[R-G] Israeli apartheid week no 'hate-fest'
fentona at shaw.ca
Wed Mar 11 12:59:13 MDT 2009
Israeli apartheid week no 'hate-fest'
Judy Rebick and Alan Sears, National Post
These past few weeks have seen an unprecedented attack on free
expression on our university campuses. The poster announcing Israeli
Apartheid Week was banned at Carleton, University of Ottawa and
Wilfred Laurier University. B'nai Brith took out advertisements urging
university presidents to ban Israeli Apartheid Week. Immigration and
Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and Liberal Leader Michael
Ignatieff have denounced the event. Jason Kenney also threatened to
pull funding from immigration settlement programs administered by the
Canadian Arab Federation on the basis of their record of advocacy for
Nevertheless, Israeli Apartheid Week has proceeded. These attacks have
little to do with the reality of Israeli Apartheid Week. While most
university administrators and event organizers have not been
intimidated by false charges of hate and anti-Semitism, unfortunately
the mainstream media has failed to cover the events.
The demand that this week of panel discussions and cultural events be
shut down is grounded in the assertion that Israeli Apartheid creates
an atmosphere of anti-Semitism on campus. B'nai Brith labels it a
"hate fest," while Michael Ignatieff states "IAW singles out one
state, its citizens and its supporters for condemnation and exclusion,
and it targets institutions and individuals because of what and who
they are--Israeli and Jewish."
This is unfair and completely untrue. The organizers of Israeli
Apartheid Week are committed to freedom of speech and to working
against all forms of oppression, including Islamophobia, anti-Semitism
and other forms of racism or discrimination based on religion,
nationality, gender or sexual orientation. Israeli Apartheid Week
judges Israel by the same standards as all other states, in terms of
violations of international law and human rights abuses. These
accusations of anti-Semitism are designed to shut down discussion of
Palestinian rights by blurring the boundary between criticism of the
State of Israel and attacks on the human rights of Jewish people.
Michael Ignatieff argues, that the use of the term "apartheid" to
characterize Israel "goes beyond reasonable criticism into
The term "apartheid" is defined specifically in the Article 7 of the
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as "inhumane acts ...
committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic
oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial
group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that
Israel has built a wall that not only separates it from the West Bank
but separates families from each other within the West Bank. It has
blockaded Gaza and then assaulted the mostly civilian population
causing more than 1,000 deaths, 400 of them children. Arab citizens of
Israel have fewer rights than Jewish citizens. It is at the very least
legitimately debatable whether the Israeli state fits the criteria of
apartheid. The term has been applied to Israel by former U. S.
president Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Israeli writer Uri
In a statement before the United Nations, General Assembly president
Miguel D'Escoto Brockman argued for the use of the term "apartheid" to
describe Israeli policies: "I believe it is very important that we in
the United Nations use this term. We must not be afraid to call
something what it is. It is the United Nations, after all, that passed
the International Convention against the Crime of Apartheid, making
clear to all the world that such practices of official discrimination
must be outlawed wherever they occur."
The attempt to shut down Israeli Apartheid Week rather than debate the
applicability of the term fits with a long history of silencing
depictions of the realities of Palestinian life. The discussion of
Israel and Palestine is bound to be uncomfortable and heated, at least
until a just peace is accomplished. At the very least, it needs to be
governed by basic commitments to free speech and universal standards
of human rights. This is only possible if we recognize that the
normalization of free expression around Palestinian rights is a
fundamental condition for open discussion and debate.
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