LETTER TO THE EDITOR
The world has paid scant attention to Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) from 1 to 7 March 2010. This is largely because the mainstream print and electronic media have ignored this event.
IAW was initiated by the Arab Student Collective at the University of Toronto in Canada in March 2005 to correct misrepresentations and distortions of the just Palestinian struggle for self-determination. It also seeks to show why many Israeli policies in occupied Palestine mirror the blatant discrimination and oppression that denoted apartheid in South Africa. Today, IAW is observed in 40 cities in 5 continents, namely, North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. Cultural activities, multi-media events, seminars and demonstrations mark the week.
There has been tremendous pressure to stop IAW. In 2008, room bookings for an IAW organizing conference in Toronto were cancelled, allegedly as a result of pressure from local Zionist groups. In 2009, the University of Pisa in Italy denied any university venue to IAW organisers. But IAW organisers and supporters have persevered against great odds.
It is partly because of their perseverance that IAW has now become integral to yet another mass Palestinian campaign. This is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement initiated by more than 170 civil society organizations in July 2005 aimed at persuading governments, public institutions and private corporations to divest from Israeli companies and enterprises that are involved directly or indirectly in the occupation of Palestinian land and the oppression of the Palestinian people. In September 2009, Norwegian state pension funds were divested from Israeli military contractor, Elbit Systems. In February 2009, the Board of Trustees of Hampshire College in the United States decided to divest from six Israeli companies involved directly in gross human rights violations against the Palestinians. These are encouraging signs that suggest that even in Europe and the US, more and more groups are prepared to censure Israel.
In fact, yet another recent development also shows that scrutiny of Israel for its often criminal behaviour against the Palestinians is increasing significantly. On 3 March 2010, the first session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RTP) began its proceedings in Barcelona, Spain. The RTP will examine not just Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law such as the Fourth Geneva Convention but also the moral responsibility of the international community to act against Israel for its continuous violation of more than 60 United Nations resolutions on a whole gamut of issues ranging from illegal settlements to the right of return of the Palestinian people. A concrete example of how contemptuous the Israeli leadership is towards international institutions and international law can be found in its stubborn refusal to accept the World Court’s 2004 advisory opinion on the wall that it has built on the West Bank (of occupied Palestine) which the Court regards as illegal and contrary to international law.
In the last few weeks, the Israeli leadership has become even more defiant of international law and international public opinion. It has accelerated the judaisation of Jerusalem through the usurpation of heritage sites and place names— in spite of protests from even some of its own staunch allies. It is because of this arrogance that it has become even more imperative to strengthen activities associated with the Israeli Apartheid Week, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement and the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST).
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
5 March 2010.