Thursday, February 26, 2009

Israeli Apartheid Week

For five years, Israeli Apartheid Week has been going on on campuses around the world. The week usually consists of information sessions, speakers, films, and other events that highlight human rights abuses by Israel of the Palestinians. The use of the term "apartheid" and the strong pro-Palestinian theme has made IAW very controversial. Called "hate fests" by some, the pro-Israel lobby will often put pressure on university administrations to cancel the events, or at least prevent them from taking place on campus grounds. The belief is that such events threaten the safety of Jewish students.

Edmonton is having its first Israeli Apartheid Week ever, from March 1-8. The events are rather benign. A mother from Gaza talking about her experiences. A film about occupation. A panel discussion. Music and spoken word. All of the events take place in the evening. The Jewish community is already on alert and wants to send people to "monitor" the events. However, all of the events are expected to be videotaped and posted online - so, logically, this presumes that nothing is going to be taking place or said that the organizers would not want publicized.

University campuses are supposed to be places where the free exchange of ideas and beliefs take place. Certainly most are large enough to host a variety of viewpoints. Unless those words are explicitly dangerous or racist, they should not be silenced. In fact, I would encourage those who are pro-Israel to organize their own events - something which rarely ever happens around here. Really, when people don't take a stand, they should not get upset when other people do.

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