By Carolyn Turgeon
Two opposing Middle East movements are hitting Ryerson’s campus this week. Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) kicked off on Monday, and students are once again participating in the Toronto chapter of the movement, which began in 2006.
But this is the first time Israel Peace Week has come to Ryerson, an initiative started in 2010 by Hasbara Fellowships to “counter the growth” of IAW on campuses, according to their website.
“IAW is about telling the public about what the Israeli existence does to the Palestinian people,” said M.A., president of the Ryerson Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR). “[Their soldiers] control what goes in and out, even though it’s Palestinian land.”
He explained that he himself has never had the chance to go through the Palestinian territories of West Bank and Gaza. In 2005, he and his parents attempted to get into Gaza through Egypt, but quit after over six hours.
“[The soldiers] prolonged the situation,” he explained. The SPHR is hosting two IAW Toronto events on campus. The events for Israel Peace Week are being hosted by Hillel, Ryerson’s Jewish Students’ Association, along with the Ryerson Campus Conservatives and other non-campus groups.
“The Palestinian leadership are not legitimate partners for peace,” said Eitan Gilboord, Israel Affairs chair for Hillel. “[There have been] offers from Israel to make peace, but they’ve been rejected.”
Gilboord also said IAW does not support peace and is an attempt to negate dialogue about the situation.
“The comparison to apartheid is completely illegitimate,” he said. “Israel is a democratic country with full rights to all of its citizens.”
He believes IAW is a deliberate attempt to delegitimize the state of Israel. Israel Peace Week lasts from Feb. 20 to March 9, but the Ryerson events began on March 1. On March 6, they hosted Ezra Levant, the controversial Sun Media broadcaster, to discuss Israel Peace Week.
M.A. said he was not aware of any conflict between SPHR and Hillel, but did comment on their choice to invite Levant.
“We stray away from all controversial figures,” he said, adding that they had the opportunity to invite Gilad Atzmon, a well-known political activist and former Israeli soldier, but decided against it due to his provocative past.