A Year Against Apartheid.


    Report on Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) 2007


    Photo: Protest in support of the boycott of Indigo/Chapters in Toronto.

2007 has been a busy and exciting year for the Palestine solidarity movement. While Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert attempt to hide Israel’s crimes behind the lie of ‘peace negotiations’, thousands of individuals and organizations around the world are building a real and effective alternative centered on boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid. Here in Toronto, the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) has been a proud participant in this global movement. This brief report captures some of our activities over 2007.

    On campuses and high schools…

Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) has finished another successful year. In February, SAIA coordinated the annual Israeli Apartheid Week that took place in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton, New York, Oxford, Cambridge and London (UK). Guest speakers from Canada and abroad, including Jamal Zahalka, Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, spoke powerfully against the apartheid nature of the Israeli state and the growing movement of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Jamal’s visit was widely commented upon in the Israeli media.

In 2008, Apartheid Week will take place from Feb. 4-10 and will occur in even more cities and campuses across the globe. Stay tuned for a schedule of speakers and events at: www.endisraeliapartheid.net

SAIA also regularly hosted speakers and films on campuses throughout the year, most recently a well-attended event in November entitled Apartheid: From South Africa to Palestine with South African anti-apartheid activist, Salim Vally at the University of Toronto.

On 28 November, SAIA was proud to support the Ryerson Students Union in organizing an historic public debate on academic boycott. The debate came in response to an anti-boycott statement issued by university presidents across Canada over the summer. In response, the RSU convinced the University administration and President’s Office to hold a debate on the issue. The pro-boycott position was argued by prominent South African anti-apartheid activist and academic, Salim Vally, along with Ryerson academic Alan Sears. The opposition to boycott was argued by, John Caruana (Philosophy) and Stuart Murray (English). Over 400 people attended the debate that was convincingly won by the pro-boycott position.

Finally, in December, CAIA was proud to announce the formation of High Schools Against Apartheid (HAIA). HAIA is a cross-high school network of students organizing in their schools against Israeli apartheid. They have shown films and given talks in schools across the city, and will be holding an inaugural conference against Israeli apartheid in early February 2008. For more information email haia(at)caiaweb.org.

    In unions and workplaces…

The CAIA Labour committee, Labour for Palestine, is a network of rank and file labour activists involved in building the BDS movement within Canadian unions. Following the historic resolution of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Ontario (CUPE Ontario) in support of boycott in May 2006, Labour for Palestine has worked to support the CUPE resolution and help CUPE members carry out rank-and-file education within the union.

During 2007, over 25 training sessions were carried out in workplaces, conventions and council meetings across the province. Thousands of CUPE members have received educational materials on Israeli apartheid and participated in these training workshops.

In March 2007, Labour for Palestine published a 100-page book entitled Labour For Palestine: A Reader for Unionists and Activists. The book was launched at the Steelworkers Hall in Toronto, and contains discussion on the CUPE resolution, educational material for unionists and workers on the history of the Palestinian struggle and the situation of Palestinian workers. Over 300 copies of the book were sold within the first six months of its release and a new edition is planned. The book can be purchased online from the Toronto Women’s Bookstore HERE.

In July 2007, Labour for Palestine issued an open response to a pro-Israel statement made by a group of US labour leaders. The Labour for Palestine response was well-received around the world. Activists from Labour for Palestine spoke at conferences in San Francisco, New York, and London in order to strengthen these links with unionists in other countries.

On 3 September 2007, Labour for Palestine led a lively Palestine contingent in the 20,000 strong annual Labour Day parade in Toronto. To mark the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Palestinian artist Naji El-Ali (creator of the character Handala) organizers build an eight-foot Handala and marched through the streets of Toronto chanting “Freedom for Palestine, Justice for Palestine” and distributed 5000 postcards about Labour for Palestine.

Also during 2007, Labour for Palestine organized a series of panels at significant labour conferences including the Toronto-North York District Labour Council, the CUPE National Convention, and the Ontario Federation of Labour. To contact Labour for Palestine, email labour[at]caiaweb.org

    Against Canadian support for Israeli Apartheid.

December 2007 marked the one-year anniversary of the campaign to boycott Chapters Indigo. The campaign demands an end to the financial support offered by the majority owners of Chapters and Indigo bookstores to Heseg – the Foundation for Lone Soldiers. This is a program of financial support for former ‘lone soldiers’ in the Israeli military.

During the year, pickets organized by the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation have been held every Friday afternoon outside the Bay/Bloor Indigo store in downtown Toronto. Across Canada, pickets happen regularly in five cities. In September, CAIA launched a regular once-a-month Saturday picket at different Chapters/Indigo stores across the city in addition to the regular Friday pickets. These pickets have been an integral part of CAIA’s grassroots campaign to educate shoppers and passers-by on Israel apartheid and the support offered by Canadian businesspeople. In Toronto alone, over 40,000 information flyers have been distributed during the past year.

On Feb. 17, to mark the end of Israeli Apartheid week, CAIA organized a march from the Israeli consulate to the nearest Chapters/Indigo store (video available HERE). On 10
May, CAIA confronted Heather Reisman at a book signing for Ralph Nader’s new book, The Seventeen Traditions. In the question and answer period, CAIA activists questioned Reisman about her support for the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers. Reisman refused to answer the questions posed to her and instead, shut down the event and walked out. Watch the video HERE.

On 9 June, pickets were held nationwide in front of Chapters/Indigo outlets in Ottawa, Halifax, Fredericton, Montreal, Toronto, Mississauga, St. Catharines, Hamilton, London, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria. This nationwide day of action was part of the commemoration of forty years of Israeli military occupation and was covered in Now newspaper. Other important media coverage on the campaign included the widely-distributed This Magazine article by Sue Ferguson “Tear Down That Wall”.

On 21 June, CAIA members picketed the Indigo Books and Music Inc. annual shareholders meeting and passed out leaflets to shareholders. One shareholder informed CAIA picketers afterwards that the involvement of majority owners Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz in Heseg was a topic of concern raised by shareholders during the meeting.

On 20 July, CAIA members attended the Chapters/Indigo festivities for the new Harry Potter book. Dressed up in costume – and with a special Harry Potter leaflet – CAIA distributed leaflets to the crowd and made sure to explain to those buying books about the Heseg foundation for Lone Soldiers. Many young Harry Potter fans asked for photographs alongside costumed CAIA members!

CAIA has received many letters of encouragement for the campaign from concerned book-lovers across the country. In Toronto, students at one high school have passed a motion not to purchase any books from Chapters/Indigo until the majority owners sever all links with the Heseg Foundation. CAIA has also been working with independent bookshops to carry material about the campaign, and is looking at ways to encourage people to buy books from these stores. As part of the campaign, CAIA has distributed thousands of attractive bookmarks across the province. These are available for download HERE.

    Against JNF support for Israeli Apartheid.

On 2 December, CAIA initiated a broad committee of Palestinian, Arab and Jewish organizations to protest the Jewish National Fund (JNF) annual Negev Dinner held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto. Over two hundred people from a host of community organizations braved the first snowstorm of the winter to protest the dinner. This year’s JNF dinner aimed to raise 7 million dollars for the refurbishment of the illegal “Canada Park”. Short video of the protest available HERE.

Protesters denounced fund raising for the park, which is built on the destroyed Palestinian villages of Beit Nuba, Yallu and Imwas seized and destroyed by the Israeli military in 1967. The 10,000 Palestinian residents of these villages were expelled and have been denied the right to return to their homes for the past 40-years.

The protest helped to break the media silence surrounding the JNF as one of the major institutions of Israeli apartheid. Two articles about the demonstration and the JNF were published in the Christmas edition of NOW newspaper, a widely circulated entertainment and news magazine in Toronto. HERE and HERE.

    On the screen…

A major success of CAIA’s work over the last year has been a large number of film screenings at the downtown Brunswick Theatre. Over 1300 people have attended these film showings, which have included the following:

16 March: Rachel Corrie – An American Conscience. This film was shown to mark the fourth anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie, a young US activist killed by an Israeli military bulldozer while attempting to block the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza.

17 April: The Iron Wall. Screened on the occasion of April 17, Palestinian Political Prisoners Day.

15 May: Route 181. Screenings of Michel Khleifi and Eyal Sivan’s critically acclaimed documentary and three other short documentary films by the Balata Film Collective were shown as part of the commemoration of the 59th Anniversary of Al Nakba, the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland in 1947-1948.

28-29 July: Occupation 101. This popular introductory documentary to the nature of Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was screened to three consecutive full-houses.

31 August: Naji Al Ali – An Artist with Vision. Screened in conjunction with the immigrant and refugee rights organization, No One Is Illegal, this film commemorated the assassination of Palestinian artist Naji Al Ali.

17 September: Massaker. This award winning film was premiered by CAIA to mark the 25th anniversary of the massacres in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982.

31 October: Goal Dreams. A film about the Palestinian national soccer team and the difficulties faced by them in contesting the world cup qualifying matches.

9 November: The Iron Wall. This film screening was part of the International Week of Action Against the Apartheid Wall.

The CAIA film collective will continue to screen films in the coming year. We are also looking to branch out and organize screenings in different parts of the city. If you are interested in helping out with this work, please email: endapartheid[at]riseup.net

    Public forums and cultural events…

Throughout 2007, CAIA organized and co-sponsored a number of educational public forums and arts/cultural community events.

On 4 April, CAIA organized the Toronto-leg of a tour by renowned US-based activist, media commentator and professor, Joel Kovel. At the talk, Kovel launched his highly acclaimed book, ‘Overcoming Zionism’, which pro-Israeli organizations in the US have subsequently attempted to prevent from being distributed.

In May, CAIA participated in the Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts with an exhibit titled: 40 Years of Israeli Occupation. The show ran from Tuesday May 1 – Saturday June 16 @ the Toronto Free Gallery. This visual arts show was both a documentation and confrontation of the lives and experiences of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. It was truly inspiring to see a large collection of art-work being produced by the anti-apartheid movement and to witness the tangible interaction between art and activism in the BDS campaign.

On 17 May, CAIA commemorated the 59th Anniversary of Al Nakba with a successful cultural event and dinner at the Steelworkers Hall. Survivors of Al Nakba and indigenous activists in Toronto addressed the community dinner. Greetings were given by solidarity groups across the city.

On 4 October, CAIA co-organized a public forum and book launch of “Palestine: The Canadian Connection in the Current Crisis”. The event was held at the Steelworkers Hall. It drew 130 people including supporters across a broad spectrum of organizations and communities.

    and on the streets.

On 5 May, CAIA participated in the highly successful Day of Action for Status for All, organized by the Toronto activist group No One Is Illegal. This important demonstration called for an end to displacement, deportation and detention and for full regularization of all non-status people.

The month of June marked the 40-year anniversary of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights. On 10 June, CAIA marched with Palestine House in a rally to mark the 40 year anniversary of the occupation.

On 29 June, CAIA participated in a demonstration at Queen’s Park as part of a national day of action in support of indigenous rights and self-determination. CAIA places support for indigenous sovereignty as central to its basis of unity. A statement issued in response to attacks by the Canadian government on indigenous rights can be seen HERE.

CAIA also joined a loud contingent of activist groups in two anti-war demonstrations organized by Toronto Coalition to Stop War in March and October. A CAIA speaker addressed the rallies and spoke about the links between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with Canadian support for Israeli apartheid.

    Into 2008

The coming 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of Al Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population from their homes and lands in 1947-1948. CAIA is an active participant in the Ontario Committee to Commemorate 60 Years of Al Nakba. We are convinced that this year will mark an important milestone in the Palestinian struggle for the right of return and an end to Israeli apartheid.

CAIA wishes to thank you for all your support and encouragement over 2007. Without this support, we could not have achieved so many successes this year.

Please help us in making 2008 another successful year of struggle:

1. Purchase CAIA Educational and Outreach Material: T-shirts, Posters, and the Labour for Palestine book. This is a great way to support grassroots activism and educate friends about Palestine. Material can be purchased online or in person from the Women’s Bookstore or email us at endapartheid[at]riseup.net.

2. Sign up to our e-bulletin to learn about our upcoming activities and receive action alerts. Email us at endapartheid[at]riseup.net to sign up. This is a low-volume list only for announcements.

3. Donate to CAIA: all monies are used to organize educational events about the Palestinian struggle and the nature of Israeli Apartheid. Please write cheques in the name of Peace and Justice Committee and mail to:

    PO Box 494 STN ‘P’
    Toronto ON
    M5S 2T1

4. Host a CAIA Speaker. The CAIA Speakers Bureau is always available to speak on a variety of topics pertaining to Palestine, Israeli Apartheid and the BDS campaign, we also have a list of educational documentaries that can be screened. Visit HERE for a list of topics or email speakers[at]caiaweb.org to arrange for a speaker.

For questions, more information or to get involved in CAIA please email us at: endapartheid[at]riseup.net

In Solidarity,
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA)

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