Thursday, March 5, 2009

"Israeli Apartheid Week" demands boycott against Israel:

"If you condemn others, condemn Israel"

"Israeli Apartheid Week comes to Guelph:

"University has not responded to event's calls to boycott Israel"

by Aaron Levy

THE ONTARION (University of Guelph; Canada)

March 5, 2009

On the Web at:

"We're not asking for anything revolutionary -- just do what you would do in all other situations. If you condemn others, condemn Israel" -Rami Alhamad, co-organizer of Guelph Israeli Apartheid Week

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) came to Guelph this week featuring various events about Israel and the Palestinians. IAW was started in Toronto five years ago as a means of encouraging support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to put pressure on the state of Israel to end what some call the oppression of Palestine.

BDS refers to how external groups can lend their support to Palestine by taking away financial contributions to the state of Israel, boycotting business with Israel, and urging sanctions against the state.

"We're not asking for anything revolutionary -- just do what you would do in all other situations. If you condemn others, condemn Israel," said IAW Guelph co-organizer Rami Alhamad.

Alhamad pointed to the sanctions elicited from the international community in response to the human rights violations of South African apartheid.

BDS was initiated by the Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative in conjunction with IAW in 2005, and was instrumental to the initial British University and College Union boycotting of Haifa and Bar-Ilan Universities that same year.

The move has since been repeated by Britain's Association of University Teachers (AUT), and most recently, a boycott against Israeli academic institutions by Ontario's own Canadian Union of Public Employees.

At outset of the boycott, the University of Haifa issued a statement saying "the case against Israeli academia, in general, and the University of Haifa in particular, is devoid of empirical evidence and violates the principle of due process. Driven by a prior and prejudicial assumption of guilt, the AUT has refused to confront (sic) itself with facts."

In terms of the University of Guelph's stance, Alhamad says it has been studiously neutral. "We haven't had any problems [organizing the event], as opposed to other campuses," he said. But on the other hand, Alhamad notes that, "they're not [the university] taking up our call with regards to the boycott of academics."

Aside from universities themselves, Israeli Apartheid Week has met opposition from students.

"We don't feel that apartheid is the appropriate name for what's happening in Israel," said Lisa Bowmander, President of the Israel Affairs Committee. "And we feel that a university is a place for balanced dialogue. And we feel that using such an aggressive term, it jeopardizes the opportunity for a respectful dialogue on this campus."

Bowmander says that in response to IAW her organization has been attempting to facilitate discussions about peace and the need for coexistence in the Middle East.

This week, Guelph is one of 40 cities across the world, and 11 in Canada, where IAW events are taking place.

Films and speakers are planned for Mackinnon every day of the week, documenting the struggle of Palestinians, and the experiences of Israeli's who refuse to support the occupation....