This year marks the sixth anniversary of Israeli Apartheid Week. Started as a small event at the University of Toronto, the annual week of educational events has grown to include over 40 cities around the world, and has played a major role in building a global anti-apartheid movement. As a result of its success, some university administrations in Ontario have stepped up repression of student activists who organize IAW. They have attempted to deny room bookings for the event and ban student activists from displaying posters, or even from using the words "Israel" and "apartheid" together.
In political and media spheres, a coordinated strategy of McCarthyism now attempts to shut down all criticism of Israel's violent, racist regime by branding such criticism as anti-semitic. At the federal level, a self-appointed pseudo-parliamentary inquisition composed of pro-Israel MPs, called the "Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism", has been staging a charade of public hearings as a prelude to the issuance of its foredrawn conclusion: namely that factual criticism of Israel's human rights record and violations of international law - including many UN resolutions; the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid; and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which makes apartheid a crime under international law - is a form of anti-semitism.
This past week in the Ontario Legislature, Conservative MPP Peter Shurman tabled a motion to condemn Israeli Apartheid Week, arguing that it constitutes something "close to hate speech".
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While this motion would have no legal effect, it will lend power to the campaign of McCarthyism on the issue. Whether or not you agree with the appropriateness of the term apartheid in describing Israel, it is hard to disagree that a reasonable debate can be had about it. After all, South Africans must know a thing or two about apartheid, and South Africa's Congress of Trades Unions; the South African Human Sciences Research Council; leaders of the anti-apartheid struggle like Desmond Tutu and Ronnie Kasrils; and the racist architect of South African apartheid, prime minster Hendrik Verwoerd, all agree: Israel is an apartheid state. A former Israeli Education Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak also agree. It is, at the very least, a reasonable subject of debate. And only in Canada is our right to freely debate it called into question at the highest levels of political power. Nowhere else in the world. Not in the United States, not in Israel, not in Europe. Only in Canada.
It's time to name this growing threat to democracy for what it is.
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