Several Canadian politicians have spoken about Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), criticizing the annual anti-Israel campaign on campuses as intolerant and hateful.
York Centre Conservative MP Mark Adler shared his perspective in a statement that urged students to think twice before joining in the week’s activities. He also brought the issue up in the House of Commons.
“Israeli Apartheid Week is a deceitful and malicious attempt to delegitimize Israel under the cloak of academic freedom. This discriminatory event singles out the Jewish state and calls into question its basic right to exist when, in fact, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East,” he said. “I ask that my colleagues in the House join me in condemning Israeli Apartheid Week’s antisemitic hatefest and offer support to those who stand with Israel.”
The minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, released a statement that said although he supports the right of everyone to freely and publicly express their views, including criticism of government policies and practices, he was concerned with the “reckless and overheated rhetoric” associated with campus anti-Israel activities.
He said organizers and participants have a “regrettable history of promoting and holding events in ways that disregard the security and rights of Jewish faculty and students, censor other points of view, and limit academic discourse.
“The disproportionate vitriol directed against the democratic State of Israel during Israeli Apartheid Week stands in stark and ironic contrast to the silence of IAW organizers on the ongoing atrocities committed by the Syrian regime against its own citizens, and on the rampant brutalities and denial of rights in non-democratic countries in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world,” he said.
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said the week is counterproductive in achieving social justice, and also pointed out that IAW focuses solely on Israel, attempting to delegitimize the state while ignoring the human rights crises in surrounding countries.
“When all who desire peace in the region should be supporting and encouraging respectful dialogue between parties, this week sets out to do the opposite,” he wrote, calling the name of the campaign deeply prejudicial.
“Canadian universities and academic institutions have a long history of providing a space to engage in enlightened discourse on issues of justice and equality. For this reason, it is all the more difficult to comprehend a focus that ignores terrible atrocities presently taking place in the region,” he wrote.
“Demonizing one people and one country does not encourage reconciliation, co-operation or respectful discourse about peace and democratization in the Middle East. A constructive approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue would be more effective if it persuaded governments and civil society to work with both parties to reach a negotiated resolution based on dialogue and understanding.”