SAIA hosts Israeli Apartheid Week

Carleton’s chapter of Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) is hosting Israeli Apartheid Week at Carleton from March 13 to 18. 

Samiha Rayeda, the volunteer, outreach and programming co-ordinator at the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), one of the sponsors of the week, said the goal of the week is mainly education and to “encourage students at Carleton and students all over the world to participate and support Palestinian solidarity.”

She said she hopes the week will open discussions around the issue of Palestinian human rights and added the response to the week is “generally very positive.”

According to the event’s Facebook page, Israeli Apartheid Week seeks to raise awareness about Israel’s policies towards Palestinian people and to build support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Charlatan reached out to Hillel Ottawa, an organization which promotes the Jewish community in Ottawa, multiple times to comment on Israeli Apartheid Week, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

B’nai B’rith International, an organization dedicated to advocating Jewish unity, denies the claim of Israel as an apartheid state. A post to their website earlier this March states “B’nai B’rith deplores a new United Nations committee report that accuses Israel of practicing apartheid.”

The post reads, “The apartheid charge is a ludicrous canard. These relentless anti-Semitic and anti-Israel accusations from the United Nations must end.”

Rayeda said while in previous years the week consisted mostly of education panels, this year’s events include interactive workshops, such as making pamphlets and zines, as well as movie screenings.

She also said this year is focusing the conversation around “pink-washing.” According to Rayeda, pink-washing is one of the ways Israel legitimizes apartheid. She said that Israel creates a narrative that the Middle East is not safe for LGBT Arabs.

“It’s a way to brand Israel as a space where you can go and have fun,” she said. “Israel uses the idea that it’s a safe haven for LGBT Arabs . . . but what it’s really doing, is if you look at the policies, is that Israel is continuing to displace and oppress queer Palestinians and queer Arabs and LGBT Arabs.”

She added, “They’re not really continuing to create a safe space, they’re only creating a safe space for some.”

B’nai B’rith defended Israel against apartheid claims in a 2014 post, which said “Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is a lone defender of human rights in a region where it is surrounded by dictatorships, many of them egregious violators of basic moral principles. Injecting this deeply fraught word into a discussion about Israel’s future is severely offensive, regardless of the intention behind the term’s usage.”

OPIRG and SAIA have events running all week, and will also host a poetry and dance night on March 25.

– Photo by Justin Samanski-Langille