We are in the midst of “Israel Apartheid Week.”  In the U.S. it lasts from February 26-March 12 — which is more than one week, but anti-Israel groups always take liberties with terminology and numbers.

On campuses we will see mock “Apartheid Walls” (referring to the Israeli security barrier); but we will not see any mock suicide bombers, whose relentless self-detonation killed 452 Israeli civilians in 2002 leading to construction of the barrier (a wall in some places, but mostly fencing).

Student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, will chant and scream slogans like “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free.”  I believe them when they say that. The BDS movement is about the destruction of Israel, even if some naive supporters think otherwise.

Guess who is a big, big fan of Israel Apartheid Week?

None other than the Supreme Leader of Iran, that beacon of freedom and justice for all, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, who tweeted this greeting:

https://twitter.com/khamenei_ir/status/572834761250639873

He has good reason to gloat.

The formal organization of an international boycott of Israel based in a comparison to Apartheid South Africa was started at the 2001 Durban Conference in South Africa (see discussion below).

While the Durban conference gave birth to the BDS movement, the seed of that Apartheid strategy was planted at a preparatory conference in Tehran. Don’t take my word for it—here is what Mary Robinson, former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (and no friend of Israel) recently wrote in The Daily Beast while promoting her new book (emphasis added):

It had been clear to me early on that holding one of the four regional conferences, the Asian prepcom, in Tehran, would be problematic. Iran, chosen by the countries of the region, was a poor choice to host a conference addressing issues of racism, xenophobia, and anti- Semitism because of its known hostility towards Israel. Tactically, it would have been better to move the preparatory meeting elsewhere in the region, but no other governments offered, probably because many had their own minority, caste, or racism issues. In its prepcom session, the Tehran meeting, held in February 2001, harshly criticized Israel for its policies in the Palestinian territories and its treatment of Palestinians and made an analogy between those policies and Apartheid. The “Zionist movement . . . is based on race superiority,” the draft declaration subsequently alleged, along with the charge that Israel had carried out “ethnic cleansing of the Arab population of historic Palestine.” All such sentences were opposed by some delegates present and, as is always the UN procedure, were put in square brackets in the text, indicating they had not been agreed upon.

At the time, I felt certain that this inflammatory language would be removed from further draft texts well before Durban. Unfortunately, as the preparatory processes went on, the states that had inserted the bracketed language in Tehran refused to withdraw it.

Looking back, I realize I put too much store in the fact that any controversial clauses put in square brackets would either be removed during the preparatory process, or inevitably would be thoroughly debated during the tough negotiations on a final text. I underestimated the hurt and anxiety words in a document would cause, regardless of whether they were in brackets or not, and that the political fallout would start before the Durban conference itself.

That language created in Tehran would become the basis for the Durban NGO declaration that launched the BDS movement.

The Durban conference and NGO forum devolved into such blatant anti-Semitism that the United States walked out. An observer noted:

On the grounds of the U.N. conference itself, the Arab Lawyers Union distributed pamphlets filled with grotesque caricatures of hook-nosed Jews depicted as Nazis, spearing Palestinian children, dripping blood from their fangs, with missiles bulging from their eyes or with pots of money nearby. Attempts to have the group’s U.N. accreditation revoked were refused.

Under the tent where the final NGO declaration was approved over the weekend — a document that indicts Israel as a “racist, apartheid state” guilty of genocide and ethnic cleansing — fliers were found with a photo of Hitler and the following question: “What if Hitler had won? There would be no Israel, and no Palestinian bloodshed.”

In a Palestinian-led march with thousands of participants, a placard was held aloft that read “Hitler Should Have Finished the Job.” Nearby, someone was selling the most notorious of anti-Jewish tracts, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

The late Congressman Tom Lantos bore witness to the Durban Conference and the NGO forum in particular, and wrote of his experience:

Another ring in the Durban circus was the NGO forum, taking place just outside the conference center. Although the NGO proceedings were intended to provide a platform for the wide range of civil society groups interested in the conference’s conciliatory mission, the forum quickly became stacked with Palestinian and fundamentalist Arab groups. Each day, these groups organized anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic rallies around the meetings, attracting thousands. One flyer which was widely distributed showed a photograph of Hitler and the question “What if I had won?” The answer: “There would be NO Israel…”

At a press conference held by Jewish NGO’s to discuss their concerns with the direction the conference was taking, an accredited NGO, the Arab Lawyers Union, distributed a booklet filled with anti-Semitic caricatures frighteningly like those seen in the Nazi hate literature printed in the 1930s. Jewish leaders and I who were in Durban were shocked at this blatant display of anti-Semitism. For me, having experienced the horrors of the Holocaust first hand, this was the most sickening and unabashed display of hate for Jews I had seen since the Nazi period.

Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the official NGO document that was later adopted by a majority of the 3,000 NGOs in the forum branded Israel a “racist apartheid state” guilty of “genocide” and called for an end to its “racist crimes” against Palestinians….

The result of the NGO forum at Durban was the issuance of demands and accusations which form the core of the BDS, PACBI and USACBI boycott campaigns and rhetoric. Here is the language from the offical NGO declaration:

423. Call for the launch of an international anti Israeli Apartheid movement as implemented against South African Apartheid through a global solidarity campaign network of international civil society, UN bodies and agencies, business communities and to end the conspiracy of silence among states, particularly the European Union and the United States.

424. Call upon the international community to impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state as in the case of South Africa which means the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel. Call upon the Government of South Africa to take the lead in this policy of isolation, bearing in mind its own historical success in countering the undermining policy of “constructive engagement” with its own past Apartheid regime.

In her Daily Beast column, Robinson states that the worst of the Tehran language did not appear in the text of the Durban NGO resolution; but the fact remains that the concept of portraying Israel as an Apartheid state, and launching a boycott based on it, did make its way into the official document.

The Apartheid claim is false propaganda. The international legal definition of Apartheid addresses domination by one “racial group” over another through means that are themselves crimes against humanity. Israeli Jews are multi-racial, and the dispute is ethnic and religious, just like in every Arab and Muslim country. Domination by one religion over another is never called Apartheid, except when Jews are in the majority.

I explain all this in my interview in opposition to the attempted boycott of Israeli products at the Greenstar Food Co-op in Ithaca:

So when you see people marching around campus supporting the BDS movement and claiming that Israel is an Apartheid state, thank the Ayatollah. I’m sure he’d appreciate the shout out. Maybe he’ll even tweet out thanks for all the success leftist Westerners have contributed to the propaganda war against Israel.

[Featured Image: Anti-Israel Organizer Ariel Gold at Shut Down AIPAC Protest, wearing “Boycott Israeli Apartheid’ hat.]