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What is Israeli Apartheid Week?

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) began in Toronto, Canada in February 2005. IAW is intended to build on previous activist work for the equal application of international law and human rights standards for all in Palestine/Israel by including analysis of the discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and the dispossession of Palestinian refugees, both consequences of Israel’s racist structure and history.

IAW took inspiration from the United Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, issued in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian civil society and political organizations. The demands of this call include:

  1. Full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel;
  2. An end to the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
  3. And the protection of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in U.N. resolution 194.
IAW began as an educational campaign that sought to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies, practices, and institutions that affected all Palestinians – those inside Israel, in the Occupied Territories, and in the diaspora. Drawing on a powerful anti-apartheid framework that synthesized seemingly disparate Israeli practices of domination, IAW sought to promote a rigorous analysis of Israeli apartheid and to clarify the moral issues at stake, namely that international activists had to be in solidarity with all Palestinians, rather than a particular constituency, and that the main form of this solidarity is to work as part of the global campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law (as called for by Palestinian civil society in the 9 July 2005 call for BDS).

An important aspect of IAW is that activists in each city decide what IAW should look like in their city; how it can best develop and advance their campaigns; how to use IAW as a space to connect with activists in other local and international struggles; and how to use it to develop stronger networks with other places. This is why IAW has taken different forms in each place that it has been organized.

The apartheid analysis has helped highlight the colonial context the Israeli state and its striking similarity with movements such as the Pied Noire in colonial Algeria, the white settlers in Rhodesia and- above all- to Afrikaners in Apartheid South Africa. We have used this framework to make historical and concrete connections with other struggles against racism, discrimination, and colonialism especially indigenous rights movements in North America.

Organizing IAW has not been without its challenges. Since its inception in 2005, IAW has been a target of demonization by pro-Israel organizations and conservative media outlets determined to smear our activities and harass student activists. In many cases, these organizations have been supported by campus administrations attempting to ban IAW events on campuses. Nevertheless, these repressive measures have only strengthened IAW and are further confirmation of our success and ability to raise student awareness of Israel’s practices. IAW organizers have successfully insisted on their opposition to racism of all sorts, and defended their right to speak, organize, and use public space.