ISRAELI APARTHEID WEEK IN WINNIPEG - MAYBE:
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 winnipeg.apartheidweek.org.
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.