Israeli Apartheid Week 2022: Final Round Up
This year’s edition of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) had a special taste! It came after a consensus had grown among international human rights organizations that Israel is guilty of perpetrating apartheid against the Palestinian people. IAW, as a major campaign of the BDS movement, takes some of the credit for popularizing and mainstreaming the analysis of Israel’s regime of settler-colonialism, military occupation and apartheid. Aside from its important educational value, IAW this year, like in all its previous editions, mobilized more progressives, especially on campuses, and grassroots organizations to contribute more to our liberation struggle.
Launched in London and Leiden on March 21st, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and ending in Gaza in June, IAW 2022 featured approximately 200 initiatives in 26 countries on four continents.
This year’s theme was Art and Culture as a tool of Resistance. Amnesty International’s groundbreaking report on Israel’s apartheid against all Palestinians, issued only weeks before the launch of the IAW, also took center stage in many of these events.
For the past two years, IAW had been impacted by the pandemic. But this year we organized in-person, online as well as hybrid events, rallies and activities, engaging a wide world audience.
IAW is traditionally strongest on college campuses, and 2022 was no exception. It witnessed many prominent events organized by student groups and in some cases academics based on this year’s special theme. A striking number of in-person intersectional events were held in a multitude of communities. In Dublin activists organised a ‘Moving Gallery’ to highlight Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing. In Santiago, a concert against apartheid and Chile’s complicity in it was IAW’s highlight there. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia a run for Palestine was held with more than four hundred runners participating.
Intersectionality was among the common threads tying many initiatives: the Palestinian struggle against Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid, a paradigmatic form of institutionalized and systemic racism, is widely recognized today as being organically connected to struggles and resistance movements against all forms of racism and oppression all over the world.
Here are some of the most inspiring highlights from each region:
Palestine and the Arab world:
In Palestine, the week witnessed the launch of two student BDS clubs at Birzeit and An-Najah universities. Students organized eight events in the period between 11 and 18 April. The BDS club at Birzeit university, along with the Right to Education Campaign, held events to raise awareness on Palestinian resistance through art.
The organizers hosted activists from South Africa and Latin America to highlight the intersectionalities in the struggles of students around the world, especially the Global South. At An-Najah National University, students launched the week with an exhibition focusing on the Palestinian identity through arts and heritage. In both universities, a workshop was held on the importance of Amnesty International's latest report that described Israel’s apartheid system as a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity and called for accountability to dismantle it.
Gaza also joined IAW with two important events: one was composed by a drama play, dabkeh dance and a memorial of the late Lebanese comrade Samah Idriss; the second was a lecture on Israeli apartheid based on the Amnesty International report. Both events had a large attendance and audience participation.
Launching of BDS club in An-Najah University, Nablus
The continent of Africa held the greatest number of IAW initiatives, compared to other regions. Forty five events were held in South Africa, Kenya and Swaziland, among them demonstrations, marches, conferences, and on and offline seminars.
The events in South Africa showed once more the linked historic and present struggles of the peoples of Africa and the Palestinian people against apartheid, imperialism and colonial exploitation.
In this vein, several events focused on the relationship between race, gender and class, conceiving the fight to end apartheid as a true form of internationalism that can connect and unify racialized people across the world.
Students of the University of KwaZulu-Natal organizing an IAW event
In India, solidarity groups organized a public discussion with prominent journalists John Dayal and Seema Mustafa, reflecting on effective solidarity with Palestine even as the far-right Indian government and apartheid Israel become close allies. In Malaysia, two events brought together Palestine solidarity supporters both physically and online. These included a demonstration and leafleting in a park, as well as an online rally with a series of videos. The videos included performances by Kayda Aziz and by Palestinian school children, a speech on apartheid by Prof. Peter Slezak, of the University of New South Wales, and an informative video on apartheid by Amnesty International.
Groups in Japan and Indonesia made initial forays into IAW organizing. BDS Japan Bulletin organized a lecture on Business and Human Rights by Prof Saul Takahashi, human rights expert and former Deputy Head of the OHCHR office in Ramallah. BDS Indonesia organized their first ever public event - a conversation between Saleh Hijazi, Amnesty International, and Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies and Jewish Voice for Peace board member. The conversation looked at the Amnesty International apartheid report in depth, and addressed questions on organizing to dismantle Israel’s apartheid regime.
In Europe, dozens of campus groups from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Italy to France hosted Israeli Apartheid Week events. Apart from university campuses, BDS groups also organized cultural events to highlight the importance of art and culture in the fight against racism and apartheid.
These events included film screenings, Dabkeh dance performances, debates with artists and anti-apartheid activists on the role of culture and art in the anti-racist struggle, and protests in public spaces. Several marches against racism were also organized by anti-racist movements on 21 March, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“Israeli Apartheid Week is a great moment to be connected with other movements and groups fighting racism and any form of discrimination. We attract a new public and we can engage them in our BDS campaigns for the future,” said an IAW organizer in the Netherlands.
A collection of images coming from different campuses where Youth for Palestine Solidarity Campaign organized activities
BDS France Paris organized a Dabkeh performance and then took a picture in one of the main square of Paris
Dozens of campus groups hosted IAW events on their campuses, including chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in the US, and Students for Palestinian Human Rights. These events included film screenings, culture sharing, and rallies. Mohammed El-Kurd, a prominent Palestinian activist and writer and The Nation’s first-ever Palestine Correspondent, traveled to speak at IAW events at campuses across the US.
Large grassroots groups and community organizations also put on events, including the launch of a major new national Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) campaign in Canada, Together Against Apartheid. Campaigners also organized events around specific BDS campaign targets, including Pillsbury in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and G4S in Portland, Oregon.
BDS event targeting Pillsbury in Pittsburgh
Student activists at IAW event with Mohammed El Kurd