Montreal activists call on Mulroney to denounce Israeli Apartheid

Tadamon! supporters picket outside an Indigo bookstore in Montreal, June 2007. (Hoda Asmar)


MONTREAL, CANADA, 18 September — The Montreal network of the Coalition against Israeli Apartheid welcomed former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney during a launch of his autobiography at Indigo bookstore by unfurling a banner denouncing the apartheid situation under which Palestinians are living.

Marcel Sevigny, a member of the network, wanted to call on Mulroney to speak out against the apartheid system now being used against the Palestinian people, given the role Mulroney is said to have played in bringing down the apartheid system in South Africa. However, Sevigny was removed by security before he could do so.

Several other people who have been active in opposing Israeli apartheid in Montreal were identified by the many security agents and forcibly removed by police from the public event without any provocation. “That they would kick us out without cause just shows how afraid Chapters [part of Indigo Books & Music Inc.] is of having an open dialogue on this issue,” said Randa Chalhoub, who was removed before the event began.

Montrealers also used the event to denounce the role that Heather Reisman, major shareholder and CEO of Indigo Books and Music Inc, plays in the Heseg Foundation for “lone soldiers.” “Lone soldiers” are individuals who have no link to Israel, but join its army.

Reisman was asked, “How do you justify establishing the Heseg foundation, which, according to its website, was set up to ‘express gratitude and provide support’ to what most people would call mercenaries who fight in the Israeli army?”

At the same time, a “Boycott Indigo, Boycott Israeli Apartheid” banner was unfurled at the back of the room, facing Mulroney and Reisman. Security immediately converged on the trio and roughly forced them from the room. As they left, the three informed the public about Heseg and Reisman’s support for apartheid in Israel, challenging Mulroney to see the link to South African Apartheid and calling on the public to boycott Indigo/Chapters.

There was no chance to ask Reisman to explain the fact that Doron Almog, a former Israeli military commander, wanted for war crimes in the UK, is on the board of directors of Heseg.

Those who were removed distributed information about Heseg and the Indigo boycott outside the bookstore.

The action was organized in the context of a boycott campaign targeting Indigo-Chapters across Canada for almost a year because of Reisman and Schwartz’s involvement in Heseg, which they established in 2005. Between 5,000 and 6,000 such “lone soldiers” can be found in the ranks of the Israeli army, helping to uphold the apartheid system in Palestine.

The Coalition against Israeli Apartheid is calling on people to cease buying from Indigo and Chapters bookstores until such time as Reisman and Schwartz publicly cut their ties with the Heseg foundation.

According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, 1,496 Palestinians — mostly civilians — were killed by the Israeli army since 2004. Since 1967, more than 12,000 houses have been destroyed by the Israeli army, leaving more than 70,000 Palestinians homeless. Israel systematically oppresses the Palestinian population through legal discrimination amounting to an apartheid system operating along the lines of ethnicity and religion. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are forced to live imprisoned in controlled zones, divided by walls, militarized barricades and highways reserved for Israelis. It is extremely difficult to travel between these zones and a permit from Israeli military authorities is required.

During Israel’s six-week attack on Lebanon last summer, over 1,100 Lebanese were killed as a result of the deliberate bombing of villages, roads and infrastructure. Tens of thousands of Lebanese were wounded and maimed during these attacks, homes, schools, power plants, hospitals, ports and roads were targeted and destroyed and up to one million cluster bomblets were dumped by Israel on Lebanon.

The action took place on the 25th anniversary of the massacre at Sabra and Shatila. Sabra and Shatila are Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon, where hundreds of civilians were brutally killed by Lebanese Forces and other militia in a massacre orchestrated by Ariel Sharon and the Israeli army.

The boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign is a response to an appeal launched by more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005.

Tadamon! (“Solidarity!” in Arabic) is a Montreal-based collective of social-justice organizers & media activists, working to build relationships of solidarity with grassroots political movements for social and economic justice between Beirut and Montreal.

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