Pro-Palestine student group kicks off controversial Israeli Apartheid Week

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Monday marked the start of the annual Israeli Apartheid Week at UC Berkeley, organized by Students for Justice in Palestine to raise awareness of the conditions of Palestinians in Israel, which the group characterizes as unequal and subject to human rights abuses.

The demonstrations have previously been a source of contention on the campus, which saw nearby clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups during a protest Saturday and a recent complaint alleging that mock checkpoints set up during Apartheid Week violate the Civil Rights Act. The events will also occur at the same time as Israel Peace and Diversity Week, organized by a pro-Israel student group.

Israel Peace and Diversity Week — sponsored by Tikvah Students for Israel — is occurring this week in an effort to educate the community about Israel’s diversity, tolerance and steps for peace with Palestine, according to Tikvah co-president David Sverdlov. The events began Thursday with a speech by Congressman Barney Frank on the U.S.-Israel relationship and will continue until Friday with speeches from Israeli soldiers and a peace rally.

Sverdlov said the group’s events are not a response to Apartheid Week, but some members of Students for Justice in Palestine disagreed.

“There is no coincidence that (Tikvah) chose the same week,” said junior Maria Lewis, a member of the group. “They are trying to put a pretty face on apartheid.”

The week’s events come on the heels of an incident Saturday at which three people were pepper-sprayed by pro-Israel supporters during a pro-Palestine protest. Lewis said the incident was “reflective of the violence that (Apartheid Week) is protesting.”

Apartheid Week began with a demonstration on Sproul Plaza Monday morning, at which members from the group held up letters spelling out the word “boycott.” Events will continue until Wednesday.

The group is also carrying out its Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns throughout the week to pressure companies to stop doing business with Israel. Sometime during the week, Students for Justice in Palestine will have a mock checkpoint event to “demonstrate the discriminatory restrictions on their movement that Palestinians have to endure,” said Emiliano Huet-Vaughn, a campus graduate student and member of the group.

The mock checkpoint is the focus of an amended complaint to a lawsuit dismissed in December, which contended that the campus and the UC system failed to mitigate a climate averse to Jewish students. The complaint was filed Jan. 6 by UC Berkeley alumna Jessica Felber and current student Brian Maissy and claims that the checkpoints violate Title IV of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination based on race, color or national origin.

“The lawsuit is based on false information, as evidenced by the fact that it was thrown out of court,” said junior Madeena Rafiq, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.

The rest of Apartheid Week will include a speech Tuesday by New York Times bestseller Max Blumenthal about American politics around Israel, and activists from Egypt, Syria and Palestine plan to share their experiences in democratic movements on Wednesday.

Sybil Lewis covers Berkeley communities.

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  • Rfaelmoshe

    It is simply libelous to apply the legal term of art “apartheid” to the situation in Israel.  “Apartheid” specifically means a form of government acting with the intent to deprive it’s citizens of rights based on their perceived “race” or ethnicity.  Israel’s actions are based on security against real violence.  Further, the phrase “Palestinian” is not an ethnic but rather an Arab political identity assigned in 1964 by the Arab League to the ethnically and nationally diverse Muslims that left pre-state Israel in1948.   If one were to examine pre-state Israel under the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the mid-1800s,  one would find an administratively and agriculturally mis-managed backwater province, de-populated and with each widely spread, sparse village composed of Muslim colonists from differing parts of the Ottoman Empire.  For example,Cesarea was re-founded by Bosnians.   And of course, the one thing that Arabs and Jews AGREE on is that they are related peoples.  So what ever “race” is, does enter into the equation either.  It would seem to me that people that truly suffered under real Apartheid would be offended by the analogy. 

    • Guest


  • Revengebunny

    ISRAEL DOES NOT HAVE ONE FRIEND on this planet. They are occupying territories they DO NOT OWN, and to which they have NO INHERENT RIGHTS.

    • Guest

      I’m a friend of Israel. 

      • libsrclowns

        Me too

    • אני תומך בישראל.

  • Guest

    When you have a pattern of Palestinians blowing themselves up in public places in Israel you’re gonna have checkpoints.  You can call it apartheid all you want, but I don’t think South African blacks were blowing themselves up, were they?    Your analogy is dumb as hell for this reason and there are going to be WAY more people turned off by what you’re doing for precisely this reason than there will be people turned on.    Go ahead, though!  Hold an Israeli Apartheid Week.   You’re just shooting yourself in the foot with your twisted logic.  No one really buys it but YOU.    So c’mon, everyone, let’s hear it for the very clever and insightful Israel Apartheid Week!  Makes TOTAL SENSE!!!!

  • reztips

    The allegation that Israel is an “apartheid state” is sheer, unmitigated bullshit. Unlike that era in racist S. Africa, Israeli Arabs are subject to the same laws as their fellow Jewish citizens, may marry whom they choose, and don’t carry “passbooks” like black Africans had to. If one wants to find true apartheid in the region, one need look no further than the Palestinian territories where women are treated as second class citizens, honor murder is perpetrated vs daughters who allegedly transgress the narrow-mindedness of their fathers, gays are brutalized and dissidents violently suppressed. Now that’s true apartheid…

    • libsrclowns

      Religious tolerance doesn’t come to mind when I think Arab or Persian for that matter.

  • Adsahjh

    During WWII, we imprisoned enemy sympathizers. 

    • crusty

       Nope,”we” imprisoned them for racist reasons.ironically,folks of japanese descent were later drafted into the u.s. military out of concentration camps.The all japanese-american 442nd infantry combat brigade became the most decorated with medals military unit of the war.dod we do that to people of italian or german heritage?Nope?

      •  Once again, your ignorance shows.Regardless of whether incarceration was right or not, we didn’t intern people for being Chinese or Korean. There’s a difference between race and national origin. Learn something before you post next time.

        • crusty

          Ah tony,incarceration like that was wrong.apparently,even the u.s. can unlearn right from me hope for you,also.

          •  And you still haven’t caught on that it wasn’t motivated by “race”. But then again, you were never the sharpest tool in the shed, were you?

    • guest

      obvious troll is obvious.