June 15, 2011

Background to An Open Letter on Israel, Free Speech and Human Rights

June 14, 2011

by Diane V. McLoughlin

Toronto City Councillor Sheila Grimes has clarified that the legality of the term
'Israeli Apartheid' is not going to be voted on either as a matter of
principle, or policy, by Council.

As the Councillor at the same time wondered about it, I thought I might try to
briefly explain why individuals such as myself felt concerned enough to write.

Toronto City Council presides over one of the largest cosmopolitan cities in
Canada. Council felt compelled to look into whether or not the term 'Israeli
Apartheid' was legal, or, conversely, illegal hate speech. This is symptomatic
of something taking place on a larger canvass. There is tremendous
pressure being brought to bear on elected officials to intimidate them into silent

An example of this recently transpired in the Ontario Legislature.
Certain provincial members of Parliament singled out a university student,
Jennifer Peto, who is Jewish, to denounce her graduate thesis:

'The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of
Hegemonic Holocaust Education' .

Her thesis was denounced for the public record - as "shockingly anti-Semitic";
"disgusting"; "hateful". The National Post and others waded in, as well.

I've read her thesis and wrote about it. While I can see how it would be
shocking to some - novel ways of looking at things can be - anti-Semitic,
disgusting or hateful, it isn't. In fact, what Ms. Peto actually advocates for is
decency, at not inconsiderable personal risk to herself.

Our ability to steer the ship of state clear of rocky shoals - erosion of civil
liberties; the imposition of ideas antithetical to Canadian values; the support
for, or unnecessary engagement in, immoral war - are always to be guarded
against in societies that wish to remain democratic and free.

In November 2010, I wrote the essay entitled, 'Hate Speech Laws to Shield
Israel From Accountability?', regarding an international conference that took
place the same month in Ottawa which was funded to the tune of half a million
Canadian tax dollars.

One hundred parliamentarians from 45 countries were invited to attend.
Enquiries regarding the conference were shunted to a public relations firm that
touted itself as, 'help[ing to] influence public policy...and...fundamentally
change public attitudes...'.

For a year prior leading up to the conference, a small group of federal
members of Parliament took it upon themselves to study something they called
'the new anti-Semitism.' The CPCCA was an ad hoc committee that was not
appointed by Parliament. They appointed themselves. Groups such as
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East were excluded from
presenting to the committee. Members of the Bloc party had the integrity to
resign in protest.

A central aim of the committee, as well as the conference, was to promote
outlawing criticism of Israel as a 'Jewish collectivity' as spelled out in the
London Declaration.

If this is so, if we are to view it as illegal to suggest that Israel is anything other
than a Jewish collectivity, how then are we to view the million-plus in
Israel-proper who are Palestinian-Israeli citizens?

Well, for one, Avigdor Lieberman, a Russian-Israeli immigrant now Israel's
minister of foreign affairs, not so long ago thought that a 'transfer' of
Israel's Palestinian-Israeli citizens would be a good demographic move to
preserve superior Jewish numbers in the state: ethnic cleansing.

In the West Bank, ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in favour of Jews
overtaking and 'settling' their space is an ongoing, brutal, affair aided, in no
small measure, by generous donations collected in Canada and elsewhere. As
the occupation is illegal under international law, obviously all such donations
should be outlawed forthwith.

Twenty percent of Israel's citizens are Palestinian. Include the illegal
military-besieged 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the millions of
Palestinians languishing under illegal military occupation in the West Bank, and
the millions of Palestinian refugees that Israel illegally prevents from returning
to their homes - the rather surprising fact of the matter is that the numbers of
Palestinians and Israeli-Jews are pretty much the same, or at least closer than
we think.

Taking it from another angle, the hypocrisy is more obvious if we were to
imagine how we would feel if the American Deep South were to adamantly
assert that it was to be respected as a 'democratic white collective' -
threatening legal sanctions for daring to suggest otherwise. (Or, more close to
home, how we would feel if legislation were passed making it illegal to suggest
that Canada was anything other than Anglo-Saxon.)

It is a matter of fighting oppression. It is a matter of fighting racism and
injustice. It is a matter, now, of fighting for the democratic fundamental right
of free speech here in Canada. It is one of the most fundamental issues of
justice in our time.

So, this is why I wrote to the Honourable members of Toronto City Council.
The attempt to outlaw the words 'Israeli Apartheid', or to outlaw the
suggestion that Israel is anything other than a democratic 'Jewish collectivity', is
part of an on-going struggle for justice. Declarations such as the Ottawa Protocol
are endeavours meant to permit the legal harassment of anyone who
would dare to say so. I believe that the bitter irony of it is that instruments
such as the Ottawa Protocol may well inhibit, rather than promote, prospects
for peace. As elected representatives, I wrote because I thought you should

For your interest, the other letter I wrote today was addressed to the leaders of
Canada's federal political parties to share my view that Canada should not be
involved in any way, shape or form with the military assault on Libya, the real
aim of which is western corporate control over African wealth.

I am, most sincerely and respectfully yours,
Diane V. McLoughlin

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