This past Saturday, some 20 members of Students for Justice in Palestine held a protest on the Brandeis University campus outside a party organized by the Brandeis Zionist Alliance. The title of the party was Tel Aviv Club Night and it marked the end of Israeli Peace Week. Israel Peace Week is the “Pro-Israel” response to Israeli Apartheid Week. It is an international initiative of Zionist organizations, including propaganda organizations such as Stand With Us and Hasbara Fellowships – an affiliate of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The week aimed to show a “more positive” picture of Israel, and by doing so to counter arguments that Israel is an apartheid state.
Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine sees Israel Peace Week as an attempt to whitewash Israel’s crimes, and as a gross misuse of the word “peace”. In response to the problematic nature of the week, SJP activists took to protest outside the week‘s closing event. The activists held a mock-wall and banners such as “Political Prisoners Can’t Party. Free Hana Al-Shalabi” in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoner who is on her third week of hunger strike, and chanted slogans such as “This beat is really great, but Israel is an apartheid state!” and “They say ‘party’ we say ‘apartheid’!”.
In a statement which was handed to the party attendees, SJP explained why they chose to protest outside a party:
Why Are We Such Party Poopers? 3/3/12
It is normal to see demonstrations when Israeli officials are speaking, when racist, Islamophobic or anti Semitic speakers are invited to campus, but why on earth do we protest a party?
In order to answer this question, we need to ask ourselves what Israel Peace Week is all about? 8 years ago grassroots Palestine solidarity activists started an annual tradition of Israeli Apartheid Week. This initiative is aimed at raising awareness about the systematic oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank, in the Gaza Strip and in Israel. Hasbara organizations such as the David Project, Hasbara Fellowship, CAMERA, Stand With Us, and the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated Israeli Peace Week and contributed funds to Zionist organizations on campus, including Brandeis Zionist Alliance, as an attempt to counter IAW and to spread a more favorable image of Israel.
Rather then countering the arguments made, IPW and other Hasbara attempts are trying to divert the conversation and refer to the achievements and the positive sides of Israel.
We will not deny the contributions of Israel to innovation in medicine, high tech, and the military industry. Indeed, many countries rely on Israeli industries, and many technologies that are being used widely were developed in Israel.
All of the above does not change the fundamental fact that Israel is an apartheid state. In order to maintain Jewish superiority, Israel implements a military occupation upon millions of Palestinians, that are denied the right to citizenship, and systematically discriminates 20% of it’s citizens, which Israel defines as a demographic threat to the Jewish state.
Tel Aviv is one of the best cities in The world. It is known worldwide for it’s vivid night life. Internationally renowned artists such as Lady Gaga and Madonna are performing in Tel Aviv, and all diamonds in the world are refined in Ramat Gan.
As glamorous and fabulous as Tel Aviv is, it does not change the fact that if you take a 1 hour drive South, there are tens of thousands of Arabs living in unrecognized villages; A 40 minute drive south brings you to the Gaza Strip, where one and a half million Palestinians are living under blockade in the biggest open prison on earth; 25 minutes East in the West Bank and you’re where 3 million Palestinians are denied citizenship, and living under military dictatorship; 15 minutes South East and there’s Lod, Ramla and the unrecognized village, Dahmash; Or right in the back yard, in Yaffa, where you’ll see Palestinian houses being demolished, and housing permits not granted to Palestinians. Tel Aviv may be a grand and modern city, but it is surrounded by pain and suffering on all sides.
Students for Justice in Palestine is trying to bring to campus the reality which Palestinians are facing under the Israeli regime. BZA, although self identified as a cultural club, are part of the widespread attempt to whitewash apartheid, namely, trying to divert the attention from criticism towards Israel. A Tel Aviv party as part of Israeli Peace Week and as a response to Israel Apartheid Week is a political statement. It is political because it is a response to another political statement, and it is political because they are making their own judgement of Israel, that of a peaceful, happy, partying country. A Tel Aviv Party Night distracts students from the realities of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians by drawing attention to Israel’s vibrant night life. SJP is here, as usual, to show people the reality that they will not see on their Birthright trip, which is a fundamental part of the beautiful Israel that they know, and that we all know and care for deeply.
Photos: Zena Ozeir