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Israeli Apartheid Week

March 6, 2011

Yesterday evening as Israeli drones were hovering over Jabalia and sounds of explosions were keeping the population awake, I was checking the inbox of one of my e-mail addresses, the one dedicated to Facebook and other subscriptions, when I noticed an e-mail inviting me to attend “Israeli Apartheid Week” in Gaza City.

It is not uncommon the comparison of Israel’s practices against Palestinians to South Africa’s apartheid era. Israel has been accused of committing the crime of apartheid by Jimmy Carter, Desmund Tutu, United Nations investigators, human rights groups and critics of Israeli policy who are often labeled by Israel as “Anti-Semitic”.

The 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines Apartheid as a crime against humanity “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

The very nature of the Israeli occupation is about denying the existence of the Palestinians, dealing with them through a set of military laws issued by the “State of Israel” and rejecting the rules set by the international community that define the relationship between occupier and occupied. As the occupying power, Israel has the responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention to see to the welfare of the civilian population of the occupied territories, which is obviously contrary to practices on the ground.

For the past 62 years, Israel proved to be the pioneer of institutionalized oppression. It showed no willingness to return what it occupied in 1967. Moreover, the settlements remain and continue to expand at the expense of helpless Palestinian villagers, Jerusalem is under exclusive Israeli sovereignty and Palestinians would not have an independent state, but would be under Israeli economic domination with Israeli control of borders, land, air, water and sea.

Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality and has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians. It has waged a war against a civilian population. All this cannot be accepted to be anything but Apartheid, a crime against humanity.

The Gaza Strip is living its share of the agony and is suffering from the consequences of a heinous blockade. Fuel, electricity, imports, exports and the movement of people in and out of the Strip have been slowly choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of sanitation, health, water supply and transportation.

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an annual international series of events held in cities and campuses across the globe. The aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a global BDS movement. It began in Toronto 2005 and, by 2010, spread to 55 cities around the world including locations in Canada, England, the United States, South Africa, the West Bank, Mexico, Scotland and Norway.

It was officially said to be a contribution “to this chorus of international opposition to Israeli apartheid and to bolster support for the boycotts, divestments and sanctions campaign (BDS) in accordance with the demands outlined in the July 2005 Statement: full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, an end to the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands – including the Golan Heights, the Occupied West Bank with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – and dismantling the Wall, and the protection of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in U.N. resolution 194.”

Israel’s Knesset has recently passed a bill criminalizing support of BDS by Israelis. The bill revealed how far the “only democracy in the middle east” can go in order to maintain its apartheid regimen and suppress the escalating internal dissent. Left wing Israeli organizations labeled the bill as an anti-free speech measure and civil society organizations such as the Coalition of Women for Peace argued that the bill was directed at silencing free speech and the right to protest the occupation. Furthermore and adding to the smugness of apartheid Israel: If proven they participated in a boycott, individuals who are not citizens or residents of Israel can also be punished by having their right to enter the country denied for at least 10 years, according to the proposed legislation.

The momentum of support for BDS movement is growing around the world but most important is its growth among Palestinians and Israelis. More and more Palestinians are engaging in the BDS nonviolent activities as they came to feelings of frustration and deep disappointment by the futile “peace process”.This can be perceived as sign that elements of the civil society both in Israel and in Palestine are taking the lead and walking away on their politicians who are often accused of corruption and misleading their own people. The issue of resolving the conflict seems to have been hijacked by such politicians for the sake of temporary gains in elections or for the implementation of personal ideologies not agreed upon by the majority of the  people they are supposed to be representing.

BDS is starting to assume a mass character but, unless it imposes some form of strong external pressure on apartheid Israel, fundamental improvement for Palestinians is not to expected any time soon.

On their website, Apartheid Week posted: ” IAW 2011 takes place following two years of incredible successes for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on the global level. Lectures, films, and actions will highlight some of these successes along with the many injustices that continue to make BDS so crucial in the battle to end Israeli Apartheid. Join us in making 2011 a year of struggle against apartheid and for justice, equality, and peace.”

I will be attending the Israeli Apartheid Week of Gaza City. I believe it will be a very informative and interesting experience to be able to listen to Palestinian intellectuals that I highly appreciate and think of as heroes speaking out about Israel’s Apartheid policies and brutal treatment of Palestinians. Prominent speakers: Omar Barghouti, Ramzy Baroud, Lubna Masarwa and Haider Eid will be taking part along the week. Such people and the BDS family are the reason a British guy donated some of his books to one of the convoys with the first page of every book having the message: “You are not alone. I Love you Gaza” . I want to learn from these people as much as I can. I want to be the reason for more people to get to know and love Gaza.



One Comment
  1. Sam Playle permalink

    Amazing first post! Informative and passionate. Maybe you can be the reason for me “to get to know and love Gaza.”

    P.S. such crisp and fluent English… did you grow up in the U.K.? U.S.?

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