Chanting “Fight the power, turn the page: Heather, Jerry, hear our rage!”, one hundred and fifty protesters marched from the Israeli consulate to a nearby Indigo Books and Music store in Toronto on Saturday afternoon. They were protesting Indigo’s majority shareholders’ support for Israeli Apartheid. The day of action was organized by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) as the culmination of the third annual Israeli Apartheid Week.
Israeli Apartheid Week was a series of lectures held on campuses in Canada (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa), the UK (Oxford, Cambridge), and the US (New York) to highlight Israel’s apartheid policies. On Friday in Toronto, the keynote address was given by Dr. Jamal Zahalka, a member of the Israeli Knesset. Dr. Zahalka faces investigation in Israel for incitement for his lecture, “Debunking the Myth of Israeli Democracy”. This infringement on the free speech rights of an elected politician underscores the lack of democracy for Palestinians living under Israeli Apartheid. A law that would revoke the citizenship of those who express disloyalty to the idea of “a Jewish and democratic state” has already passed its first reading in the Knesset, Zahalka explained to the audience of 350 people who gathered at a University of Toronto auditorium on Friday. The law clearly targets the Palestinian minority inside Israel, who Zahalka represents, for statelessness.
Israeli Apartheid Week and the Day of Action were held to highlight Canadian support for Israeli Apartheid, and specifically the support of the majority shareholders of Indigo Books and Music Inc., Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz, who founded Heseg : Foundation for Lone Soldiers. At its peak, the foundation will distribute up to $3M a year to provid scholarships and other support to former ‘Lone Soldiers’ in the Israeli military. ‘Lone Soldiers’ are individuals who have no family in Israel but decide to join the Israeli military. As Israeli soldiers, they participate in a military that enforces apartheid by operating checkpoints restricting Palestinian freedom of movement, enforces the occupation of Palestinian land, and has a documented history of human rights violations.
“We’re here to put pressure on the majority owners of Indigo Books and Music Inc. to stop supporting the Israeli military through Heseg: Founcation for Lone Soldiers,” explained Andrew Hugill, a spokesperson of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid.
Naomi Binder Wall of the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation, and a CAIA spokesperson, explained: “This store [Indigo Books and Music] presents itself as a benign cultural institution. But its majority shareholders have used the considerable wealth they have derived from it to support the Israeli military, which has been accused of war crimes in Lebanon and Palestine, and has broken international laws regarding the treatment of prisoners.” Binder Wall continued, “”As a Jew, I’m outraged that Reisman and Schwartz are supporting the Israeli military through Heseg: Foundation for Lone Soldiers.”
“Israel is an apartheid state, founded on racism and discrimination,” said Hugill. “This boycott is part of a worldwide campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to isolate Israel until it ends the occupation of all Arab lands, release all Palestinian and Arab political prisoners, give the right of return to Palestinian refugees according to UN resolution 194, and grant equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel,” said Hugill.
The call for boycott, divestment and sanctions came from 170 Palestinian organizations. Reena Katz of the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation explained the importance of this call for the possibility of a solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict: “Our understanding of restorative justice and true democracy comes from the thousands of
Palestinian led progressive, grassroots groups and coalitions world wide.”