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Aug 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

SUBMISSION FROM CANADA PALESTINE SUPPORT NETWORK TO THE CANADIAN PARLIAMENTARY COALITION TO COMBAT ANTISEMITISM

The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA) invited submissions and we are responding, for the issue you raise concerns us directly.

The CPCCA is composed of individual Members of Parliament, acting in their own name, not that of the various political parties. Nor is CPCCA acting under a Parliamentary mandate. What brings the members together, judging from its website, is a desire to lobby, across our country and internationally, for Parliamentary legislation to further restrict public exchange of information and opinion concerning the policies and practices of the State of Israel and the living conditions and rights of the Palestinian people. The CPCCA aims to shield the State of Israel from unwanted political criticisms, by arbitrarily defining the most serious of these criticisms as “anti-semitic”. If successful, the CPCCA project, under the pretext of preventing bigotry, actually would curtail public expression of political opinion. And as freedom of expression of political opinion shrank, ironically bigotry itself would increase.

For our part we are solidly grounded in a rejection of all expressions of bigotry, and simultaneously are committed to the widest possible, vigorous public dialogue among Canadians on the issues of Israel and the Palestinians. We contend this dialogue needs to be free of intimidation and harassment. Our goal is for Canadian government policies and practices on this matter to reflect the outcomes of such democratic dialogue among the people of our country.

So the CPCCA and our organization, Canada Palestine Support Network (CanPalNet) are concerned with the same issues, but CPCCA and CanPalNet approaches move in opposite directions. We outline our views below on the premise that CPCCA will conduct  its public hearings in a democratic spirit: respectful of and attentive to voices not just of those who agree with CPCCA objectives but also those, like ourselves, who have serious reasons to disagree.

1. There is no hierarchy of bigotries

Bigotry in our country does deserve Parliamentary investigation and action. Bigotry, within the populace and within the institutional structures of power, targets groups of many different origins in our country: indigenous, blacks, Asians, Moslems, Sikhs, Jews, and others. Bigotry undeniably is a serious problem.

But rather than address this comprehensively by inviting all groups, in your own constituencies for example, who feel themselves exposed to hateful bigotry to testify as to their experiences and with their proposals for remedy, the CPCCA has chosen to elevate the concerns of one group high above that of all others, giving this group special consideration.

Yet there is no available evidence for the CPCCA presumption that Jews in Canada now face more bigotry and/or receive lesser public support, particularly from institutional power-holders, in combating bigotry when it occurs, than do other targeted groups of people in our country.

To the contrary, according to the recent spring 2008 survey of the well-regarded

Pew Research Center’s Pew Global Attitudes Project. In the UK and the US negative views of Jews was 9% and 7%  respectively. In these same countries, the negative views of Moslems was 23%. The survey did not include Canada, but it is reasonable to hypothesize the ratio is comparable.

2. There is no “collective Jew”

The CPCCA calls Israel the “collective Jew”, inferring thereby that every Jew supports and is responsible for the policies and practices and the guiding political ideology of the Israeli state. This is utterly false. The resort to this false claim is a device to suppress serious criticism of and opposition to Israeli state policies and practices, as well as rejection of the political ideology of Zionism, by rebranding such criticism as “new” anti-semitism. Tragically, this rebranding effort itself contributes to fostering anti-semitic thinking.

From the earliest days of the Zionist movement until today, individual as well as organized groups of Jews have held varied, and intensely different views about this political movement. Jews, neither in the past nor today, have no uniform response about whether the policies and practices of the State of Israel express and defend, or violate and threaten, their own values and interests.

Three illustrations, far from exceptional:

In 1919 more than 300 prominent Jews in the US (members of Congress, diplomats, judges, officers of major Jewish organizations included) sent a letter to President Wilson at the Versailles negotiations, saying: “As a future form of government for Palestine will undoubtedly be considered by the approaching Peace Conference, we, the undersigned citizens of the United States, unite in this statement, setting forth our objections to the organization of a Jewish State in Palestine as proposed by the Zionist Societies in this country and Europe and to the segregation of the Jews as a nationalistic unit in any country.”

Albert Einstein, victim of Nazi bigotry, wrote a letter with other prominent Jewish-American intellectuals published in the New York Times (December 4, 1948), denouncing the visit to the US of Menachim Begin leader of the “Freedom Party”. Begin years later was elected Prime Minister of Israel. The letter described this party as “closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.”

Last month, Dov Yermiya, an Israeli military officer who fought and was wounded in the war of 1948, wrote to a circle of friends saying: “I, a 95 year old Sabra [native born Israeli Jew], … declare herewith that I renounce my belief in the Zionism which has failed, that I shall not be loyal to the Jewish fascist state and its mad visions, that I shall not sing anymore its nationalist anthem....”

Were the 300 Jewish Americans, Einstein and Yermiya living today in Canada, expressing publicly such views, who would propose prosecuting them for spreading “anti-semitism”? And if not them, why should any Canadian with similar opinions be treated differently?

Consider also a research study by US professors Stephen Cohen and Ari Kelman, both specializing in sociological studies of US Jewry. Published in 2008 it reported that more than half of young US Jews (under 35) would not view the destruction of Israel as a personal tragedy, and only 54% said they were comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state.

As there is nothing bigoted about Canadians having differing and passionately opposing views about the policies and practices and guiding ideology of the governments of Canada, even the very legitimacy of the Canadian state, so there is nothing bigoted about Canadians – whatever their background -- having differing and opposing views about the policies and practices and guiding ideology of Israel. No one proposes criminalizing the former. Why does CPCCA propose criminalizing the latter?

These fundamentally are political matters, and freedom to express, explore and exchange political ideas in public is indispensable to democratic culture.

3. “New anti-semitism” is a worn-out campaign slogan

The so-called “new anti-semitism” argument recurs particularly when Israeli state actions have aroused the conscience of yet wider segments of the population to the injustices of its actions, and when Israel comes under greater pressure to abide by United Nations resolutions and international law.

Political campaigns claiming “new” anti-semitism were conducted in the aftermath of the 1973 war, then in the 1980’s with Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, followed by the early years of 2000 when Israel intensified assaults in the 1967 occupied territories.

The current replay of the now-far-from-new “new” anti-semitism campaign is an effort to silence the unprecedentedly broad and intense public abhorrence of Israel’s killing of Palestinian people in Gaza through massive bombardment in December (2008) and January (2009), along with Israel’s on-going inhuman siege of Gaza.

In  conclusion we:

  1. encourage you as Members of Parliament to attend to the problem of bigotry, not by arbitrarily privileging one group, but as a real problem that impacts many and varied people in our country;
  2. propose you show greater confidence in your own convictions and so join us in welcoming open and unintimidated serious exchange of ideas on matters relating to Israel/Palestine, allowing the good judgement of fellow Canadians to determine the respective merits of different perspectives.
In brief, we call on CPCCA to withdraw from its effort to choke democratic culture by criminalizing political opinions with which its members disagree.

While more can and will be said, we are mindful of and wish to respect the limitations of length you have set for submissions.

Sincerely,

Canada Palestine Support Network (CanPalNet)
<Previous
ROSEN, Robert (Bob) Louis. June 26th, 1947 - November 22nd 2011

Bob was a treasured member of the CanPalNet working group. We remember him lovingly and miss him deeply.

http://friendsofbobrosen.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/friends/
November 25, 2011 

ROSEN, Robert (Bob) Louis

June 26th, 1947-November 22nd 2011

Celebration of Life:
We will celebrate Bob's life on Saturday, January 21st 2012 at 7:30pm at the Peretz Centre, 6184 Ash St., Vancouver.

Bob Rosen 

It is with deep sorrow that we share the loss of our husband, father, brother, and friend. Bob passed away peacefully at home, leaving his loving wife Eva Sharell, beloved son Michael Gabriel Rosen (Tracey), brother Stanley (Rita), nephew Daniel (Jess and Evan), Janine and Brianna.

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