Saturday, March 13, 2010

Israel Apartheid Week in Duluth--Spring is here!

The best way to characterize IAW events in Duluth is to begin at the end--with the final response to the final question, which participant Sylvia Schwarz answered at the College of St. Scholastica: Given the enormity and depth of this long-standing injustice, how can one be hopeful? Sylvia responded that she was more hopeful than ever because even two years ago if such an event had taken place, it would have been ignored, but now attention to the issue is taking off not only in Minnesota but across the globe.

On March 3rd and 4th IAW events took place in Duluth on all four local campuses--the University of Wisconsin-Superior, The University of Minnesota-Duluth, Lake Superior College and the College of Saint Scholastica. In all cases the overwhelming portion of organizing work was done by student activists with support from local members of MN BBC.

Participants included MN BBC and IJAN member Sylvia Schwarz of St. Paul, who shared information and reflections on her recent participation in the Gaza Freedom March, and local MN BBC members Bret Thiele and Mayra Gomez, who shared information and powerful visuals of their NGO work on housing demolition and water rights from their visits to the Occupied West Bank.

The speakers' comments could be broadly summarized in three main points: 1) Apartheid for Palestinians both inside Israel proper as well as in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza is a fact of life. As demonstrated by Bret and Mayra, the Wall, the checkpoints, lack of water rights, and housing demolitions reinforce this reality daily. 2) Apartheid is a conscious policy of the Israeli government and is supported directly and indirectly by the United States in cooperation with Egypt. In the view of Sylvia Schwarz, the government of Israel has never been a sincere or honest negotiating partner. 3) All presenters strongly advocated a broad based, active, aggressive, non-violent BDS movement in support of Palestinian rights as reiterated numerous times by UN votes and world opinion. There was also agreement that we can never depend on elected governments to accomplish these ends. We will have to do it ourselves, and it's happening.

Altogether over 100 students and community members participated in the 4 events, and from their attention and the quality of their questions, it was clear that this issue is on the front burner and hard questions are being asked including questions about the viability of the so-called two-state solution. A good number of attendees signed postcards in support of divestment by Minnesota of Israel bonds and submitted their names to be part of local activist efforts to end apartheid in Israel/Palestine. The grassroots are peaking through snow in Duluth and if IAW is any indication, we can anticipate a productive growing season!

--Bob Kosuth

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