Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/3/2010 (3782 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
B'NAI Brith Canada is asking the University of Manitoba to reconsider its decision to allow Israeli Apartheid Week events on campus next week.
B'nai Brith's senior legal counsel David Matas said the events have spread misinformation and hatred on campuses in other cities and should be banned from universities here.
"I'm very familiar with apartheid," Matas said at news conference Thursday flanked by members of the Jewish community and prominent provincial politicians -- New Democrat Christine Melnick and Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen.
Israeli Apartheid Week has been staged on campuses in Canada, the U.S. and several other countries in recent years, promoting boycotts of and sanctions against Israel, while accusing it of being an apartheid state.
When it comes to comparing apartheid in South Africa with Israel for its treatment of Palestinians "there is no familiarity whatsoever," said Matas, a globe-trotting human rights lawyer who was active in the anti-apartheid movement and served as Canada's director of the International Defence and Aid Fund for South Africa.
The apartheid regime in South Africa de-nationalized black South Africans, created phoney states within the country for them and restricted their movement.
"In Israeli, it just hasn't happened."
Terrorist attacks have forced Israeli to protect itself, he said. To say the walls and the security forces are there because of apartheid is "disingenuous," Matas said.
The security measures in place "are not that much different than the airport."
Israeli Apartheid Week incites hatred towards Jews, and last year events proposed at the universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba didn't go ahead, Matas said.
This year, however, U of M president David Barnard has agreed to let the events take place on campus. 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.
"We sent a letter to the university's president Feb. 10 asking for a ban but it is not happening," Matas said. "Despite our request it is going ahead."
In an email response on Feb. 19, Barnard said he appreciated the concern, but the university is committed to a respectful work and learning environment that includes academic freedom of thought and expression. "We will monitor the issue closely, and please be assured that maintaining a safe and respectful environment for our students, faculty and staff remains a priority for the University of Manitoba," the Barnard response said.
Matas said Israeli Apartheid Week activities in other cities have left students harassed and created an unhealthy learning and work environment for people, and should be banned before that happens here.
"The problem with waiting is that at some point it's too difficult to stop."
Organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week have said its goal is to examine the nature of Israel as an apartheid state and promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. They've said the events do not target Israeli citizens or Jewish people but are about the Israeli state and its alleged apartheid practices.
Some people at the news conference expected B'nai Brith to take a more active stand against Israeli Apartheid Week. "I will speak up," said Boaz Levin, 30. He was hoping the Jewish advocacy group would be rallying protestors to attend next week's events.
"This is a very serious matter," said Levin who wrote to Barnard and got the same response.
He said there are people planning to monitor the IAW events and they will be calling the police if there's incitement to hatred.
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.