An apartheid is a system that commits crimes against humanity.
According to the United Nations, these crimes are “inhuman acts resulting from the policies and practices of apartheid and similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination.”
Susana Deranger says apartheid still exists in Canada today.
Deranger spoke on a discussion panel in the First Nations University atrium on March 7. Jaqueline Anaquod was also a speaker at the event. The panel was part of the series the Regina Solidarity Group lined up for Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW). This year, the events take place from March 5 to 17.
“Apartheid is still happening here,” Deranger said. “And I was connecting those dots [at the discussion,] and seeing how we could all support one another.”
The topic of the discussion, ‘Negotiating Spaces: Apartheid in Canada and Palestine,’ compared the hardships of First Nations people and Palestinians.
“When you’re denying people their basic rights and their basic needs, like if you look at reserves, the reserves don’t have paved roads,” Deranger said. “There’s a lack of running water on reserves, there’s a lack of electricity, there’s a lack of health care and that’s what’s being denied to Palestinians as well.”
Deranger can personally relate to Palestinians losing their homes and land in Israel since she lost her home during the 1970s in Cardinal Lake, SK.
“Palestinians go to jail,” she said. “A disproportionate number of First Nations are in jail. [Governments are] tearing down homelands, they took us away from our homelands.
“It’s appalling to know that it’s happening in Palestine, and it’s heartbreaking because of the outright killing and murder that’s happening,” Deranger said. “It’s just on a slower scale here. It’s more subtle here, but it’s happening right here and it’s just as appalling here and people have to remember that. And that’s why we need to connect the dots and we have to understand that the Palestinian struggle is our struggle, and our struggle is their struggle, and we need one another.”
IAW is an event held every year in March, in more than 200 cities and campuses around the world, to raise awareness about the Israeli government’s policies on Palestinian people.
“Israeli Apartheid Week is an event held every year…to raise awareness about the Israeli government’s current policies that are occupying Palestinian land and kind of oppressing [Palestinians] there. and not allowing them to have equal rights to Israeli people,” said RPIRG outreach and events coordinator, Halena Seiferling.
The goal of IAW is to raise awareness about these policies as well as gain support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Israeli government.
The BDS campaign intends to stop the purchase and support of any Israeli product.
“The week is about different types of events – public lectures, documentary screenings, talks, that sort of thing – to raise awareness of it,” Seiferling said. “To let people know how they can become involved in a non-violent movement to pressure the Israeli government to change their ways. To hopefully start a [BDS] movement and show solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
During a teach-in on March 5 about the situation in Palestine, Kay Niedermayer, a member of the RPIRG board of directors, said IAW was developed in response to a grassroots call from Palestine in 2005. Though the BDS movement would affect Palestinians, Niedermayer said the Palestinians have said they would endure a bit more pain in order to get something to happen, and gain freedom.
“It’s appalling to know that it’s happening in Palestine, and it’s heartbreaking because of the outright killing and murder that’s happening. It’s just on a slower scale here. It’s more subtle here, but it’s happening right here and it’s just as appalling here and people have to remember that. And that’s why we need to connect the dots and we have to understand that the Palestinian struggle is our struggle, and our struggle is their struggle, and we need one another.” – Susana Deranger
Niedermayer said a number of things need to happen in Israel, including peaceful talks, ending the occupation of Palestinian territories, and restoring rights or return to the nearly 6 million Palestinian refugees.
“This [is] a right that has been recognized by the UN and the international community but has yet to be recognized by the Israeli government,” she said.
IAW has received some criticism from the Canadian government. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, released as statement on March 4 about the activities held during the week.
“Operating under the guise of academic freedom, Israel Apartheid Week is a misleading attempt to delegitimize and demonize the only true liberal democracy in the Middle East,” the statement reads. “IAW’s organizers choose to promote inflammatory propaganda over civil and enlightening debate. Their approach is at odds with the Canadian values of tolerance and mutual respect, and prevents meaningful dialogue from taking place.”
Seiferling disagrees with what the minister has to say.
“There’s a number of problems with Kenney’s reply, but basically I think the important thing is in that statement he talked about how IAW was silencing some people and sort of censoring the message,” she said. “And I think the important thing to note about that is we are often being silenced and [are being] censored ourselves. For example, here at the University of Regina, some posters for the Israeli Apartheid Week events have been taken down…So that was [concering] to see that voice in the argument was trying to be silenced.”
Seiferling added that IAW wants to promote “respectful conversations with everybody, and we can share our opinions, and we can all learn from each other. But we need to be able to have that voice in order to do so,” she said.
Niedermayer added that there is a clear distinction IAW makes between the Israeli government and Israeli people.
“The conversations we have are not intended to spread hate speech against any one group of people because of their religious or ethnic identity, but to hold a government accountable,” she said. “I believe that there are non-violent solutions to this conflict, and that it is possible and just for people to share the land and have access to equal human rights and services.”
IAW is hosting a final event called Artists Against Apartheid on March 17 at the Artful Dodger. Local visual and performance artists will stand against apartheid through through creative ways of resistance. Doors to the event open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. Admission is free of charge.
Photo courtesy of map- en.avaaz.org; pic-tadamon.ca