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Poster from Israel Apartheid Week in 2009 at Ottawa’s Carleton University. The poster was banned, but the event wasn’t.


By Rhonda Spivak

For the first time ever, Israel Apartheid Week [IAW] will be occurring at the University of Manitoba [U of M] from March 8-12, 2010.

IAW at U of M will be taking place during the same time that JSA/Hillel will be putting on activities for Israel Awareness Week, which were scheduled and planned months ago.

Manitoba Progressive Conservative MLA Heather Stefanson emailed the Winnipeg Jewish Review on March 3 to say that she unequivocally opposes “Israel Apartheid Week” and plans to introduce a Private Members’ Resolution that would condemn the nationwide campus event in Manitoba once the House resumes later this month.

“We have zero tolerance for any event that promotes the harassment and intimidation of Jewish students,” said Stefanson. “I applaud efforts done in other jurisdictions to eliminate the scourge of racism, particularly the resolution by Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman [Thornhill].”

In the Ontario legislature, on February 25, 2010, all three parties adopted a resolution to condemn IAW.

“Passage of this resolution… sends a clear message to Ontarians and the rest of the world that use of the term, 'apartheid', in relation to the state of Israel borders on hate speech and that the events staged during Israel Apartheid Week have no place in Ontario, particularly on its university campuses,” said Shurman.

Stefanson has called on Manitoba Premier Selinger and the NDP to join her in denouncing the event.

The Winnipeg Jewish Federation only learned on rather short notice at the end of February that IAW definitely would be taking place at U of M.

Bob Freedman, CEO of the Jewish Federation told the Winnipeg Jewish Review in a telephone interview that “it is possible that the organizers of IAW timed their events to take place during the same week we have scheduled our events,” but he didn’t know for sure.

Freedman said, “Samantha Loxton, [director of JSA/Hillel] has been in contact with the Muslim Students Association and they have assured us that, unlike what has been the case in other cities, they are not backing this event. Their name is not listed as a sponsor on the IAW website.”

The sponsors for IAW in Winnipeg are the local chapters of Canada-Palestine Support Network (CanPalNet), Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), and Act Left, a student group at the University of Manitoba, according to  an email  from Brian Latour, of the IAW Coordinating Committee. 
Bob Freedman
Bob Freedman, CEO of Jewish Federation

B’nai Brith Canada has taken the position that IAW in Winnipeg and other cities ought to be banned. As David Matas, senior legal counsel to B’nai Brith Canada, wrote to the Winnipeg Jewish Review in  an email, in order  to  stop the spread of   hatred, vilification against Israel,  and anti-Semitism, “Anti-apartheid weeks should be cancelled and banned.”

B’nai Brith made its policy known at a press conference on March 4, attended by Chris Melnick, Manitoba’s Minister of Water Stewardship (NDP), and Hugh McFadyen, the leader of Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative Party.

The recently released B’nai Brith League of Human Rights Audit of Anti-Semitic events   across Canada, showed that in 2009 there were 137 anti-Semitic incidents on university campuses - a dramatic increase from the 76 incidents reported in 2008.  Incidents included face-to-face harassment and assaults during campus events, such as IAW.

Dr. Mohammed Wattad
As part of Israel Awareness Week,  JSA/Hillel is  putting on two Israel events at the U of M  campus during the week of  March 8-12.  The first is  a talk by Israeli-Arab law professor Dr. Mohammed Wattad, from 11:30am – 12:30pm in Fletcher Argue, Room 200.  The second event is a day  where students will be setting up  a “shuk” (market),  with  free giveaways, falafel, information  and showing video clips  that showcase the beauty, culture , business, medical and technological achievements of Israel. 

When asked about security for Dr.Wattad’s lecture, Freedman said, “We are relying on University campus security and have raised the issue of security with U of M. Samantha Loxton has spoken to campus security.”

Freedman also raised the issue of ensuring that IAW activities do not intimidate, or harass pro-Israel students with U of M.

In a letter dated February 26, Freedman wrote to Barnard, President of the U of M, saying, “As distasteful as we might find the concept of IAW and IAW activities, we trust that the University will ensure a safe environment for all students so that freedom of expression can occur, without repression, without intimidation or worry for both sides of the equation.”

In an email, John Danakes, Director, Public Affairs at U of M told the Winnipeg Jewish Review regarding IAW, that the U of M will “respond promptly to behaviours that constitute discrimination, harassment or represent a violation to Canada’s laws.”  

He added, “We will continue to monitor this 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.”

In addition to events at U of M, JSA/Hillel has also planned two activities off-campus; a “Hooka Night” on March 9, at  Noir Wine Bar & Eatery, 470 River Ave. (Osborne Village), where students can get a taste of Israel,  and   “The Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour” on March 4,  at the West End Cultural Centre  the week prior to  IAW.

Freedman noted that “JSA/Hillel considered having the comedy tour take place on campus, but it is an evening event when most students are not on campus, and there was also not really a suitable venue for it on campus.”

JSA/Hillel will be having students at every IAW events to “monitor the events, but not to disrupt”, Freedman said.

“Our student leadership is disciplined and they know how to conduct themselves. If a student asked us about attending an IAW event, we will tell them to go if they are interested, and if there is something they feel ought to be questioned, then they ought to do so in an appropriate fashion.  We don’t want any Jewish students or any people from the Jewish community who aren’t studen

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.