University campuses around the country are preparing for Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), now in its twelfth year. It has now become one of the largest national awareness raising campaigns on the issue of Palestine.
Israeli apartheid week (IAW) takes place in over 200 cities across the world. Its name evokes the struggle against South African apartheid, and is endorsed by the African National Congress (ANC) and various other parties and solidarity groups in the country. Keen to stress the connections between the anti-racist freedom struggles of the South African and Palestinian peoples, IAW South Africa will be hosted in various cities across the country to highlight what they say are human rights abuses against the citizens of Palestine.
Chairperson of BDS South Africa Muhammed Desai says that some of the new angles that they are looking forward to this year is firstly the participation of schools.
“This is a sector that we haven’t been working on in the past and we are looking forward to seeing various schools across the country that will be involved in this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week.”
“The second aspect that we are looking forward to is the greater participation of churches in particular,” adds Desai.
One of the movies chosen to be presented at IAW this year is called The Stones Cry Out and speaks about Palestinian Christians living under Israeli apartheid.
The film was created by Yasmine Perni, an Italian filmmaker, and discusses how people were driven across the desert, from their home, whilst highlighting the struggle that the Palestinian Christians face in the West Bank.
“This is quite a hard movie and it is going to cause a lot of discussion amongst the Christian community and amongst churches,” says Desai.
“Also more generally this is some of the new angles that we expect Israeli apartheid week to take on this year moving beyond university campuses, beyond the students, moving traditional strong holds like your trade unions and some of the political parties,” Desai explained.
The team, organising IAW in South Africa, with the assistance of the Palestinian embassy has brought out an international speaker Dr Uri Davis.
Uri Davis is an academic and a civil rights activist and has served as vice-chairman of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights and as lecturer in Peace Studies at the University of Bradford.
“We are looking forward to hosting him at various university campuses, but also engaging with various politicians.”
“Many of our government ministers and government officials will also be sharing the speaking platforms with him, but also their own platforms during IAW,” Desai went further.
“This must not be underestimated when at a time when the BDS movement and the Palestinian solidarity movement is under attack in Europe and the UK in particular and then you have legislation that basically outlawing the BDS movement.”
In a statement posted by Al Jazeera, a spokesperson for UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said that boycotts “undermine good community relations, poisoning and polarising debate, weakening integration and fuelling anti-Semitism”.
“It speaks volumes that you have South African government officials that are participating on BDS platforms and participating in Israeli Apartheid week programs,” adds Desai.
“So Israeli Apartheid Week really sets the tone for the rest of the year; it is our largest awareness raising campaign so we really want to grab people’s attention with this massive one week campaign that takes place at over 200 events in this country and this really sets the mood for the rest of the year and for the very solid and focussed BDS campaigning that we will then participate in for the rest of the year.”
Desai says that through this campaign the movement wants to strengthen their networks and to sharpen their tools and also to build and increase their support on the ground.
“This support sees us through for the most part for the rest of the year and really this support that we get from communities that come out to protest communities that come out to our programmes and to our events.”
“Members of the public that lodge complaints that write in letters, it is these communities, these individuals that really give the muscle to the growing boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaign and gives us the strength to take on the Israeli regime,” Desai concluded.
For more information of some of the events, visit iawsouthafrica.com.
VOC (Umarah Hartley)