|February 12 through the 18th saw the observance of “Israeli Apartheid Week” on several New York universities, a series of events staged by anti-Israel activists to equate the Jewish state with the racist regime of apartheid-era South Africa. Evidently, however, one week was not enough, and the campaign of demonization has now stretched into a third week, with California campuses the current location.
Thus, at the University of California at Berkeley, the anti-Israel groups Students for Justice in Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) recently hosted the Palestinian activists Mohammed Khatib and Feryal Abu Haikal. As the head of a so-called Popular Resistance Committee, Khatib’s full-time job is to organize weekly riots against Israeli soldiers and border police in the West Bank town of Bilin. Haikal leads a similar committee in the West Bank village of Tel Rumeida near the city of Hebron. One of the organizers of the event was Paul LaRudee, an ISM activist who was deported from Israel last June for his suspected connections to Hamas after two articles appeared about him on FrontPageMagazine.com. About 85 people showed up at the school's Dwinelle Hall to see this presentation, most of them university students.
Mohammed Khatib began the evening by introducing the event as a “national tour” by the ISM that “supports nonviolent resistance” -- this despite the fact the organization has notable ties to terrorist organizations. The ISM’s LaRudee, for instance, recounted to this journalist that he had recently returned from Lebanon where he worked in co-operation with Hezbollah.
Much of the evening was given over to a screening of videos critical of the Israeli presence in the West Bank. There are about 400 Jewish settlers in the West Bank who live in Hebron, and the surrounding areas have another 30,000 under constant threat from over 150,000 Arabs. However, anyone watching the videos presented that night would have had the impression that peace-loving Arabs are stoned and attacked relentlessly and without provocation in Hebron’s city center by fanatical Orthodox Jews.
To be sure, there were some videos shown, most over seven years old, of Jewish children from settlements in the area throwing stones at ISM anarchists or at Arabs. The time frame was not revealed to the audience, but many of the scenes took place during the intifada in 2000. Stone-throwing by either side is unacceptable, but any close observer could see that most of the stone throwers revealed on film were less than 12 years of age, which Feryal Abu Haikal suggested was a violence unique to the Jewish settlers.
History does not support the charge. During the first intifada, the late Yasir Arafat used to bus Arab kids from schools to throw stones at Israeli soldiers and police because Israeli laws are strict against arresting minors. The evening’s speakers also declined to dwell on the fact that the police officers in the films frequently observed that often Arabs had thrown the first stone. Such blatant reversals of the historical record have become the hallmark of anti-Israel propaganda, whether deployed by the PLO or, now, the sponsors of “Israeli Apartheid Week.”
Khatib and Haikal had many other complaints, though none any more honest. At one point in the evening, Haikal projected photos of Jewish communities in the West Bank. Her intention was to show that these communities are surrounded by large Arab populations. If one showed similar pictures of black neighborhoods surrounded by larger white neighborhoods in America, the cry of racism would immediately be heard. Yet the audience was supposed to understand that these were Jewish communities that had no right to be there.
To underscore the point, Haikal pointed out a four-story schoolhouse in a Jewish community and explained that the Israelis “just took the building” for themselves, then added three stories to it. The problem with this claim is that in Israel, just as in America, nobody can just take buildings and land without legally obtaining permits and going through a legal process. The one exception is Palestinian Arabs, who persistently build on property they do not legally own. In many of those instances, the Israeli Supreme Court has allowed Arab squatters to keep land to which they have no legal claim, even in Jerusalem, while upholding the deportation of Jews in the West Bank and Gaza who even have legal title to their land.
Equally misleading was Haikal’s explication of another photograph. It depicted Abraham Ave., a street closed down by the IDF for ten years near the Mosque of Abraham because when Jews walked down it Arabs hurled stones and concrete slabs from the balconies above. Rather than address this inconvenient background, Haikal stood the facts on their head, explaining that the closures were the direct result of Israeli Jews walking on the street below and hurling stones up at the Arabs in their upstairs balconies.
When she wasn’t offering outright fabrications, Haikal was eliding crucial context. She explained that she is a headmistress at a girls’ school in the West Bank, then began a slide show alleging that Palestinian children cannot go to school due to interference from Israelis. To be fair, this does happen occasionally, but Haikal failed to explain that it happens when the IDF is tracking terrorists who have just staged an attack or are known to be planning one. Only someone unaware of or entirely indifferent to Palestinian terrorism could have credited her remarks.
Khatib exhibited a similarly propagandistic approach. “There are roads only the Israelis can use,” he complained. What he did not explain was these roads were necessary because Palestinian Arabs have been known to shoot or throw stones at Israeli drivers. Nor are Arabs unconditionally banned from using these roads. On the contrary, they can use these roads if they go through a security clearance. Unsurprisingly, many Arab taxi drivers use them all the time.
Another canard was that fences set up by Israel to protect Jewish communities from Arab attacks were in fact set up to protect Arabs from Israeli stone throwers. And, of course, there was the “Apartheid Wall” -- a recurring theme of “Israeli Apartheid Week” -- a 25-foot-high concrete fence set up to prevent Arab snipers from shooting into Jerusalem neighborhoods. One wouldn’t know any of this listening to Khatib, who assured his audience that it was erected solely to torment blameless Palestinians.
Repeatedly throughout the event, Khatib tried to demonstrate what he called the Palestinians’ commitment to “nonviolent resistance.” To this end, he screened films of the “nonviolent demonstrations” he leads in the West Bank. Unfortunately, these did not help his case.
In one film, a wheelchair-bound Arab activist casually mentions how an Ethiopian Jewish border policeman lost his eye at the last demonstration. We are next shown a “nonviolent demonstration” of wheelchair bound activists parading into a closed military zone. When the police politely ask them to disperse, they continue forward with their able-bodied international ISM compatriots. The police mention that rocks were thrown, but, somehow, this is irrelevant. The audience, clearly sympathizers, giggled at many films shown of ISM activists and Arabs interfering with the police who, by and large, showed exemplary patience in handling what are, in fact, violent crowds.
To test Khatib’s commitment to nonviolence, I put the following question to him: Would he condemn the murder a few days earlier of Jewish settler Erez Levanon by members of Islamic Jihad? Levanon was an Orthodox Jew who was praying and meditating in the forest, as he frequently did, near his home in Kfar Etzion, a Jewish community originally settled in 1943, lost to Jordan in 1948, then returned in 1967. Levanon, a married father of four children, had his throat slit and was disemboweled. Would Khatib denounce Islamic Jihad’s actions?
Instead of saying yes, he went into a long speech about how his movement works with Islamic Jihad and Hamas, and how his movement and all who work with him were “nonviolent.” He never did condemn what Islamic Jihad‘s murder. So much for “Palestinian nonviolence,” a notion about as credible as the “Israeli apartheid” that inspired the occasion.