Israeli Apartheid Week held at U of M and U of W

The Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (WCAIA) and Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) coordinated events on both University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba campuses during the week of Mar. 11, in conjunction with the ninth annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW).

On Monday, Mar. 11, the Hub hosted “Israeli Apartheid 101,” which analyzed “how the term apartheid applies to Israel, and the history of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.”

“Israeli Apartheid 101” has traditionally been the opening event of IAW in Winnipeg.

Liz Carlyle, WCAIA co-chair and IAW organizer, told the Manitoban that she was happy with this year’s opening event.

“We like that session because it gives people a grounding in the issues if they’ve never heard of it before.”

“Professor Mark Golden of the U of W did a great job of summarizing the history of the creation of Israel, and Brian Latour walked through the legal framework that grounds our view that Israel is an apartheid state,” Carlyle continued.

A screening of the film Roadmap to Apartheid was held at the U of M on Tuesday, and on Wednesday a debate was hosted at the U of W, entitled “From Gaza to Attawapiskat: What can Idle No More and the Arab Spring tell us about Indigenous rights in Canada and Palestine?”

A panel took place on Wednesday evening featuring professor Golden, human rights activist and United Church member Diane Baker, and Rana Abdulla, a Palestinian-Canadian who was recently featured in a CBC story about the lack of a Palestinian exhibit in Winnipeg’s under-construction Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The panel discussion took place at the Millennium Library.

Abdulla spoke of her personal history as a Palestinian person born in Kuwait after her father had left Palestine.

Baker recounted acts of mistreatment inflicted upon Palestinians that she witnessed while volunteering in Israel-Palestine in 2010. The trip was supported by the United Church of Canada in cooperation with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

Golden addressed the difficulty in defining what constitutes a Jewish state and considered some possibilities as to why Israel is resistant to the concept of a right of return for Palestinians living elsewhere.

“The truth is, if there was going to be a set of principles on which it was worthwhile to build a Jewish state, certainly it would not include excluding and oppressing other people. If there was going to be a set of principles worth fighting for, presumably it would involve equality for other people and freedom and justice for Palestinians, too.”

On Thursday, a play entitled Good People, Bad Things, written by Daniel Thau-Eleff, was held at the University of Winnipeg.
Friday saw a wrap-up party for IAW take place at Cousin’s Deli, featuring hip-hop artist Lyrical Militant.

In spite of the week-ending festivities, participants were outside the Bay downtown on Saturday for a “weekly info picket” that WCAIA has been hosting on Saturday afternoons since February, urging the Bay—as well as consumers—to boycott products such as Soda Stream, saying that they say are manufactured in illegal Israeli West Bank settlements.

Liz Carlyle said that this year, WCAIA and SAIA did not encounter any serious attempts to block IAW activities.

“I think the landscape has changed in terms of institutional and non-reactions to what we are doing.”

“The goal has always been to spark debate. We are always happy when people come out that do not agree with us. We want to start a real dialogue,” she continued.

Carlyle says that, while institutional reactions to IAW were not always welcoming in the early days of the event, the University of Manitoba was an exception.

“The U of M administration took a stance early on, which I think was quite admirable. I don’t know if it’s had an influence across the country, but I hope it has. The university said that it wasn’t going to side with either party and that it is important for ideas to be debated.”

In response to those who suggest that the event could gain further acceptance by simply dropping the term “apartheid” from the title, Carlyle says that criticism more or less serves as a distraction from discussing the issues that the event attempts to bring up.

“We could give it another name and it would still be just as controversial. It’s not about the name. It’s about the set of facts and when you can’t dispute the facts, you have to dispute something else.”