CAIA: Joint Statement on Minister Jason Kenney’s Condemnation of Israeli Apartheid Week

March 9, 2012

As organizations and groups committed to protecting freedom of expression and public debate on Palestine/Israel, we demand that Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney immediately retract his March 7th statement “condemning Israel Apartheid Week”.

This statement is the Conservative government’s latest attempt to silence activist groups and organizations in Canada that act or speak in support of the basic human rights of the Palestinian people. While Kenney’s statement claims to value “free exchanges of ideas” and “academic dialogue,” his targeted condemnation of Israeli Apartheid Week events on Canadian universities this week (and in previous years) is a blatant attempt to shut down free expression for Palestine solidarity on campus.

The Harper government’s track record clearly reveals that it does not actually value the university as “an environment in which academic discourse can take place freely”. Indeed, it has been actively involved in undermining this ideal that it claims to uphold.

In 2009 the Conservative Minister of State (Science and Technology), Gary Goodyear was widely criticized by Faculty for Palestine and academics across the country for his unprecedented and dangerous acts of state political interference in the public funding of an academic conference. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) called for the Minister’s resignation around this incident, finding it “simply unacceptable” for the Minister to engage in any act that “compromises the integrity and public purpose of universities”. The sole target of the Minister’s actions was an academic conference at York University titled Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace. His actions were so egregious that they have since been the subject of two major inquiries, one of which is written up in the newly published book titled No Debate: The Israel lobby and free speech at Canadian universities.

Free expression on Canadian campuses, including both academic discourse and political analysis, must be protected from these kinds of political interference and all attempts of censorship. Unlike the Conservative government, we encourage and invite open debate and discussion on the full spectrum of views on the Israel/Palestine conflict. As public events on university campuses, IAW talks are open to anyone who wishes to attend and is willing to participate within the standard regulations governing debate and events on university campuses.

For eight years, Israeli Apartheid Week has provided a model for free and open discussion by providing a week-long series of public lectures by academics and activists on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Currently IAW events are held on campuses in over 100 cities around the world. Many of these lectures address, in a factual manner, the nature of Israeli rule of a Palestinian population of some five million people within the borders which it controls and the effects of the exclusion of a similar number of Palestinian refugees. This system of blockade, occupation, settlement, discrimination and exclusion has been described as a form of apartheid by a wide range of scholars, journalists, activists, politicians, UN officials and legal experts including former Minister of Government in South Africa Ronnie Kasrils and former Special Rapporteur to the UN Commission on Human Rights John Dugard. IAW events examine these conditions while also building awareness for the movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against apartheid Israel as called for by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005.

The recent welcome for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Ottawa is just the latest indicator of where the current government stands on this issue. It is a serious threat to democratic interchange that the Harper Conservatives use their position as government to try to shut down discussion and debate on their uncritical support for every action of the Israeli state, including ongoing violations of international law and the human rights of Palestinians.

Israeli Apartheid Week has played an important role in opening up this discussion. This has been recognized by Palestinians, Jewish anti-Zionists, and South Africans including Bishop Desmond Tutu, and journalist Naomi Klein. Israeli Apartheid Week has always condemned anti- Semitism and all forms or racism including Islamophobia, and will continue to do so.

Endorsing signatories:
Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign (BIAC) – Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories
Building Bridges Vancouver
Canada Palestine Association, Vancouver
Canadian Palestine Support Network (CanPalNet)
Canadian Arab Federation (CAF)
Canadian Boat to Gaza
Canadian Forum for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka
Canadian Peace Alliance
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME)
CanPalNet Winnipeg
Centre for Social Justice
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) – Toronto
Coalition of Arab Canadian Professionals and Community Associations (CAPCA)
College and University Workers United (CUWU, Montreal)
Edmonton Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (EQuAIA)
Edmonton Small Press Association (ESPA)
Educators for Peace and Justice (EPJ)
Faculty for Palestine (F4P Toronto)
Faculty for Palestine (F4P Alberta)
Faculty for Palestine (F4P Carleton)
Greater Toronto Workers Assembly (GTWA)
Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War
Independent Jewish Voices (IJV)
Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN)
Labour for Palestine
Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network
The Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle – Toronto
National Council of Latin American and Caribbean Women of Canada – LATIN@S
New Socialist Group
Nightslantern Suppressed News
No One Is Illegal Toronto
No One Is Illegal – Vancouver Coast Salish Territories
Not In Our Name: Jews Opposed to Zionism (NION)
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty – OCAP
OPIRG – Toronto
OPIRG – York
Palestine House Educational and Cultural Centre
Palestine Solidarity Working Group, Laurentian University, Sudbury
Palestine Solidarity Network – Edmonton
Palestinian Association of Hamilton
Peace Alliance Winnipeg
People for Peace, London, Ontario
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA)
Regina Solidarity Group
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
Seriously Free Speech Committee
Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG)
Socialist Project
SPHR UWO – Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights at Western University
SPHR Ryerson
SPHR – University of Ottawa
Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) – Carleton
Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) – Regina
Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) – University of Toronto
Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) – York University
Students for Palestinian Rights – University of Waterloo
Students United in Representation of Latin America (SURLA)
Tadamon! – Montreal
Teachers for Palestine (T4P) – Toronto
Toronto Bolivia Solidarity
Toronto Coalition to Stop the War (TCSW)
Toronto Haiti Action Committee (THAC)
Voice of Palestine
Winnipeg CAIA
Women in Solidarity with Palestine (WSP)

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