Earlier today, I received an email from a Minnesotan friend, passing along information about an interesting series of events on campuses in Duluth being held in conjunction with Israeli Apartheid Week (March 1-7th). If I wasn't swamped with work and commitments up here in Thunder Bay and off to Fort Frances later in the week, I'd drive down to the US with my husband to hear the speakers (all who have been to Palestine), watch the films, and join the discussions. Please see the end of this post for the schedule and detail. I congratulate the organizers for arranging these crucial events to share information on the necessity of BDS to effect meaningful change for the Palestinians, which can then bring the prospect of peace to Israelis.
Having been heartened by the passion and justice of Duluth activists, you can imagine my dismay when I read tonight that the Ontario provincial government voted on a motion on Thursday, Feb. 25, to stop the use of the term "Israeli Apartheid":
The Ontario government recently approved a motion that the term "Israeli Apartheid" should not be used. The motion passed with unanimous support from the Ontario Tory's, Liberals and NDP.
I was shocked to see that the NDP supported this, so I immediately sent out an email to the local Member of Parliament (Federal) voicing my outrage about the provincial NDP's support on this (and I will post a Facebook message to the MPP).
My shock was compounded when I read in an Open Letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty and MPPs (who represent the Ontario populace) that this motion had passed with only 30 out of 107 MPPs in attendance. Hanna Kawas, Chairperson of the Canada Palestine Association in Vancouver, soundly critiques the moral bankruptcy of the reasoning behind this vote:
"I am a Palestinian Christian from the Palestinian city of Bethlehem who survived Israel’s “Original Sin” that uprooted two thirds of the Palestinian people and wiped out over four hundred Palestinian towns and villages from the map of the world in 1947/1948. I am also one of the six million refugees who have been waiting for the past sixty-one years to return to their homes, lands and homeland. I am hurt and outraged at the morally bankrupt resolution of your Legislature. It adds insult to injury.
I challenge any one or more from these “honourable members” of the Ontario Legislature who voted for the resolution to a reasonable and rational debate, at anytime.
In the meantime I just want to tell Mr. Shurman, please do NOT speak in the name of the South African people. In contrast to your unfounded assertion (with no proof) that the term Israeli Apartheid is “offensive to the millions of black South Africans”, let me offer you the facts. The South African peoples and leaders are not offended by the Apartheid comparison, they do support the Palestinian struggle for liberation and if anything is offensive to them, it is those who oppress the Palestinian people (the Israeli regime) and the unquestioning supporters of such ethnic cleansing and war crimes."
Then, reading an Israeli online newspaper, I read that the Ontario MPP who brought this motion to the Ontario government closely equates the term Israeli Apartheid with "hate speech" that could get you arrested and states that those who use it are "attacking Canadian values":
"If you're going to label Israel as Apartheid, then you are also... attacking Canadian values," Conservative legislator Peter Shurman told Shalom Life, a Toronto-based Jewish Web site.
"The use of the phrase 'Israeli Apartheid Week' is about as close to hate speech as one can get without being arrested, and I'm not certain it doesn't actually cross over that line," he said.
This all made me realize that my American justice-for-Palestine counterparts in Minnesota currently have more freedom of speech than I and millions of other Canadians in Ontario. I also realized with distress that my American colleagues against Israeli Apartheid, according to the Ontario government, are "attacking Canadian values." What sort of madness has this weekend's unjust Ontario parliamentary vote wrought?
Please see below for the Israeli Apartheid week events in Duluth, which I urge you to attend if you live in Minnesota:
--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE--
A series of public events are planned next week at Duluth campuses to raise public awareness about human rights violations in historic Palestine and call for an end to U.S. support for Israel and for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. This includes a call for the State of Minnesota to divest itself of Israel bonds.
The events are being held in conjunction with the sixth annual Israel Apartheid Week, which takes place worldwide March 1-7, 2010. The local events are:
* Wednesday, March 3, 3 p.m., University of Wisconsin-Superior Old Main Room 310: Eyewitness Report from Egypt and Palestine: presentation by Sylvia Schwartz.
* Wednesday, March 3, 5 p.m., University of Minnesota-Duluth Montague Room 70: Eyewitness Reports from Egypt and Palestine: presentations by Bret Thiele, Mayra Gomez and Sylvia Schwartz.
* Thursday, March 4, 12:30 p.m., Lake Superior College Room E2046: Eyewitness Reports from Egypt and Palestine: presentations by Bret Thiele, Mayra Gomez and Sylvia Schwartz.
* Thursday, March 4, 5 p.m., College of St. Scholastica Intercultural Center (Tower Hall First Floor): Short Film on the Israeli Occupation, followed by a Panel Discussion with Bret Thiele, Mayra Gomez, and Sylvia Schwartz. Palestinian food provided by CSS Amnesty International.
The events are sponsored by the Minnesota Break the Bonds Coalition Duluth Chapter, College of St. Scholastica Amnesty International, and UMD Students for Peace.