Across college campuses last week, students were faced with a full-page ad promoting “Islamic Apartheid Week”. Funded and placed by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, it appeared during the annual “Israeli Apartheid Week” organized by pro-Palestinian groups on many of the same campuses.
The ad draws several disparate stories together under the title “Faces of Islamic Apartheid.” It shows six photos, as if seen through a sniper rifle, overlaid with the Islamic crescent and star. The photos depict a range of Muslim individuals who have been killed or sentenced to death in recent years, and the ad blames Islam for their deaths. The captions include “Texas teenagers shot dead by their father … an Egyptian-born Muslim” and “Sentenced to death by stoning in Iran for the crime of adultery.” A website for “Islamic Apartheid Week” is promoted at the bottom.
According to its mission statement, the David Horowitz Freedom Center “combats the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values.” The organization has come under fire repeatedly for Islamophobic rhetoric, and it funds Islamophobic media outlets such as Jihad Watch. It launched its Islamic Apartheid Week event last year as a “national campaign to expose the brutal discrimination that occurs under Islamic Sharia law.” Advertised speakers included extremist anti-Muslim leaders Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Geller, Spencer, and two other right-wing speakers were featured during the inaugural Islamic Apartheid Week at Temple University last April. According to the event’s website, seven other campuses have held similar events, though there has been no coverage of these events in the newspapers of those colleges.
The full-page ad appeared in the campus newspaper of at least seven colleges last week: Rutgers, Colorado State, George Washington, University of Texas at Austin, Tufts, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Pennsylvania. Student groups on five of these campuses held Israeli Apartheid Week events, designed around the idea that Israeli policies towards Palestinians are unequal and segregationist, during the same week. According to an email sent to donors and supporters last week, the Center originally planned to target 40 campuses. Ultimately, a Center employee noted that nine college newspapers turned down the ad, including five in the University of California system.
Editors of three publications in which the ad appeared issued apologies. Susannah Jacob of the Daily Texan called the ad “a convoluted incitement to violence that preys upon existing prejudice,” and Tufts Daily editor Martha Shanahan wrote that “[publishing the ad] was irresponsible, and it gave voice to a party whose voice does not belong at Tufts.”
The Horowitz Freedom Center’s Daniel Greenfield defended the ad, claiming that “the campus culture of political correctness drowned out [the victims’] voices and apologized for even allowing their stories to be told.” Greenfield’s piece, published in a variety of right-wing media outlets, claims the goal of the ad is to “[address] bigotry threatening minorities in the Muslim world” and calls Israeli Apartheid Week events “a festival of hatred.”