Currently, the University of Toronto and York University — two of the largest universities in Canada — have millions of dollars invested in companies that are actively involved in and profit from Israel’s significant breaches of international law and abhorrent human rights violations against the Palestinian people. When we ask whether our universities should be invested in companies such as BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Hewlett Packard and Lockheed Martin, we are asking whether it is acceptable for a university to be complicit in their actions and to justify their investment with claims of neutrality and acceptable profitability.

During last year’s Israeli Apartheid Week, Students Against Israeli Apartheid at U of T and York U decisively answered this question by launching a joint divestment campaign demanding that our universities immediately divest and refuse to reinvest from the aforementioned companies. In launching this campaign only a year after Carlton University, we joined the world wide Boycott, Divestments, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which was launched by 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005. The demands of this human rights campaign are: the ending of Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab and Palestinian lands and dismantling the Apartheid Wall; recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respecting, protecting and promoting the right of return of Palestinian refugees as stipulated in UN resolution 194. In accordance with the BDS call, SAIA has demanded that:

1. York University and the University of Toronto immediately divest from and refuse to reinvest in BAE     Systems, Northrop Grumman, Hewlett Packard and Lockheed Martin.
2. York University and the University of Toronto refrain from investing in all companies involved in           violations of international law.
3. York University and the University of Toronto work with students, faculty and staff to undergo a           democratic and transparent process to ensure accountability to principles of social and                       environmental justice.

Our global petition has already garnered support from over 100 faculty members and organizations. Over half of these signatories are professors from Toronto’s universities, and many of the rest are faculty in a diversity of disciplines across Canada. In addition, notable signatories include world-renowned academic Judith Butler, co-founder of the BDS campaign Omar Barghouti and award-winning filmmaker Ken Loach.

This year, the 8th annual Israeli Apartheid Week — which started here in Toronto — continues its push for BDS on campuses in 13 cities around Canada and over 110 cities around the world (and counting). Tuesday March 6 marked the opening night of IAW at U of T, with “The Economic Mappings of Apartheid”, which focused on the specific role of Canadian universities and the Canadian government in maintaining Israeli apartheid. The panel featured Dalit Baum, Israeli professor, activist, and co-founder of Who Profits, and Justin Podur, a Toronto-based professor, writer, and editor for Z Communications and killingtrain.com.

Tonight Wednesday March 7 our night event, “Women’s Resistance: From the Uprisings to Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions” will draw linkages between the role and struggle of women in the Arab uprisings, the Palestinian solidarity movement, and local activism in Canada. It will feature Egyptian journalist and revolutionary socialist activist Deena Gamil; Carlton University professor and Arab feminist scholar Nahla Abdo (author of Women in Israel: Race, Gender, and Citizenship); and local Palestinian activist Monira Kitmotto, who has recently returned from traveling and working around the Middle East. 

On Friday March 9, at “Cutting the Ties to Israeli Apartheid: the Cultural and Academic Boycott” Palestinian poet and human rights activist, Remi Kanazi, will speak on a panel alongside Mary-Jo Nadeau, writer, activist, and instructor at U of T and co-founder of Faculty for Palestine; and Richard Fung, video artist, theorist and a professor at OCAD University.

Saturday March 10 will conclude the series of lectures with “A People’s Interrogation of International Law and Human Rights”, led by Frank Barat, a coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, and Faisal Bhaba, lawyer, researcher and former vice-chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Israeli Apartheid Week will conclude with a cultural event on the night of Saturday March 10 at the Tranzac Club, featuring Palestinian-American spoken word poet and activist Remi Kanazi, hip hop/soul artist collective Red Slam, and southern African activist-scholar and artist Chand-nee.

Last year, the power of civilian protest against injustice crystalized across the globe in unprecedented ways, and put to rest the public’s fear of powerlessness. It is the same spirit that has embodied IAW for the past eight years, and it is based on the same demands for human rights, democracy and governmental accountability we push our universities to take a stance and divest from Israeli Apartheid.

Check out Campus Notes’ listing of IAW events around Canada.
For further information and a full programme please visit www.toronto.apartheidweek.org

For more information on SAIA and our divestment campaign, please visit http://www.saia.ca/