In support of Israel Apartheid Week
March 11, 2011
In support of Israel Apartheid Week
By Sid Shniad
Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Canada Palestine Support Network
Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and the Canada Palestine Support Network (CanPalNet) are proud to endorse Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) activities across the country in defence of Palestinian human rights. We are declaring this in the face of knee-jerk denunciations of these campus-based events.
What motivates IAW organizers? Perhaps it is the fact that Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza regularly have their homes demolished and their lands confiscated. That they are forced to spend hours at Israeli military checkpoints. That they are murdered in their beds. Or that they are imprisoned for years without being charged. Perhaps it is the fact that inside Israel, Israelis of Palestinian descent are treated as second class citizens, subject to a range of discriminatory laws and practices.
In the face of this injustice, too many individuals and organizations who would normally respond to such abuses choose to avert their eyes and remain silent. Even worse, when students promote open inquiry and debate about what is happening in Israel/Palestine, their activities are actively discouraged by organizations like the Canadian Jewish Congress and the B'Nai Brith as well as the vast majority of our Parliamentarians, who provide unquestioning support for everything Israel does. When growing numbers of Canada's university students act on their consciences and level criticism against Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, mount Israel Apartheid Week activities, or organize Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activities to pressure Israel to change its behaviour, they are attacked by journalists and politicians of all stripes.
The issue that seems tp generate the greatest amount of outrage from the supporters of Israel is the contention that Israeli treatment of Palestinians constitutes a form of Apartheid. Symptomatic of the acrimony surrounding this matter is the fact that in 2010, politicians in the Ontario Legislature voted to censure Israeli Apartheid Week events planned for Canadian university campuses.
Independent Jewish Voices Canada and the Canada Palestine Support Network believe that open debate and discussion of the crisis in Israel/Palestine is essential. We applaud the courage of Canadian student activists for bringing it to the national stage. Furthermore, we endorse the view that the system governing relations between Israelis and Palestinians constitutes a form of Apartheid.
What is Apartheid? Why is it a term that can be legitimately applied to the situation in Israel/Palestine?
In common parlance, the term Apartheid is used to refer to the South African regime of racial separation and privilege that existed between 1948 and 1993. It essential to note, however, that the term is not merely an epithet. The 1973 United Nations' International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defines the crime of Apartheid as inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial/ethnic group of persons over any other racial/ethnic group of persons and systematically oppressing them.
While Apartheid is widely identified with South Africa, all regimes where European settlers colonized the land (i.e. Canada, Australia, United States, South Africa, Congo, Palestine) treated the native peoples as inferior to their European colonizers. All of these regimes practiced either genocide (the killing off of the native population) or Apartheid (the separation of the native population from the European, and the creation of a system of domination by Europeans, based on race) or a combination of both.
In short, while the legal definition of Apartheid is informed by the situation that prevailed in South Africa, its use is not limited to that country and is applicable elsewhere where similar or analogous conditions prevail. So while Israeli laws and policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians are both similar to and different from South African Apartheid, they satisfy the legal definition of Apartheid described above because their purpose is to establish the domination of Israeli Jews over the Palestinians.
In closing, we declare that Independent Jewish Voices and the Canada Palestine Support Network believe Apartheid to be just as wrong in Palestine as it was in South Africa or anywhere else. It's time our elected officials took a stand on the underlying legal and moral issues involved, rather than denouncing those who actively defend Palestinians' human rights.
For further information:
Sid Shniad (604) 314-5589 (cell)
Independent Jewish Voices Canada is a national organization that promotes a just resolution to the conflict in Israel and Palestine through the application of international law and respect for the human rights of all parties. IJV has chapters in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Vancouver.
Paul Tetrault (604) 812-6475 (cell)
Canpalnet gathers Canadians of all backgrounds who support the human, democratic, and national rights of the Palestinian people. It aims to change the policies and actions of the Canadian government so that these come to support the rights of the Palestinian people.For more information contact
Independent Jewish Voices
Cell: 604-812-6475 Click here to view our Sources Listing: