Commentary | Engaging with opposition

The importance of Israeli Apartheid Week

This year, Israeli Apartheid Week is taking place in more than forty cities around the world, from Ottawa to Johannesburg. Even after seven years, the event remains controversial, not least because of its name. This controversy makes Israeli Apartheid Week even more important because it focuses attention on Israel’s actions and policies. With this in mind, we have put together a week of powerful, informative, and even fun events, to educate people about Palestine, and hopefully stir them into action.

Here are some of the most exciting events of this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week: Tonight there is a panel discussion that asks the question, “Are the cases of Egypt and Tunisia a first step towards justice and self-determination in the region?” The week will end on March 15 with the a closing panel entitled “Decolonization Begins at Home.” The panel will focus on the connections between colonization and resistance in Canada and Palestine, and will feature Clifton Nicholas, a Mohawk activist from Kanehsatake; Audrey Redman, a journalist, writer, and residential school survivor; and Clayton Thomas-Muller, an Indigenous Environmental Network campaigner against the Tar Sands. Additionally, there will be many more events, including film screenings, panels, and workshops at McGill, UQAM, and Concordia. A complete event schedule with times and locations can be found at IAWMontreal.org.

I would like to invite all those who support the Palestinian people, but for one reason or another do not approve of Israeli Apartheid Week. By attending you can see firsthand what activists in Montreal and around the world are doing to support the liberation of Palestine.

Moreover, we are always willing to discuss why we use the term Israeli apartheid, and any other issue. Our goal is to build the movement, not to divide well-intentioned people.

The most common criticism leveled against Israeli Apartheid Week activists (aside from criticism of the term) is that we unfairly target Israel, since there are so many other problems in the world. Aside from the fact that this criticism could be used against any group that has one cause, it is baseless for many other reasons.

First of all, there are very few anti-Apartheid activists who only focus on Israel, most of us are involved in many other movements. Second, Israel particularly commands our attention for two reasons. First, since the Canadian government unquestionably supports Israeli we feel partially responsible for the oppression of Palestinians. Second, we believe that Israel’s situation is unique, but not for the reasons its supporters claim. Israel is one of only three countries actively colonizing land that it holds illegally (the other two are China and Morocco, whose respective activities in Tibet and Western Sahara are quite similar). We feel that it is as important to fight against the Israeli colonization of the West Bank as it is to fight against the Chinese colonization of Tibet, for example.

The whole of Israeli Apartheid Week seems somehow more controversial than the sum of its parts. All of the talks, panels, workshops and movies will be interesting and inspiring and doubtlessly lead to discussion and action. Our goal is to put the issue of Israeli apartheid and occupation at the forefront of the discussion, at least for a week, and encourage continued effective action until Palestine is free.

Jon Booth is a U2 Economics and History (Joint Honours) student. He can be reached at jonathon.booth@mail.mcgill.ca


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