The City of Toronto has just confirmed its plans to participate – and to provide the keynote speaker through the Office of Equity, Diversity and Human Rights – in the upcoming conference, “Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City,” in Jerusalem on May 17, 2016.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is the first speaker of the conference. In 2010, he told the Israeli Knesset (parliament) that the number of Palestinian residents in Jerusalem poses a “strategic threat”, citing a racist policy target of a 70-30 Jewish majority as “the government’s goal.” Just recently in October 2015, Mayor Barkat was roaming an East Jerusalem neighbourhood with a gun. A statement by the City of Jerusalem affirmed his actions saying that “the mayor encourages licensed gun owners to carry their weapons to increase security. He himself serves as a personal example of this.” These statements not only reflect the mayor himself, but the official policy of the City of Jerusalem towards the indigenous Palestinian population.
The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) believes that the City’s participation in a conference with speakers from Israeli settlements encourages settlement activity and undermines Canada’s responsibility to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law. It also undermines the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). In its letter dated May 8, 2016 to the City of Toronto, the General Union of Palestinian Women (one of over 170 signatory organizations on the 2005 BDS call) is clear in identifying the problem: “Your participation in this conference plays in the hands of Israel’s propaganda. Falsely presenting Jerusalem as a ‘culturally competent city’ masks the city’s reality: arbitrary killings of indigenous Palestinians and systematic discrimination with the explicit aim of ridding the city of its Palestinian residents. Equity cannot exist in Jerusalem until Israel’s systematic discriminatory laws are changed. We urge you to refrain from aiding our oppression: cancel your participation in this conference.”
CAIA formally reached out to the city of Toronto on April 30, 2016 to express its concern over the city’s participation in the conference and to request a formal meeting to discuss the issue. The city responded on May 6, 2016 to confirm that it will continue its participation, and has declined to meet with us.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Please join the CAIA in telling Toronto’s Mayor John Tory that there is no ‘equity’ in apartheid! Urge him to cancel the City of Toronto’s participation in the May 17th Jerusalem conference now by withdrawing the participation of the City’s Director of Equity, Diversity and Human Rights.
a) Sign the CAIA petition, “City of Toronto: Don’t whitewash racist Israeli policy in the name of equity!” and share it widely with your friends and networks.
b) Check out more information on this campaign here. Educate your friends, family and colleagues by sharing the information on this page including organizational list-serves, social media. Use the following: #EquityNotApartheid @John Tory
c) Send an email from yourself or your organization to Mayor John Tory – firstname.lastname@example.org – urging him to cancel the City of Toronto’s participation in the Jerusalem conference. Use the material from our campaign page in your email.
d) Join us at the rally at Nathan Phillips Square on Friday May 13, 2:30pm. Help us deliver the message to Mayor Tory in person, loud and clear! Invite your friends over Facebook here.