Tensions rise over Israeli Apartheid Week

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, and two rights make nothing but trouble.”


Coinciding with the start of “Israeli Apartheid Week” on campuses across the country, the National Post is taking a front-page look at the controversial event.

Running from March 1 to 8, the protest, which started in 2005 in Toronto, is set to take place in more than 40 cities worldwide. For students on all sides, even those who try not to get involved, on-campus tension leading up to and surrounding the event can get extreme.

According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish organization, the event is “a worldwide campaign to demonize Israel and intimidate students and faculty who support the Jewish State” that has “grown in scope and viciousness.”

In January, the University of Manitoba banned three posters advertising the event, commonly referred to as IAW. “One of them depicted a Jewish fighter plane targeting a baby stroller. Another featured a caricature of a hooked-nosed Hasidic Jew with a star of David, pointing a bazooka at the nose of an Arab carrying a slingshot; a third one showed an Israeli helicopter with a swastika on top, dropping a bomb on a baby bottle,” says the Post.

Coleman OnCampus: Carleton should have allowed Apartheid Week poster

A month later, the University of Ottawa and Carleton University banned a poster featuring a scary-looking helicopter labelled “ISRAEL” dive-bombing a small Arab boy holding a teddy bear. Both universities are allowing the week-long events on their campuses to continue, although at Carleton, the university’s provost sent an email to all students warning them that they could be expelled if their activism violated university policies.

On Feb. 18, the CBC’s Evan Dyer reported on the poster controversy and a subsequent open letter, signed by 325 Canadian academics, that says some Ontario universities use bureaucratic harassment, threats, bans and other tactics to silence criticism of Israel on campus. (For his full audio report, click here.)

At the University of British Columbia, the RCMP is currently investigating a series of alleged hate crimes in the school’s residence. The Post says Jewish students “allegedly tore down pro-Hamas posters from a student’s door, a couple of fights broke out, and both sides claimed they were victims of racial epithets.”

Meanwhile, at York University, police are investigating two possible hate crimes. One claim concerns Daniel Ferman, president of a Jewish group at the school, who claims he was referred to as a “dirty Jew” and “f—ing Jew” in a confrontation with angry protestors. Toronto police are now investigating the incident. The other claim concerns a Jewish student who said he received a phone call threatening his life and those of his family members if he did not stop his pro-Israel activities.

The Post story closes with an interview with retired York professor Michiel Horn, who observes that contrary to public perception, “not everyone at York is a hothead.” He says only about 2,000 people out of 50,000 drive political tensions at the school.

Horn also offers some wisdom: “Two wrongs don’t make a right, and two rights make nothing but trouble.”

– photo courtesy of James Emery


Tensions rise over Israeli Apartheid Week

  1. I think Israel Apartheid Week should be allowed to exist, so long as it’s not violating any laws. The anti-semitic posters at U of M clearly did and I would have canceled the event to prevent further racism.

    I support freedom of speech, even that which I disagree with, so long as I’m not paying for it. I find it very disturbing that this event is supported financially by most student unions in Canada which fund “clubs” like “Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights” and the “Israel Awareness Club.” Students are being robbed by special interest groups!

    At UBC this week, I noticed that the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights posters are countered by a simple message from some anti-Hamas group. “Israel Wants Peace – Free Palestinians from Hamas.”

    While I agree more with that message than with Israel Apartheid Week, I sure hope those photocopies weren’t paid for with my student fees.

  2. This piece is really one-sided. You didn’t interview a single pro-Palestinian student or group, yet you quoted about 7 pro-Israel sources. I am really sorry if a poster of a “scary looking” Israeli helicopter somehow makes Jewish students feel targeted for their faith or culture, but what do you think the actual Israeli military vehicles flying over the Gaza Strip made Palestinian students feel?

    We can complain about Hamas all we want, but we’ve already isolated them politically and economically on the international stage. They’ve been punished severely. But it’s not Israel’s place to “liberate” Palestinians from the government they elected. If they want voters in Gaza to pick another party, the borders need to be opened so some economic stability can resume. Still, no Palestinian party – moderate or extreme – won’t speak out against the ongoing occupation and that is the real issue that Israeli Apartheid Week is about.

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  4. I attended the first event of the Israeli Apartheid event at the University of Alberta. I am not a student however I have been very disturbed by the media’s coverage of the Middle East and find the pro Israel bias of the CanWest media outlets divisive and counterproductive to the understanding and the sharing of facts and information. Events like this even the playing field and allow us to hear for ourselves and ask questions.

    The first event was a lecture by Laila El-Haddad who is a journalist. She provided a detailed account of life in Gaza as well as an historical, political and legal overview of the situation. Her presentation was a sober account of a very disturbing situation.

    The event was conducted in a very respectful manner. I learned a lot and appreciate the University of Alberta’s decision to also look at the reserve system for aboriginal peoples in Canada, who also suffer from a form of apartheid.

    I congratulate the students for trying to educate the public on the Middle East as our media in most cases have been negligent.

  5. Israel is a western-style democracy being pressured to make peace with a neighbor that has attacked it over and over and over.
    Furthermore, people forget that the entire reason that the Palestinian people are displaced is that the entire Arab world declared war on Israel long before it was a nation.
    How would Canada react if a large aboriginal group started launching frequent attacks? Would we react by peacefully letting them form their own nation where they would be free to continue to launch attacks?
    It would go a long way if people stopped seeing Israelis as so different from themselves. Regardless of their religion, Israel is a nation of modern Western-style life, and until people (like the other commenters here) see them as such, it will continue to be an ignorance dump for the masses.

  6. I find the ignorance of the poster claiming that Hamas was voted into Gaza very telling of the kind of disinformation campaign waged against Israel. Hamas won more votes than Fatah in 2006 (Palestinians were fed up with Fatah corruption thanks in no small part to Arafat stealing aid money and other abuses) – but Hamas then stepped outside of any reasonable, responsible government mandate and launched a bloody coup in Gaza – torturing and killing rival-party Fatah members in 2007 and appointing itself supreme ruler of Gaza. It’s called dictatorship and it makes Hamas the illegal occupier of the Gaza strip. “Anti-Israeli Apartheid Week” is anti-academic as it’s not a debate, but a pre-judged diatribe against Israel that prides itself on creating hostility for Jewish students and any pro-Israeli voices on campus. It stifles debate – as evidenced by the title alone – it also deceives since there is no way Israel can be categorized an Apartheid state. It’s a democratic one in which all citizens have the vote regardless of cultural background or gender. If organizers want to spread their propaganda they are welcome to do so off campus – otherwise it just reduces campuses to soapboxes for hate.

  7. to helen sadowski
    if you want to learn the truth about the history and about the region with actual facts and not about propoganda. and anyone else for that matter, please email me with any questions and i will provide answers with proof and sources.
    and before you believe what someone tells you make sure they arent attached to one side of the conflict (she and her family live in gaza) (i admit i live in israel so i’m not objective either).
    and by the way, as a former canadien from Toronto, I dont seem to recall buses blowing up by the CN tower or terrorists blowing themselves up in your restaurants. (and this is way before the seige in gaza.) so its very easy to listen to her wails of sorrow but she forgets to mention why this is happening. and I’m sure she forgot to mention that most of her suffering people are supporters.
    I’d like to see how you would react if you were having coffee with your friend and someone blew themselves up a few feet away (i know the feeling) i’d like to see your reaction then.

  8. Two wrongs don’t make a right-let’s right the situation using peace. Join the movement towards peace by following Pax_101 for peace.

    Pax_101 for peace on Facebook.

  9. I’m not a student anymore having gone through the post-secondary system in the mid-90’s. I’m so glad for so many reasons. Activists have always been part and parcel of the university experience. I’m wondering though whether anti-jihadist week would be as well received. For that matter women against Sharia Law week makes even more sense to my gender and peers. I’m not sure how you seperate Israel from the Jewish people, but I’m guessing the organizers of these protests haven’t figured that one out either.

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