Rutgers Hillel set to counter ‘Apartheid Week’

Rutgers Hillel set to counter ‘Apartheid Week’

Amid calls for boycott, pro-Israel activities will focus on diversity

Rutgers Hillel is gearing up for “Israel Apartheid Week” with programming meant to counter pro-Palestinian groups’ calls for an anti-Israel boycott.

With both sides set to begin their programming on Monday, Feb. 27, Hillel will invite Israelis from diverse backgrounds to speak to students about Israel’s “melting pot.”

Among them will be an Ethiopian Jew rescued during Operation Moses. The events are being cosponsored by Hasbara Fellowships, which promotes Israel advocacy among college students.

Additionally, 80 students who have just returned from a Taglit-Birthright trip to Israel will engage with their fellow students. Over President’s Day weekend, Hillel ran Israel advocacy programs on campus while 20 students attended an advocacy retreat organized by  the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest and Central NJ and Project David.

“We will show the many different sides of Israeli society so people can have the opportunity to see these many faces,” said Hillel Israel engagement director Tzvi Raviv, a native of Israel. “Instead of bashing their side, we will show the real Israel.”

“Israel Apartheid Week” activities at Rutgers are being organized by BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice, which has been relatively quiet this year in comparison to the previous year, when it staged a stream of events that drew the ire of Jewish organizations on and off campus.

“We are working on what we can do as a community to address these events,” said Hillel’s Israel chair, Raffi Mark. “On a campus of 40,000, we obviously can’t reach everyone. But we want to reach those we can in the most effective way. We want to present our own case and not just be reactive to what other people are saying.”

“We are hoping things will be quieter than last year, but assume things will be very loud and public during hate week,” said Mark, a senior from Wayne.

Mark, also a member of the Hillel board, said he has been talking with other Hillel leaders and those from other pro-Israel campus organizations — including Scarlet Blue and White and RIPAC, Rutgers’ AIPAC chapter — to “make sure we’re all on the same page.”

“Our big thing with our community is to have positive preparation so our members are prepared, but not surprised,” said Mark. He said he plans to attend some BAKA events with other students “to hear what the Baka people are saying,” particularly making note if they make “outrageous claims. We will hold them accountable to what they are saying.”

According to its Facebook page, BAKA events include: Feb. 27: a history of “the global phenomena” of the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel; Feb. 28: Spin Cycles — Airing Israel’s Dirty Laundry, to focus on Israel’s use of gays and lesbians to deflect focus from its other alleged human rights abuses; Feb. 29: screening of the film Budrus, about Israelis and Palestinians uniting to prevent the separation barrier from destroying a village; and March 1: erecting the “apartheid wall” at Brower Commons.

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