Links in a Chain of Struggles

Israeli Apartheid Week Aims to Highlight Social Injustices in Palestine and Around the World

Photo courtesy of Maysara Salah

When it comes to social justice causes, long-running issues can often look like complicated messes to the uneducated citizen.

Israeli Apartheid Week, which began this Sunday and runs until March 17, hopes to untangle the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while also diversifying the issue.

Themed “Resistance to Colonization,” Israeli Apartheid Week’s aims are to educate, inform and create solidarity between the conflict in Palestine and social injustices that are experienced worldwide.

The goal of the week is to “create awareness that there are other movements that are also trying to be linked with the Palestinian struggle,” said Javier Hoyos, head of Concordia’s Boycott, Divest and Sanction Campaign Yes Committee.

Some of these movements include gender rights, queer rights, anti-police brutality and anti-capitalist groups, which will be addressed during the week’s extensive set of panels and workshops.

“Even though it’s called Israeli Apartheid Week, not all the events are just centered [around] Palestine,” explained Israeli Apartheid Week Event Organizer Rana Salah. “There are events that tie in with other social justice struggles.”

The Workshop on Israeli Pinkwashing and Homonationalism is set to include presentations by queer feminist activists Melis Cagan and Ralph Haddad and aims to promote learning and discussion on queer rights in Palestine.

Salah defined pinkwashing as “when countries like Israel try to portray themselves as a democracy and as not guilty of human rights violations by pointing out how queer Israelis have more rights than queer Palestinians.” Pinkwashing is just one of these struggles that will be addressed during the week.

“If you’re going to advocate for women’s rights or queer rights, you’re supposed to advocate them for everyone,” said Salah. “It is this sort of white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal system that actually creates many of these global issues; that’s why they’re all interconnected.”

Queer Palestinians must often live illegally and as undocumented workers in Israel due to the social instability of Palestine, leaving them with no protections against harassment and rape, among many other factors. There are around 2,000 queer Palestinians living in Tel Aviv at any given time, according to LGBT organization The Aguda.

“Many of us believe that one cannot be engaging in massacres and targeting Palestinians and engaging in apartheid, essentially, and still be queer- and trans-friendly,” said Maya Khamala, an event organizer from the Centre for Gender Advocacy.

“It is a gender issue, it is a racial issue; people who feel oppressed, who go through oppression can actually relate to what is happening,” said Hoyos. “They relate because it’s exactly how Palestinians feel. They are disenfranchised, they are voiceless, they are powerless and they are stateless.”

Police brutality is another widespread issue that will be a topic of discussion in the Racial Profiling and Police Brutality panel on Tuesday evening.

The workshop will feature guest speakers who recently travelled from the US to Palestine and saw firsthand the parallels between the struggles.

“There are certain links to be made and parallels that exist, but the struggles are very different as well,” said Khamala. “This event will be all about both respecting those differences and talking about them.”

She added links exist between government tactics and the ways in which police reproduce colonial mentalities in Quebec, Canada and Israel.

People are often turned off or wish to remain “neutral” when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of the complexity of the issue, according to Hoyos, which is why it’s important to provide educational platforms to be able to create change.

“If there’s anyone that can fix this, it’s going to be our generation,” said Hoyos. “What we need is that dramatic shift […] in perspective.”

However, change may take years to fully manifest itself, Hoyos continued.

“It starts with little things like this,” said Hoyos. ”We hope that one day, our government’s policies [will] reflect the wishes of the population.”

Ultimately, it is solidarity between everyone who advocates for a cause that will create change in Palestine, explained Hoyos.

“When you get to see that people from different backgrounds, different linguistic backgrounds, racial backgrounds, religious backgrounds, get to relate and get to understand what oppression truly means, that’s when you create solidarity,” said Hoyos, “and that’s the awareness that we want from Israeli Apartheid Week.”