Tackling apartheid claims

Rolene Marks.

A WIZO activist renowned for fighting the claim that Israel is an apartheid state is in Australia this week.

Israel-based Rolene Marks is set to address a function in Sydney on May 26 after being the keynote speaker at the WIZO Australia Triennial Conference in Melbourne, which starts on Saturday, May 18. 

Marks, 43, is known for her defence of Israel and for encouraging women – including the younger generation – to get involved in the movement. 

“I’m travelling just after Israel has been under attack from rockets, and there’s rarely a more important time to discuss the issue of solidarity and standing with Israel,” she told The AJN.

Marks, World WIZO executive member for hasbarah, grew up in South Africa and spends a lot of her time fighting the claim that Israel’s policies are reminiscent of South Africa’s during apartheid. “As a South African who grew up there and then became Israeli this is a very important issue for me,” she said. 

Marks considers the claim of Israeli apartheid “a convenient untruth for haters to push forward because they want Israel to be seen as a pariah state”. 

She said that while the argument is disingenuous and “a tool for haters” she is keen to address it, because “I don’t believe in shying away from issues.”

Marks grew up in Johannesburg and was propelled into pro-Israel activity in the aftermath of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism. The conference, in Durban, was widely criticised for delegitimising Israel.

“It was here that a lot of anti-Israel sentiment came to the fore, and at this point I joined a body to push for balanced reporting, and through this I became a spokeswoman in the media on Israel issues,” Marks said. “I joined WIZO and my first visit to Israel was a World Zionist Congress in 2006.”

She got more and more involved in WIZO, and in 2010 made aliyah with her husband. 

As well as volunteering on the World WIZO executive, Marks runs a media and marketing consultancy, and appears on various media, including a Jewish radio station in South Africa. 

WIZO Ayelet is hosting a morning tea with Rolene Marks on Sunday, May 26 in Bellevue Hill. For more information, visit wizonsw.org.au/events.

NATHAN JEFFAY