• irvsafdieh

Apartheid Week, Israel on High, Mensch on a Bench

Ambassador asks French cities to ban anti-Israel apartheid week

Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, March 3rd 2017


Aliza Ben-Nun, Israel’s ambassador to France, beseeched French officials to cancel Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) events organized by the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Context:

  • Apartheid was a system of racial segregation in the late 20th century through which South Africa’s white minority oppressed the country’s black majority. BDS seeks to delegitimize Israel on the world stage through its boycott campaigns and likens the Jewish state to a modern day version of South African apartheid.

  • Israel’s Declaration of Independence safeguards the equal rights of all citizens and Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the full range of civil and political rights, including the right to organize politically, the right to vote and the right to speak and publish freely. Israeli Arabs and other non-Jewish Israelis serve as members of Israel’s security forces, are elected to parliament and appointed to the country’s highest courts [1].

  • Launched in 2005 [2], IAW takes place in over 200 cities worldwide and features speakers, workshops, cultural events and protests on university campuses to "bring awareness to Israel’s apartheid system over the Palestinian people and build support for the growing BDS movement." IAW pressure intensified this year since 2017 marks the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, a document which first proclaimed Britain's commitment to the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" [3] and 50 years since Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 war – land Palestinians seek for their future state.

  • 3 British universities canceled IAW events on the basis of anti-Semitism, causing backlash by pro-Palestinian activists. Almost 250 academics, including 100 professors, signed a letter condemning “political interference in university affairs under the concern about anti-Semitism [4].”

  • This week, Israel’s Knesset imposed an entry ban for foreigners that publicly support BDS.

Conversation Points:

  • Does calling Israel an "apartheid state" undermine the struggles many blacks went through during South Africa’s apartheid years?

  • Do Israel’s democratic principles for all citizens counter the apartheid argument?

  • Where is the line between free speech and anti-Semitism?

  • Can Israel’s entry ban on BDS supporters become a tool to silence those that disagree with its policies?

  • Does being pro-Israel inherently make one anti-Palestinian?

Israel Officially Decriminalizes Marijuana Use

Yaniv Kubovich, Haaretz, March 5th 2017


The Knesset approved a law to decriminalize marijuana use in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would move forward with marijuana legislation in a “cautious, controlled manner [5].”

The Context:

  • Following the global trend towards decriminalization and legalization, Israel’s new policy will levy criminal charges for marijuana usage only after the fourth offense and fines will finance antidrug education and treatment. Selling and growing marijuana will remain criminal offenses [6].

  • The proposal was submitted by Minister for Public Security Gilad Erdan of the Likud Party who emphasized the need for “treatment instead of criminal enforcement [7].” Sharren Haskel, also from Likud, said the decision did not go far enough since users could ultimately face criminal charges and vowed to push for full decriminalization [8].

  • A host of countries have decriminalized recreational use of marijuana including Ukraine, Mexico, Argentina, Greece, Austria as well as certain US states. Spain, Peru, Columbia and Amsterdam, where even recreational use of marijuana is legal, hold some of the world’s most liberal marijuana policies [9].

Conversation Points:

  • Will shifting focus from criminal prosecution to administrative fines and educational campaigns mitigate the hazards associated with the drug trade?

  • How does a country balance being open to change yet managing its potential pitfalls?

  • Does the Jewish state have an obligation to consult the rabbinate before making bold legislative moves?

‘Mensch on a Bench’: Team Israel — and its mascot — winning at the World Baseball Classic

Marissa Payne, Washington Post, March 7th 2017


Team Israel beat the 3rd and 4th ranked teams in the world — South Korea and Taiwan — putting it at the top of its division in the World Baseball Classic (WBC). Israel faces 200-1 odds to go all the way.

The Context:

  • Last September, Israel finished first in a four-team qualifying tournament and earned its inaugural trip to the WBC. Not a single player from Team Israel is presently listed on a major league 40-man roster [10].

  • Nearly all members on Team Israel are American Jews. According to WBC rules, a player may compete for a country if he is eligible for citizenship under its laws. Israel extends the right of automatic citizenship to Jews [11].

  • Player Cody Decker attributed Team Israel’s success to Mensch on a Bench, the team’s mascot. Decker described the stuffed mascot as “a borderline deity to our team” and described nourishing Mensch with Manischewitz wine, gelt and gefilte fish for good karma prior to games. The team tried securing him a first class ticket to Korea however, he was ultimately checked [12].

  • *** Update *** On March 9th, Team Israel defeated the Netherlands 4-2 and advanced to the next round in the WBC.


  1. Response To Common Inaccuracy: Israel is an Apartheid State, Anti Defamation League

  2. ISRAEL APARTHEID WEEK’ BEGINS TODAY IN FRANCE, Rina Bassist, Jerusalem Post, March 6th 2017

  3. British universities have a duty to Jewish students to monitor Israel Apartheid Week, Richard Black, The Telegraph, March 2nd 2017


  5. Government approves measure to decriminalize marijuana, Alexander Fulbright, Times of Israel, March 5th 2017

  6. Israel Moves To Decriminalize Marijuana, Marcy Oster, Forward, March 5th 2017

  7. Ibid.

  8. Israel partially decriminalizes marijuana, Israel National News, March 5th 2017

  9. These are the countries where you can smoke cannabis legally Jimmy Nsubuga, Metro, May 6th 2016

  10. Team Israel -- and its mascot, Mensch on a Bench -- is the Jamaican bobsled team of the WBC, Eddie Matz, ESPN, March 5th 2017

  11. Israel stuns Taiwan to stay unbeaten in world baseball tourney, Times of Israel, March 7th 2017

  12. Team Israel -- and its mascot, Mensch on a Bench -- is the Jamaican bobsled team of the WBC, Eddie Matz, ESPN, March 5th 2017


Issue 85 stated that Yair Lapid is currently a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition whereas in fact, Lapid currently sits with the opposition. Lapid was a member of the coalition during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.