Israeli Apartheid Week 2022

Art Against Apartheid

8 April, 2022

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is a global event which was scheduled to start on the 21st of March 2022. Various events were organised, internationally and locally, centred around one global theme. The theme for 2022 was ‘Art Against Apartheid’, which aimed to showcase the role of art and culture in resistance and to highlight the way in which art and culture have been used in the decolonisation efforts and in resisting colonial and occupying forces, against appropriation and oppression, particularly through dance, music, poetry, theatre, and story-telling.
In South Africa, IAW was scheduled to begin after anti-racism week, which led up to Human Rights’ Day on the 21st of March. This directly tied in with the global theme which aimed to unite under the banner of anti-racism and highlight global, intersectional struggles for justice. Our focus as Palestine Solidarity Organisations in South Africa was to draw on this theme and express, use, and sharpen art for resistance. 
We had a full calendar of events, both online and in-person, planned for IAW. As the PSA we hosted 3 events, all of which people were able to attend in-person. Our first event was on Wednesday, the 23rd of March at the Women’s Jail in Constitution Hill and focused on political prisoners and detainees. The event aimed to highlight the stories of political detainees in South Africa and those in Palestine, both under an Aparthied system. We wanted to show the direct parallels between Apartheid South Africa and Apartheid Israel and the way in which administrative detention has been used to stifle resistance. The event was titled ‘In Their Own Words: Recollections of Political Prisoners in Palestine and South Africa’ and aimed to share the lived experiences of political prisoners and highlight their plight. The programme was facilitated by Seadimo Tlale, a 2021 UCLA-Sonke Health and Human Rights Fellow and featured stories from Zubeida Jaffer and Prema Naidoo, both of whom were detained and faced immense hardships in prison under the Apartheid regime. From Palestine, Ra’ed Abu Hommus, Meyyassar Attiyyati,  and Neta Golan, an Israeli anti-apartheid activist, shared their experiences of being detained in Israeli jails. Comrade Ra’ed also managed to dial in on the phone and speak to a Palestinian political prisoner currently in an Israeli jail on the line so we could share his story with us first-hand.

We learned through the discussion that Palestinians in Israeli jails are tortured, treated inhumanely, not allowed visitations from their families and are detained for an indefinite period of time. Those who have served their sentences are still detained in the prisons as administrative detainees despite having already served their sentences. The experience for Palestinians versus Israelis in these jails differs vastly, as explained by Comrade Neta. As an Israeli, she has more rights and is able to serve her sentence and be released at the end but a Palestinian has little to no hope of ever being free if incarcerated. The way that Israeli prisoners are treated in these jails is also different to the inhumane treatment the Palestinians face. Comrade Meyyassar shared with us the treatment of women in these jails with the little to no visitation from their children and the abuse meted out against them daily. Israel does not discriminate in its treatment of women, children, or men. All are dealt harshly in military courts with military judges, with Israelis having separate courts and judges. The Apartheid system in Israel aims to ensure continued separation of Palestinians in all aspects, furthering their oppression and suppression. 
We also heard from Horst Kleinschmidt from the Tambo-Dadoo Palestine Legal Fund on ways in which we can show solidarity towards Palestinian families of administrative detainees, reflecting on how families in Europe wrote letters of solidarity to families of political prisoners in South Africa and how this should be replicated by South Africans for families in Palestine. Seeing as administrative detention and prisons are used as a primary way of stifling dissent, there are thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails, with their families suffering along with them. As an organization our aim is to work with our comrades in Palestine and strengthen solidarity with the political prisoners on the ground here in South Africa. We are hoping to develop a sustainable campaign which will further solidarity for Palestinians globally and in South Africa. 

Our second event was held on Friday the 25th of March at The Forge in Braamfontein,  titled ‘Poetic Resistance’ and was a poetry evening focusing on showcasing the role of artists, musicians and poets in the struggle against oppression and colonialism. Artists, musicians, poets, writers, and creatives have played an instrumental part in highlighting the struggle of the people against oppression. When the world was plunged into chaos at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, creatives stepped up to the plate to provide people with much needed relief from the harsh reality the pandemic and lockdowns threw us in. This highlights the extremely important role creatives play in our society. Art, music, poetry, and stories were a form of resistance used by the people against the apartheid regime in South Africa and played a crucial role in dismantling it. Similarly, art has been used in Palestine to speak out against Apartheid Israel and forms an important part of the struggle of the people of Palestine. 
The aim of the event was to explore the role of art and culture in resisting occupying, colonial, and oppressive forces; here in South Africa and in Palestine and to showcase the diverse voices involved in the solidarity space. Poets used different forms of poetry to highlight the struggles of the people of Palestine and draw parallels with the struggles faced by people here, during Apartheid and currently. The programme was facilitated by poet and creative Shari Maluleke and featured poets such as Zohra Saloojee, Zaharah Msomi, Zama Madinana, Karabo Word, Raees Noorbhai, Miguel Chicane, Sunny Morgan, Allan Horowitz, Sarah Lubala, Vikram Kershan, Frank Meintjies, Lara Reddy, Ayesha Kajee, Okuhle Esethu, and Hassan Lorgat. The poets’ performances were backed by Kwenza Sibeke who played the saxophone, guitar, and piano and provided an amazing ambiance for the night. 
Given that the theme of IAW this year was ‘Art Against Apartheid’, it was important to host an event which focused on including art in the way in which we explore solidarity and resistance. Art has been commonly used as a medium of resistance throughout time, helping express the need for freedom and liberation from various occupying forces. May it be poetry, music, song, dance, or paintings and graffiti, art is an effective medium of showcasing resistance. Songs such as ‘Dammi Falastini’ by Mohammed Assaf and ‘Long Live Palestine’ by Lowkey, along with Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry, are a prime example of how Palestinians have used art to continue being vocal about the illegal military occupation and Apartheid regime of Israel. As solidarity organisations, it is important that we continue to showcase this art and remain vocal about the ways in which Palestinians are fighting against Apartheid Israel. We will be hosting regular art showcases and poetry evenings, details of which will be communicated on our social media.

Our last event for IAW was held on Sunday, the 27th of March at the cricket field in Marks Park in Emmarentia where we had a Picnic for Palestine and a free movie night. The Palestine Solidarity Alliance Youth League, in collaboration with PSC Wits, hosted this event, with food vendors and different pop ups present. It was a beautiful, sunny day for a picnic and we saw numerous families come through with gazebos and chairs to enjoy the sunshine, good music and pop ups. 
We were joined on the day by different vendors such as Zaytun who sold Palestinian items and keffiyehs, Scroll It ice cream and noodle bar, Buns & Bowls, Dhodats Burgers, King Arabic Sandwich, and Delightful Donuts. The relaxation continued into the night for the movie when we screened the Palestinian drama film ‘Omar’ which follows the story of Omar, the Palestinian baker who is captured and tortured by the Israeli authorities after killing an Israeli soldier. It was a fun day of picnicking and spending time with family and friends. 

Other Palestine Solidarity Organisations (PSOs) also engaged in successful events throughout IAW. We saw South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP) host a walk through tour of Sophiatown and poetry session while Wits PSC hosted their annual balloon release and an engaging students and workers solidarity panel discussion which explored the intersectionality between student and worker issues in South Africa and Palestine. PSC Gauteng hosted a webinar which focused on workers struggles and solidarity in South Africa and Palestine which was attended by people from across the globe, including the leadership of trade unions from Palestine and South Africa. It was inspiring to see the intersectionality of struggles of workers in South Africa and Palestine, with trade unions in Palestine talking about the lessons they have learned from South African workers and their struggles, especially with the currently on-going Clover boycott. We also want to congratulate the team behind the launch of the PSO at Nelson Mandela University. The launch was an extremely successful event to end IAW on with former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils along with Mandla Mandela, the grandson of the father of our nation, who affirmed his support to the BDS movement, being keynote speakers. Both touched on the parallels between Apartheid South Africa and Apartheid Israel with former Minister Kasrils sharing his thoughts on the hypocrisy of the West in the ways in which they have responded to Russia and Ukraine as compared to their silence on Palestine. he said it was also important for the institution to align itself with the values of Nelson Mandela, which it is named after. Mandla Mandela spoke about South African solidarity towards Palestine and said it was also important for the institution to align itself with the values of Nelson Mandela, which it is named after. “In the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s our students came to the fore and became prominent. Educational institutions became significant sites of struggle. They engaged in boycotts and other acts of solidarity supporting worker strikes and facilitated educational events and campaigns,” he said.

Overall, we saw a successful week of IAW events with all of us taking away many lessons from the numerous events. Unite Against Apartheid Israel! Unite Against Racism! 

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