From March 5-15 a series of events and seminars will take place in Regina, joining 70 other cities globally to raise awareness about the system of apartheid in Israel and to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. The campaign goal is to push international corporate interests to boycott business with Israel, discourage investment in Israel and enforce concrete sanctions for Israel.
Regina resident Valerie Zink has made the decision to support the Palestinian cause and has helped organize IAW in the city for two years. She says that questioning the event’s validity is a non-issue due to the severity and extremity to which the Israel apartheid breaks international law.
“According to international law, this is not a controversial issue; we have one state which has illegally stolen another state’s land and is in contravention of over 70 United Nations resolutions that continues to defy those resolutions in invading territory that is not its own and carrying on a new 45 year occupation,” Zink said.
“Future generations will ask, ‘what did you do to stop this?’ All international law avenues and diplomatic avenues have failed and Palestinians are asking for solidarity, and historically students have played an integral role in movements for social justice. Right now I am really proud to see students at the University of Regina at the forefront of that movement and I think that history will prove that they have come down on the right side,” Zink said.
Organizers of the week note that for the past 40 years Palestinian people of the West Bank and Gaza have witnessed the aggressive occupation of their land by Israeli forces.
The UN definition of apartheid is “…a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group over another and systematically oppressing them”.
Palestinian people currently live under Israeli military law and have no right to representation or trial. Additionally, Palestinian communities face collective restrictions in the form of curfews, military raids, violence and harassment and their land ownership is subject to military confiscation.
The week-long event has been criticized for oversimplifying an incredibly complex issue while perpetuating anti-Semitic sentiments globally. Strong opposition for the University of Regina Student Union’s support of Israel Apartheid Week on campus has been expressed by organizations like the Canadian Federation of Jewish Students.
Emile Scheffel is the vice president of the federation,“the national voice for Jewish and pro-Israel students”. Scheffel explains that while the CFJS supports freedom of speech, its members see the week’s activity “as a counter-productive project that divides students and uses ugly rhetoric to attack the only tolerant, democratic country in the Middle East.”
“University should be about civilized, factual discourse, and IAW makes this impossible by twisting and inventing facts about Israel. IAW and its supporters have also created a toxic, sometimes dangerous environment on campuses across Canada, a trend that we condemn,” said Scheffel.
Academics and writers have also opposed IAW. Recently Jonathan Kay of The National Post wrote a piece titled “The Return of the Israel Apartheid Cult” and his understanding of IAW takes a less than altruistic view of Canadian activists’ reasons for participating.
“The BDS idea has caught on among campus activists who are rightly disgusted with suicide bombings, but are looking for some way to embrace the Palestinian cause. BDS is useful because it allows them to fight small battles against, say, their own university — asking the administrators to boycott Israeli academics and such. Unions like it for the same reason — they can pass boycott resolutions…. It doesn’t amount to anything, but it is a good way to posture morally,” said Kay.
Interview with Yafa Jaffar:
Interview with Yoram Peri: