With the 10th Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) underway, Jewish groups are condemning the decision by IAW organizers to include messages from two convicted Palestinian terrorists in their programming on Canadian campuses.
The organizers of IAW, an annual series of anti-Israel events held in cities around the world, have chosen to feature Black September airline hijacker Leila Khaled and convicted terrorist Samer Issawi.
On March 6 and 7, IAW organizers will screen a pre-recorded video message by Khaled at a lecture called, “Towards our liberation: Women leading anti-imperialist movements,” at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C., and at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, respectively.
As a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Khaled was convicted in Israel for her role in the hijacking of TWA Flight 840 from Rome to Athens in 1969. Although none of the hostages were seriously harmed, the hijacked aircraft was blown up.
On March 7, Issawi, who was first convicted by Israel in 2002 for being a member of a terrorist organization – the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine – and for possession of explosives and attempted murder, will appear at an event at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga (UTM) campus, either via Skype or pre-recorded video.
In 2011, Samer was released along with 1,027 Palestinian prisoners as a result of the prisoner exchange for the return of kidnapped Israel Defence Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. Less than a year later, he was re-arrested for violating the terms of his release by leaving Jerusalem and entering the West Bank.
“Framed under the banner of ‘solidarity,’ organizers and attendees will clearly be showing solidarity with a convicted terrorist and airline hijacker by presenting them as honoured speakers. The sheer irony that cries for ‘justice and peace’ will be made by those guilty of endangering and threatening the lives of civilians is apparently lost on the organizers,” said Frank Dimant, CEO, B'nai Brith Canada.
Hillel of Greater Toronto’s executive director Marc Newburgh expressed his displeasure that a convicted terrorist will be spreading his message to U of T students.
“Hillel of Greater Toronto is shocked that IAW organizers would invite a convicted terrorist to address Canadian students. IAW’s glorification of Issawi illustrates the moral bankruptcy of this movement and how out of touch its organizers are with cherished Canadian values. No wonder Canadians have turned their backs on IAW extremism,” Newburgh said.
“We call on the university administration to take all necessary steps to prevent UTM from providing a platform for an acknowledged terrorist to address its students and to strictly enforce all campus codes of conduct.”
U of T spokesperson Michael Kennedy said the school is aware of the event planned for March 7,, during which Issawi will be a featured guest.
“As we do for all events on our campuses, we will balance the need for freedom of expression with the need for the safety and security of students, staff, faculty and visitors,” Kennedy said in a statement.