BGU Oren Yiftachel’s Apartheid Analogy Serves to Harm Israel


Editorial Note

IAM reported recently how Oren Yiftachel, a BGU Professor of Geography, co-authored the Bt’selem report that found Israel to be an apartheid state.  Shortly after, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) found Israel to be an apartheid state. The HRW report relies heavily on Bt’selem.  

The HRW has demonstrated considerable anti-Israeli bias. For example, the report states that “Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”  

As has been the case with other anti-Israeli writings, the HRW has not bothered to contextualize its claims, let alone mention the role of Palestinian terrorism in the region’s history. 

As a result of the apartheid accusations, hundreds of academics around the globe have recently circulated on social media the following statement: “I am an academic and I call for a free Palestine and an end to the Israeli state’s apartheid. This is integral to both my moral world view and my scholarship. Pass it on.”

The current escalation of war by Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinians elsewhere against Israel has prompted radical Israeli academics to take the Palestinian side. For example, some faculty in Bezalel Academy of Art and Design have published a petition supporting their Palestinian students who went on strike upon the request of the Palestinian Authority as a Day of Rage. The petition states, “We wish express our sympathy with your struggle for the home and freedom in light of the police and settler violence, the fruits of the government policies, expressed in the current events in Sheikh Jarrah, the Damascus Gate, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, we understand full-well the difficulty of studying at institutes of the occupying and oppressive people, and all the more so at this time.”

Responding to these charges, Yuval Elbashan, a Law Professor at the Ono Academic College, asked why anyone who sees Israel as an oppressor would earn a salary from her academic institutions? He wrote, “it is clear there is freedom of expression and academic freedom, and it is also clear that Bezalel lecturers are allowed to hold such opinions,” still, anyone who agrees to earn a salary from an institution he believes that represents occupation and oppression, “sells his soul” to injustice. “If you think that Israel is a country born of sin… you should act like Malcolm X and refuse to give it legitimacy by receiving income from it. Otherwise, you have no integrity, no courage, and you are far from being a role model.”  

Oren Yiftachel responded to Elbashan: “Yuval, as a lawyer and leftist do you despise people who seek to protect human rights? Precisely as employees in a public institution, it is their duty (not just their right) to express sympathy with the victims and support their rights (I would add opposition to harming civilians). The state is indeed occupying and oppressive. This is a truth that is not related to the source of income of the protesters. Precisely the silence in the face of the events by most lecturers is more disturbing. I will not despise those who are silent like you but putting a mirror in front of them shows their cowardice.”

Even Jewish academics in the US are often recruited to lead the anti-Israel trend. For example, The Professor Is In (TPII), a popular website run by Dr. Karen Kelsky, who writes guidance on Ph.D. to thousands of researchers, including the Israeli Bashaar-Academia-IL Network, has dropped her professional façade and wrote in support of the Palestinians. “We at TPII condemn the latest wave of Israeli violence against Palestinians. I am Jewish and I have no sympathy for this Israeli state terrorism. We are thinking of our Palestinian readers and clients.” She took it even further and added, “Israel-apologists and ‘both side’-ers have been and will continue to be deleted and banned.”  When asked by Rachel Harris, Professor of Jewish Literature and Culture, “What does that even mean? I’m literally a professor who wrote books on this subject. Am I not welcome to share my professional expertise?” TPII answered her: “No.” Clearly, according to Kelsky, only the Palestinians have rights.

For two decades, Yiftachel and many academic activists have espoused anti-Israel rhetoric, and the Western academy picked this up. They have been pushing for the delegitimization of Israel at the request of their Palestinian and pro-Palestinian peers. They twisted the truth about Israel’s motives and actions while staying silent about the lack of quality of Palestinian life in the West Bank and Gaza under Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which both use the population as human shields to hide their military assets.  Hamas has spent untold millions of dollars donated to the Palestinians and tons of cement to build an elaborate network of tunnels for the militants and their equipment.  Using the same funds, Hamas and PIJ had bought or manufactured thousands of missiles and rockets to terrorize Israeli cities.   

Yiftachel and other architects of the theory that Israel is an apartheid state understood that the apartheid analogy would be a catchy way to push the delegitimization of Israel in the larger academic community and international public opinion.  Needless to say, the apartheid analogy would never allow an honest discussion of the miseries which the Palestinian authorities, and especially Hamas, inflict on their own population.
Yubal Elbashan:

אז ברור שיש חופש ביטוי וחופש אקדמי וברור גם שמותר למרצים ולמרצות בבצלאל לאחוז בדעות מהסוג הזה ולתמוך במאבק תלמידיהם הפלסטינים וברור אפילו שמותר להם לעשות זאת גם אם בדבריהם הם פוגעים בסטודנטים אחרים (שאני מניח שגם הם נמצאים במוסד וחשים כעת מופקרים בביתם האקדמי). זה ברור ולכן אין להטיל עליהם שום סנקציה. נקודה. לפגוע בהם אסור אבל ברמה האישית מותר לבוז לעליבות המוסרית של מי שמסכים לשרת ולהתפרנס ממוסד שמייצג בעיניו ו”ביתר שאת בנסיבות הנוכחיות” (של מאבק דמים בגבולות 48 ולא רק 67. בלוד ולא באיתמר) “עם כובש ומדכא”. שום אקרובטיקה רטורית (מהסוג המביך של rebellious teaching, או “אי הפקרת הזירה” ודומיו) לא תסתיר את העובדה שאותו/ה מרצה מוכר את נשמתו למי שבעיניו מייצג עוול. אם אתה חושב שישראל היא מדינה שנולדה בחטא (כאמור בערי 48) אתה אמור לנהוג כמו מלקולם איקס ולסרב לתת לה לגיטימציה בעצם קבלת השכר ממנה. אחרת אין לך יושרה, אין לך אומץ ואתה רחוק מלהיות מודל לחיקוי מוסרי.
Oren Yiftachel

יובל, בתור משפטן ואיש שמאל אתה בז לאנשים שמבקשים להגן על זכויות אדם? דווקא בתור עובדים במוסד ציבורי חובתם (לא רק זכותם) להביע הזדהות עם המותקפים ותמיכה בזכויות (הייתי מוסיף התנגדות לםגיעה באזרחים). המדינה אכן כובשת ומדכאת, זאת אמת שלא קשורה במקור המשכורת של המוחים. דווקא השתיקה מול האירועים בה לוקים מרבית המרצים יותר ומטרידה. לא אבוז לשותקים כמוך, אך אציב מולם מראה לפחדנותם..

Professor Fleming@alwaystheself·5hIamanacademicandIcallforafreePalestineandanendtotheIsraelistate’sapartheid. Thisisintegraltobothmymoralworld view andmy scholarship. Pass it on.Quote Tweet

#PettyPendergrass@ashoncrawley · 5hI am an academic and I call for a free Palestine and an end to the Israeli state’s apartheid. This is integral to both my moral world view and my scholarship. Pass it on.

Marc Lamont Hill  @marclamonthill May 17 IamanacademicandIcallforafreePalestineandanendtotheIsraelistate’sapartheid
. Thisisintegraltobothmymoralworld view andmy scholarship. Pass it on.Quote Tweet

Heba Gowayed هبة جويد@hebagowayed · May 16I am an academic and I call for a free Palestine and an end to the Israeli state’s apartheid. This is integral to both my moral world view and my scholarship. Pass it on.
İlkay ERDOĞAN ORHAN@ilkay_E_ORHAN·May 16Defalarca söyledim,bir kez daha söylemekten onur duyuyorum #Palestine”I’ve told many times and again say that “IamanacademicandIcallforafreePalestineandanendtotheIsraelistate’sapartheid. Thisisintegraltobothmymoralworld view andmy scholarship.”Pass it on

Ahsan Fuzail@AhsanFuzail·May 16It’s quite simple. I am just starting out on the journey of being anacademic, but there is no doubt in my mind when IcallforafreePalestineandanendtotheIsraelistate’sapartheid. Thisisintegraltobothmymoralworld view andmy scholarship. Pass it on.
Christian Henderson@CjvHendersonPolitical economy, political ecology and Middle East and North Africa. Assistant professor @unileiden
Christian Henderson@CjvHenderson·May 15I am an academic and I call for a free Palestine and an end to the Israeli state’s apartheid. This is integral to both my moral world view and my scholarship.

Carl Gibson@carl_al_ajnabee Researcher in Terrorism Studies and Palestinian politics | Assistant Professor @Nottspolitics Nablus, Palestine/ LondonJoined April 2009806 Following598 Followers
Carl Gibson@carl_al_ajnabee·May 16I am an academic and I call for a free Palestine and an end to the Israeli state’s apartheid. This is integral to both my moral world view and my scholarship


The Professor Is In.

15 May at 21:09  · We at TPII condemn the latest wave of Israeli violence against Palestinians. I am Jewish and I have no sympathy for this Israeli state terrorism. We are thinking of our Palestinian readers and clients. I’d be grateful for suggestions where to donate to support Palestinian victims. We will do another matching donation like we did for India last week (raised $610 in total).(Sorry for delay in posting on this; I was out of office most of last with another family situation–it’s been a year).…/israel-west-bank-gaza-middle-east…

AuthorThe Professor Is In.Israel-apologists and “both side”-ers have been and will continue to be deleted and banned.
AuthorThe Professor Is In.Again: all Israel apologists and “both-side”-ers will be immediately deleted and banned.

Rachel HarrisThe Professor Is In. What does that even mean? I’m literally a professor who wrote books on this subject. Am I not welcome to share my professional expertise?

AuthorThe Professor Is In.Rachel Harris No.


Palestinians to stage nationwide general strike as air raids pummel Gaza

Strike will be held across occupied Palestinian territories as well as Palestinian towns inside Israel on Tuesday, as intense Israeli bombing shows no signs of abatingBy Shatha Hammad in Occupied West BankPublished date: 17 May 2021 19:56 UTC | Last update: 10 hours 35 mins ago

Palestinians across the political divide have said a nationwide general strike will commence on Tuesday to protest Israel’s continuing bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip.

The strike, which will see the disruption of all economic and commercial establishments in Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank, Gaza and Palestinian communities inside Israel, comes as more than 200 people, including 61 children, have been killed in intense Israeli attacks on the besieged enclave of two million people.

The strike also comes amid plans to forcibly displace residents of the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and days of attacks at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. 

News of the initiative was welcomed by Palestinian political parties, unions, syndicates and institutions, which published statements confirming their commitment. Residents of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights have also declared that they would partake. 

When the masses call, the establishment heeds

Unlike previous calls for general strikes, which have historically been made by political parties, unions or federations, Tuesday’s strike was organised and pushed for by ordinary Palestinians. 

The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel said in a statement that it had taken a decision to include all sectors in the strike, with private education being the only exclusion. 

For its part, the Fatah Central Committee called for Palestinians across the West Bank to adhere to the general strike, and referred to it as a popular “day of rage.”

The Palestinian National and Islamic Forces coalition also released a statement in support of the strike and urged mobilisations to take place at various places, including Israeli-manned checkpoints.

Palestinian prisoners also announced they would participate and said they would not communicate with Israeli prison administrators.

General strikes as a tool of popular resistance 

The Palestinians have long used general strikes as a tool to express their rejection of Israeli practices.

The planned strike is reminiscent of a famous six-month strike that took place in 1936, which involved the whole country and was aimed at pressuring Britain to end policies that paved the way for the creation of Israel.

A general strike also took place during what is termed the “rocks intifada” of 1987-1993, when Palestinians responded to Israeli attacks by paralysing the economy and refusing to deal with the Israeli establishment in charge of affairs in the West Bank and Gaza, prior to the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

During that intifada, Palestinians adhered to a general strike every week on Tuesday.

Sari Orabi, a Palestinian journalist and analyst, told Middle East Eye that strikes are a method of popular protest and rejection.

“Palestinians have a deep-rooted memory of popular struggle using strikes, since the British colonisation of Palestine, and in particular the famous strike of 1936,” Orabi said.  

He explained that during the rocks intifada, strikes were “an act of civil disobedience” against Israeli forces who maintained a presence in city centres and towns through their civil administration, a body answerable to the Israeli military, which controlled Palestinian civil affairs at the time.

“The occupation was attempting to end the strike by trying to force Palestinians to open their stores. Those who continued to adhere to the strike were punished by having their store doors destroyed,” Orabi said.

Are strikes still effective?

Historically, general strikes were used to mobilise the masses, and unify merchants, workers and students. However, a significant shift was noticed after the arrival of the PA and the Oslo Accords.

“The arrival of the PA meant the presence of a local authority that manages the affairs of the Palestinians, both civil and security. The Israelis left the densely populated areas and there was no longer direct friction, which led to a decline in the effectiveness and impact of strikes,” said Orabi. 

While the impact of strikes has diminished, they continue to hold moral value in uniting Palestinians in a single expression of protest and rejection.

Orabi said he believes the upcoming strike would be successful if it comes as part of a new national context and acts as a prelude to a new form of struggle that encompasses all Palestinians. 

Strikes as a milestone 

Political analyst Bilal Shweiki told MEE that the measurable and material impact of the strike will be inside the 1948-occupied territories. By disrupting daily life and putting pressure on Israeli authorities, the impact will be stronger and clearer than in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“Despite the weak impact of strikes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, this does not negate their importance,” he continued, explaining that during this political phase, they have a large moral effect. 

Shweiki said the moral effect of the strike is represented by overcoming colonial divisions imposed on Palestine, including those stemming from the Oslo Accords.

“In this strike, Palestinians are emerging unified, regardless of the colonial space that they are permitted to exist in.

“The idea of a unified strike constitutes a lever for joint Palestinian national action. It is also a declaration of rejection against all agreements that divide the land.”

The strike, he continued, constitutes a shift in unified political action, especially in the occupied territories, where the struggle for civil rights is transformed into a national struggle against settler colonialism.

“We are witnessing a turning point in Palestinian history, and this strike will constitute a turning point in our history.”


Bezalel lecturers side with Palestinians in conflict, angering students

In response to letter to Arab students of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jewish students sign petition blasting the lecturers’ “condemnation of a large portion of students, and even blatant support for terrorism.”

 By  Noam Dvir  Published on  05-14-2021 12:49 Last modified: 05-14-2021 13:24

Lecturers at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design caused an uproar when they expressed support for the ongoing struggle against Israel by Palestinians in Gaza and east Jerusalem.

In an email sent to the academy’s Arab Israeli students, the lecturers wrote:

“We ask to express our deep identification with your struggle for a home [and] freedom in light of the police and settler violence, the fruits of government policies expressed in the events in recent days in Sheikh Jarrah, the Damascus Gate [in Jerusalem’s Old City], and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. We understand full-well the difficulty of studying at institutes of the occupying and oppressive people, and all the more so at this time.”

The email sparked anger among Jewish students at the academy, who signed a petition in protest of the lecturers’ email.

“We students feel our situation is being completely ignored, and we are hurt by the lecturers’ decision to pick a side at this time. We are all having difficulty, and the reality impacts both sides of the aisle. Thus, a letter addressed to one side of the population constitutes the taking of political sides, divisive means, the condemnation of a large portion of students, and even blatant support for terrorism.

The petition continued: “The letter sent by many of our lecturers bolsters the sense that the academy has a view that embraces opinion on a specific side of the political spectrum while other opinions, even if they are not radical, are erased and unaccepted.”

In response, the academy said, “This is not the position of the Bezalel academy.  At the academy, lecturers and students … hold a variety of opinions. At the academy, which advocates for freedom of expression and creativity, there is room for voicing protest and personal opinions from all directions and spaces.”

In addition to the letter, one lecturer announced she would not hold her usual Wednesday class in a message many students saw as comparing recent events to the Holocaust.

In her message, the lecturer wrote: As a Jewish woman from the Diaspora, the sight of stun grenades being thrown at a house of worship on a holy day brings up difficult memories that made us say, ‘Never again.’

“In every class, there are students from different socio-economic or other backgrounds, but in a civilized society, they are equal before the law. Education in ‘safe spaces’ does not protect those who are scared to walk the street or those who cannot prepare their homework because their computer has been vandalized,” the lecturer wrote.


Fatah to West Bank Palestinians: Confront Israeli security forces

Palestinian faction, formerly known as PLO, also calls on the public to declare a general strike on Tuesday in an effort to exhaust Israel on three fronts in apparent protest of the continued fighting in Gaza

Elior Levy, Yoav Zitun

Published: 05.17.21 , 11:47
Fatah, formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, called on Palestinians in the West Bank to declare a general strike on Tuesday and “confront” the Israeli security forces in protest of continued fighting in the Gaza Strip.The current round of fighting entered its second week on Monday and there appeared to be no sign of any imminent end to the most serious hostilities in years between Israel and Palestinian militants despite mounting international calls for a ceasefire.The idea behind the call appears to be to create greater strife for Israel on three fronts: Gaza, the West Bank and within Israel through continued protests of Israeli Arabs. It is unclear, however, if the public will respond to the call.On Sunday, nine Palestinians were killed in clashes with the IDF throughout the West Bank. Palestinians also claimed a man was shot in the head during a brawl with Jewish settlers in a village south of Hebron, and died of his wounds at the hospital.Hamas since the start of this round of fighting has also been calling on Palestinians in the West Bank to take to the streets and clash with Israeli security forces.

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