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At the opening of the Israeli Apartheid Week at the University of Toronto last night they invited a representative of Palestine House. Presented as a “martyr” organization defunded by the evil Conservative government, they had the opportunity to state their points.
The points are clear – inviting anti-Semitic speakers is a free speech right; all Palestinians in Israeli jails are political prisoners; the map in their logo is right, because you can’t define the Israeli borders; and Palestine might be liberated by the next year.
Here is the speech, as I wrote it down in shorthand and transcribed it:
“Good evening, with the Canadian government – Harper, Kenney – they state they share the same values as Israel, you would expect that they will take actions against Palestine House and other organizations that support the Palestinian struggle. We were surprised when we haven’t heard from them. Why? Were we doing something wrong, were we not political enough, are we not supporting the BDS campaign? And on January 31 they brought it to us: no, you guys are doing the right thing and that’s why we are cutting you off.
Unfortunately, 31 employees lost their jobs because of Kenney’s action. Fortunately, now we are independent from any pressure by this government. They used to come and put conditions on us: you don’t have to do this and you don’t have to do this. Even the charity BBQ – we were not allowed to do it. We didn’t listen; we continued to work in support of our struggle, in support of the Palestinian people’s struggle.
Mr. Kenney mentioned three issues in this letter for cutting the funding. The first one that we invited Abdul Atwan, the senior journalist based in London, who stated that Iran has the right to defend itself. We invited him and we were punished for inviting Atwan. By doing so he is telling us that we don’t have the right to (free) speech – and this is the Minister of Immigration.
The second issue was that Palestine House celebrated the release of 1000 political prisoners. Can you imagine that someone cut you off, because you celebrated the release and freedom of a thousand political prisoners? Mr. Kenney, we will not only celebrate the liberation of our political prisoners, our heroes, we will use all source of power, any action, any effort to release all the Palestinian prisoners.
The third issue Mr. Kenney mentioned is that Palestine House put a map of Palestine on the outside. (laughter in the audience) And by putting that map he said that you are denying the right of Israel to exist. We sent a letter: please Mr. Kenney, would you define the Israeli borders? We never heard back. We don’t deny anybody’s right to exist, we support the Israeli people, the Jewish people who live in Palestine to exist, but no one can pressure us to recognize the right of an apartheid state to exist in our land. Palestine belongs to the Palestinian people, those people who are living in Palestine; we will not rest until the last Palestinian refugee returns to Palestine. Palestine will always be unified regardless of who is living there.
The funding should make the Palestinians activists and those Palestinians, who claim that they are the leaders of the Palestinian Canadian community, they should show leadership to their community. And they should show that they can provide services to the Palestinian community without any funds, and we are planning to do so.
Before I end, let me just say one thing – today many people received an e-mail from an Israeli think tank. They are saying that they are coming to Toronto on March 26 to discuss with those organizations that criticized Israel. And why are they criticizing Israel? Isn’t that stupid? In their words, they’ll discuss the gradual erosion of the Israeli international support. And that’s a proof that the struggle of the Palestinian people, the anti-apartheid movement and the BDS campaign is solidifying and spreading, while the image of the Israelis and their supporters is shrinking.
Thank you, and don’t underestimate that work that Canada is doing, and let’s hope that the next year we will not have the ninth apartheid week – we will have a celebration of the liberated Palestine.”