June 09, 2011

An Open Letter to Toronto City Council on Israel, Free Speech and Human Rights

June 9, 2011

To: Members of Toronto City Council

CC'd: Leaders of Canada's federal political parties

From: Diane V. McLoughlin, writer, peace activist
              main website:  mcloughlinpost.com

Re: Respecting City Manager's findings on whether the words 'Israeli Apartheid'
      violate laws regarding hate speech.

Dear Councillors,

On June 14, please vote to accept the Executive Council’s
determination regarding the legality of the term 'Israeli Apartheid'.
Upholding the fundamental right to free speech is important in
any democratic society that wishes to remain so. [1]

The Manager's report concludes that the term 'Israeli Apartheid'
does not violate Toronto's Anti-Discrimination Policy,
Ontario's Human Rights Code,
or Canada's Criminal Code regarding hate speech.

Apartheid - 'apart' - that is how Palestinians are treated;
they are second-class citizens within Israel. Palestinians have
no rights in Gaza or the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The extreme right wing-dominated Israeli legislature - the Knesset -
for example, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
has recently approved a law giving communities in Israel
the right to reject prospective residents deemed 'unsuitable'.
In the American Deep South, that
was once otherwise known as Black.
In Israel, it's indigenous Arab-Israeli citizens.

Different yardsticks are used for everything from garbage pickup,
dollars per student on education, medical care funds
for the sick, to who will get that public service job -
it depends upon whether a citizen is Jewish-Israeli or Palestinian-Israeli.

Supporters argue that Israel is 'the only democracy in the Middle East' -
this would certainly be something to crow about, if true. Is it?

'A 2002 report from the Human Rights Association of Nazareth
documented nine cases of Arab Knesset Members being assaulted
by security services over the preceding two years, seven of whom
were hospitalised.' [1a]

I guess it depends on what one's definition of democracy is, or for whom.

The illegal military siege of Gaza, and the illegal occupation of the West Bank
have their own horrendous tales of suffering to tell. In the West Bank,
Palestinian children have stones thrown at them by grown adult settlers
screaming racist obscenities while trying to go to school, or they are
frustrated by Israel's occupying army just trying to get from point A to
point B. Olive orchards are burned or torn up. Farmers are attacked
or shot at. Mosques are burned. Children's schools are sprayed with graffiti
such as 'death to Arabs'.

Suffice to say that democratic societies should consider with care
whether or not it is prudent or wise to outlaw criticism of a State.

If for no other reason, I would propose that if we outlaw criticism of one State,
in this case the State of Israel through the banning of such descriptions
as Israeli Apartheid, without a doubt other countries will be swiftly
lining up demanding the same shield when they are abrogating citizens'
human and civil rights.

The push to outlaw criticism of Israel is being driven by
pro-occupation supporters at the highest levels.
Some fear that after the Holocaust, there is no other
place for Jews to be safe but in a state of their own carved
from Palestinian territory.

But the subjugation of the Palestinians, the oppression,
displacement or ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people
could in no way cause Jewish people to be more secure.
Peace or security could not possibly be established this way.

What happens in Israel, what future is determined for the long-suffering
Palestinian people, is one of the most important issues of our time.

In sometimes surprising ways, this issue affects us all. While it is still legal
for anyone to do so, I thought I would share my view on the matter.

Most sincerely and respectfully yours,

Diane V. McLoughlin



[1] For more, see, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME): http://www.cjpme.org/ItemCollectionPage.aspx?ICID=67#TorontoCouncillors ;

[1a] Article: 'Can equality exist in the Jewish state?';
Kieron Monks; June 4, 2011; Al Jazeera;
http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/06/2011648192849821.html ;

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