July 12, 2020

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Event worries Jewish leaders

Israel Apartheid Week to be staged at U of M

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/3/2010 (3783 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jewish leaders are urging their community not to take the bait when organizers of Israel Apartheid Week bring their campaign to the University of Manitoba next week for the first time.

"We're advising people in our community, don't take the bait, stay home," said Bob Freedman, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. "We will have a few Jewish students there to monitor, not to get into a ruckus."

Israel Apartheid Week has been staged on campuses in Canada, the United States and several other countries in recent years, promoting boycotts of and sanctions against Israel, while accusing it of being an apartheid state. Freedman said organizers of Israel Apartheid Week want to provoke confrontation so they can draw more attention. Not so, said a spokesman for next week's events. Organizers include a coalition of students and academics, said Brian Latour.

"Israeli Apartheid Week is not a 'hate-fest,' " he said. "The goal of IAW is to examine the nature of Israel as an apartheid state and promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Our events do not target Israeli citizens or Jewish people, they are about the Israeli state and its apartheid practices."

There will be four events in University Centre at U of M next week, one elsewhere on campus and one at a city library, with a variety of speakers and panel discussions.

Freedman said the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg believes in freedom of speech and the exchange of ideas, but Israel Apartheid Week smears Israel as a country and Jews as a people.

"We do not believe preventing events like this, even though we find it very offensive, is the answer," Freedman said. "The basic premise is so odious, we have to say something."

Freedman said the Jewish community is asking U of M to ensure all students on campus are safe during Israel Apartheid Week.

U of M public affairs director John Danakas said the university does not endorse the event in any way, but upholds academic freedom of thought, inquiry and expression.

But, said Danakas, U of M will also ensure a safe and respectful environment on campus. University policies guarantee freedom from harassment and discrimination, he said: "We're going to ensure the policies of the university are complied with.

Meanwhile, next week is also Israel Awareness Week, said Freedman. Events are planned on both the U of M and the University of Winnipeg campuses, and the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg has asked both universities to ensure the safety of students and others taking part.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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