A letter from Hon. Stockwell Day on the Toulouse Shooting

The Hon. Stockwell Day has really been impressing me lately (not that he isn’t always very impressive). I had the opportunity to meet him while I was in Washington DC a few weeks ago at the AIPAC Policy Conference. Stockwell spoke about Canada’s special tie to Israel and his deep personal connection to the land as a Christian. 

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank him for his ardent and unwavering support for Israel and his strong words regarding the tragic attack on Monday in Toulouse.

Stockwell Day’s Letter via The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Here is a picture of the Canadian Student Delegation to AIPAC with the Hon. Stockwell Day from a few weeks ago:

Edit:

Since I made this post less than 5 minutes ago and found another letter on this matter, here is the letter that Elie Wiesel wrote on the same subject: Elie’s Letter.

PA Prime Minister Fayyad has also condemned the attacks. Glad this has become a non-partisan issue.
In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts … committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.

Justice Richard Goldstone

I am still in shock that I just read what I thought I just read. I remember a few years ago when Justice Goldstone came to speak at the University of Western Ontario Law School (before I was a law student) days after releasing his infamous Goldstone report accusing Israel of systematic war crimes. He later rescinded his remarks and I posted about it. Anyways, Justice Goldstone has always seemed to be someone who is quick to critique Israel and to jump to conclusions without real investigation. That is why I am so shocked to be reading this op-ed that he wrote for the New York Times. I am very impressed with his argument and cannot agree more: Israel cannot and should not be likened to apartheid South Africa. There is no basis for this comparison and it is completely unproductive in the peace process to even make such allegations.

Israeli Apartheid Week is a hate-fest that occurs each year on campuses around the world. I don’t even want to link to their webpage but a quick Google will help you find it. I am ashamed to say that it has been going on at Western too. The discourse involved in likening the situation anywhere to Apartheid South Africa is extremely damaging. I am curious to see what will happen this year at IAW in light of the atrocities that are going on around the Arab World right now.

Bravo Justice Goldstone! 

Palestinian UN Bid For Statehood

Although I haven’t been blogging for a while (thanks law school…) I couldn’t resist writing something about the recent events and the time leading up to Abbas’ attempt to gain unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State in the United Nations. Here is an article that I was forwarded - it certainly is one of the best ways I have heard things summed up as to why this aggressive move might not be the best idea.

Anyways, I don’t know that I have so much to say about the issue. For me it is kind-of a continuation of everything I normally have to say. I think there is a strong argument to be made for the idea that the West Bank alone would be capable of creating a legitimate state. The addition of Hamas controlled Gaza would created a fractured state that obviously not one government currently could control. That being said, it is clear that Gaza ought to be part of any Palestinian State. So what is there to do?

Most Israel advocates are arguing that the Palestinians need to return to the negotiating table with Israel and strike a deal. The issue is, as the article I linked above so eloquently states, is that:

 it would feed the fantasy that compromises reached in negotiations can be bypassed. John F. Kennedy once described the impossibility of working with those who say “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.” The basic premise of the Palestinians’ U.N. bid is this: Give us everything without negotiation, and then we will negotiate about the rest.

Any deal for the West Bank is obviously going to be based around the 1967 borders but a straight up return to ‘67 does not sound like it is in the best interest of either party…. especially Israel. Yes, I will concede, it affects Israel more. So what is there to do? There have been land swaps mentioned in past negotiations. As far as actual land though, sure, it’s a huge issue but right now it is not the issue at hand.

A unilateral declaration of a state right now would not benefit the Palestinian cause. Sure, it will create a state and give the PA some international clout, however it will change nothing on the home front except garner possibly even more resentment and fracture the Palestinians even more along the Gaza vs. West Bank divide.

Anyways, I need to get back to class… I’ll continue my thoughts later once the UN decision becomes more clear - though I assume the US will veto it in the Security Council regardless.  It will be interesting to see how the GA votes.

TO: The Committee Edinburgh University Student Association. May I be permitted to say a few words to members of the EUSA? I am an Edinburgh graduate (MA 1975) who studied Persian, Arabic and Islamic History in Buccleuch Place under William Montgomery Watt and Laurence Elwell Sutton, two of Britain’s great Middle East experts in their day.

I later went on to do a PhD at Cambridge and to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies at Newcastle University. Naturally, I am the author of several books and hundreds of articles in this field. I say all that to show that I am well informed in Middle Eastern affairs and that, for that reason, I am shocked and disheartened by the EUSA motion and vote.

I am shocked for a simple reason: there is not and has never been a system of apartheid in Israel. That is not my opinion, that is fact that can be tested against reality by any Edinburgh student, should he or she choose to visit Israel to see for themselves. Let me spell this out, since I have the impression that those members of EUSA who voted for this motion are absolutely clueless in matters concerning Israel, and that they are, in all likelihood, the victims of extremely biased propaganda coming from the anti-Israel lobby.

Being anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. But I’m not talking about ordinary criticism of Israel. I’m speaking of a hatred that permits itself no boundaries in the lies and myths it pours out. Thus, Israel is repeatedly referred to as a “Nazi” state. In what sense is this true, even as a metaphor? Where are the Israeli concentration camps? The einzatsgruppen? The SS? The Nuremberg Laws? The Final Solution? None of these things nor anything remotely resembling them exists in Israel, precisely because the Jews, more than anyone on earth, understand what Nazism stood for.

It is claimed that there has been an Israeli Holocaust in Gaza (or elsewhere). Where? When? No honest historian would treat that claim with anything but the contempt it deserves. But calling Jews Nazis and saying they have committed a Holocaust is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.

Likewise apartheid. For apartheid to exist, there would have to be a situation that closely resembled how things were in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Unfortunately for those who believe this, a weekend in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim is.

That a body of university students actually fell for this and voted on it is a sad comment on the state of modern education. The most obvious focus for apartheid would be the country’s 20% Arab population. Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians; Baha’is, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they have their world center; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in Pakistan and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all religions are protected under a specific Israeli law. Arabs form 20% of the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the general population). In Iran, the Bahai’s (the largest religious minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own universities: why aren’t your members boycotting Iran? Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa. They use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside Jews - something no blacks were able to do in South Africa.

Israeli hospitals not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank. On the same wards, in the same operating theatres.

In Israel, women have the same rights as men: there is no gender apartheid. Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays often escape into Israel, knowing they may be killed at home.

It seems bizarre to me that LGBT groups call for a boycott of Israel and say nothing about countries like Iran, where gay men are hanged or stoned to death. That illustrates a mindset that beggars belief.

Intelligent students thinking it’s better to be silent about regimes that kill gay people, but good to condemn the only country in the Middle East that rescues and protects gay people. Is that supposed to be a sick joke?

University is supposed to be about learning to use your brain, to think rationally, to examine evidence, to reach conclusions based on solid evidence, to compare sources, to weigh up one view against one or more others. If the best Edinburgh can now produce are students who have no idea how to do any of these things, then the future is bleak.

I do not object to well-documented criticism of Israel. I do object when supposedly intelligent people single the Jewish state out above states that are horrific in their treatment of their populations. We are going through the biggest upheaval in the Middle East since the 7th and 8th centuries, and it’s clear that Arabs and Iranians are rebelling against terrifying regimes that fight back by killing their own citizens.

Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, do not rebel (though they are free to protest). Yet Edinburgh students mount no demonstrations and call for no boycotts against Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran. They prefer to make false accusations against one of the world’s freest countries, the only country in the Middle East that has taken in Darfur refugees, the only country in the Middle East that gives refuge to gay men and women, the only country in the Middle East that protects the Bahai’s…. Need I go on?

The imbalance is perceptible, and it sheds no credit on anyone who voted for this boycott. I ask you to show some common sense. Get information from the Israeli embassy. Ask for some speakers. Listen to more than one side. Do not make your minds up until you have given a fair hearing to both parties. You have a duty to your students, and that is to protect them from one-sided argument.

They are not at university to be propagandized. And they are certainly not there to be tricked into anti-Semitism by punishing one country among all the countries of the world, which happens to be the only Jewish state. If there had been a single Jewish state in the 1930’s (which, sadly, there was not), don’t you think Adolf Hitler would have decided to boycott it?

Your generation has a duty to ensure that the perennial racism of anti-Semitism never sets down roots among you. Today, however, there are clear signs that it has done so and is putting down more. You have a chance to avert a very great evil, simply by using reason and a sense of fair play. Please tell me that this makes sense. I have given you some of the evidence. It’s up to you to find out more.

Yours sincerely,Denis MacEoin

—-

I normally do not like to just quote entire works on here but rather add in my own analysis based on small pieces of what I read. That being said, this piece by Dr. MacEoin is brilliant on its own and I dare not disassemble it. Bravo.

So I guess I might as well post a video that has been making its rounds amongst some of my friends on Facebook. This video was taken less than a week ago about a 10 minute drive from my home in Toronto. I certainly agree with the premise that there is a fine line between antizionism, critiquing the State of Israel, and antisemitism. Each of the three are different however they are often blended together which is what is concerning to me. 

Everyone has the right to critique any nation that they so choose to - there is no question. The issue is, when does it become an anti-ideological thing (antizionism), and where does that cross over into antisemitism? 

This video is a bit chilling because it invokes a few classic antisemitic pieces of rhetoric. For instance, the speaker talks about “sucking blood” - this is blatantly taken from the blood libel (the rumor that Jews kill Christian children and drink their blood on Passover) that cost countless Jews their lives and homes over the centuries. 

Secondly, under Islamic rule during the “Golden Age” Jews and Christians had the same rights as each other, but not as the Muslims in Muslim occupied lands. Jews and Christians were dhimmis, second class citizens who were afforded most of the rights of Muslims and certainly more than other, more frowned upon religions, but still not the equal rights that the speaker is claiming.

Anyways, this is going on in my backyard this week, scary stuff. I’m sure they don’t want to harm ME in any way, but their language is quite harsh and really does incite a bit of hatred if you ask me. There is a very thin line here that is often crossed in the Israel/Palestine discussion. Just thought I’d share.

Looking Back at the Flotilla Fiasco

I like to try and look at and quote a somewhat wide variety of news sources when I get my information. Today I am going to source an article from y-net news - the most widely read news in Israel.

Anyways, I have posted in the past about the flotilla incident but now that the UN ‘Palmer Report’ (linked here) has been released, we have a different spin on things. I would encourage any reader of this post to take whatever the UN report says with a grain of salt. In the past they have been completely wrong and eventually retracted their statements (see Goldstone Report). 

This new report argues that Israel has the right to blockade Gaza because the import of arms to Gaza represents a significant threat to Israel’s security. On the flip side, it says that Israel’s use of force, and more specifically their lack of warning to the civillians aboard the Turkish vessel in the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ before they boarded the ship. That being said, the report also stated: “There exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH,” It added that while Turkey attempted to convince organizers to avoid a clash at sea, “more could have been done.”

The report was actually created in July but was not made public until now because of the rising tensions between Turkey and Israel. For now, Turkey has withdrawn its ambassadors from Israel and kicked out the Israelis from Istanbul. It has also made it clear that they want an apology, reparations, and for Israel to put and end to the blockade before their political ties will be mended.

This is a pretty murky situation. Israel doesn’t want to apologize because it would make them look weak (lame excuse in my opinion), and Turkey won’t take any responsibility for its part in allowing the passengers to make a “reckless attempt”  to breach the blockade according to the Palmer Report. 

I’m not sure what is going to come of this but Turkey is a relative moderate in the region that Israel really does not want to lose as an ally. The most shocking thing about this report is that they defied popular belief (and according to many, their mandate) by stating that the actual blockade is legal. Although this report does seem to support Israel in the bigger picture, I wouldn’t put too much stake in it given the history of the UN. That and the fact that I would be a total hypocrite if I quoted one UN report as the real truth and bashed another one calling it a total lie. You can’t pick and choose your sources so for now I will say that perhaps the UN is changing its tune a bit, but as I warned earlier, this likely is not the end of anti-Israel sentiments in the UN.

Israel, the Canadian Boat to Gaza, Syria and the Red Cross

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about Israel and I’m happy to say so. No news is usually good news for the Middle East - as most news revolves around more deaths. As Arab Spring has progressed the fate of the middle east has become less certain. Will the protestors succeed in bringing down the regimes? If they are successful, will the governments that the protestors put forth be stable democracies? Will they even get the basic human rights that they so desire or will a new regime emerge?

There are many questions to ponder regarding Arab Spring but there are already some facts that we can look at that are interesting on their own. For the past few weeks, I have heard almost nothing about Israel’s alleged wrongdoings. Perhaps its because Arabs are being massacred throughout the middle east and that is being reported?

Abdulrahman said the death toll since mid-March is more than 1,360 civilians and more than 340 army and security personnel.

- Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights via CNN

Anyone remember numbers hovering around 1,400 being thrown around in the recent past? Think back to 2009… approximately 1,400 was a number thrown out as the high estimate of the death toll for Operation Cast Lead including civilians and Hamas militants. Hamas has since admitted that 600-700 of those deaths were, indeed, militants. Why are we still trying to free the poor brutalized Gazans instead of helping the twice as many civilians who have died in an ongoing massacre in Syria? Further, it is clear that in fact there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza as at all according to the Red Cross.

"There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza," she explains. "If you go to the supermarket, there are products. There are restaurants and a nice beach.  The problem is mainly in maintenance of infrastructure and in access to goods, concrete for example.

- Mathilde Redmatn is the deputy director of the Red Cross in the Gaza Strip (who still has not been able to access Gilad Shalit an IDF soldier who has been held captive by Hamas for 5 years without being given his Geneva Convention rights.)

Lastly, on to Greece and the Canadian boat to Gaza. For a country in such financial trouble, I’m actually quite surprised and very impressed that Greece is holding the Canadian Boat to Gaza and not allowing them to sail. I have been to events sponsored by this organization and I must say that I’m not such a fan. As I have noted earlier, I don’t necessarily think that the direct mission of the Canadian boat is wrong, it is just the indirect implications and the way they go about it. The people who are in charge of the Boat are what I like to call “militant humanitarians.” That is to say, they will put people in significant danger (ie future arms being smuggled into Gaza via boat, etc) in order to give humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza (who the Red Cross already said have products in their supermarkets and are not in a humanitarian crisis). Unfortunately there isn’t much to say to these kind of people because their minds are stuck in the small picture - they are focused and determined (which are not inherently bad qualities in the right situation).

Anyways, I’m glad to see that at least for now the world has backed off Israel and focused on more important issues. I hope this lull will allow Israel to get other work done to improve life for all of its residents and citizens and to maybe continue negotiating a meaningful, lasting, peace deal.

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