Accusations by Innuendo: Apartheid/Israel
As a China historian who has researched the corrosive impact of lies during the Cultural Revolution, I was shocked to see the use of inaccurate images and innuendo at a table in the Usdan Center at Wesleyan --promulgating a false equivalence between Israel and state-sponsored apartheid.
There was nothing in the materials on the table to identify an organization. No documented sources for images supposedly portraying “apartheid” in Israel.
One photograph was prominently displayed. It showed a young man wearing a skullcap and the back of a woman dressed in long robes. The heading of the image loudly proclaimed: “Settler harassing Arab woman!”—no source, no information, no visible sign inside the photograph for that assertion. When was the phograph taken? Where? By whom? Was it really Hevron?
There was nothing in the image of the young man that suggested harassment. There was physical proximity to a woman’s back. Does that suffice for the utterly false message in red ink?
There was also no evidence on this table of the hundreds of images available from daily newspapers portraying young men with rocks in their hands, coming close up to cars on the Hevron road, waiting to see if the passengers are Jewish or Arab, male or female. Young Jewish mothers with babies are especially targeted.
To walk by “Israel/Apartheid” table today—exactly one year after the brutal murder of the Fogel family in Itamar—was painful beyond words. I am writing this in my office today in order to find some way to wrap my mind around the problem of truth and lies on this highly educated campus. I am still stunned by the kind of hatred that led two young men to enter the Shabbat evening home of Rabbi Udi Fogel and murder him, his wife and three young children—including 3 month-old Hadas at close range. Stabbing, shooting directly into the bodies, inches from skull and heart.
So how can then one walk by a “red ink” message on a undocumented photograph and not cry out: Anonymity breeds misinformation! To assert, namelessly, as the poster near the innuendo-filled photograph did—“Israel: is it really an Apartheid State? Be aware. Call it what it is”—is to promulgate a lie in the name of so-called consciousness raising. Where are some of the simple facts:
1) Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East
2) Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Arabs and Jews receive equally excellent medical care
3) Israel is the only country in Middle East in which gender equality is inscribed in the law and where Arab women can pursue higher education freely at internationally renowned universities in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv
And what about the deafening silence concerning the anniversary of the Fogel murders on the Wesleyan campus on the same day that students are tabling about Israel’s “apartheid”? Enforced silence and anonymous accusations were the hallmark of the Cultural Revolution in China: Red Guards could hang any photograph, pen any “sin” alongside it and heads would roll… I had hoped that we could do better here at Wesleyan. At least we can try.
Schwarcz is the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies and a Professor of History