Joining a national campaign advocating for Palestinians and criticizing Israeli government policies, the Emory Advocates for Justice in Palestine (EAJP) kicked off a weeklong campaign — the Israeli Apartheid Week — last night.
Events will be held until Thursday, ending with a speech by Norman Finkelstein, a controversial author and scholar of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who is Jewish but vociferously supports Palestinians.
It is the first time the larger Apartheid Week movement comes to Atlanta. It is also being held in 43 other U.S. cities.
According to College sophomore Saba Khalid, a member of the coordinating committee for EAJP, Apartheid Week is a national movement that aims to show that the security barrier separating Israel and the West Bank is comparable to the South African Apartheid — a legally enforced racial segregation system.
“The community as a whole has come together and is supporting us,” Khalid said. “Atlanta is very excited to see a separate Apartheid Week in their own city.”
In November, EAJP raised a symbolic wall on Asbury Circle to protest the Israeli West-Bank barrier as a part of the similarly named but distinct “International Week Against the Apartheid Wall.”
After the wall was put together, three unidentified individuals knocked the display down. EAJP members guarding the wall also reported being spat on by passers-by. Emory Police Department was notified of both incidents.
Presentations will be held every evening this week, including speeches by Zeiad Shamrouch, a Palestinian refugee and journalist from Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank, and Berry College psychology professor Steven Bell.
Khalid said each presentation will demonstrate a different aspect of apartheid and explain why the term is appropriate for the situation in Israel.
Last night, Kali Akuno, director of education, training and field work for the U.S. Human Rights Network, gave the first Apartheid Week address, which was geared toward understanding apartheid and its presence in both South Africa and Israel. College senior and EAJP Coordinating Committee member Nicholas Juliano also spoke.
A rally is also planned, which Khalid said she hopes will build and direct energy into something other than sitting in a lecture hall.
Juliano wrote in an e-mail to the Wheel that he thinks it is important for students to attend these events because in the past, students have played a big role in challenging racism.
“Student groups led the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against South Africa’s Apartheid system, and today they are doing the same,” Juliano wrote. He wrote that the event allows faculty and students to participate in “the tradition of those who came before us.”
The apartheid label for Israel, Juliano said, was endorsed by the same people who confronted South Africa’s policies, namely Nelson Mandela.
Juliano wrote that he hopes EAJP’s message of justice will help the community put aside their preconceived notions on the issue.
“When students accuse us of belittling what happened in South Africa, our response is the same as Nelson Mandela’s: what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is actually a worse form of apartheid,” he wrote.
Juliano wrote that the organization process was exhausting, but that it was necessary and rewarding. He wrote that EAJP was formed less than a year ago to represent students who believe in standing up for human rights and justice against institutionalized racism.
“In under a year, and without being part of a larger organization, we will be bringing the top speakers on the issue to Emory’s campus and campaigning for a scholarship to a student from Gaza,” Juliano wrote. “It’s a reflection of our drive and tenacity.”
At a lecture on campus last week, the Israeli consul for the Southeastern United States, Reda Mansour, disputed the use of the word “apartheid” to describe Israeli policy. Mansour, a minority in Israel, said the country’s citizens are unified, and that no government policy segregates citizens.
— Contact Alice Chen