Category Archives: Blog

Videos: Shatat Conference plenaries online

The following videos highlight the plenary and full-conference gatherings at Return and Liberation: Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North America. Filmed by videographer and activist Jase Tanner, the videos highlight the talks of Hanna Kawas, Loubna Qutami, Issam Yamani, Rabab Abdulhadi, Karma Nabulsi and Abdelrazzaq Takriti, as well as the Skype presentation by Leila Khaled:

Hanna Kawas, Haneen Karajah, Khaled Barakat and Omar Shaban:

Loubna Qutami and Issam Yamani:

Rabab Abdulhadi, Karma Nabulsi, Abdelrazzaq Takriti, moderated by Jacqueline Husary:

Leila Khaled (via Skype) and Wet’suwet’en indigenous drum group:

CONFERENCE RELEASE: Palestinian Shatat Conference convenes in Vancouver for Return and Liberation

May 15th, 2013 – In an effort to unite the Palestinian community through adherence to fundamental principles predicated on return and liberation, Palestinian activists and their allies in North America convened on unceded Coast Salish territories at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada from May 3 – 5, 2013.

With the firm belief that Palestinians in the Shatat should be actively engaged and invested in advancing the Palestinian cause as we commemorate 65 years of Nakba, participants discussed various issues, including, among others, accurate and accountable representation, defining the relationship of Palestinians in North America with Palestinians inside Palestine and the refugee camps, and finding methods to confront Zionist settler colonialism inside and outside of Palestine.

According to Khaled Barakat, a member of the organizing committee of the conference, “at a time when the right of return is under attack and Palestinian land is under threat from occupation attacks and so-called ‘land swaps’, the voice of Palestinians in shatat must be raised. The conference is a critical step towards addressing these concerns, and a new forum to engender positive changes in the Palestinian national liberation movement.”

The program of the conference included workshops spanning various topics, such as strengthening Palestinian organizing in the Shatat, Palestinian shatat participation and leadership in the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, forging joint struggles with justice movements in North America, gender and queer issues, combating Zionism and normalization, the centrality of the right of return to Palestinian liberation, discourses on national unity and addressing issues regarding representation and the Shatat’s relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The conference, which featured Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled, who greeted conference attendees for a one-hour presentation via Skype in which she called for Palestinian national unity on the basis of resistance and struggle for return and liberation saluted the Palestinian prisoners in their fight for freedom and liberation, and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the Palestinian national liberation movement.

Conference participants included members of Idle No More, as well as other longtime indigenous activists; conference participants dined on bannock donated by Indigenous chefs and a Wet’suwet’en drum group introduced Khaled. According to Omar Shaban, director of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) at UBC, “it is important to recognize, over and again, that this conference was held on unceded indigenous territory, and that the struggle of the Palestinian people in the Shatat is incomplete without recognizing and joining the struggle of the indigenous people of Canada and the United States.”

Throughout the various discussions which spanned various points of views, political perspectives and diverse ideologies, attendees vowed to continue the conversation on forging a united front against Zionist colonization in Palestine. Conference participants formed a follow-up committee, which will be releasing a proposed action plan for Palestinian mobilization in the North American diaspora in the coming weeks.

For more information please contact:
Omar Shaban
604-379-4050
info@palestinianconference.org
palestinianconference.org

To get involved with these initiatives and the follow-up work of the conference, please contact info@palestinianconference.org.

The points of unity of the conference and its follow-up committee are as follows:

May 2013 marks the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, and the 65th year of the ongoing struggle for Palestinian refugees’ return and the liberation of Palestine.

1. The Palestinian people are one people and our cause is one cause. Our objective is to revive the Palestinian national liberation movement and build the national institutions of the Palestinian people based on popular participation and direct democracy, in order to achieve the liberation of the land and people of Palestine and the implementation of the right of Palestinian refugees to return their homes.

2. The conflict with the settler colonialist state of Israel will only be resolved through the dismantling of the racist settler colonial nature of the state, meaning decolonization from Zionism, in all its forms, social, economic and political.

3. The right of return is the first and foremost step to the exercise of our right to self-determination.

4. Based on history, language, culture and geography, Palestine is an integral part of the Arab world and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.

5. Palestine is part and parcel of international resistance to colonialism, settler colonialism, imperialism and Zionism. The Palestinian people’s struggle is the struggle of an indigenous population directly connected to national liberation movements around the world facing the same powers, including the struggle of Indigenous peoples of North America, where this conference is taking place.

6. This effort is part of the struggle to achieve the basic right of Palestinians to elect our representatives in a democratic manner, and to overcome all obstacles being placed in front of our people in Palestine and in the shatat. As Palestinians in shatat, we have a right to representation and raise the voice of the shatat in our national liberation movement.

7. Palestinians have the right to resist injustice and occupation in order to achieve the liberation of their land and people.

8. The governments of the United States and Canada are directly responsible for apartheid, colonization and occupation in Palestine, through their diplomatic, political, military and economic support for the state of Israel. We recognize the US and Canada to be settler colonies built on indigenous lands.

9. We have the responsibility to confront the role of the US and Canada, hold the governments of the US and Canada accountable, and to build alliances with oppressed peoples and communities in North America.

10. We recognize the leadership and central role of Palestinian women in the national liberation movement, in this initiative, and in political representation.

return-liberation

Al-Shabaka roundtable on Palestinian representation

logoThis roundtable discussion at Al-Shabaka, published today, prefigures some of the conversations that will be taking place at the conference this weekend. This is strongly recommended reading for conference attendees!

Click here to read:

http://www.al-shabaka.org/roundtable/politics/open-debate-palestinian-representation

“Many Palestinians seek more effective and democratic representation, and to this end advocate reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). However, Osamah Khalil warned last month, in “Who are You?”: The PLO and the Limits of Representation, that attempts at reform would end up saving a leadership that had lost its legitimacy and argued that a new representative body is needed to achieve Palestinian rights.

In this Al-Shabaka roundtable, policy advisors and members debate this perspective. Rana Barakat suggests that Palestinians are asking the wrong questions: The discussion should not be over whether to salvage or abandon the PLO, but how to imagine and execute liberation in political, social, cultural, and economic terms, a framing that puts the value of the PLO in context. Mouin Rabbani notes that the PLO was at its most representative when it was least democratic in conventional terms; he questions whether elections make sense in the Palestinian context, and calls for consensus on the national project as the first priority.

Dina Omar evokes Ghassan Kanafi’s writing on “blind language” and its obstruction of strategic analysis and, after reviewing recent attempts to revive the PLO, concludes that it may be better to start from scratch. Fajr Harb argues strongly for reforming the PLO beginning with an overhaul of the Charter to represent Palestinians everywhere; otherwise, he warns, Palestinians risk acquiring yet another semi-functional body and becoming more divided than ever. Hani Al-Masri contends that calling for an end to the PLO without a clear alternative in sight could result in a much worse situation of fragmentation into disparate local, tribal, or sectarian groups and the complete dissolution of the Palestinian cause.

As’ad Ghanem points to the common causes at the heart of the Palestinian and Arab conditions and calls for rebuilding the Palestinian national entity after the PLO has “expired” based on seven fundamental principles. Yassmine Hamayel believes Palestinians need to dig into the early part of PLO history and the First Intifada to rediscover ways of working together to build a national identity and resistance, a time when being Palestinian was more than belonging to a political party. Aziza Khalidi calls for accelerating the transformation of an existing Palestinian global cultural space into a more cohesive “global cultural community” that would provide opportunities to create a more effective governance structure.”

Kevin Neish photography of Gaza, Palestine on display at conference

Over lunch on Saturday, May 4, Victoria human rights activist Kevin Neish will present photography of his recent 5 week tour of Gaza. Kevin Neish says, “Amidst the Israeli forces’ rockets, hijackings, kidnappings, shootings and blackouts, the Palestinian people of Gaza carry on with their lives. In Arabic they are called ‘Sumud’, in English it’s steadfast and unyielding.” He documented his trip with photographs and essays at www.kevinneish.ca

Since 1989, Mr. Neish has volunteered as a  human rights observer in Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and Palestine, first in the West Bank and now Gaza. He survived the Israeli assault on the Mavi Marmara in May 2010.

kevin3

Palestinian children in Beit Hanoun, Gaza

kevin4

Palestinian farmers working their land in the “buffer zone” face occupation gun towers

Mural in Gaza City

Mural in Gaza City

Gaza's woman fisher, Madleen Kolab, protesting at sea

Gaza’s woman fisher, Madleen Kolab, protesting at sea

 

Please Rescind Your Resolution to Ban SAIA

Dear UMSU,

This is a personal statement, and it does not represent any group or organization.

I am sending this to you hoping that you would uphold principles of debate as paramount to any personal or reductionist approaches to policy. Students in Canada, and the West in general posses a privilege that people in the Arab world are dying for right now – a privilege that allows them unconditional and to a certain extent uncensored access to a vast amount of knowledge and information regarding events happening all around the world. As students in the West, we have access to professors that we will respond to our inquires within a very short period of time. Each university has at least four of five libraries with books that span all types of knowledge, and that present all points of views. We have access to the fastest internet in the world giving us a very valuable tool to ask questions, investigate events, conduct research and be able to reach an informed opinion. New buildings are being built on every university campuses primarily to facilitate our learning process, to enrich our experiences as university students and to produce academics with perspective.

We also have student unions with access to huge sums of money allocated to provide us with facilities to eat, meet, drink, socialize, hang out, debate and exchange opinions. These unions are meant to fight on behalf of the student in order to attain the highest level of education while lessening the burdens that students in conflict-ridden areas have on their shoulders. The student union is a space for constructive engagement, and is it a quintessentially political space designed specifically to send a political message that sometimes may appear “controversial.”

The Palestinian cause is a just cause. It is a cause grounded in a firm conviction that the Palestinian people faced an historical injustice that affects – till today – the daily lives of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories (the West Bank and Gaza), in the refugee camps, and in the diaspora. Over 750,000 Palestinians were – within a very short period of time – forcibly uprooted from their lands, and expelled to neighbouring countries (see Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine). A combined effort by the Zionist movement and the leaders of the dictatorial Arab regimes ensures that they remain stripped from their internationally accepted and protected right to return. When the Zionist movement realized that the so-called “Palestinian problem” is not going to magically disappear they opted for a system of control similar to the one adopted by the Apartheid regime in South Africa. A system that demands separating Palestinians not from Jews only, but from their own lands, and in certain cases, from their own families. For example, a Palestinian from the West Bank is separated by a racist law from his Israeli Palestinian wife.

To be able to farm his land, a Palestinian must gain a permit from his occupier in order to access a land that lies on the other side of an 26 feet high wall. The wall is not built on the internationally recognized 1967 borders, it is built inside Palestinian territories often dissecting villages, school and university campuses. Imagine a very high wall going through the campus of the University of Manitoba – I suspect that any Canadian student would stand idle when faced with such a travesty.

Fighting against racism, subjugation, occupation and Apartheid should not be labelled as controversial. It should be encouraged. I understand that student representatives are busy citing laws and bylaws that are meant to maintain constructive dialogue. I also understand the importance of making everybody feel safe, but by ignoring the fundamental principle of allowing students to advocate for rights that Canadian students would not under any circumstances sacrifice, UMSU committed a grave crime.

UMSU has set a very dangerous precedent that takes into consideration only one side of the story. By accepting a racist ideology as a “nationality” for Jews, UMSU is ignoring a very long tradition of fighting anti-Semitism. Jews in Europe faced the most atrocious of crimes primarily because they are Jews. When Zionism as a political ideology was first introduced to European Jewry, it was rejected almost unanimously by all European Jews. They feared that this new political ideology will strip Judaism from its essence. They feared that by politicizing their struggle, political Zionists will cause them more damage than good and will cause further alienation, stigmatization and death. Aha’ad Ha’am (a prominent Jewish thinker) was adamantly against these efforts. Letters from other Jewish intellectuals were sent to the leaders of this new strand of Zionism warning them about the ramifications of their efforts.

A large segment of the Jewish populations continue till this current day the efforts to expose Zionism for what it is – a racist ideology bent on the ethnic cleansing of an entire population to attain political objectives.

SAIA is not a controversial group. Fighting against Israel Apartheid is not controversial. And this is a fact that must be understood by student unions very clearly. Zionist strategies of citing violations of certain laws should be rejected and put within the appropriate historical and political context.

Muzzling the efforts of SAIA is not a matter of violating the law or upholding thereof. It is a matter of abusing certain systems of governance to attain insidious political outcomes. Using the law is merely part of a grand strategy to obfuscate a political reality and human tragedy in Palestine.

I, therefore, urge UMSU to consider these points, and reverse its decision to ban SAIA, and make it part of their mission to fight war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of human rights in Canada, Palestine and in every corner of earth.

Regards,
Omar Shaban

An Open Letter to the University of Manitoba Students’ Union from the Canadian Students’ Coalition for Palestine

Organizations are invited to sign on to this statement. To sign on, email canadianSCP@gmail.com or use the form below.

Download PDF

April 14, 2013

To:
The University of Manitoba Students’ Union Council
Local 103 of the Canadian Federation of Students
101 University Centre, Winnipeg, MB

We are writing to express our grave concern about the UMSU’s decision to revoke the student club status of the University of Manitoba’s branch of Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), and further to ban SAIA from operating in “UMSU spaces.” By denying students at UManitoba the right to initiate and operate SAIA, you are denying them the right to engage in criticism of the State of Israel, and this decision is a flagrant violation of students’ Fundamental Freedoms of Expression and of Association as enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under sections 2(b) and 2(d).

We understand and indeed share your commitments and aspirations to protect the Human Rights of all students and to eradicate discrimination and harassment based on the Protected Grounds as defined in both Provincial and Federal Human Rights Legislation. However, we believe that your interpretation of such legislation sets a dangerous standard by conflating nationalist ideologies with individual national origins, and by equating criticism of state policies with harassment of persons on the basis of national origin. We urge you to reconsider these false equivalencies between concepts and principles, and to pay closer attention to the complexities and political motivations of the arguments being drawn.

Firstly, we would like to respectfully point out that Zionism is not and should not be confused with an individual’s national origin. Zionism is a nationalist ideology that pursues the establishment and endurance of a Jewish state or homeland on the traditional lands of the Palestinians. Like all ideologies, Zionism is often highly valued and held close to its adherents as an inextricable part of their individual identity. This does not mean, however, that it is equal to a person’s or individual’s national origin or Israeliness. Indeed, there are many Israeli citizens who are not Zionist, for example many of the 1,617,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel who are subject to multiple forms of discrimination despite citizenship because of the fact they are not Jewish. Palestinian citizens of Israel are excluded from the Zionist project. Also, there are many leftist anti-Zionist Jewish citizens of Israel who believe in a democratic Israeli state with equal rights for all of its citizens regardless of ethnicity or religion. Furthermore, there are many Jewish-identified Canadians in Manitoba and across Canada who stand proudly in solidarity with Palestinians and who define their religious and/or ethnic identity as separate from and/or in opposition to the ideology of Zionism.

Secondly, criticism directed at any state, especially criticism that is firmly based in the principles and standards of International Law and Human Rights conventions, should never be conflated with harassment directed at individuals or groups of a particular national origin. We are especially concerned that this type of conflation will lead to a dangerous precedent where Academic Freedom is stifled and where student clubs engaging in Human Rights activism will be targeted by increased administrative sanctions. The international solidarity movement with Palestinians, of which Students Against Israeli Apartheid is a part, is a peaceful movement modeled on the successful human rights campaign against South Africa during the days of South African Apartheid. According to the logic of UMSU’s Motion, criticism of South African Apartheid would have been a form of discrimination against White Afrikaner Nationalists in South Africa. This is not such a far off or unlikely scenario; during the days of Apartheid in South Africa, White Afrikaners and their allies around the world made this exact argument. By this same logic Tamil student groups could be banned for criticizing the Human Rights violations of the Sri Lankan state, Tibetan student groups could be banned for criticizing the Human Rights violations of the Chinese state, and where even indigenous and Métis student groups could be banned for criticizing the Human Rights violations and reservation system of the Canadian state. We also emphasize the importance of a broad view of human rights, including the importance of acknowledging our roles as settlers on the stolen indigenous land of Turtle Island, and a statement of solidarity with Indigenous peoples, as well as an acknowledgement of Canadian settler colonialism that is often read aloud at the beginning of our events.

Thirdly, we would also like to draw attention to the section of the Motion that criticizes Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) and the activities of SAIA in the promotion of this week on university campuses. We are extremely concerned that your Motion, without any evidence, claims that incidents of “violence and harassment” have occurred in universities across Canada. As organizers of various IAW events across the country we have not heard anything of these supposed incidents of “violence and harassment.” Both SAIA and IAW maintain and enforce a very strict anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy. All forms of hate-speech, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are banned from our official events and organizations. To ensure this, our moderators, speakers and marshals are all trained and updated throughout the week on how to maintain and enforce these policies. As a standard practice, a statement of anti-discrimination is read aloud prior to every IAW event. Thus, IAW does not, in any way, endorse “violence and harassment” of any group of students. The expression “Israeli Apartheid” may be viewed as controversial by UMSU; however, regardless of that view, it still stands that ‘controversy’ is neither a form of, nor equivalent to harassment by any standard of comparison. Revealing the racist dynamics of Zionism is no more an act of hatred than criticizing the justifications of settler-colonialism implicit in Canadian nationalist ideologies.
We note that this resolution was passed by members of the incoming council, making an end run around this year’s UMSU executive, and will expire on May 1. We want to be clear that we will not sit silently by if any attempts are made next year to decertify, refuse to recognize, or otherwise infringe Students Against Israeli Apartheid’s right to organize, express themselves, and work for human rights on the campus of the University of Manitoba in the coming academic year.

We urge you to reconsider the Motion you have put forward and passed, as well as the logic and principles upon which it is purportedly based. We hope that you will be careful not to make conflations that can lead to the unjust silencing of students’ voices. We urge you to rescind the decision and take a step forward in committing yourselves to the principles of Academic Freedom, as well as the Fundamental Freedoms of Expression and of Assembly guaranteed to all under the Canadian Charter.

Respectfully,

The Canadian Students’ Coalition for Palestine,

York University’s SAIA
Western University’s SPHR
University of Windsor’s PSG
University of Calgary’s SPHR
University of Toronto Scarborough’s TSJP
University of Toronto Mississauga’s SAIA
McMaster University’s SPHR
Wilfrid Laurier’s L4P
University of Waterloo’s SPHR
George Brown’s SPHR
University of Guelph’s SPHR
University of British Columbia’s SPHR

Organizations that have signed onto this statement include:
CUPE Local 3909 (University of Manitoba) – Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Boycott from Within- Tel Aviv, Israel
Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign- Vancouver, BC, Canada
Canadian Boat to Gaza – Canada
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA)- Toronto, ON, Canada
Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine – New York, NY, US
Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ)
CommonGround Collaborative – Calgary, AB, Canada
Faculty for Palestine (F4P) Carleton – Ottawa, ON, Canada
The First Peoples Council
Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) of Canada
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) Canada
Industrial Workers of the World (Winnipeg GMB) – Winnipeg, MB, Canada
ISM Vancouver – Vancouver, BC, Canada
Jews for Palestinian Right of Return – USA
Labor for Palestine – USA
McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice – Hamilton, ON, Canada
MSA at Mount Royal University – Calgary, AB, Canada
National Lawyers Guild (US) Free Palestine Subcommittee – USA
New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT) – New York, USA
No One Is Illegal – Vancouver Unceded Coast Salish Territories, Canada
Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) Carleton – Ottawa, ON, Canada
Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) Ottawa – Ottawa, ON, Canada
Palestine Solidarity Network – Edmonton, AB, Canada
People for Peace – London, ON, Canada
The Palestinian Solidarity Working Group at Laurentian University – Sudbury, ON, Canada
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QUAIA) – Vancouver, BC, Canada
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
Seriously Free Speech Committee – Vancouver, BC, Canada
Socialist Project (York) – Toronto, ON, Canada
Streams of Justice – Vancouver, BC, Canada
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) National – USA
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Ryerson – Toronto, ON, Canada
Students for Justice in Palestine at Hunter College- New York, USA
Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College- New York, USA
Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) Carleton – Ottawa, ON, Canada
Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) University of Toronto- Toronto, ON, Canada
US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – USA
Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (WCAIA) – Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Women In Israel


[gravityform id=”5″ name=”Endorse the Statement”]

Coalition will fight ban of Students Against Israeli Apartheid: U of M Students’ Union urged to support human rights and freedom of speech

We are republishing the following news release from the Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, in reference to the banning of Students Against Israeli Apartheid at the University of Manitoba:
NEWS RELEASE
For immediate release
Saturday, April 13, 2013

Coalition will fight ban of Students Against Israeli Apartheid
U of M Students’ Union urged to support human rights and freedom of speech

WINNIPEG—The Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid is appalled by the University of Manitoba Students’ Union’s April 11 decision to end Students Against Israeli Apartheid’s student group status and ban it from operating in students’ union space.

The motion passed by UMSU Council equates criticism of the Israeli government to discrimination and harassment, and takes extraordinary measures against a student group, although it appears no evidence was presented to substantiate the accusations.

“We are shocked that UMSU would ban Students Against Israeli Apartheid without any evidence or basis for the accusations brought forward in the motion,” said Liz Carlyle, spokesperson for the Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid. “It is clear that the architects of the motion aimed to silence opposition to the Israeli government’s Apartheid policies.”

Added Thiané Diop, a member of SAIA-UM: “By attempting to silence and obstruct SAIA, UMSU has voted to prop up the Israeli Apartheid government, its crushing military occupation and daily abuse of Palestinians’ human rights.”

Israeli Apartheid Week, a global event dedicated to education and debate on Israel’s military occupation of Palestine, has been running on Winnipeg campuses and in the community for 5 years, and SAIA groups have repeatedly shown they are seeking dialogue, while opposing racism and other human rights abuses.

There were no incidents of harassment or discrimination by event organizers, speakers or participants at IAW 2013. WCAIA maintains that SAIA’s work embodies respectful and fair political comment, and believes that the UMSU motion constitutes slander, and repression of free speech and freedom of association. WCAIA is pursuing a legal opinion on the matter.

“Support has been flooding in from students and human rights and civil liberties advocates across the country,” added Diop. “We urge UMSU to reinstate Students Against Israeli Apartheid, and to speak up against Apartheid policies everywhere.”

-30-

For information or interviews, please contact: Liz Carlyle ecarlyle@wcaia.ca cell 204.979.7741 or saia.manitoba@gmail.com

Freedom of Speech Muzzled at the University of Manitoba – Omar Shaban

by Omar Shaban

In yet another effort to muzzle speech that exposes Israeli war crimes and atrocities in occupied Palestine, Zionists at the University of Manitoba in the university’s Student Union (UMSU) passed a resolution to ban the Student Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) and its activities from campus on April 11, in a 19-16 divided vote, against the legal advice of the student union’s lawyer.

This ill-worded resolution claims that most “Jewish and Israeli members of the UMSU are Zionists which … are supporters of Zionism, international movement for the support of Israel.” It further claimed that “Zionists are a ‘group of persons’ which national characteristics, Israel being a nation-state.”

Based on these two premises, the UMSU concluded that Zionists are being ‘discriminated’ against and are a subject of ‘harassment’ because of “abusive and unwelcome conduct or comment undertaken or made on the basis of such national characteristics.” It should be noted that this happened shortly after a student union elections campaign focused on silencing supporters of Palestine.

Aside from the obvious fact that there are many factual, and, indeed, grammatical errors in this resolution – indicative of the lack of research and thoughtfulness on behalf of the drafter, and the lack of debate on this topic – the resolution couldn’t be further from the truth.

Many Jews and Israelis – students at the University of Manitoba or otherwise – are not Zionist, and this statement attempts to conflate religious identity and national origin with a specific, and racist, political ideology.

To make such a claim to falsely lump an entire community of believers under the banner of racist political ideology whose fundamental objective is to dispossess Palestinians, ethnically cleanse them and occupy their lands.

Because Zionism is a racist ideology, various Jewish authors and intellectuals have been voicing their objections to its aims. One prominent Israeli Jewish author who has challenged Zionism is Ilan Pappe. In his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Pappe declaimed that: “Until the occupation of Palestine by Britain in 1918, Zionism was a blend of nationalist ideology and a colonialist practice.”

The Zionist movement in Palestine was inconvenienced by the existence of the Palestinians on what they regarded as their ancestral homeland which prompted them to design a sadistic plan bent on eliminating this existence. According to Pappe in the same book, to dissuade Palestinians from fighting for the land, Plan C was adopted outlining a serious of punishments:

“Killing the Palestinian political leadership.
Killing Palestinian inciters and their financial supporters.
Killing Palestinians who acted against Jews.
Killingsenior Palestinian officersand officials [in the Mandatory system].
Damaging Palestinian transportation.
Damaging the sources of Palestinian livelihoods: water wells, mills, etc.
Attacking nearby Palestinian villages likely to assist in future attacks.
Attacking Palestinian clubs, coffee houses, meeting places, etc.”

Zionism is the political ideology that led to the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland, and continues to deny Palestinian refugees their right to return to the present day, and has justified occupation and ethnic cleansing for over 65 years on a racist and discriminatory basis.

This is the Zionism that the UMSU decided to protect; and instead of conducting proper research, opted for a decontextualized and narrow definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary – something that does not fit an academic institution such as the University of Manitoba.

Free Speech in Canada?

This is not the first time supporters of Palestine were muzzled on Canadian campuses. Previous failed campaigns to engender similar results were thwarted at McMaster University in Hamilton, York University in Toronto, Carleton University in Ottawa and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

These attempts ranged from outright banning of clubs, to banning their activities to simply characterizing their events as “controversial” to impose higher standards and dissuade students from participating in them.

Similarly, Canadian politician like Jason Kenney, Michael Ignatieff, Joyce Murray, and many others are on record for labelling of pro-Palestine activists as chauvinistic anti-Semites on a mission to eliminate Israel from existence.

According to Seriously Free Speech, “there is a concerted effort both in Canada and internationally to suppress open discussion on the subject of the Palestine/Israel conflict. This effort manifests itself in the media, in educational institutions, and in government, and includes attempts to criminalize or otherwise stigmatize criticism of Israel.”

Facts:
Jewish students across Canada are neither intimidated, nor are they targeted for their beliefs by SAIA or SPHR. In fact, many of these groups’ members are Jewish and are proud to voice their opposition to Zionism and the illegal practices of Israel in occupied Palestine.

Considering all Jews as Zionist, and labelling as such in mainstream media and various academic institutions is an explicit act of anti-Semitism. Not only does it strip Jews from the agency of selecting their own worldviews and ideologies, but it also makes them liable for the racist attitudes perpetuated by the Zionists.

If students, academics and politicians are truly interested in the promotion of human rights, then they should voice their unequivocal support of all the efforts conducted by SAIA and SPHR.

If students, academics and politicians are interested in debate on this particular issue, then they should conduct their own research first instead of relying in flimsy arguments and propaganda campaigns and narrow one-line definitions from a dictionary.

My reminders for the Zionists:

Zionists and their supporters must understand one simple piece of information. It is impossible to muzzle criticism of Israel, and it is impossible to put a stop the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli Apartheid. Students and academics who are at the forefront of the struggle against Israeli Apartheid are people who have conducted immense research, thought very carefully about the consequences of their actions and are well-aware that Israeli actions are immoral and illegal.

Any effort to muzzle free speech will be counterproductive. Students who support Palestinians and their inalienable rights are more adamant than ever to make it abundantly clear that the fight against Zionism will not interrupted via a single ill-worded resolution that will ultimately have no effect on the ground.

Canadians are becoming more aware of the issues. They have access to the internet and alternative media. They are aware of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinians, and they are aware of the plight of the Palestinian people in the refugee camps and the diaspora.

Around the world, ever-growing numbers of people are learning about Palestine and taking action to halt official and corporate complicity in Israeli war crimes. When Israeli officials cause the death of a single Palestinian, there are lawyers around the world committed to seeking justice and accountability in international courts.

Despite all the efforts of those who would silence Palestinians and their allies, the reality is that the truth will not be silenced, and justice for the Palestinians will be attained.

Omar Shaban is a third generation Palestinian refugee from the Nahr El-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon. He is the former president of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) at UBC and a member of the organizing committee of Return and Liberation: Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North America.

Palestinian singer Nisreen Hajaj to be featured at Shatat Conference

nisreen hajajOrganizing Committee of the Shatat Conference is delighted to announce that Palestinian singer Nisreen Hajaj will be featured at Return and Liberation: Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North America, at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, May 3-5, 2013.

Nisreen Hajaj, is a Palestinian singer/performer who began her musical career at age 16. Nisreen is the winner of several awards including LBCI Studio El-Fan in 2006 for the Arab World Category. In 2008, she also won the Golden Medal in the FIDOF Competition on the National Lebanese Broadcasting Station. Nisreen studied five years of music at the National Lebanese Conservatory including Oriental and Modern Chanting, Byzantine and Syriac and also the ‘Oud. In 2008, Nisreen joined Ferqat Haneen Lel Ughniyah Al-Felasteeniyyah and sang for Palestine, the homeland she was deprived of. She is a member of The General Union of Palestinian Artists in Lebanon. Today, Nisreen returns to perform on stage for Palestine, and pledges that she will keep on the fight for justice through her voice and music.

To register for the conference, please visit http://palestinianconference.org/register/

nisreen2  nisreen4