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Anti-Israel, pro-Israel weeks competing on U.S. campuses

BERKELEY, Calif. (JTA) — Competing anti-Israel and pro-Israel weeks are getting under way on more than two dozen North American college campuses.

The seventh annual Israel Apartheid Week officially launched Tuesday and continues through the end of March. Campuses in 12 U.S. and six Canadian cities are planning events and hosting speakers protesting Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Some campuses have scheduled similar events at other times during the school year.

To counter those efforts, Israel Peace Week will highlight the positive contributions Israel has made to the world at approximately the equivalent number of North American campuses.

The first Israel Apartheid Week was held in Toronto in 2005. Events this month are planned on campuses in California, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Texas and Missouri, and in four Canadian provinces.

The internationally coordinated campaign, which has close ties to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, is meant to draw comparisons between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa, and to harness the same protest mechanisms against Israel that brought down the former South African regime two decades ago.

Along with speakers and conferences, activities often include political street theater, such as setting up mock Israeli “checkpoints” on campus or constructing a model of the security fence, deemed the “apartheid wall.”

In many of those same campuses, pro-Israel students hand out information near the Israel Apartheid Week  events, and host their own conferences and speakers to present Israel’s case. Last year, Israel Peace Week was held on 28 campuses, but pro-Israel students conducted individual efforts at several other colleges and universities as well.

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