'Israeli Apartheid Week' starts today

Organizer insists events are not anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist.

March 1, 2010 06:30
4 minute read.
A poster for Israeli Apartheid Week.

israel apartheid week 311. (photo credit: Screenshot)


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The sixth international Israeli Apartheid Week kicks off on Monday, with the “week-long” festivities taking place over 14 days in over 40 cities across the globe.

Organizers say this year’s events are meant to “educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.”

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The IAW’s Web site says 2010’s apartheid week “takes place following a year of incredible successes for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on the global level.”

Organizers say the event will not only push for an end to “colonization of all Arab lands” and the “full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel,” but also the dismantling of the West Bank security fence and the right of return for Palestinian refugees

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IAW released a trailer on YouTube earlier in February, showing a series of pastoral and urban West Bank and Gaza scenes as concrete sections of the wall plummet from the sky and mar the landscape. Halfway through the video, the words “Boycott, Divest, Sanction” appear and obliterate the wall.

IAW began in 2005 only in Toronto but by 2006 had spread to Montreal and Oxford, adding five more locations in 2007, including New York. In 2008, 19 additional locations were added, and by 2009, IAW was held in 27 cities. This year, over 40 cities are part of the proceedings, from Cape Town to Beirut to Melbourne.

The first IAW was organized by the University of Toronto’s Arab Students’ Collective in order to show  “solidarity with the people of Palestine and other oppressed nations. The first IAW was a five day event that featured lectures on the Nakba, as Palestinians refer to the dispersal of their population in the pre-state Israel following the 1948 war, as well as Palestinian prisoners, labor apartheid, and the Apartheid Wall. It also featured a lecture on ‘Resisting Apartheid’ that featured Haifa University professor Dr. Ilan Pappe,” according to IAW.

Noah Kochman, chair of the political affairs and advocacy department of the Canadian Federation of Jewish Students at McGill University in Montreal, said that activists at McGill and other universities in Canada will seek to counter IAW by reaching out to what according to him is the 80 percent of students “who don’t know about Israel and haven’t made their mind up about Israel yet.”

Kochman said that in addition to “combating the harassment and intimidation of Israel supporters on campuses and the demonization of Israel,” groups like his are moving to “harder-hitting, countering campaigns.” These include the “don’t play with the truth campaign,” in which the CFJS will hand out “truth cards” on campus to dispel what Kochman says are misconceptions about Israel, in addition to hosting a series of pro-Israel speakers on Canadian campuses.

Kochman says his group won’t seek to avoid politics or change the subject, saying they will directly address issues such as the Goldstone Report, Operation Cast Lead, and the Gaza Blockade. Kochman also said that IAW, for its part, does not address the peace process rather, “is devoted to the demonization of Israel.”

Dax D’Orazio, media coordinator for Students Against Israeli Apartheid at Carleton University, told The Jerusalem Post Sunday that his organization and others that are taking part in IAW are working “with the university community to launch a socially responsible investment policy that will work against investment in groups that violate labor rights and international law.”

D’Orazio discounted criticism that IAW is devoted to delegitimizing Israel or is anti-Zionist or anti-Semitic in nature, saying that such criticism “is part of an ongoing campaign to blur the line between the advocacy of Palestinian rights and anti-Semitism.”

D’Orazio added that in terms of the diplomatic process, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign and IAW “don’t deal with the issue of Israel being a Jewish state, or whether there should be a one-state, or two-state, or three-state solution. What they advocate is boycott, divestment, and sanctions to pressure Israel to abide by international law.”

D’Orazio said that he felt the “grassroots” movement is “definitely picking up momentum,” even though they have received “nothing but scorn from the usual suspects.”

D’Orazio said his group sees as a goal making Carleton University the first Canadian university to completely divest from Israeli companies.

D’Orazio said that while the situation in Israel “is obviously not the exact same thing as Apartheid South Africa,” there are strong parallels between the two, in particular in regard to the divestment and boycott campaigns launched against both.

Last Thursday, the IAW was met with condemnation by the legislature of the Canadian province of Ontario, which issued a resolution denouncing the name of the event. The measure was unanimously approved by all those present at the voting session.

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