What you won't be hearing during Israel Apartheid Week

Michael Coetzee says Hamas is not interested in a peaceful settlement, whatever its local boosters may claim

It is that time of the year again when groups that have nothing in common but a hatred of Israel go on an all-out propaganda offensive known as Israeli Apartheid Week.

The main instigator, as always, is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The co-ordinator of the South African branch, Muhammed Desai, made headlines last year when he defended the behaviour of protests who changed "shoot the Jew" outside a concert by an Israeli musician at Wits University.

I've written before about how rabid and often ill-concealed antisemitism can unite disparate groups who wouldn't normally deign to be in the same room as one another. What else has the power to unite leftist feminists, right wing Islamists, anarchists and fascists?

Those who are truly interested in seeing life improve for the inhabitants of the Palestinian Territories would do better to focus on the impact groups such as Hamas are having on the prospects for peace, instead of expending energy on the chimaera of Israeli "apartheid".

Take as just one example the Hamas government in Gaza's rejection of school textbooks dealing with human rights, submitted for approval by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which runs 245 schools in the Gaza Strip.

The Times of Israel quoted a statement by education ministry spokesman Mu'tasim Al-Minawi, who lamented that the curriculum promoted "peaceful resistance as the only way of achieving freedom and independence" and fostered "negative feelings toward armed resistance".

He also complained that the "vast majority of examples [in the books] refer to Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Helen Suzman, the Soweto Uprising, the Magna Carta and apartheid, even though Islamic-Arab-Palestinian alternatives exist".

Al-Minawi's comments are a simple restatement of what has always been the position of Hamas. It is not interested in learning lessons of reconciliation from South Africa, or in how Helen Suzman or the youth of 1976 fought against apartheid - despite the fervent efforts of the local self-appointed saviours of the Palestinian people to promote such narratives.

It is interested in one thing, and one thing only: the utter destruction of Israel and its replacement with an Islamic state under Sharia law.

Since taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007 it has intensified its terrorisation of the population it governs in what has been described by observers as the "Talibanisation" of Gaza. Women especially have suffered, and non-Muslim minorities continue to be oppressed.

It deals violently and lethally with political opponents, especially those who would prefer to see a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

These are facts easily verifiable, yet it's not what you'll hear about at Israeli Apartheid Week. There won't be any talk about the suffering imposed by Hamas, or the plight of Palestinian refugees facing discrimination in Arab countries. But then there will also be no mention of the fact that Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the same rights as all other citizens, irrespective of race, or religion, or sex.

And so no contrasts will be struck with the corresponding situation in territories governed by the Palestinian Authority, which does not grant its citizens freedom of speech, or religion, or a host of other freedoms enjoyed by all citizens of Israel - Arab or Jew, Muslim or Christian.

The most striking lessons to be learned from this campaign are not about separation between Israelis and Palestinians, but about BDS propaganda's separation from the truth.

Michael Coetzee is a Johannesburg-based journalist. He writes in his personal capacity.

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