[A great op-ed that we missed at the HuffPo. Why? Because it was buried in HuffPost Canada without any links to "Israel" or "World" sections.]
This week begins an annual part of the global campaign to delegitimize and vilify the Jewish state, as anti-Israel activists and student groups on campuses around the world, including United States and Canada, mark the eighth annual Israel Apartheid Week [IAW].
According to organisers of the IAW, the purpose of the movement is to "to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns."
First, let's make one thing crystal clear -- attempts to brand Israel as an "apartheid" state or compare it to white South Africa are at best uninformed; and at worst, maliciously dishonest and anti-Semitic. It also does a great injustice to the real victims, who had to endure institutionalised segregation and apartheid in South Africa.
The irony is that, despite problems in Israel (as in any democracy), Arab citizens still enjoy more rights, freedoms, and liberties than do their neighbours in any number of Middle East countries currently fighting and dying for these very same privileges.
As the Muslim Arab Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh says: "Israel is not an apartheid state...[it] is a free and open democratic country. The law of Israel does not distinguish between a Jew and an Arab... I would rather live as a second class citizen in Israel, even though I'm not, than a first class citizen in any Arab country."
Notably, those using the IAW to demonize Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, and which respects the rights of women, minorities, homosexuals, and people of other faiths, are holding no such events for Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad has already butchered some 7,500 pro-democracy protestors.
Nor are they holding similar events against Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is a crime, in Egypt, where the Copts continue to be persecuted both pre- and post-Mubarak, or Iran, where women and the Baha'i are repeatedly tortured and executed.
Of course, other great bastions of human rights and democracy, like Russia and China, which recently vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for the ousting of al-Assad, get a free pass too.
So why is Israel the only country singled out for special opprobrium?
During the IAW, you will hear all sorts of lofty humanitarian labels like "justice," "equal rights," and "peace." But don't be fooled. It is all a charade. They have no such interest. The sole purpose of the BDS movement is the vilification, delegitimization, and destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. Just listen to what their leaders say.
Omar Barghouti, one the founders of the BDS Movement (and ironically, also a PhD student of ethics at Tel Aviv University), has said that the Palestinian refugees "Right of Return" is the "litmus test of morality for anyone suggesting a just and enduring solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."
To put it a little more bluntly, he added: "I clearly do not buy into the two-state solution...[I]f the refugees were to return, you would not have a two-state solution, you would have a Palestine next to Palestine, rather than a Palestine next to Israel."
Other BDS leaders are equally forthright.
Ali Abunimah is the executive director of the anti-Zionist website, Electronic Intifada, and one of the leading proponents of the one-state solution as a supposedly "just" and "non-violent" solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He sees the BDS as key to achieving this. But only last month, hetweeted: "Isn't it the time for a popular Palestinian revolution in the form of a third intifada?" Is that because the first and second intifadas were so "non-violent" also?
And then only two week ago, in what came as a major blow to the legions of Israel haters, anti-Zionist poster-boy Norman Finkelstein said the BDS Movement's call for the "Right of Return" was just "a cover for its desire to see the destruction of Israel," calling the movement "disingenuous" and a "cult."
Granted, Finkelstein made these comments not out of a new found Zionism or desire to advance peace in the Middle East, but rather he believes there are other "more efficient" means for anti-Israel activists to achieve the goals.
But undoubtedly the most illuminating of all the statements by BDS leaders came from Ahmed Koor (another proponent of the Palestinian "Right of Return'", who wrote in April 2010: "Ending the occupation doesn't mean anything if it doesn't mean upending the Jewish state itself...BDS is not another step on the way to the final showdown; BDS is The Final Showdown."
The similarity between Koor's "Final Showdown" and Hitler's "Final Solution" is as unmistakable as it is chillingly revealing about the BDS Movement's true motives.
Whereas Hitler's "Final Solution" sought to bring about the end of the Jewish people, the BDS Movement's "Final Showdown" seeks to bring about the end of Israel as the Jewish state, by endorsing a one-state solution and flooding Israel with millions of Palestinians.
The BDS movement is nothing short of racist, insidious, and anti-Semitic. Its goal is not to advance Palestinian rights, but to deny and strip Israel of its rights, with the ultimate objective being the destruction of the Jewish state.
The most unfortunate thing is that supporters of IAW and BDS do nothing to advance the cause of peace or well-being of Palestinians or Israeli Arabs. But then again, that has never been their goal in the first place. They only breed further hate and extremism at a time when peace and cooperation is needed most.