BY NOGA GUR-ARIEH / AJT //

The first time I heard “Israel” and “Apartheid” used together was a year ago. It was somewhat shocking and didn’t make much sense to me.

Noga Gur-Arieh

Noga Gur-Arieh

I couldn’t believe that people were using a word linked to one of history’s darkest periods in association with my country. I didn’t understand how people could watch distorted news accounts and dismiss the complex situations here and simply attach the word “apartheid” to the Jewish State.

In the past year, I have learned a lot about the ways people see Israel, and I’m now feeling frustrated that I haven’t been able to impact enough what others think through my posts online and through other types of media. If anything, the overall issue seems to have only gotten worse.

Here’s a troubling fact that many of you may not be familiar with: There’s an event, “Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW),” that is observed in more than 200 cities around the world. Take a moment, and think about what that means.

There’s a crusade in the world aimed at making us look like animals. IAW has become an annual international effort featuring rallies, lectures, films, multimedia displays and boycotts of Israeli goods. Its activities are held in downtown and on college campuses.

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And last year’s event was especially successful, as 215 cities participated in one fashion or another.

The point of the annual observance, according to its website, is to raise awareness of Israel’s “apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to build support for the growing ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ campaign.”

I know that life in Israel is complicated, but I have no idea how people move from “complicated” to “apartheid.” It makes no sense. We are not an apartheid nation.

That’s just a view only for narrow-minded people who are unwilling to have a proper conversation, for people who are unwilling to open their eyes and ears.

I’m angry with these people because they convince others who are confused about life in Israel and unaware of the truth, but at the same time I also feel sorry for them. They will never know what a beautiful country Israel is; they will never see or understand the real truth.

They will spend years fighting against something that doesn’t exist, “battling windmills,” trying to change a false reality. I will probably never be able to understand the mindset of these people because when I want to do battle for something, my first instinct is to study the facts – all of the facts!

I try to listen to all sides. I recognize that Israel has problems when it comes to Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, and I know that changes are needed and that life isn’t fair for some of our citizens. I can honestly say that I don’t have all the answers.

There is much that needs to be discussed, and this is a conflict that is often buried in shades of gray. It is an ongoing confrontation where there is an upside and a downside to every decision.

I understand that there are people on both sides who feel terrible hatred, but I also know that the people behind the IAW see the world in black and white, which is exactly why they will never accomplish anything.

People with such feelings of judgment will not change their minds. They will always refuse to listen and discuss. Deep in their hearts, I think, they know if they open their minds, a larger picture will come into view that has nothing to do with “apartheid.”

But besides them, what really worries me is that there’s another group: people who are unsure and confused about Israel and life in this part of the world. And these people are being influenced by those who hate, and thus the proponents of IAW and their like-minded peers are growing in number.

There are many universities around the world at which Israelis are not even allowed to publicly speak. So maybe we can’t counter the voice of the misguided individuals on many college campuses, but we can provide Israel’s supporters with information and the truth.

That way, each of you can be Israel’s voice. It’s up to each of you to stand in opposition to our detractors and talk to the confused to help them realize the complexity of the situation.

I guess this is why I wanted to write this column, to share with you the beauty of my homeland and help you all understand how lies are being told that will destroy my country.

Last year, I had the incredible opportunity to take part in an international conference in Israel. Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was one of the speakers. He said something that I carry with me every day.

“The only way we can put an end to this twisted hatred is to work together, both Israelis and the Jewish Diaspora,” he said. “Only by cooperating can we help mitigate the misunderstanding about the situation in Israel.”

If we Israelis put everything on the table, help you see the complete and total truth, then it’s up to you to spread the word and rationally debate those who make false accusations. Only then might we be able to change public opinion and show the world a better and more correct perspective.

Today, in the U.S., I fear the enemies of Israel are winning. Yet again, the few are battling the many.

Israel is a remarkable place, a country that has won many battles against bigger and greater armies – and let’s not forget that thousands of years ago David once slew Goliath! But now we play a different game.

We are fighting a media war in which numbers make a huge difference. We can still win, though; all we need do is unite. This is our chance to show the world something new. This is our chance to stand up to false acccusations.

My friends and I here in Israel are powerless in battling Israeli Apartheid Week and similar events. But you and your friends are not. Standing still and keeping quiet is an act of agreement. It’s time to disagree.

Share the truth!

Noga Gur-Arieh visited the U.S. to work at Camp Coleman after finishing her military service in the IDF. She is now back in Israel, working as a journalist.

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