Friday, March 05, 2010

The following is an official press release from the organizers of Winnipeg's 'Israeli Apartheid Week'. To say the least this press release hasn't been run by our local media (the Winnipeg Sun and the Winnipeg Free Press). It has, in fact, been barely mentioned in the articles that have appeared on this subject in today's editions of both papers. I will get to this subject later in this blog. For now I merely have to express my opinion that however many reservations I might have about the Palestinian support groups across the world, and I have many, the "other side" in this dispute are hardly on the side of the angels. Not just here in Winnipeg but also across the world where they attempt to deny free speech in relation to this issue. Once more, more on this later. Here's the press release.
Israeli Apartheid Week makes Winnipeg debut at University of Manitoba
Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), the week-long series of events on the topic of the apartheid policies of the Israeli state, will be held for the first time in Winnipeg, from March 8th to March 12th. Now entering its sixth year internationally, the local organizers of IAW will be hosting a series of events on the University of Manitoba campus.
IAW is an anti-racist event that seeks to educate on the issue of Israeli Apartheid. From discrimination before the courts, restrictions on access to clean water, and a system of checkpoints, walls, and travel restrictions, Palestinians face many forms of racist discrimination on a daily basis in the Occupied Territories and Israel.
"The actions of the Israeli government clearly fall within the legal definition of apartheid," says Brian Latour, student at the University of Manitoba and spokesperson for the Winnipeg IAW Coordinating Committee. "Israeli Apartheid refers to the systematic oppression of the Palestinian population in order to maintain the dominance of the State of Israel".
IAW at the University of Manitoba will run from March 8th until March 12th. In addition to the broad subject of apartheid, this inaugural year includes panel discussions on the impact of apartheid on women, Canadian government complicity, indigenous solidarity, and the appropriateness of Israeli Apartheid as a topic for discussion on University campuses. It also includes an evening event featuring a spoken word performance by Lyrical Militant, a socially conscious,local hip-hop artist.
"We are optimistic that this event will be well received by the campus population," Latour stated. "While there has been some limited complaints, it looks like we will be able to avoid the attacks on free speech that have occurred on other campuses in Canada. We are hopeful that we will not have our rights to organize on campus and hold educational events restricted."
Full details of the events can be found online at
Media contact:
Brian Latour
ph: 226-4186
Mr Latour's hopes were ill founded. According to an article in today's Winnipeg Free Press B'Nai Brith has been lobblying for some time (since at least February 10th) for the University of Manitoba to deny access to University facilities for the events described above. Now I know that the "other side" has often tried to shut down pro-Israeli events and meetings, either by intimidation or by bureaucratic manoeuvre. That is something that I have always advised against in many other situations, but it seems to be a "given" that young people, in the certainty of their morality (and the equal certainty that they will have different opinions, if they are leftists, in 5 years) are doomed to see the "other side" as ultimately evil.
I have to admit that I approach this subject as an "outsider", and not just because I have been an anarchist for almost 40 years- and therefore have a suspicion of nationalism in any guise. I have also always been a dissident from the accepted opinion on the "left", and, in the question of Israel, it makes me deeply uneasy that the usual leftist propaganda on this matter follows it usual trajectory. "Side choosing" is pretty well routine for most of the modern left, and this situation is no exception. Once you have chosen a side you are damned determined to never say anything bad about the side you have chosen, and you can never say anything good about the other side. No doubt Israel's supporters are very much the same, but the are not part of the political spectrum that I think needs the greatest reformation.
All that being said I have to come down on the side of the IAW in this particular local dispute. In this case (if not in others) it is the pro-Israeli side that is attempting to suppress free speech. If I were to sum up the situation in Canada I would say that the pro-Israeli lobby is more guilty than the anti-Israeli leftists. Not that I don't think that both should be slapped down as hard as possible so that they might consider the ill-advised nature of their tactics. Ah well, I'm sure I'll be hated by both for what I have said here.
Now my status as an outsider in this matter is exemplary. I am neither a Jew, a Muslim nor a Christian. I grew up in "hillbilly country" in Saskatchewan, and I was 13 years old before I "saw" my first Jew. When the old man retired and we moved into the city it was undoubtedly many years later before I met my first Arab. At the time I would hardly have recognized them because they would not have lived in a working class area of that city. They would have lived in what we, rather pathetically in hindsight, would have referred to as the "rich areas" (you know- where most leftists live today). If I met Arabs before I entered university I would definitely have thought of them in a "class term", as would pretty well ever other person from my neighbourhood, whatever the fashionable left says today in their guilt mongering.
So, what can I say as an outsider ? Quite frankly I cannot bring myself to give unalloyed support to either side of this dispute that I think is actually rather remote from the life of both myself and the people I meet everyday. What I can say is that I am disgusted, at a local level, by the actions of the Israeli lobby to try and censor any and all criticism of the state of Israel. That's where I stand today in the city where I live.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pat

I appreciate your editorial qualifier on this matter, but would have to say that an exercise of this manner serves no productive purpose. I would like to quote a colleague when he says that ..."while much of this activism is in well-meaning solidarity for the plight of the often mistreated Palestinian people, the easy temptation to fall into an either/or paradigm is merely the flip side of the with us or against us rhetoric that was so frustrating from the most recent American administration."

I find myself in the situation of trying to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys as in the Iraq/Iran war. However Incendiary labelling and posturing of the sort we are witnessing does little to invite dialogue and consesus building. This is a complex conflict, with a long history and its implications and reverberations go far beyond a country the size of New Jersy. The complexity of the situation requires an engagement with more nuance and precision than a program like "Israeli Apartheid Week" suggests.

Keep up the Good Work

mollymew said...

Hi "J",
So long no see, and it's very unlikely that I'd ever visit the city that makes Regina look good.
The Palestinian/Israeli conflict upon what so much has been "piggybacked" in both the Arab world and elsewhere is perhaps the classic example of why one shouldn't "choose sides". Molly's Blog generaslly reports a lot of things that are sent to us, and, if I were to comment on each and every one, I would be the king of nitpickers.
I chose to comment on this item, even though I had simply reported a previous item in Ontario because it a) was local and therefore of more concern to me and because b)even though I have no doubt that I cannot influence any national, regional or even world debate I "thinK' that I may have some influence locally.
I have always thought that 'choosing sides" in things that you are not directly involved in is wrong- with certain obvious exceptions. You know my history perhaps better than many others do. I am always willing to 'choose sides" as an alternative to paralysis when "something has to be done". I DON'T think that the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is one such urgent situation. The fact that it has been going on for 62 years says that it is not "urgent".
I also think, though I hope that I am wrong, that anarchism, my own political position, has little to say to the resolution of the conflict, aside from the minor efforts of the Israeli 'Anarchists Against the Wall' and their Palestinian allies. I would dearly hope that the conflict COULD be resolved, but I see liitle hope of that until BOTH sides "fight until exhaustion". When OUTSIDERS (of which the surrounding Arab nations and political groups who cynically use the Palestinian cause) think they should pick sides this exhaustion can be delayed until long after the calends.
To put it in a common sense manner, outside of political ideology, I am always willing to criticize the actions of Israel- a state is a state after all- but I am personally horrified by the prospect of what would happen if "the other side" were to "win" in a military conflict. Unlike the average leftist I DON'T think they are saints.
What can I say? I'm an outsider to the conflict and also to those who choose sides in it. That may give me a VERY good perspective on both sides and their supporters. I DID NOT leave the Catholic Church at the age of 15 to submit my judgement to the temporary fashion of some political movement.
People do indeed "choose sides", and in some cases it is more regretable than others. In reference to your comment I find it easy to say that there were NO "good guys/bad guys" in the Iran/Iraq war. The urge to choose sides should generally be resisted unless there is an urgent need to do so.
Anyways, thanks for the comment, and if I'm ever in the "City From Hell" I'll be sure to drop by.