On the core issue, I can't really add much more to what I said last year. Is Israel an apartheid regime? Or is this simply a kind of moral analogy?
In South Africa, a Black majority was super-exploited by a white minority. In Israel plus the occupied territory of the West Bank, the Palestinians are the minority. They are oppressed, and many are exploited to the point that they may even have been forced to pay the costs of their own colonization. But, on the basis of economics, one might want to make a distinction.
Nevertheless, that there are apartheid-like elements present in Israel and the West Bank is beyond doubt. Ask any Israeli Arab, any West Bank Palestinian, any family evicted from their home in East Jerusalem, any displaced Bedouin in the Negev region shunted aside to make room for Jewish residents, their villages bulldozed, their crops destroyed. (For the geography-challenged, that's in Israel proper.)
Or ask any Black South African. Bishop Desmond Tutu knows all about apartheid. Is he less of an authority on the subject than Peter Shurman, PC MPP from Thornhill, who presumes to speak for South African Blacks? Why not actually ask them what they think?
There is, obviously, a debate to be had. In my experience, that's what Israel Apartheid Week is all about. At my own school there will be a series of public panel discussions. I attended one of those last year.
But the pro-Israel folks have, this year, launched a few preemptive strikes. There's the viral video "Size Doesn't Matter." There's the timely release of B'nai Brith's catalogue of incidents, large and small, of anti-Semitism in Canada--an annual list about which even the National Post's Jonathan Kay has expressed healthy scepticism. Then there's yesterday's bizarre resolution in the Ontario legislature condemning Israel Apartheid Week. (I note that Liberal Phil McNeely, who once spoke his mind but was slapped down in 2006, remains cowed.)
Said Shurman, who introduced the motion: "Israeli Apartheid Week is not a dialogue, it's a monologue, and it is an imposition of a view by the name itself – the name is hateful, it is odious." And to ensure that only one monologue is permissible, B'nai Brith's Frank Dimant welcomes this as the beginning of a process to ban the event entirely.
Of course there is no "monologue" going on during the week's events, but public opportunities for engagement. The "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions" campaign is likely to be a focus. (I'm unhappy about academic boycotts, myself, but not with this sort of divestment.)
So let's talk. I urge folks of all stripes to go to some of these panel discussions in their own communities, as I plan to in mine, and raise all the points they wish. While there's still time.