March 18, 2010

Toronto in the struggle for Palestine solidarity

A View From Toronto – A Hub of
“Israel Delegitimization”

Rafeef Ziadah

As a Palestinian refugee, the city of Toronto has always been a place of exile to me. I usually think of it as a large (rather cold) waiting room on my way back to Haifa where my grandparents were born. However, following the publication of a recent report by the prominent Israeli think-tank, the Reut Institute, I felt some pride for my adopted city. The Reut Institute declared Toronto a “hub of Israel delegitimization” and that the growing campaign calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel had become a “strategic threat.” The report confirmed to those of us involved in the BDS movement that our work was not in vain. The tireless work of many people around the world to build an effective movement to challenge Israeli apartheid was beginning to pay off. The aim of this article is to look at the key arguments of the Reut Institute’s report and to use them to interpret the response to the recently-concluded Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), held in Toronto (and also started there) and numerous cities across Canada and the world.

Delegitimization Network

The premise of the Reut Institute Report is that there is a Resistance Network (made up of groups like Hizbullah and Hamas) and a Delegitimization Network. Toronto falls into the latter as a key hub of BDS activities around the world. According to the report, the delegitimization network aims to “eliminate the Zionist model by turning Israel into a pariah state through challenging the moral legitimacy of its authorities and very existence (as opposed to its policies); tying its military hands through the use of non-military tools such as international law; and undermining its economy through boycotts, divestments, and sanctions.”

It is true that the BDS movement has been based on clear principles of human rights and international law and attempts to use these as a means of “tying [Israel's] military hands.” These principles are summarized in the three demands found in the Palestinian BDS Call, signed by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in July 2005:

1.ending the occupation and dismantling the Apartheid wall;
2.equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and
3.the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

In the academic and cultural fields, the BDS movement derives its perspective from the Palestinian Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel issued a year earlier in July 2004. These two calls represent the most authoritative and widely supported strategic statements to have emerged from Palestine in decades, signed onto by all political factions, labour, student and women organizations, and refugee groups. What the Reut Institute calls a “delegitimization network” is a Palestinian-led movement initiated by those living under Israeli apartheid and exiled from their land. It is this call for solidarity that cities around the world are taking up.

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