The Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (WCAIA) was founded in the summer of 2011. Bringing together local members of the Canada-Palestine Support Network (CanPalNet), Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), and Students’ Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), and independent advocates of human rights in Palestine/Israel, WCAIA is an effort to coordinate and expand anti-apartheid organizing in Winnipeg.

Apartheid? Wasn’t that a South African issue?

Many people—including ourselves—believe Israel is an apartheid state, similar to South Africa prior to the end of legal apartheid in that country in 1994. Apartheid is defined under international law; concise descriptions of the two major definitions of apartheid under international law can be found on the Wikipedia page. The core principle of apartheid is that the state itself participates in a systemic discrimination of one ethnic/racial group over another ethnic/racial group, and includes a number of different ways the dominant group maintains control over the oppressed group.

Many of the common themes associated with apartheid in South Africa (formal classification of inhabitants into separate racial or ethnic categories, prohibition of mixed-race marriage, and separate civic infrastructure such as roads or toll booths) are likewise practiced in Israel and the parts of the Occupied Territories that it controls; others symbols of apartheid (such as banning usage of drinking fountains or beaches by people of the oppressed group) are not. According to international law, a country does not have to fit every act associated with apartheid to be considered an apartheid state.

But Israel & Palestine are half a world away. Why would Winnipeggers be involved?

First of all, some residents of Winnipeg are either Palestinian or Israeli, and thus have a direct involvement in the issue. But beyond that, the issue is one of basic human rights and dignity—the occupation of Palestine is widely considered to be the longest-running military occupation in the world, and of the approximately 11 million Palestinians in the world, nearly half are refugees.

As Canadian residents, we also have a unique responsibility to counter the actions of our government. The Canadian government has never historically been seen as sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, but the current direction under the Harper Conservatives has led Canada to be seen internationally as the most uncritical and one-sided ally of Israel in the world, even surpassing the United States.

The apartheid system in South Africa was eventually broken in part because of the actions taken in solidarity with black South Africans by people around the world. Many people believe such an international movement will be required to create any kind of just peace in the region.

About BDS and the Palestinian BDS Call

Using the 2005 call for Boycott, Disvestment and Sanctions (BDS) by Palestinian civil society as its foundation, WCAIA organizing campaigns, educational events, and other methods of supporting and building anti-apartheid organizing in Winnipeg. The BDS Call, while politically ambitious, is simple. It asks all supporters around the world of human rights and social justice to organize boycotts and divestment and sanctions campaigns until:

Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The entire 2005 BDS Call can be found here.

How WCAIA operates

WCAIA organizes its activities through a number of Working Groups and an elected Steering Committee, structured around a broad membership and involvement by participating anti-apartheid organizations such as the Winnipeg branches of the Canada Palestine Support Network (CanPalNet) and Indepdent Jewish Voices (IJV).

Every WCAIA member agrees to a common Basis of Unity, which sets out our purpose, our principles, our objectives, our work, and how we operate. It also includes the Palestinian Civil Society BDS Call described above, which underpins all of our work.

if you would like more information about WCAIA, please contact us at