[ View the story "'Blackwashing' and the Israel lobby" on Storify] Are minority students the new face of AIPAC? Pro-Israel organisations sponsor trips, conferences for minorities.
Storified by The Stream · Mon, Mar 05 2012 11:32:41
As the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the United States, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has drawn scepticism for its recruitment of students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and majority-Hispanic schools. According to the AIPAC website, the organisation "empowers pro-Israel activists across all ages, religions and races to be politically engaged and build relationships with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to promote the US-Israel relationship." The video below provides a brief overview of AIPAC's core activities.
AIPAC: IllustratedExpert Analysis
AIPAC's recruitment of minority students, and African Americans in particular, has been criticised by some as an attempt to counter pro-Palestinian campus campaigns which depict Israel as an apartheid state. Many critics are calling this practice "blackwashing" and say that it provides pro-Israel groups a shield from comparisons to South Africa's former apartheid government.
Recruited student activists attend leadership seminars where they also receive a courses in Middle East history and politics from an Israeli perspective. The students are able to go on trips to Washington, D.C. where they are introduced to lobbyists and politicians on Capitol Hill, and some have used those connections to secure jobs after graduation.
The video below shows student testimonials from a 2011 AIPAC conference.
AIPAC Student Event OpenerAIPAC
When students return to their campuses, they are expected to continue their pro-Israel advocacy which is often utilised against campaigns such as Israel Apartheid Week, an annual event organised by chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine.
AIPAC lobbyist Jonathan Kessler explains why students who receive AIPAC training must use their advocacy skills to fight university-based campaigns to divest from Israel. "We're going to make sure that pro-Israel students take over student government and reverse the vote," he says.
AIPAC Staffer Explains AIPAC's Tacticsmediamattersaction
This year's AIPAC conference sparked an #OccupyAIPAC protest as well as some opposition within the conference. In the video below, a young activist from Jewish Voice for Peace spoke out during an "Israel on Campus" session. She claimed that young voices against Israeli settlement construction were being silenced.
Jewish activist to AIPAC: Stop Silencing Dissent!codepinkaction
The AIPAC conference equally incited dialogue on Twitter:
We need to be aware of this blatant black-washing at AIPAC. OUR tax $$ fund black students' trip to Israel to be brainwashed #OccupyAIPACSara Jo سارة
You cannot talk about oppression abroad without talking about the oppression African americans have faced in America #OccupyAIPACTemple SJP
#OccupyAIPAC organizer says AIPAC is "brainwashing black students" on Israel junkets.Alana Goodman
AIPAC the God of Apartheid. #OccupyAIPAC #EndtheOccupationnorwind
Another shout out to Rep Jackie Speier who said it's apartheid in Palestine at #OccupyAIPAC @RepSpeierLadyOccupy
There has been some debate as to whether the apartheid state comparison has any merit when describing Israel. In the video below, conservative commentator Dennis Prager refutes the description of Israel as an apartheid state.
Prager University: Is Israel an Apartheid State?prageruniversity
The Never Before Campaign for Palestine makes a case for why Israel's policies towards the Palestinian territories should be labeled as apartheid.
Israeli Apartheid Week: Call it as it isneverbeforecampaign
Political cartoonist Carlos Latuff portrays the South African anti-apartheid and Palestinian solidarity movements as sharing the same grievances.
In terms of Israel's relationship to South Africa's former apartheid regime, Israel denounced the government in the 1960s. However, the Arab League criticised this move as a strategy to attract support from African countries regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli-South African relations suffered once again when Israel denounced the apartheid regime in 1987 and introduced sanctions some considered mild. Because of this, international groups including the UN maintained that Israel helped sustain the apartheid regime.
More recently, post-apartheid South Africa has been vocal in its opposition to Israel's treatment of Palestinians. In 2010, South Africa recalled its ambassador to Israel over an attack on humanitarian aid ships to Gaza. Last year, an academic boycott of Israel by South Africans gained traction when a petition signed by 250 academics severed Israeli ties to the University of Johannesburg.