7 items today—the first barely a few lines, the last quite long, but a pleasure to read.
The ‘losing’ that the subject refers to begins with the first item: the young woman who had just completed her law studies in Gaza requested permission to continue for the MA in the West Bank. And guess what! She was refused—not because she endangered lives, not because she was found unworthy! No. Just because of the “current security and political situation.” What security situation? And what did she have to do either with security or the political situation. She just wanted to advance in her studies, and was unable to in Gaza. A prisoner in Gaza!
Item 2 begins to prepare Israelis for the next war: Lebanon 3! It’s been on the news a few days. Makes sense. Israel is not doing well in public opinion. Iran apparently is not going to come under attack, because Obama does not want another war in the area, and is therefore holding Israel back. But for Israel’s leaders there must be another war (12 in less than 61 years are not enough!) to shift the focus from the mis-capade of the last flotilla and the growing discontent with Israel world-wide. So we are now told that Hizbullah is stocking its weapons, where they are, how many it has, and the range that its missiles have. The report below focuses on a single village, telling us how the Hizbullah stores its weapons in or near houses, schools, etc as though Hizbullah were just a name rather than representing individuals, some or all of who might live in the village with their families. And, as though Israel has no military facilities or bases in built up areas. A war will also serve to take attention off the continuing economic difficulties. Besides, Israel has had its eye on the Litani river since Ben Gurion (maybe earlier), but has not succeeded yet in capturing it—not in 18 years of the 1st Lebanese war, not in the brief 2nd one (which killed over 1000 Lebanese). So Israel might well give it a 3rd try. Who cares that wars kill? Not Israel’s leaders When it comes to a choice of land or life, Israel’s leaders always choose expansion over a few hundred Israeli lives and over a thousand Lebanese or Palestinian lives.
In item 3 although the focus is on the 4 exministers that Israel is trying to exile, Amira Hass reveals one way in which Israel continues its ethnic cleansing.
Item 4 tells us that IKEA is playing patty-cake with the occupation by delivering goods to illegal colonies, but refusing to to Palestinian communities. Time to stop buying at IKEA!
Item 5 is a refreshing Haaretz editorial, with a great idea: talk to Hamas and offer it a road agreement on Israel-Hamas relations” to include “a cease-fire, an end to terrorist attacks and the launching of Qassam rockets, an end to efforts to acquire more weapons for use against Israel and the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.” But the editorial does not tell us that the offer to Hamas, though not identical to former Hamas offers, nevertheless was an offer for a long-term truce (e.g.,http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1035700.html). Hamas of course stipulated certain conditions. But then, so would we.
Item 6 is about Ben Gurion University, which, if the report is accurate, seems to be doing much that is politically astute.
Finally, item 7 (forwarded to me by Michael Riordon, bless him), though long is 100% positive news. Nice for a change to have something encouraging to end with.
Court rejects Gaza lawyer’s request to study in Ramallah
The Supreme Court has rejected the petition of Attorney Fatma Sharif, who asked to leave the Gaza Strip through Israel to study for a Master’s Degree at the University of Birzeit.
In their ruling, Judges Miriam Naor, Isaac Amit and Hanan Melcer said they were not convinced that under the current security and political situation, Sharif’s personal circumstances justified intervening in the defense minister’s decision. (Aviad Glickman)
2. Jerusalem Post Wednesday, July 7, 2010
IDF declassifies evidence of Hizbullah presence in Lebanon
Watch footage of: Ahead of anniversary of 2nd Lebanon War, army reveals videos, maps, photos; says group has about 20,000 guerrilla fighters throughout southern Lebanon.
Ahead of the anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, the IDF Northern Command on Wednesday declassified for the first time evidence of Hizbullah’s growing presence inside close to 200 villages in southern Lebanon.
Using the village of el-Hiyyam – located about 20km north of Kiryat Shmona- as an example, the IDF showed with extensive footage, videos and maps the homes that Hizbullah has taken over and used to establish weapons storage and command and control centers. The visual materials also revealed the location of the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), some of them weighing up to half a ton, which are located throughout the village.
The IDF recently dispatched a delegation to United Nations headquarters in New York to present the evidence to the international community. The evidence was also presented to the new commander of UNIFIL, Maj-Gen Alberto Asarta Cuevas.
The IDF said that Hizbullah today maintains a force of about 20,000 guerrilla fighters throughout southern Lebanon, who are tasked with deterring an IDF ground incursion, as well as activating Hizbullah’s extensive missile capability which allows them to strike any point within Israel today.
Hizbullah is estimated to have 40,000 short-, medium- and long-range missiles.
Hizbullah has split up its forces in southern Lebanon into three different divisions: The Southern Division, the IDF said, consists of 5,000 guerrilla fighters, 30,000 missiles and rockets as well as a number of subdivisions. Each subdivision is responsible for approximately 15 villages. Each village contains between 20 and 200 fighters, hundreds of mortar shells, hundreds of short-and medium- range rockets, as well as a number of command centers.
In the maps unveiled by the IDF, Hizbullah weapons caches are shown approximately 50 meters from schools and hospitals. Storage and command centers are located in most cases inside or adjacent to the homes of Lebanese civilians.
‘It is important to show the world that Hizbullah has built up its military infrastructure inside villages with the objective that we will kill the maximum amount of civilians in a future conflict” a senior IDF officer said Wednesday.
“We want to warn that if we are attacked by Hizbullah – this may happen.”
While four years after the Lebanon War, the prevalent IDF assessment is that war with Hizbullah is currently of low probability, the military still fears that Hizbullah will try to attack Israel to avenge the 2008 assassination of the group’s military commander, Imad Mugniyeh in Damascus.
The scenarios the IDF prepares for includes a possible kidnapping along the border, and to infiltrate an Israeli borderline community.
“We see Hizbullah’s [strong] grip inside the villages and we view an infiltration into Israel as the primary threat,” Colonel Ronen Moreli, commander of Brigade 300, told reporters.
3. Haaretz Wednesday, JulY 07, 2010
Disloyalty on the part of the occupied
Were it not for Mohammed Abu Tir’s red beard, this would perhaps be only a marginal news item: Israel is working to expel four Palestinian residents of Jerusalem affiliated with Hamas from the city of their birth.
Were it not for Mohammed Abu Tir’s red beard, this would perhaps be only a marginal news item: Israel is working to expel four Palestinian residents of Jerusalem affiliated with Hamas from the city of their birth.
There are those who see this expulsion as demonstrating a proud national stance, but it is already turning out to be a political boomerang. Abu Tir is under arrest, because he did not leave Jerusalem on June 19. His colleagues – Khaled Abu Arafa, formerly the Jerusalem affairs minister in Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s government, and Ahmed Atun and Mohammed Totah, both members of the Palestinian Legislative Council on behalf of an Islamic list identified with Hamas – have moved into the Red Cross office in East Jerusalem.
Four years ago, then-interior minister Roni Bar-On (Kadima ) revoked their status as Jerusalem residents on the grounds that they had violated their minimal obligation of loyalty to the state of Israel, its citizens and its residents. After that, they were arrested, released anddefined as illegals obligated to depart from “Israel’s borders.
Since the end of 1995, the Interior Ministry – headed first by Haim Ramon (Labor ) and subsequently by Eliyahu Suissa (Shas ) – has pursued a policy of mass revocation of residency (with a brief hiatus under Natan Sharansky of Yisrael B’Aliyah, and even that only after an intense public struggle ). The record was set in 2008, when 4,577 men and women were stripped of their right to reside in their own city by the Interior Ministry, then headed by Meir Sheetrit (Kadima ).
Nevertheless, by revoking the residency of these three parliamentarians and one former cabinet minister, Israel has set a record of a new sort: Until now, Jerusalem residency had been revoked exclusively on the basis of administrative pretexts, such as prolonged stays outside the city.
These wicked pretexts derive from the liberty Israel has taken of applying the Entry to Israel Law – used primarily to grant residency permits to non-Jewish immigrants – to residents of occupied and annexed East Jerusalem. But the inhabitants of East Jerusalem did not decide to “come” to Israel; it is Israel that “came” to them.
The current case, however, is the first time Israel has denied Jerusalem residency on political grounds.
The United States and Europe urged Israel to let the Palestinians hold elections in 2006. The participation of an Islamic list affiliated with Hamas was a well-known condition for enabling these elections to take place, including in Jerusalem.
Yet the moment that list won a sweeping victory, Israel embarked on a campaign of punishment against its members, and especially the Jerusalemites among them, for “serving” in the Palestinian Authority)
This, in and of itself, represented a new peak of political cynicism (and another slap in the face to PA President Mahmoud Abbas ). It has been exceeded in its cynicism only by Israel’s demand that the occupied evince loyalty to the occupier, lest he be banished.
With this expulsion order, Israel has managed to unite the entire Palestinian arena. The protest tent the three men set up in the courtyard of the Red Cross office has become a pilgrimage site. And Abbas has met twice with those slated for banishment.
Time will tell whether his promise to have the decree rescinded can be kept. In the meantime, however, the political movement that is his main rival is again becoming the symbol of the national struggle and of steadfastness in waging it.
Even those who, for political and cultural reasons, are sworn opponents of the Palestinian Islamic movement know that Israel is setting a precedent.
Today, people affiliated with Hamas are being expelled from Jerusalem. Tomorrow, if the PA falls apart or dares to reject Israel’s dictates, it will be known Fatah activists who will be stripped of their residency due to “disloyalty to the occupation.”
Following the flotilla raid, the expulsions from Sheikh Jarrah and the royal plans for Silwan, this is yet another match that Israel is tossing into the tinderbox. And it is one that even its friends will find it hard to ignore.
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Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 5 July 2010
Swedish Radio reported on 23 June that home furnishings retail giant IKEA in Israel discriminately ships to Israel’s illegal settlements but not Palestinian cities in the occupied West Bank.
Swedish Radio’s correspondent in Israel, Cecilia Udden, explained that she was moving to the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and asked the staff at IKEA Israel if her furniture could be delivered there. She reported that behind the store’s counter was a huge map of Israel that showed no boundaries for the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, or the Syrian Golan Heights. Although IKEA’s cost of transport is calculated according to distance, to Udden’s surprise, transport to Ramallah was not possible. However, the store did inform her that furniture could be delivered to various Israeli settlements throughout the occupied West Bank.
Ove Bring, a professor of international law, explained to Swedish online magazine Stockholm News that IKEA’s policies discriminate against Palestinians. In addition, the shipping policies violate the company’s code of conduct, which is published on its website (“IWAY Standard” [PDF]).
IKEA stated in Udden’s report that because it relies on local transport companies for deliveries it is bound by local rules. However, Bring challenged the company’s assertion and stated that IKEA must examine whether the transport companies are truly unable to deliver to all customers who request the products. Indeed, when Udden insisted on an answer from the transportation company about why her furniture could not be delivered to Ramallah, she was informed that the Israeli military prohibits the deliveries to customers in Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank.
In its historic 2004 advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice emphasized the illegality of activity that normalizes Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Indeed, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center — which is building a Museum of Tolerance on a historic Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem — told the California-based Jewish weekly J. that the opening of an IKEA store in Israel “will be another chink in the attempts that are still out there to boycott Israel” (“”IKEA’s 1st Israeli store to open in spring,” 12 January 2001).
Ironically, before the opening of an IKEA store in Israel in 2001, the retailer was threatened with boycott by the Wiesenthal Center because the company’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, was a member of the fascist New Swedish Movement in the 1940s. The Wiesenthal Center also suspected IKEA of complying with the Arab League boycott of Israel because it appeared to avoid commercial involvement in Israel despite possible opportunities. In a December 1994 letter to the Wiesenthal Center, IKEA President Anders Moberg stated that IKEA had not participated in the Arab League boycott and that company was in the process of investigating the possibility of opening an IKEA store in Israel.
Today IKEA’s empire boasts 300 stores in 35 countries, including two stores in Israel; the company intends to open a third store in Haifa in 2012. The IKEA brand survived the revelations of its founder’s links to fascism during his youth and the company demonstrated its sensitivity to a possible consumer boycott.
In yet another irony, the boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel movement is already mobilizing in Sweden. At the end of June, the Swedish Dockworkers Union began a week-long blockade of goods to and from Israel. The action by the SDU was in response to a call by Palestinian trade unionists in the context of Israel’s three-year blockade of the Gaza Strip and its attack on the Mavi Marmara aid ship on 31 May. Meanwhile the Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden has called on IKEA to immediately stop deliveries to the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. It remains to be seen whether IKEA will rectify the racist policies of its store in Israel before such practices inspire a new consumer boycott threat.
Editor’s note: the original version of this article inadvertently omitted the information that the Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden has called on IKEA to stop delivering its merchandise to West Bank settlements. This version of the article has been corrected to include that information.
Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.
The writer David Grossman called on the government of Israel in these pages yesterday to cease its preoccupation with the number and identity of Palestinian prisoners who would potentially be swapped for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Grossman believes Israel should make Hamas a broader offer that would involve “a total cease-fire, an end to all terror activities from Gaza and a lifting of the siege.” The start of such negotiations would see Shalit and the prisoners exchanged.
The proposal deserves serious consideration as the basis for a new policy. It is unfortunate that four years have been wasted and something along these lines was not adopted soon after Shalit’s abduction in 2006. There is no certainty, however, that Hamas would have agreed to the proposal then, or that it will do so now. It is also worth examining the impact such a deal would have on the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan. But the point of departure is that there is no sense in allowing the existing situation to continue.
A few days after the abduction and the failure of operation “Southern Shalit” to locate and rescue the soldier, astute voices from the top ranks of the Israel Defense Forces reached the conclusion that if Shalit was to be brought back, a new policy was necessary. These voices, which apparently reflected the position of GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant and then chief of staff Dan Halutz, sought to recognize the reality that had been created in Gaza following the Hamas victory in the PA elections four months earlier, and the establishment of the Ismail Haniyeh government (Hamas’ violent takeover of the Strip only took place in June 2007 ).
The IDF wanted to pose the following option to Hamas: Preserve your rule of power or continue your violent struggle against Israel. A proposal to seek a broad agreement on Israel-Hamas relations was drafted – which was to include a cease-fire, an end to terrorist attacks and the launching of Qassam rockets, an end to efforts to acquire more weapons for use against Israel and the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit. A report on this attitude held by the IDF, published by Haaretz, angered then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, who opposed a prisoner exchange deal. He shelved the idea and subsequently rejected similar ones raised during Operation Cast Lead.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not bound by Olmert’s objections. He should revive the idea and challenge Hamas. Israel needs to embark on an initiative that would fundamentally alter the situation along the southern border, without fearing dialogue with Hamas. It must not regard the current situation as simply fate.
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6. Ynet Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Hating Israel on our campus
Ben-Gurion University turning into village fool, hotbed of anti-Israel activity
The protests following the Turkish flotilla incident included activists marching outside the Ben-Gurion University senate building while giving the Nazi salute and shouting “Heil Bibi.” These were apparently outside provocateurs, yet members of the university’s teaching staff participated in the demonstration.
Teaching staff members also took part in the illegal protest held on the outskirts of campus two days earlier. Some of them have been calling for a boycott on Israel and characterizing it as an “apartheid state” – a term that has been well-perceived in the global anti-Israel market.
The true role played by Ben-Gurion University in Israeli academia’s overall anti-Zionist activity does not justify the reputation it built in this area. However, in recent years the university assumed the role of village fool in the academic arena, characterized by ridiculous displays of the abovementioned type.
However, it is not one professor or another who are responsible for Ben-Gurion University being perceived as second only to the Palestinian Birzeit University in respect to anti-Israeli sentiments. Such phenomena do not grow in a vacuum.
Let’s take the boycott motive for example. Upon taking office, a senior university official submitted to an interview where he pledged to take part in leftist student protests yet shun rightist ones. In the same interview, the official explained that one should join a boycott on global universities “should a substantial crime take place there.” Earlier, in January 2005, a boycott was organized against a guest lecture by Professor Yaakov Bergman, for “fear of his influence on young minds.” This year, ahead of the board of trustees’ session, a donor was boycotted (in writing!) and the same happened to a university professor.
And what about the Nazi circus discussed at the opening of this piece? Not too long ago, the university dismissed a member of the appointments committee for speaking out against the candidacy of an Israeli lecturer who lives in the US. This candidate organized a military insubordination campaign and compared IDF commanders and soldiers to the Nazis. The university’s official spokesman said that “a member of the appointments committee cannot take non-academic factors into consideration” – a response that infuriated online readers (“And what if it was Dr. Mengele?”)
Outside the university senate building we have a large poster bearing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s image, graced with a large “catastrophe” caption.” Anyone can come and see the display, which originally was meant to glorify Prime Minister Ben-Gurion. The protest expressed by about 90% of those signing the exhibit’s guestbook have not impressed university officials, who responded by saying this is “artistic freedom.”
The management of my university would do well to stop ridiculing itself and making people fed up with it, and instead contemplate the complex meaning of terms such as “academic freedom,” “freedom of speech,” “artistic freedom,” and “artistic considerations” vis-à-vis its own simplistic perception.
The mathematics department includes a serving professor whose son died a hero’s death during Operation Cast Lead, while defending the rocket-battered university. Would it be too much to ask university officials to consider, alongside the glorious academic freedom for lecturers to openly curse the IDF, the bereaved professor’s freedom not to hear his colleagues say that his son was a “Nazi criminal?”
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Israel David is a mathematics and performance research professor at Ben-Gurion University
7. [Thanks to Michael Riordon for forwarding this terrific news]
Rabble.Ca Tuesday, July 6, 2010
A case study in failure: the Israel lobby at Toronto Pride
Just one month ago, Israel lobby groups in Canada were celebrating the decision of Pride Toronto to prohibit the participation of the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) at the 2010 Pride parade. The group has marched in the parade since 2008 in response to a public relations campaign to rebrand Israel as a safe haven for queers in the Middle East, effectively pinkwashing the occupation and Israel’s apartheid practices –- which deny rights to queer Palestinians.
After two years of backroom lobbying of the Pride board of directors, their sponsors and city officials who make funding decisions for the festival, the organization succumbed to pressure and announced that it would censor the term “Israeli apartheid” from the parade.
In its May 28 editorial A case study in activism, the National Post hailed the decision as a landmark victory that would have “significant repercussions for the intellectual climate in this country.”
Less than a month later, Pride Toronto reversed its decision and allowed Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to march in the parade. As a result of the controversy, hundreds of people joined the group at Pride last weekend, forming the largest Palestine solidarity contingent in the parade’s history.
How did this happen? The Israel lobby applied many of the same tactics it used successfully against other community groups, unions, student associations, artists and academic institutions. Why did they backfire this time?
When Naomi Klein made a surprise appearance at a cabaret fundraiser for Queers Against Israeli Apartheid at a Toronto nightclub last week, she summed it up in six words: “They messed with the wrong community.”
Canada’s queer community has a long history of battles against censorship. From pornography laws to Canada Customs, queer activists have discovered that tools of censorship are blunt instruments, which are more often used to target marginalized communities than protect them.
Pink Triangle Press, which owns the lion’s share of LGBT news media in Canada, won two pivotal court cases in 1978 and 1982 when charged with publishing indecent material. As a result of its own struggles against censorship, its editorial policies commit its publications to supporting freedom of expression.
Censorship in Pride parades across Canada has also been a source of contention, with some (mostly straight) observers complaining about everything from drag queens to men dressed in leather. Attempts to censor any contingents — including the 2002 arrest of nudists in the Toronto pride parade — have traditionally been met with backlash from the queer community.
Despite this historical context, Israel lobby groups thought it would be a wise move to launch a campaign to censor the Pride parade, in a community hostile to censorship.
Aside from the outlandish claim that Pride parades are not political, the primary argument used by Israel lobby groups to justify censorship is that the term “Israeli apartheid” constitutes hate speech. The claim has been made several times by Israel lobby groups and even some mayoral candidates, but surprisingly no one has bothered to call the police to report this apparent crime.
This is because they know very well that criticism of a government is not hate speech, and it is only being framed this way by defenders of the Israeli government to smear its critics in the court of public opinion.
According to documents [PDF] from a 2009 meeting with City of Toronto officials obtained through a Freedom of Information request, Israel lobbyists admitted that the term Israeli apartheid “does not meet the criminal standard of hate law in the Criminal Code of Canada.”
While extra-judicial interpretations of hate laws may work for right-wing mayoral candidates, it doesn’t convince a community that knows very well what actual hate speech is.
The first groups to challenge the inclusion of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in the Pride parade were B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress, two groups with questionable records on LGBT rights.
While the CJC was telling Pride Toronto how to run its parade in 2009, its co-president was Reuven Bulka, a homophobic rabbi who sat on the scientific advisory committee of the U.S.-based National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which advocates conversion therapy for queers and supports the re-listing of homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder. Bulka still sits on the board of directors of the CJC.
At the same time, B’nai Brith was working closely with Canada’s most prominent anti-gay activists, including Charles McVety of the Canada Family Action Coalition. McVety is still campaigning to repeal same-sex marriage in Canada, and he led the charge against Ontario’s new sex ed curriculum.
The track record of these Israel lobby groups on LGBT issues damaged their credibility when they lectured the queer community about which groups should be allowed in the parade.
After these groups failed to convince Pride Toronto to censor the parade in 2009, a new spokesperson emerged to lead the charge against QuAIA. The National Post said that unlike previous lobbyists on the issue, Martin Gladstone “had grass-roots credibility within the gay community,” even though most queer activists had never heard of him before.
“I don’t consider myself an activist,” Gladstone told the Jewish Tribune in May 2009. Yet he was subsequently described as a “gay rights activist” by Israel lobby groups and the right-wing press in an attempt to lend credibility to their front person.
On the other side of the debate, activists with long histories of contributions and commitment to queer activism spoke out against the censorship of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
When Pride Toronto announced its censorship decision, the founders of the 1981 Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day issued an open letter expressing solidarity with QuAIA. The grand marshal and honoured dyke both refused their appointments, and 21 former grand marshals, honoured dykes and Pride Toronto award recipients returned their honours in protest. The 519 Church Street Community Centre and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, two of the city’s prominent queer institutions, publicly opposed the censorship. Gay Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewksbury and prominent South African AIDS activist Zackie Achmat both criticized the decision.
The failure of Israel lobby groups to mobilize support among credible queer voices was not just a strategic error. It was the inevitable result of a long-term shift in the priorities and politics of these groups from human rights organizations to lobby groups with a narrow focus on unconditional support for the Israeli government. While activists in Queers Against Israeli Apartheid were tapping into networks and relationships they had formed through years of solidarity work, Israel lobbyists could only rely on pressure tactics against Pride Toronto and its funders.
Queers opposed to censorship were taking the discussion to the community, with a packed town hall held at the queer community centre. Gladstone and the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre chose the backroom approach, initiating secret meetings with city bureaucrats, insisting that they pressure Pride Toronto as one of its funders.
Through this kind of backroom lobbying, a slim majority of Pride Toronto board members were swayed to censor the parade in the interest of preserving the organization’s funding.
Yet the decision to only pressure the leadership — while ignoring the community Pride Toronto is accountable to — set the stage for a community revolt. The loud community response created the exact situation that Pride funders were desperately trying to avoid: a political controversy about Israel/Palestine, with sponsors implicated, taking one side of the debate.
The tide is turning
It’s not just the colossal series of strategic missteps made by Israel lobby groups that resulted in this failure. Although Canada arguably has the most pro-Israel government in the world right now, attitudes are shifting in this country and globally against Israeli policies.
It was only one week after Israeli soldiers boarded an aid ship in international waters and murdered nine peace activists, when a town hall was held at the 519 Church Street Community Centre in response to Pride Toronto’s censorship. It was standing-room only in the auditorium where more than 400 queer community members gave a standing ovation to Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
One by one, as representatives of different organizations expressed their solidarity with QuAIA, it became clear that many in attendance were not just supportive of free speech, but also becoming increasingly aware of Israeli government practices and how they disproportionately harm queer Palestinians.
“We are Black queer and trans people against Israeli apartheid,” announced Syrus Ware from the Blackness Yes Committee, to cheers from the audience. Amy Gottlieb, one of the founders of the 1981 Pride Day, spoke while wearing a “Jews Against the ccupation”
As opinions continue to shift against the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, Israel lobby groups are stepping up their campaign to silence critics in Canada. The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism — a pseudo-parliamentary committee of pro-Israel MPs — is using anti-Semitism as a front to develop strategies to curtail criticism of Israel. One of the deputations to the committee hearings was made by Martin Gladstone, whose submission falsely accused Queers Against Israeli Apartheid of displaying swastikas at the 2009 Pride parade.
However, as the Pride Toronto example demonstrates, these desperate measures only bring more attention to criticisms of Israeli policies, and encourage discussion about the plight of Palestinians. Every time an attempt is made to censor the term “Israeli apartheid,” more people ask questions about how Israeli policies constitute apartheid under international law. And they get answers.
On May 28, the National Post prematurely celebrated the “wonderful irony that the professional ‘activists’ at QuAIA got beaten at their own game.” As we can see now, the real irony is that Martin Gladstone’s game only helped to make “Israeli apartheid” a household term in Toronto’s queer community and beyond.
And now that we know what Israeli apartheid is, it’s time for us to end it.