Israel Apartheid Week, Inside Israel Speaker Series Kicks Off

Photo Dan Halutz

Concordia will be hosting two very different views on the Middle East in coming weeks, as eighth annual Israel Apartheid Week kicks off on March 5, followed by the inaugural Inside Israel Speaker Series.

“The Israeli government, as a project, has been systematically oppressing the Palestinian people in several different ways,” said Doug Smith, a member of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights and the spokesperson for IAW, which ends on March 13.

“The occupation is one of the clearest examples of that. We hope people walk away with a clearer understanding of Israel as an apartheid state, and also without a feeling of helplessness.”

The IAW will feature speaking events, workshops, a concert and exhibitions. Among those activities is a workshop on March 8 titled Pinkwashing Israeli Apartheid 101.

It explores an alleged propaganda campaign that targets queer youth and paints Israel as a gay-tolerant oasis in the Middle East.

As well, a concert, entitled Artists Against Apartheid XVIII, is scheduled for March 11 and features hip-hop by Rebel Diaz from New York City, the Haitian group Vox Sambou and Chilean musicians l’Ensemble Acalanto.

All these events are designed to foster discussion about Palestine and encourage analysis of the Israeli policies. This contributes to the oppression Palestinians have been living under, and which they are struggling against, according to Smith.

“Often what you see in the dominant news media, in many ways—even in well-intentioned commentary—tends to frame this as an overly complicated, never-ending conflict [and] that’s not true,” said Smith. “However, there are major disparities of power.”

A newly founded student group, the Concordia Students for Israel, is hosting the IISS, which begins with a wine and cheese on March 14 with the Israeli and Egyptian Consul Generals, the day after IAW ends, and will feature further events to be announced in the next week.

CSFI co-president Dana Remer told The Link that they specifically scheduled their events the week after IAW, with the intention of providing a different perspective on the situation without creating a combative environment.

“Me and my co-president Ehle Schacter thought it was time to create some kind of platform on campus for students to have constructive discussion about the Middle East, about Israel and about all these kind of things that they generally shy away from or that get turned into a one-sided kind of thing,” said Remer.

Remer mentioned IAW as an example of this saying, “All you hear is, ‘Israel is bad, Israel is an oppressor…’ and you don’t hear about any other thing on campus.”

Remer noted the scheduling of IISS was handled with care, and, though it’s meant to be a counterbalance to IAW, they wanted to respect the views of those who participate in the week’s events.

“The first reason is that if we hold events at the same time, we’re going to draw attention to what they’re doing and we don’t think that what they’re doing is a positive, constructive description of what is going on in reality,” said Remer.

“We want to do this event, but we don’t want to do it at a time when it can be perceived as an attack on their events or their position. We’re letting them have their time, their space and whatever they need to do, and then we’re going to do our thing.”

Smith said that he didn’t see a problem with the scheduling.

“I don’t think it means too much. At the end of the day, pro-Israeli views are very available and very present in general,” said Smith. “There’s already a pretty strong solidarity in social justice circles for the Palestinian cause and what people do for IAW.”