This year’s Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) theme was Our Struggles Unite, which was chosen in order to emphasize the relationship between different liberation movements.
The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union’s (UTGSU) Divestment Ad-Hoc Committee, also known as UofT Divest, collaborated with Reclaim Turtle Island, the Black Liberation Collective, Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, and Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) as hosts.
“Israeli Apartheid Week is a set of events to highlight the settler colonial project and apartheid system of governance in Israel and Palestine that deliberately discriminates, displaces and kills Palestinians,” said Omar Sirri, an organizer with UofT Divest.
The events, which ran between March 8 and 10, aimed to raise awareness of U of T’s investment in companies such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Hewlett-Packard, which profit from the apartheid.
UofT Divest and SAIA have been tabling in the weeks leading up to the events in order to acquaint U of T students and faculty members with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), a topic that is central to IAW.
BDS is a global movement against Israel that Palestinian civil society organizations initiated in 2005. The movement calls for the end of occupation of all Arab lands, the fundamental right of return for and reclaiming of properties for Palestinian refugees, and the dismantling of the Israeli apartheid wall. The wall is estimated to span 700 kilometres in length and runs through occupied Palestinian land.
New York-based spoken word artist and writer Remi Kanazi performed on the first day of IAW and spoke at a panel called Freedom is a Constant Struggle, alongside Reclaim Turtle Island activist Amanda Lickers. Both speakers discussed the differences between settlement and occupation.
Organizers of the events discussed recent BDS victories, such as the British multinational security services company G4S announcing that it would sell its Israeli subsidiary which has become “reputationally damaging.”
UofT Divest also highlighted the setbacks that come with planning such an event in light of McGill University’s BDS endorsement motion’s narrow defeat. McGill undergraduate student union’s general assembly passed the motion but failed to ratify it in an online vote.
Prime Minister Trudeau has voiced his condemnation of the BDS movement citing it as “a new form of anti-Semitism.”
“It is remarkable that despite being elected on a progressive platform to end the politics of fear and censorship, the prime minister sees it fit to condemn a movement that stands for human rights and international law,” said Sirri, adding, “BDS is gaining more support and momentum in spite of these attacks.”
Last week, over 125 U of T faculty members signed a petition in support of UofT Divest’s call to boycott the Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Hewlett Packard for their role in international human rights violations.
Correction (March 16, 2016): An earlier version of this article misstated that British multinational firm, G4S had ceased providing security for oil pipelines and mining projects, as well as participating in the prison-industrial complex.