From March 10 to March 17, McGill and Concordia hosted the Montreal events for the tenth annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), an international series of events that seeks to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies toward Palestinians, and build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
The BDS campaign was initiated in 2005, and demands “full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, an end to the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands – including the Golan Heights, the Occupied West Bank with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – and dismantling the Wall, and the protection of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in U.N. resolution 194,” according to the website for Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) USA.
On March 11, Noura Erakat, a human rights attorney and writer, came to McGill to talk about the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli apartheid regime that she referred to as “an Indigenous struggle against settler colonialism.”
Through the examination of Israeli law, Erakat works to denounce the institutionalized discrimination established against the Palestinian Christian and Arab population. She highlighted the fact that without an established constitution, the Basic Laws of Israel, which form an important part of the Israeli constitution, hold no guaranteed right to equality.
“What separates these two populations has not necessarily been a physical separation but even more so, it is the privilege that is afforded to the Jewish-Israeli population,” Erakat explained.
“We describe this situation as ‘the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts,’” she continued, “which distorts what is actually going on [because] it equates the Palestinian people and the Israeli people in the form of a conflict, when in fact what would be more accurate would be to say, ‘The Palestinian and Israeli conflict is a conflict because Israel has been a state since 1948, and Palestinians have been a stateless people since 1948.’”
Rana Salah, an organizer of IAW Montreal, told The Daily, “I hope that IAW will bring about understanding and empowerment to the McGill community. The unfortunate reality is that IAW continues to be a taboo topic for many. This taboo nature only continues to entrench racist attitudes towards Palestinians. A clearer understanding of the Palestine-Israel topic will foster a greater sense of understanding and respect amongst the McGill community.
“It also empowers McGill students by encouraging them to voice their concerns on the ongoing apartheid treatment of Palestinians, and to resist via the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The BDS movement aims to pressure Israel to respect human rights and to cease with its apartheid policies,” Salah continued.
Salah mentioned that she is very happy with the results of IAW so far. She explained, “Israeli Apartheid Week once started as a very fringe, ‘radical’ movement. It has now moved to the centre of the Israeli-Palestinian debate. It has not yet penetrated mainstream societal views, but support continues to grow.”