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Identifying Apartheid

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March 1, 2010

Identifying Apartheid

Canadian students respond to Israel's rights abuses

by Lama Shoufani

Egypt, controlling the Rafah crossing — Gaza’s only crossing not controlled by Israel — has largely been complicit in the siege on Gaza and the preventing of people and goods to enter or exit Gaza. Photo: Eva Bartlett

TORONTO—In the first week of March, Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) will take place in 13 cities across Canada and more than 40 cities internationally.

“When we first organized Israeli Apartheid Week in 2005, I don't think we comprehended this kind of growth,” says longtime Palestine solidarity activist Rafeef Ziadah.

IAW began as a project initiated by the Arab Students Collective at the University of Toronto in 2005. The IAW annual lecture series provides a space for discussion and education surrounding Israeli apartheid policies and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. In its sixth year, IAW has become an international movement, facing opposition as it gains momentum. Discussion themes this year include: BDS successes; “fighting racism, fighting apartheid;” the structural planning—environmental and architectureal—of apartheid; queer and feminist solidarity activism in the anti-apartheid movement; and national liberation movements, with particular focus on North America’s First Nations, Palestine and Venezuela.

In “Eroding Israel’s Legitimacy in the International Arena,” the Reut Institute describes the BDS campaign and IAW on campuses.

“The risk posed is that such campaigns will create an equivalency between Israel and Apartheid-era South Africa that penetrates the mainstream of public and political consciousness.” Apartheid Week organizers and BDS activists in Canada not only stress the similarities of these two systems, but also emphasize the importance of linking apartheid to other forms of systematic discrimination, such as the Canadian state's treatment of Indigenous communities.

Families of Palestinians in Israeli prisons demonstrate outside the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, calling for the right to visit or speak with their loved one. Photo: Eva Bartlett

Palestinian civil society issued a call for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, endorsed by over 170 Palestinian parties, organizations and trade unions representing Palestinians in Israel, the Occupied Territories and the global diaspora. Through the application of economic, political and diplomatic pressure on Israel, the BDS movement seeks Israel's compliance with international law and its recognition of the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination, and demands an end to Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and the dismantling of the Wall, the recognition of the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, and the protection and promotion of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands.

Last year, Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff delivered a statement accusing Israeli Apartheid Week of going “beyond reasonable criticism into demonization.” The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition Combating Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) has also gone as far as accusing IAW of anti-Semitism. However, in his statement at the coalition’s fourth hearing, Assistant Vice President of Strategic Communications at the University of Toronto Robert Steiner asserted that “there is no evidence of generalized anti-Semitism on our U of T campuses, there is no evidence of Jewish students being systemically harassed and intimidated on our campuses.”

The opposition faced by the BDS movement, whether in the form of verbal harassment at events or bureaucratic hold-ups, is considered a byproduct of the growing international success of the campaign. In 2006, delegates at the CUPE Ontario convention voted almost unanimously on a resolution to support the international campaign against Israel until the right to Palestinian self-determination is recognized.

This support was further solidified in 2009 as the university sector of CUPE passed a motion in support of academic boycott. Over 80 professors and employees at colleges and universities in Quebec have signed a petition calling for a comprehensive campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, including a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Most recently, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) launched a divestment campaign at Carleton University following the lead of students at Hampshire College in the US, whose work led to the Board of Trustees divesting from six Israeli companies directly involved in human rights violations on February 7, 2009. SAIA's report exposes Carleton University's Pension Fund investments in five companies linked to Israeli's military. Inspired by this example, SAIA groups on Toronto campuses have initiated research with the aim of formulating a divestment plan for York University and the University of Toronto.

IAW organizers say it’s no surprise the movement started in Canada, pointing to Ottawa's blatant support for Israel's apartheid system. On January 12, 2009, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Canada was the sole nation to vote against demanding “urgent international action” to halt Israel's “massive violations” of human rights in Gaza. A recent report by Ottawa's Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) exposes Canadian complicity in equipping American warplanes and attack helicopters used by Israel.

Beyond its allegations of demonization and hatred, the Reut Institute document presented at the 10th Herzliya Conference also admits the growing success of the BDS movement. “Given Israel's dependence on vigorous trade, as well as scientific, academic, and technological engagement with other countries, this movement towards isolating the country may pose a strategic threat.”

Organizers hope this threat will pressure Israel into ending its apartheid policies and practices, as it did in South Africa 16 years ago.

A complete schedule of Israeli Apartheid Week with speaker biographies is available on the website.

Lama Shoufani is an undergraduate student in the Anthropology and Life Sciences departments at the University of Toronto. She is also a volunteer with the Ontario Public Interest Research Group.

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Israeli apartheid??

These 'students' really do need to do some homework. There is no such thing as apartheid in Israel, not even anything close. All Israelis are full citizens, with the right to vote and be elected. There are Arab political parties and Arab MKs (MPs). Arabs are not segregated by law. They attend schools and universities without restriction. They work as doctors and nurses in hospitals, often in situations where they hold positions senior to those of Jews. There are no 'Jews Only' signs anywhere: not on restaurants, swimming pools, buses, trains, toilets: anywhere. So exactly where is this 'apartheid' these students crow about so loudly? The answer is nowhere. If anyone wrote this in an essay or thesis, I would fail them. If they want to see apartheid, they should go to Egypt, where Coptic Christians are kept out, or Saudi Arabia, where there are plenty of 'Muslims only' signs, or to Iran, where the Baha'i religious minority can't even send their children to university or hold any important job, or the West Bank and Gaza, where the numbers of Christians have been dwindling for years now. These students should be ashamed of themselves, for they hold fact in such low esteem. God help us all if this is the coming generation.

Divestment Resolution approved at University of Michigan --

"Divestment Resolution Passed" at University of Michigan - Dearborn Student Government

Thursday, 25 February 2010

On the Web at: http://info.umdunderground.org/

University of Michigan - Dearborn Student Government

General Assembly Resolution # 2010-003

Whereas, this wise body has been known to be one of strong moral and social conscience and has in the past supported justice and international law, and

Whereas, U.N General Assembly Resolution 194 resolves that the Holy Places - including Nazareth - religious buildings and sites in Palestine should be protected and free access to them assured, in accordance with existing rights and historical practice, and

Whereas, U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 further resolves that all refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be provided for the destroyed properties of those choosing not to return and for loss of, or damage to property that under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible, and

Whereas, the aforementioned situations prove that Israel clearly and inexcusably is in continued violation of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194, and

Whereas, Israel is further in violation of many related U.N. resolutions, including Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, and 446, and

Whereas, Israel is further in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which calls on all occupying powers to protect the rights and well-being of the occupied population, and

Whereas, the U.N.’s own assessment, the Goldstone Report, found evidence of potential war crimes and crimes against humanity, and

Whereas, University of Michigan Regent policy, as expressed in their meeting of March 16, 1978, states:

“If the Regents shall determine that a particular issue involves serious moral or ethical questions which are of concern to many members of the University community, an advisory committee consisting of members of the University Senate, students, administration and alumni will be appointed to gather information and formulate recommendations for the Regents’ consideration.”; and

Whereas, there are serious moral and ethical questions concerning the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and

Whereas, the University is known to have several million dollars of investment in corporations that sell weapons, goods, and services to Israel—including BAE, Raytheon, Boeing, General Electric, United Technologies, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman, among others–whom in turn uses the weapons, goods, and services inhumanely and

Whereas, any University investments in entities contributing to human rights violations by either Israelis or Palestinians is inappropriate,

THEREFORE be it Resolved, (1) that the University of Michigan-Dearborn Student Government will lead a movement to collect petition signatures calling on the Board of Regents to form such an advisory committee, and

Be it further Resolved, (2) that the University of Michigan-Dearborn Student Government calls on the Board of Regents to create an advisory committee to determine if any University investments are questionable and in need of appropriate corrective actions, and

Be it further Resolved, (3) that on behalf of the students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, we will urge this committee to recommend immediate divestment from companies that are directly involved in the ongoing illegal occupation, because we deem these investments to be profoundly unethical and in direct conflict with the mission of this University.



This is a security issue. Please read some history and learn why Isreal feels threatened, to this day, by enemies that feel it has no right to exist. The day the UN proclaimed the Isreali homeland, in 1948, five Arab nations gathered arms to prepare for its eradication. Many Arabs and Muslims want to wipe it off the face of the earth. And it continues with ignorant Canadians being snowed by movements that purport to support peace but in reality, the centuries-old worldwide persecution of Jews continues unabated. The Wall, albeit heavy-headed, exists to stop the continued murder of Israelis. 66 per cent of faith-related hate crimes in Canada are against Jews. Can you see why Israel feels it must FIGHT BACK? Canadian students, do your homework, learn world history.

Contributing toward peace?

In my experience, the IAW materials and events promote a one-sided version of a complex and chronic conflict in the Middle East. The Palestinians are fully humanised, with scant mention of many of their leaders' longstanding cult of hyper-rejectionism, their very frequent resort to violence, and their factional rivalries. The Israelis, on the other hand, are made the "other", the collective "villain", who are accorded respect only in so far as they supinely accept a Palestinian-activist agenda and who otherwise must be isolated and boycotted. If a bien-pensant myopic Zionism was once in vogue, we have come full circle in the form of the IAW's equally myopic bien-pensant anti-Zionism.

I find a magnetic example of this ideological imbalance in the mention of "queer and feminist solidarity activism in the anti-apartheid movement". It's odd that Israel is a well known refuge for gay people, while many Palestinian Islamicist movements (e.g., Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc) are textbook examples of intolerance etched in theory and practice. The Procrustean bed on which most IAW activists seek to place a supposedly "apartheid" Israel will not accommodate it without major distortions.

IAW-affiliated students, indeed BDS activists in general, have a right to free speech and they clearly articulate a viewpoint. But without balance, without context, they are only representing ONE viewpoint, while ignoring what doesn't easily conflate with that viewpoint. Is that what they really want? And will such a politicised call to forgive all Palestinian transgressions and minimise anything good in Israel bring peace?...or will it just be another source of division and conflict?


The use of the term 'apartheid' in relation to Israel is a complete misnomer. The original example of apartheid was in South Africa, where the indigenous population were denied any rights or participation in government, that is the correct definition of the term. Not so in the State of Israel where Arabs and Palestinians are equal under the law and have voting rights. There are also Arab and Palestinian members of parliament serving in the Knesset.It is interesting and ironic to note that in the activism to protest Israels policies the Gay and Feminist solidarity groups are involved. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East that would allow their voice to be heard having equal rights for all regardless of sexual preference, viewpoint and lifestyle.

The use of the term

The use of the term 'apartheid' is, in fact, quite accurate.

This is why several prominent South-African apartheid activists including Ronald Kasrils, a South African of Jewish descent, use the term to describe Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

It is also why many Israeli's including Jamal Zahalka, an Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset, Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem and Academic and academic Uri Davis use the term.

Aligning with the State - out of fear or ignorance?

Sorry folks, but it's true: Israel is an apartheid state. It isn't hateful or Anti-Semitic to say so; it's simply a realistic acknowledgement of the facts - facts which become clear with sufficient inquiry (e.g. not simply reading/watching the establishment press or believing everything the US, Canadian or Israeli governments tell you). Let's start with a simple definition of apartheid, from (of course) Wikipedia:

'The crime of apartheid is defined by the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity "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 regime." On 30 November 1973, the United Nations General Assembly opened for signature and ratification the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (ICSPCA). It defined the crime of apartheid as "inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them."'

Of course, this is a very straightforward definition that excludes all of the hows and whys. However, anyone with even a passing knowledge of the 50 year-long (official) South African apartheid regime will know that this 'institutionalized system of oppression' meant daily violence, humiliation, displacement and incredible suffering for the black South Africans that were subject to it. This is no different for Palestinians, and in fact, many have recognized that the Israeli occupation of Palestine is far more destructive and oppressive than even the SA regime was. (See here, for instance: http://www.rabble.ca/columnists/2010/03/israels-apartheid)

That being said, if you aren't able to agree with Israel's obvious status as an apartheid state, let alone enlighten yourself of the real facts and situation in the occupied territories, I would suggest you (like many commenters above) need to seriously question why you're taking part in such intellectual and moral dishonesty. What does painting those being honest about Israel as Anti-Semitic or, for that matter, anything other than concerned human beings, actually DO for you? WHY are you supporting the flagrant and continued oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli state? By being so blatantly ignorant of the innumerable human rights abuses and the violent refusal of an entire people's right to self-determination - let alone the slow genocide of the Palestinian people - you are doing nothing more than supporting the power and terror of the state and the US and Israeli elites that control it. This isn't about "security" (a common propagandic tool; learn the facts, or simply apply basic logic, please) or Anti-Semitism or the right of the Jews to their Zionist 'homeland'; it is about the world's only superpower using the Israeli state as a willing tool to further its strategic political, economic and military domination of the world at the expense of the Palestinian people.

For further reading, and it seems many of you (Denis, William, I'm looking at you!) could use turning off the TV and/or putting down the National Post or NYT, see:

Judy Rebick's recent article explaining further how the Israeli occupation can easily be defined as 'apartheid': http://bit.ly/cmxLIM

Noam Chomsky, 'The Fateful Triangle', for the definitive history of the development of the US-Israel-Palestine relationship (up to about 1990, I believe)

Again, from Chomsky, an interview from 1992 that details much more: http://www.chomsky.info/books/dissent01.htm; also see the following for a brief history if you're not up for reading 'The Fateful Triangle': http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20080423.htm

Plus, the entire ZNet collection of articles and videos on Israel-Palestine is a fantastic resource, one of the best I know of: http://www.zcommunications.org/places/israel-palestine

Please, do yourself a favour and get informed.

Obviously apartheid

It is preposterous to deny the apartheid in Israel. Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela are on record as describing it as apartheid. Jimmy Carter said it was worse than in South Africa.
We are talking about a state where a Palestinian can be fired for speaking Arabic (a co-national language) in McDonalds, where non-Jews cannot buy land from the JNF, where Palestinian spouses are banned from Israel.
Is "apartheid" a diversion for something more sinister? Gary Zatzman says,"The Notion of the 'Jewish State' as an 'Apartheid Regime' is a Liberal-Zionist One," Dissident Voice, 21 November 2005.

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