Canada: Palestinian solidarity activists under attack, support needed

February 22, 2008

Below is a statement on repression of pro-Palestinian solidarity activists at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontorio, entitled "Defend the rights of student organisers! Our movement will not be silenced!", by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) on February 19.

CAIA calls on all supporters of Palestinian rights to defend the right to organise at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. Last week, the McMaster Provost office, second in authority to that of the president's office, announced that student clubs were banned from using the term "Israeli apartheid".

This is an unprecedented attack on the right to free speech, academic freedom, and the right to organise.

This shocking decision came as students were attempting to organise events as part of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) and was accepted by McMaster Human Rights and Equity Services and, in turn, the McMaster Student Union. This information was communicated to Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights and McMaster Muslims for Peace & Justice by the MSU and HRES.

Due to this decision, these MSU approved clubs have not been able to get approval for various initiatives related to campaigns against Israeli apartheid.

Across the globe, the movement against Israeli apartheid and in support of a comprehensive campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions has been endorsed by hundreds of universities, unions, religious groups and social justice organisations.

This campaign is proudly anti-racist, and founded on the principles of opposition to all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. It draws its inspiration from the global campaign to isolate the South African Apartheid regime and is led by many of the same individuals who were at the forefront of that earlier struggle.

According to the UN definition, the crime of "apartheid" is defined as the "institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups" and includes crimes such as "murder, extermination, deportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution against any identifiable group or collectively on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural or other grounds".

Prominent South African individuals and organisations including the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and John Duggard (the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), have described Israeli practices as a form of apartheid. Former US President Jimmy Carter, certainly no friend of the Palestinians or people of the Global South, has called Israel an apartheid state.

Even Israelis, such as Haaretz journalist Danny Rubinstein, have used this term. Would McMaster University prevent these people and organisations from speaking on campus?

The movement against Israeli apartheid is rapidly growing on campuses across the world. Two days ago, the student union at the London School of Economics voted in favour of divestment from Israel. This year, IAW occurred globally in 25 locations and was launched by exiled Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, Azmi Bishara, in Soweto, South Africa (see ).

Over 2000 students and community members attended IAW events in Toronto, which included a conference launching a new group, High Schools Against Israeli Apartheid.

It is in response to this success that the Zionist movement and their supporters are launching a campaign of intimidation, repression and bureaucratic maneuvering. During IAW, pro-Israeli apartheid organisations attacked the week in paid full-page advertisements in national newspapers. The Israeli ambassador organised a public forum in Ottawa to speak against IAW.

Zionist groups attempted to organise counter-events on campuses but these were poorly attended and by their own admission failed miserably. A pro-apartheid demonstration organized by the far-right Jewish Defense League on the first night of Israeli Apartheid week at Ryerson University attracted a meager 25 individuals, while, at the same time, over 350 people attended the IAW lecture that night.

CAIA firmly believes that this attempt to repress student organising will ultimately fail. The McMaster University administration should understand this message very clearly: We refuse to be silenced and we will fight back.

We call on student organisations, social justice groups and concerned individuals from around the world to support students at McMaster and the broader rights of Palestine organisers.

To support Palestinian solidarity activists at McMastuer and the right to freedom of speech, please:

• Immediately email the McMaster University President, Dr Peter George, at, asking why he has permitted this infringement of basic democratic principles and requesting that he immediately restore the Charter rights of McMaster students.

• Send a message of support to the McMaster students organising against this decision at

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