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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Israeli Apartheid Week Draws Debate about Happenings in Middle East


Originally, the UN declaration calling for the partition of Palestine gave the areas in green, including Jerusalem, to the Palestinians. The plan was soundly rejected by Palestinian leadership and the rulers of neighboring countries, who attacked Israel in the First Arab-Israeli War. After decades of warfare, the Israeli government gained control of all territory highlighted in both green and white. 




UMass Boston’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) hosted Israeli Apartheid week April 1-5 to raise awareness of the debate that is raging in the Middle East. The SJP held several events including a rally, a panel, and a movie to show their views of the conflict.

The movie, “Roadmap to Apartheid,” was screened in the Campus Center on April 1. The movie aimed to show similarities between the former South African Apartheid government and the current Israeli government. Israel supported South Africa during the Apartheid era by providing military equipment and training, even though many other countries would not deal with the country.

The movie suggests the viewpoint that building settlements that are only for Israeli citizens is against international law. Some groups see this as Israel forcing Palestinians off the land. Also, because much of Israel is desert, these settlements use up valuable water resources.

The movie also explained the difference in the legal systems enforce on Palestinians and Israelis. While Israelis follow civil law, Palestinians follow Israeli military laws, and have to pass through checkpoints in order to travel. There are more than 600 checkpoints in the occupied territories.

Palestinian supporters have accused Israel of the blocking of ambulances, and the bombing of power and sewage plants. Some Palestinians believe that Israel controls the food supply to Gaza, and is purposefully starving the residents.

Tamzid Chowdhury, a member of the SJP, explained the apartheid comparison by saying, “If it quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. Segregated road system, segregated buses, restricted freedom of movement for one ethnic group, restricted freedom of expression for one ethnic group – these are all hallmarks of an apartheid state.”

According to Chowdhury, “Most ordinary US citizens don’t know that Israel gets 8.5 million dollars per day in military aid. Zionist lobbies and institutions do a great job of wrongly equating criticism of Zionism and Israel to anti-semitism, so a lot of people are unwilling to dig for truth.” His statistics are based on a report of 2012 financial expenditures on Israel written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a branch of the United States Library of Congress.

The panel on April 3 featured SJP member Michael Fiorentino, Ruth Jennison, who is an associate professor of English at UMass Amherst, and Lisa Behrendt of Jewish Voices for Peace. At the panel, Behrendt told the audience that the “US [is] not [an] honest broker for peace.”

Much of the panel discussion centered around the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS). The BDS Movement, founded in 2005, is an international association of groups lobbying to keep international money out of Israeli hands until human rights abuses against Palestinians have come to an end.

SJP chapters in Boston are part of a coalition that recently lobbied the Harvest Co-op, a grocery with multiple locations in Boston and Cambridge, to stop selling Sabra Hummus. Sabra’s website boasts that the company has “adopted” a platoon of Israeli soldiers and regularly sends them care packages. After a year of activists leafletting outside Harvest stores in Jamaica Plain and Central Square, the store stopped carrying Sabra Dipping Hummus, citing lowered demand from customers.

UMass Boston Hillel is the Jewish student organization on campus. President Ezra Betesh told reporters he was busy with school work would not be able to give a statement as of press time.

Stephanie Bonvissuto, the coordinator of the Queer Student Center (QSC), is a Jew. While normally center coordinators choose whether to co-sponsor events, she allowed the QSC membership to vote on whether to co-sponsor Israeli Apartheid Week. They voted yes.

Bonvissuto commented that she doesn’t believe “people on either side of these issues are seeing the whole picture,” adding, “I think both sides are guilty of oversights and under-appreciations, sacrificing real diplomacy for rancorous stereotyping.”