ Marwan Barghouti is the founder and a leader of the BDS Campaign.

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Apartheid Week activists seek to demonize Israel for being a free country.  In seven years, so called “activists” have invaded college campuses and protested in front of community venues or businesses.  They seek to delegitimize and denigrate the Middle East’s most progressive state and single liberal democracy by promoting boycotts, distorting facts and providing false information.

“Israel” and “Apartheid” are concepts with no logical connection.  In Israel, each citizen – Jew or non-Jew – is equal. Actions taken to assure the security of the citizenry – including construction of security barrier or measures designed to protect citizens in case of violence – is not “apartheid.” One group may dislike another:  they can – it’s a democratic society.

A confluence of events in 2010-2011 removed a significant amount of extremists’ ability to foment anti-Israel activity.  The political crisis in the Middle East unmasked inhumane and discriminatory acts -genocide; crimes against humanity; war crimes, and systematic oppression carried out against their own countrymen and women by regional dictators acting “in the name of” the regime.  Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, said “IAW essentially is a series of ‘mini-Durban’ events – based on the strategy that exploits human rights language to isolate and demonize Israel.  NGO Monitor has detailed information to combat Israel Apartheid Week with the “BDS Sewer System,” a presentation in graphic form, of delegitimization campaigns against Israel. The graphic of the Sewer System depicts the European Union, various governments, foundations and religious charities as providing the incentives and funds for NGOs.

Jerusalem based commentator Arlene Kushner notes that “the PLO devised the ‘Strategy of Stages’ which called for taking down Israel bit by bit.  One stratagem is the delegitimization of Israel via legal and verbal attacks. There is no compunction about dishonesty.  Whatever causes damage is fine, as long as the words appear to have legitimacy.  Two basic rules adhere:  the message must be consistent and the words – frequently buzz words – must be repeated over and over.”

Well before the 2010 protests began, the government of Israel, recognizing the media and opinion challenges facing Israel enhanced its hasbera (public relations) efforts.  One program developed under the direction of Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Public Diplomacy and the Diaspora, was the creation of the “I Am the Face of Israel” program, an outreach effort bringing a diverse group of young Israeli professionals to college campuses across North America.

Shay Attius, of the Public Diplomacy Department of the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora accompanied one contingent in New York.  The typical – that is to say, totally diverse – group of Israelis on an American sojourn included architect Hadas Yossef, entrepreneur Ariel HaLevi, communications portfolio manager Raneen Khoury and marketing manager Nadav Peretz.  Ethiopian, Ashkenazi, Israeli Arab, Sephardic, men and women, representatives of multiple real world professions – all were identical -that is, to the extent of their white shirts with bright blue lettering proclaiming, back and front, “I am…the face of Israel.”

“It is an age old challenge… (The program) is an innovation in advocacy, giving people in the United States and Canada an opportunity to meet with Israelis one to one” began Ariel HaLevi. “We are here to tell our own story.” Each group member agreed that the answers they give as Israeli individuals help provide students with the tools needed to combat anti Israel and Apartheid challenges not only during the “week” but throughout the year.

Raneen Khoury, a founder of Israel’s National Civil Service, told the Algemeiner of the opportunity participation provides, especially for young Israeli Arabs.  Druze, Muslims and Christians have the opportunity to work in their communities, develop projects and through their work gain access to some of the opportunities open to Israelis who complete their military service.  The work provides a “sense of responsibility and accountability…a first time combination of a ‘grass roots’ and government.”

“The taxi driver didn’t believe us – that we were all Israelis,” laughed Hadas Yossef .  At three she made aliyah, coming across land and time from Ethiopia. In Israel, she will build structures for future centuries.  “It is important to show the face of Israel.  We can give students strategy” she said.

Israeli-Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh addressing a panel of Muslims in 2009 brought the “apartheid” accusation full circle.  Speaking about Israeli Arab Knesset members who called Israel a “state of apartheid,” he asked “What kind of hypocrisy is this? What then are you doing in the Knesset? If you are living in an apartheid system, why were you allowed, as an Arab, to run in the election? What are you talking about? We do have problems as Arabs with the establishment here. But to come and say that Israel is an apartheid state is a big exaggeration.”

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