The only liberal democracy in the Middle East


To follow up on yesterday's post in reaction to a motion passed by the Ontario legislature, Alison in comments was kind enough to supply the text of the United Nations International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Here's a part of the definition of apartheid with my emphasis added:

Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognised trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;
Now please read this guest post at Mondoweiss by a Palestinian and then explain why using the term apartheid in discussion of Israeli treatment of Palestinians is not only wrong but is so far over the top that people who do deserve the unanimous condemnation of elected officials who are supposed to be representing them.

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I didn't see the actual text of the resolution MPPs voted for yesterday in earlier comments, so here it is:

I move that in the opinion of this House, the term "Israeli Apartheid Week" is condemned as it serves to incite hatred against Israel, a democratic state that respects the rule of law and human rights, and the use of the word "apartheid" in this context diminishes the suffering of those who were victims of a true apartheid regime in South Africa.

Via kropotkin at babble.

So Ontario legislators are experts on the suffering of both black South Africans and Palestinians. Awesome.

Well, one thing they are clearly not expert on is the Charter, section 2, freedom of conscience. Cheri DiNovo maundered on about approaching differences among "faith" groups with love, but she didn't seem to grasp that the language of that resolution attacks commitments of conscience, every bit as deep as anyone's "faith."

We have some exceptionally ignorant public servants.

The problem is that the quoted definition not only applies to all countries in the ME other than Israel, arguably it also applies to ethnicity based nationalism closer to home. What about non "status Indians" being kicked off reserves? What about the Charter of the French Language which limits fundamental freedoms such the right to choose a school or to sell goods in English. IAW singles out Israel alone by use of a standard that catches all of the parties to the ME conflict (who are far worse than is Israel when judged by this standard) as well as made in Canada movements.

Having said that, I wouldn't have voted to condemn it. But if I were a university administrator I'd make sure there is freedom from intimidation and freedom of expression for the other side of the debate.

Well, y'know, MM, let me know when members of federal and provincial legislatures in Canada set up inquisitions aimed at stifling public criticism of Saudi Arabia.

Quite frankly, given what we know about how cosy our elites are with Saudi Arabia (see "oil": see also "military-industrial complex"), it seems to me that there must already be such an inquisition in place. I'm trying to imagine Harper going after the ruling house of Saud with any enthusiasm, and shucks, but that's just not working for me.

But your talking-points don't allow for that, do they? That organizations like the CJC or BB would find ME dictatorships useful pawns in one kind of argument while recognizing quietly that our governments are bestest friends with them behind the scenes. Let's all hold hands with a Saudi prince.

IAW singles out Israel alone by use of a standard that catches all of the parties to the ME conflict (who are far worse than is Israel when judged by this standard) as well as made in Canada movements.

This looks like just another way of asking why critics pay particular attention to Israel instead of criticizing other countries too, which is a common tactic in these discussions. Consider:

Israel is the country that is routinely held up as a beacon of liberal democracy while no one in this conversation is likely to claim that Saudi Arabia, to use one example, is anything but an autocratic regime. If I criticize Iran's human rights record, to use another example, there's unlikely to be someone showing up in comments here to dispute my criticisms. There certainly aren't a bunch of lobby groups constantly defending the records of those countries and claiming that critics of those countries are unrepentant bigots.

As far as I can tell, Israel is the only Middle East actor that has actually conducted an illegal, 43 year long military occupation of land that doesn't belong to it. If I'm wrong, name another and I'll condemn it but the circumstances of the occupation are, I think, unique and that's particularly true of countries that are supposed to be allies.

And speaking of allies, Peter Kent didn't say that an attack on Syria is an attack on Canada. The only country our government (and now our provincial legislature) has singled out for the kind of whole-hearted and unquestioning support that Israel gets from our political elites is Israel. As I keep saying, it's now at the point where people elected to represent Canadians are actually attacking their own citizens in defence of a foreign country. If our political leadership is going to pay special attention to Isreal, how can you condemn anyone else for doing the same and taking a closer look at what's going on? Given the position our government is taking, I'm now complicit in Israel's actions. I'm unhappy about that and I have a perfect right to be.

My own submission to CPCCA was against the notion that criticism of Israel be criminalized or characterized as anti-Semitism.

But that doesn't mean that I don't think BDS and IAW are fundamentally flawed, as is the point about the 43 years of occupation (and at least you were clear in referring to 1967, as many on the BDS/IAW side start the clock from 1948). Under 242 and 338 Israel it is crystal clear that Israel has no unilateral obligation to withdraw. Rather, those resolutions are all about land for peace. There is no government of Israel that under any circumstances could-would-or should-unilaterally cede territory to an other side that doesn't itself believe in that formaula and whose Charter cites the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

What the Apartheid comparison does is mix up a colonial South African narrative with a competing nationalism conflict as between Israel and Palestine.

Let's not shut the debate down at all. I'm all for having it.

But that doesn't mean that I don't think BDS and IAW are fundamentally flawed...

And you're entitled to that opinion and to express it. Later on in your comment you say "let's not shut the debate down" and that's the point. The efforts of many of those who support Israel are designed to shut down the debate. There's always a disclaimer to the effect that there is such a thing as legitimate criticism of Israel but no examples are ever given. Instead one reason or another is found to claim that whatever criticism is currently under discussion is illegitimate and should be silenced. That's what the motion under discussion is designed to do: shut down one side of the debate by making its terms of reference illegitimate. If those efforts succeed I'm quite sure that reasons will be found to shut down whatever replaces "apartheid" as a term of reference.

The group that currently governs in Gaza is on the list of banned terrorist organizations but while Israel uses cluster bombs against the civilian population of Lebanon and white phosphorus against the civilian population of Gaza, Jason Kenney and Peter Shurman hold it up as a shining example of liberal democracy and give it unconditional support. Does not compute.

While I'm far from an activist I approach this from the liberal side of things and I'm uncomfortable with how the issue is being used as a partisan wedge. I believe in the permanence of Israel as the homeland of the "Jewish People" (without it requiring any notion of ethnic "purity") and believe that idea is supportable on liberal and democratic grounds including Wilsonian self determination. I also believe in the parallel right of the "Palestinian People" to their own state.

While you're absolutely correct that there are those on the pro-Israel side of the debate want to shut down the debate, I'd argue that many who use the term "apartheid" have a similar objective. After all, how can one defend the indefensible? If Israel is per se an apartheid state (or, for some, a "Nazi" state), then it's as if her supporters are guilty of supporting the devil.

I await Peter Kent's pledge to Lebanon: An attack on Lebanon is an attack on Canada.

Lebanon is striving to be/remain a multi-cultural democracy surrounded by invaders (as demonstrated by Syria and Israel),and has ties with Canada by virtue of nearly 200K Lebanese-Canadians (likely more than the number of Israeli-Canadians). Why the cold shoulder? can one defend the indefensible?

One can't. That's why it's indefensible. And I would agree that if it's established that Israel's actions truly meet the definition of apartheid than those actions are indefensible. The proper response isn't to outlaw the word, it's to demonstrate why the actions in question actually don't meet the definition or, you know, actually stop those actions. Just as the proper response to accusations that Americans were torturing detainees in their "black site" prisons wasn't to stop calling it torture and call it enhanced interrogation instead; the proper response was to stop doing it.

I agree with how you frame it, but disagree with those who argue that Israel is by definition an apartheid state. Just like there are those who say that if everything is anti-Semitism then nothing is anti-Semitism, if Israel by virtue of existing for its stated purpose is guilty of apartheid then that word loses an essential part of its meaning. I say let's not outlaw it but debate it, as we're doing here.

MM, if the debate is to go further, could you go back to this one sentence of pogge's above and respond to it?

As I keep saying, it's now at the point where people elected to represent Canadians are actually attacking their own citizens in defence of a foreign country.

That line alone has a lot of us feeling sick.


OK. First, I don't support the idea that an attack on Israel is an attack on Canada. For that to be so it would to be debated in Parliament and approved. And as a Canadian who believes in the right of Israel to have her permanence recognized (and I use that word consciously as opposed to the term "right to exist"), I actually would be very uncomfortable with that sort of linkage anyway.

What the whole BDS/IAW "debate" is about is whether Israel should in fact be demonized-whether it should be the subject of the tactics of boycott, divestement and sanctions. Of course reasonable payable acting in good faith can disagree on this issue and I'm uncomfortbale with those in favour of BDS or IAW being characterized as anti-Semitic.

However, I think that those who favour bans are typcially viewed as trying to stifle debate so that Israel can grab land. I think this perception may be true in some cases but that in mnay cases it is flat out wrong. Israel exists as a Jewish nationalist reponse to many centuries of fairly continuous religious and then nationalist based persecution. There are many who reasonably believe that if Israel were to be undone, those conditions would return. So they honestly see things like IAW as being geared to undo Israel and return to the status quo ante, rather than to address Israel's clear misdeeds and violations of international law.

Israel's supporters often use too blunt an instrument in dealing with their adversaries-I think this is not only morally wrong but counter productive.

But I think things like IAW are equally consequential as the very term baits all supporters of the idea of an Israel, even within the '67 borders. Not to bait you good people, but I think it is as simplistic as Dubya's "you're either with us or against us" and reduces Israel to the role of illegitimate practicioners of apartheid. Even people like Tutu and Carter used the A word to describe certain policies that they felt should be labeled to create debate and shame Israel into reflection, but they did NOT say that Israel was a mistake. When you read the program for IAW both here in Canada and elsewhere, a very large portion of the panelists present as "Zionsim is Racism"/Israel by a definition is an apartheid state zealots.

I still don't see why our legislators ought to step into that debate and regulate it--but I would welcome a very vigorous honest debate. Which is why I make certain fundamental points that I don't think are mere "talking points." Those who seek to deligitimize the idea of an Israel need to explain all the other nationality based countries and movements in the world and why they are OK yet Zionism is not OK.

On Zionism and nation-state, there's this column that covers some ground. I'm not competent to discuss the issue of Zionism but still it seems to me that one needs to define the concept first before engaging in a meaningful debate on this issue. From what I understand of Jerry Haber's column that I linked to above, there's more than one aspect to Zionism. Added to that, there is this rather peculiar aspect quoted from Jehuda Reinharz and Anita Shapira's Essential Papers on Zionism: "Zionism appears to be the only national movement that set out upon its push to independence at a juncture when the people it aspired to represent was not physically present on the territory the movement laid claim to as national patrimony." Does that necessarily mean that it is a different animal from other national movements? So, we need to know what it is we are talking about. In the same vein, those who label Zionism as racism would need to circumscribe the concept in a way that makes it clear that it does not include those other aspects (like that of Jerry Haber, for example) that are not problematic in the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

it seems to me that one needs to define the concept first before engaging in a meaningful debate on this issue.

Yes. Once upon a time I got quite confused in trying to sort out things I was reading until I figured out that different people mean different things by "Zionism."

As to the question of Israel's "right to exist" -- as what? As a state based on the 1967 borders? As a state that includes the West Bank and Gaza and the Golan Heights? As a state with borders to be named later (and a second round draft pick)? While you're defining Zionism, define Israel.

I don't think the existence of Israel is in as much doubt as is the existence of the Palestinians. The Palestinians have been paying the price for the centuries of European discrimination against the Jewish people, a discrimination they were not a part of.

As the Territory is rightfully Palestinian, then there is an obligation to cede it, or to provide protection to the people and the necessities of life. The argument often used, that it was held by Egypt Jordan until 1967, does not wash either, at no time did either of these nations attempt annexation of the territory, as Israel is now doing, nor deny the people the right to live on their own land.

Claiming the need for Palestine to recognise the existence of the Jewish state, while Israel is not recognizing the need for a Palestinian state at the same time, calls into question the future of the Palestinians themselves. I think if a nation with estimated hundreds of nuclear weapons is afraid of a nation with an impoverished population, poorly armed and financially strained, it is more a matter for psychologists than politicians.

"What the whole BDS/IAW "debate" is about is whether Israel should in fact be demonized_"

If they do the crime let them pay the time. Creditable evidence that Israel is guilty of actions that should be investigated, and discussion of the creditable evidence of Israeli wrongdoings, does not mean demonization of Israel, it means that the Israeli government is being held accountable, an important part of any democracy. The best way to stop 'demonizing' of Israel, would be for Israel to not annex territory nor move the Palestinians from their own lands in the name of 'Israeli security'; not ration water, power and supplies while allowing unlimited access to the Jewish immigrants of nearby illegal settlements; not use prohibited weapons on civilian targets-in fact not attack the civilian targets as per the Geneva Conventions. The first step is being taken in Canada, the stopping of funding of any organization that documents these abuses; it does not stop the abuses it merely hides them away. I am reminded of the actions of the US government on the internet release of the Abu Ghraib torture pictures; not stop the torture or investigate, but ban the cameras themselves.

The Haber post supplied by Gene could spark a very interesting discussion about the nature of Israel but at this moment in time it's hard to find too many people on either side of the debate in Israel/Palestine who think that a unitary state would go well-there is too much enmity for that to seem possible, and really no desire for it to occur.

The fact is that Israel exists as a legitimate state under international law that is party to a conflict with both other UN member states and various non-state actors. It is unreasonable to blame the entire conflict on Israel, especially in the face of a continuing rejection of its permanence by most neighbouring states and the non-state actors. When the principal party to the conflict is led by Hamas, which clearly rejects not only a two state solution but even the sort of one state solution that western leftish activists say is possible (in favour of a Muslim state governed by sharia law), I'm not sure what Israel is supposed to do.

Israel policy has always been to accept the two state solution-that's more than can be said on the other side. If you want to argue that Israel is per se unjust and should be unwound, go ahead, but that's not an argument based in international law.

It is unreasonable to blame the entire conflict on Israel? From the perspective of Palestinians, it is entirely reasonable: They were minding their own business on their land, and a bunch of people from who knows where attacked them. I'm not sure how you're supposed to apportion blame there. Pretty much anything and everything they've done since to Israel and Israelis comes under the heading of resisting invasion and occupation. If we want to start blaming them, we also need to start talking about the iniquities of the French Resistance in WW II. Although actually, the French were far more blameworthy than the Palestinians, because the French had after all imposed onerous sanctions on Germany after the previous war. The Palestinians had never done nothin' to the Jews.
It is true that some of the things Palestinians have done in the process of resisting have been vicious, but if the Israelis didn't want them to happen they could have simply stopped occupying, whereas the Palestinians have never had available a choice to stop being occupied. There is no symmetry here.

As to the question of whether Israeli policy has always been to accept a two-state solution, that is at best very tangled, certainly not something to blithely assert as some sort of established fact. Certainly Moshe Dayan's well known position on Palestinians was “You shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave.” Meanwhile, of course the Palestinians can have no state position on the subject, because they have no state. But as to Hamas--what can Israel do? Well, they could negotiate. Hamas has shown flexibility on a number of positions, and take somewhat different positions as government of the Palestinian Authority than they do as an organization, in much the way political parties adopt resolutions at conventions that never see any attempt at legislation. But if someone starts from a position you can accept, you don't need to negotiate with them--you just say "OK". The point of negotiating is for the parties to change their position.

Of course there may not be much point to negotiating for another basic reason, though. Whatever the theoretical attitudes of Palestinian groups, they have tended to abide by agreements they make. But Israel systematically breaks their agreements, whether they be cease fire agreements, agreements to stop additional settlements, or whatever. The Israeli government has proved utterly untrustworthy. What is the motive to negotiate terms with a partner who considers treaties nothing more than a piece of paper? If the Israeli government were serious about wanting some sort of negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, they might want to start by establishing some sort of track record of abiding by agreements they make with them.


It's as if there were no framework for Israel to legally exist. But there is. What most Israelis fear is that deep down the Palestinians think the sorts of things that are said in your commen, which is why the Right in Israel is able to exploit those fears and go about a settlement policy that actually is a violation of international law and war crime.

the Right in Israel is able to exploit those fears and go about a settlement policy that actually is a violation of international law and war crime.

You acknowledge that Israel is guilty of serious crimes but I can't help but feel that you put the onus to change on everyone else. It's apparently up to Canadian activists to change the language they use because only when there is unanimous agreement on an exact definition and description of the nature of those crimes can we expect those crimes to stop. It seems like a ridiculous position when I spell it out like that but it also seems to be the position that's implied in a lot of the rhetoric I hear.

You acknowledge that Israel is guilty of serious crimes but I can't help but feel that you put the onus to change on everyone else. It's apparently up to Canadian activists to change the language they use because only when there is unanimous agreement on an exact definition and description of the nature of those crimes can we expect those crimes to stop. It seems like a ridiculous position when I spell it out like that but it also seems to be the position that's implied in a lot of the rhetoric I hear.

Not quite. The State of Israel exists as a legitimate state. It, like other states, does bad things and violates international law from time to time. The creation of Israel was done by activists for all the right reasons and those reasons remain applicable.

The issue is that IAW and BDS aren't solely about spanking Israel for its crimes-rather they seem to be more about Israel per se being illegitimate. Activists really have turned their back on the idea of Israel without specifying a concrete counter proposal. The idea that Israel can somehow be like a multicultural Canada, while appealing on one level, is unattainable and as reality based as the Bush/neo-con vision of Iraq (and of course a vision that was excoriated by activists).

The use of the term apartheid to capture the essence of Zionism is intentionally provocative. If Zionism=apartheid then all nationalism=apartheid. Accordingly, just like people say that "if everything is anti-Semitism then nothing is ant-Semitism," I'd say that if Israel is an apartheid state then there are no apartheid states other than perhaps countries like Canada (filtering out the Indian Act, the laws in certain of the First Nations and the Charter of the French language in Quebec).

The use of the term apartheid to capture the essence of Zionism is intentionally provocative.

You keep coming back to this as if I've done that and as if it's the only context in which the term has been applied to Israel. I haven't and it's not.

Activists really have turned their back on the idea of Israel without specifying a concrete counter proposal.

Aside from the fact that you're generalizing about an activist community with differing positions and opinions, why it is up to activists to specify a "concrete counter proposal" before the government of Israel stops stealing land, bulldozing houses and burning fields and orchards? Please answer my question.

I don't care if "activists" actively protest all sorts of Israeli state action including the war crime of resettling civilians on territory acquired in war. In fact I like it.

But I do care about those activists who use these clear misdeeds to reject the very idea of there being an Israel, a state created by activists and existing under international law with the right, under international law, to be recognized as a permanent state (see 242 and 338). Sometimes it's impossible to tell what's going on. My take on IAW, having surfed the official website and followed most of the links, including to BDS, is it is more about "Israel=Apartheid" than "Policy X is akin to Apartheid." And I think that's the conclusion of the MPP's as well. Whether it's your position I don't know, but I thought the topic was what the MPP's have done.

And on that point, when asked if they support the basic idea of Zionism, many say what you said at 8:25pm yesterday--which Zionism/which borders, etc. It's very hard for many activists to say what I think clearly is true, namely that Israel exists under activist created international law and certain rights-as well as obligations-under that same activist created international law.

We all know if the Palestinians declared a state called Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and reoognized Israel, virtually all UN member states would recognize that new country (even those member states that don't recognize Israel). But they have never taken that step, because the clear implication is the acceptance of a two state solution.

FYI in case you didn't catch it Dawg linked to your post and there is a long comment thread there as well.

oops--I think this is the correct link.

My take on IAW, having surfed the official website and followed most of the links, including to BDS, is it is more about "Israel=Apartheid" than "Policy X is akin to Apartheid."

Which is a far cry from the sense of the motion that just passed in the Ontario legislature if you want to bring this discussion back to its point of origin. So write your MPP and explain this nuance to him or her because that's obviously where the misunderstanding is.

But you didn't really answer my question. Meanwhile:

But they have never taken that step, because the clear implication is the acceptance of a two state solution.

And the armed Israelis they bump into at every step has nothing to do with it? The fact that since they dared to vote in an election in a way that Israel disapproved of, the Gaza borders have been choked off to a point that has left the population on the edge of starvation has nothing to do with it? Now you're just being silly.

Again, you put the onus on everyone else to do something before Israel can be expected to stop committing crimes. It's the same strategy the Israeli government has often pursued: insist that everyone else make all the concessions first before they'll even come to the negotiating table. It's sophistry. It masks an attempt to claim as much land and fresh water as possible before any kind of settlement can happen. And when Israel claims enough of the land, it will be Israel that has made the two state solution impossible.

You can continue to argue on your perspective about the BDS movement but I'm not likely to respond because it's not making any difference to my original point. If you want to argue about the nuance in their position, argue with someone who actually takes the position you condemn. If you want to stop Israel's bad behaviour, argue with Netanyahu and meanwhile suggest to our own elected officials that ignoring Israel's crimes probably isn't the best way to get them to stop. It hasn't worked so far.

Addendum to previous comment:

When I wrote "Which is a far cry from the sense of the motion..." above, I expressed myself badly. The motion that came out of the Ontario legislature didn't suggest that there was any nuance in the position of the activists in question at all. It suggested that all of them take what you, Marky, regard as the worst position when it's already bad enough that elected officials are condemning their own citizens for using inappropriate words while glossing over the crimes of those who actually use guns and bombs.

Fine-if others on the Left want to overlook the core issue-namely the continuing rejection of Israel's clear right to permanence under international law-while focusing only on Israel's clear misdeeds--then they really ought not to complain when those on the Right try to use this as a wedge issue and send out nasty flyers. And they also ought not complain when lifelong activists who do think Zionism at heart is a just idea leave the fold. For me, that is what this is about. I may not be an activist even if I'm on the Left, but I've never seen an answer to the heartfelt complaints of lifelong activists who felt they were excommunicated from the activist fold due to their support for Israel. Such as these guys. The fact is that we in Canada can join and donate to the New Israel Fund, complain to the Israeli government, etc, but we of course don't have real power in Israel.

It's just an unfortunate fact that the activist community presents as being united most by a solidarity for the Palestinians coupled with in many cases a rejection of the idea of an Israel with any borders.

If elite thinkers are going to get it so wrong, I'm happy to see legislators bring back some balance.

Such as these guys.

Funny you should link to that letter. I'm well aware of it and regard it as little better than an attempt at smearing large numbers of unnamed people. At the time it was written, there was no BDS movement and no widespread use of the term "apartheid" to criticize Israel. But even then there were attempts to claim that criticism of Israel's crimes was somehow an attack on Israel itself. That was the first time I saw the slimy attempt to claim that criticism of the occupation was simply veiled anti-semitism. I thought it was bullshit then and I think it's bullshit now.

P.S. Last comment--I oppose a ban of IAW and other like events and said so in my submission--but I agree with how the MPP's described IAW as a monologue and not a dialogue. Also, I know that Ruby et al define opposition to Israel as anti-Semitim in the piece that I linked to, but I don't, again as I set out in my CPCCA submission. I just think that an activist position that reduces the ME conflict primarily to Israel's role and without clearly stating support for the existence of "Zionism" as part of a two state solution, which is how I relate to BDS and IAW, is in my view a moral mistake, and politically speaking, an enormous error.

Hmmm . . . been some chat since I commented. I notice that while a couple of people denounced what I said as basically politically unpalatable, nobody actually engaged the ideas I put forward at all.

So for instance, what I said is bad because some Israelis might be afraid that's how Palestinians might think. So? Yeah, Palestinians might think that way. That's because it's, like, true. Or is the idea here that we should be very, very careful to never mention it so that Israelis will gain the impression that Palestinians are all *happy* niggers who *like* being whipped if they don't pick enough cotton? Not being afraid, they will then immediately champion the Palestinian cause because in their happiness they will cease to value their land or resources. What-ev-er.

I'm envious, I must say. This debate is excellent--at my place senior B'nai Brith operative Harry Abrams poisoned the well* at the outset, and he got help, too.

I just wanted to take up one minor issue, if I might, perhaps just to be mischievous. Marky keeps talking about Wilsonian self-determination.That is a bit ironic. Here is the fifth of Wilson's fourteen points:

#5 A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.

This means, in effect, that the rights of the colonizer are equal to those of the colonized. Is there perhaps, albeit obliquely, a whiff of this in some of the current discussions?

*NB: I am referring, of course, to this and not to this. These days one can't be too careful.

Pogge--thank-you for your analysis of that letter. Absolutely correct. Our own governent as stated by Harper and Kent is about to make criticism of israel a hate crime. When the Palestinians get all the munitions they need to fight back then maybe we can criticize them? Until then they are only trying to defend themselves, families, land and life against genocide.
Funny I never read anywhere about the jewish homeland of Birobidzhan. Check it out--the jews already have a homeland but they still want Palestine?

Who knew about Birobidzhan before this thread? I, for one, had not. But speaking of Bantustans...

Dawg, I think you're right that the colonial theme is how many look at the issue. While that worked well for South Africa, I don't think it works so well for Israel/Palestine in terms of two states. But I readily concede that successive Israeli governments since 1967 have pursued a settlement policy that does result in de facto annexation of the West Bank portion of the territory that the Partition Plan set aside for Palestine. I think those that are outraged by that and other state policies should be free to do what they do all the time with other like causes, namely fight those policies with activism, including trying to shame those responsible with odious comparisons like the A word. They shouldn't be characterized as anti-Semites and they shouldn't be told that they are illegitimate.

But for those who view the Zionism and the Partition Plan itself as tantamount to apartheid, it's entirely appropriate for others, including activists, to vehemently disagree.

nobody actually engaged the ideas I put forward at all

If I ignored your comment it was because I was focusing more on the damage being done to our own democracy.

So for instance, what I said is bad because some Israelis might be afraid that's how Palestinians might think. So?

Which touches on a point I tried to make: that according to some it seems the onus is on everyone else to define the crimes in a way that's acceptable to the criminal before we can expect the criminal to stop committing them.

From the reading I've done, it's apparent that when the wave of immigration of Jews into Palestine that was prompted by Theodore Herzl's manifesto began, many of the immigrants had every intention of pushing the existing residents of the area out in one way or another. Some of them anticipated violence and a few of them, at least, even looked forward to it, believing that a real Jewish nation could only be born in blood. Their main supporter was Britain whose primary motivation was as much strategic as anything else -- the British wanted to secure the route to India and having allies in control of Palestine solved that problem. (Admittedly the motives of the British were more complicated than that.)

There is nothing at all unnatural in the idea that Palestinians might view Israelis as invaders and foreign occupiers and regard their own violence as resistance. From their point of view, that's the situation.

If Israel and its supporters want to hang Israel's "right to exist" on international law, then it behooves Israel to stop making a mockery of international law and begin abiding by it. The onus for that isn't on anyone else and least of all is it on activists at York University. It's up to Israel to stop the settlements, the collective punishment and the other crimes being committed in the occupied territories. And then perhaps it should examine the treatment of the minorities inside it's internationally established borders where there is lately talk from such as Avigdor Lieberman about forced emmigration.

Meanwhile I continue to feel that our own elected representatives have betrayed us and I continue to be quite pissed off about it. And now I have to go and do some work so if you don't hear back from me, I'm not ignoring you. Well, I am but it's not you.

Edited for clarity.

Didn't mean you old bean. Nobody has a responsibility to respond to my posts. But some people did, and I found it kind of funny that mostly what they said wasn't "You're wrong because X" but rather "You shouldn't say that because X"--and moderately silly X at that.
A certain parallel to be drawn with the elected representatives, who are also busy saying "You shouldn't say that" without any real reasons why. Although to be fair, Marky Mark isn't saying "you should be stopped from such speech", just "it is politically unwise/inappropriate to say such things".

Purple Library Guy,

I was trying to tie the use of the A word to what the objective is of IAW. In South Africa the governing party itself chose the term "apartheid" and the campaign against South Africa clearly had the objective of forcing the government to abandon that system.

In this case BDS and IAW are broad coalitions that include those that are against Zionism and those that are merely protesting particular actions of the State of Israel without advocating the unwinding of Israel. The A word is being used to exert pressure but the ultimate objective seems unclear to me. Am I being too harsh?

If the purpose is to force Israel to comply with international law and its own commitments, I'm not sure the A word is effective for that purpose. If it's meant to serve as a description of Zionism, not only do I think it is inaccurate but it will in my opinion not exert any pressure on Israel.

The fact is there exists an intense conflict between Israel and Palestine. Is there anyone out there who has the intention and the means to help the parties end that conflict? I would have thought that if anyone fit the bill, it would be those committed to social justice. Instead it seems to me that the majority in that group have instead chosen to back one side in that conflict (because that side is viewed as "oppressed") and, in so doing, overlook both anything reasonable about Israel and the unreasonable positions of the party that they back.


I think what you overlook is WHY Herzl came to his thesis fairly late in late. He came to feel, with great regret, that given undeniable persecution founded both on religious and then nationalistic grounds, the only way to solve the "Jewish Question" was a "Jewish State." The early Zionists chose the Holy Land due to the continuous presence of Jews there since Biblical times and because it was viewed as a relatively unpopulated part of the Ottoman Empire that did not have its own distinct national identity, government, currency, capital, etc. If we're talking about narratives and perceptions, whether true objectively or not, it's not all that shocking that they came to this conclusion and also not all that shocking that the international community decided to partition the Palestine Mandate, first by creating Jordan, and then by dividing the remaining territory into Jewish and Arab states. But we're eons removed from that history now.
Israel exists. So far Palestine does not yet exists, partly because Palestinians in large measure reject how the Great Powers and the West solved their problem by partitioning "their" land (ignoring that much of it was acquired lawfully by willing sellers conveying their land to willing buyers) and partly because Israel itself seems no longer to be committed to the two state solution.

There is a ton of blame to go around.

But if you really want to get into it and see which government, party or ideology is most like apartheid, you really ought to read the Hamas Charter. It doesn't read like the Declaration of Independence...

On a break...

you really ought to read the Hamas Charter

We could have an interesting conversation about the significance of the Hamas Charter, the circumstances under which it was written and the fact that the current version of Hamas has sent signals that they're prepared to depart from its contents. But for this discussion, the Hamas Charter is irrelevant.

I can call Hamas any name in the book and be reasonably sure that the Ontario legislature won't pass a motion condemning me for it unless I actually descend into hate speech -- and maybe not even then. No representative of the federal government of Canada has stated that an attack on Hamas is an attack on Canada. As far as I know, no member of government at any level in Canada has given full throated and -- most importantly -- uncritical support to Hamas.

But as I've pointed out endlessly now, elected officials in this country are attacking their own citizens in an effort to prevent criticism of Israel. When my government gives this kind of uncritical support to Israel it makes Canadians, including me, complicit in Israel's crimes. The next time Israel assaults Gaza as it did in Operation Cast Lead, the blood is on my hands too. Do you not get that?


If you're right, does that mean that the next time terrorists blow up innocent civilians and dance in the streets/hand out candy to children to clebrate their "success," blood is on the hands of those in the West who marched at rallies that condemned Israel as a white supremacist apartheid state?

FWIW I don't think our politicians should be involving themselves in this intractable foreign conflict. But then again I don't think postal workers should have their wages used to fund IAW. There's no difference whatsoever.

What I believe is being missed by many is WHY these legislators from every single political party, both at the provincial level and at CPCCA, are concerned about things like IAW. Having spoken to many of them, I can tell you they are worried about the domestic implications of the demonization of Israel. Now they may be wrong, but unless and until people are willing to engage with them on this critical aspect of the overall discussion, they aren't likely to get through.

terrorists blow up innocent civilians and dance in the streets/hand out candy to children to clebrate their "success,"

Which terrorists did this? Because terrorists who died in the course of their attacks would have a little difficulty dancing in the streets afterwards. Which terrorists did this?

those in the West who marched at rallies that condemned Israel as a white supremacist apartheid state?

White supremacist? How often does that phrase turn up in criticisms of Israel? And from which sources? I just did a search for the phrase on the website of and got no hits.

I get the feeling you're ratcheting up the rhetoric here in a way that's designed to put me on the defensive. Back up that rhetoric.

And incidentally, what I related was my own sense of responsibility for the actions of the government that represents me. Why would you think the appropriate thing to do is to challenge that by suggesting that other people don't necessarily take the same responsibility? Do you want me to be more like the people who don't take responsibility? What was your point?

Which terrorists did this? Because terrorists who died in the course of their attacks would have a little difficulty dancing in the streets afterwards. Which terrorists did this?

You're defining "terrorists" as the suicide bombers only-those bombers came from a movement and their colleagues have on occasion celebrated. I remember many instances from the height of it in 2002, but one report is here.

White supremacist? How often does that phrase turn up in criticisms of Israel? And from which sources? I just did a search for the phrase on the website of and got no hits.

Isn't apartheid all about white supremacism? Google "apartheid" and many hits will have that included in a definition. See an example here.

I'm concerned about this foreign issue morphing into the sort of thing that Haaretz reports is occurring in Spain.

"The Israeli embassy in Madrid has received dozens of postcards addressed to the Israeli envoy - from students ages 5 and 6 - including hand-written messages such as "Jews kill for money," "Evacuate the country for Palestinians," and "Go to someplace where someone will be willing to accept you.""

THe Harper government's actions are different from what just happened with the MPP's,who simply weighed in on IAW. That's all they did.

See my post immediately above your last one and answer that. What was your point?

I don't really like our government weighing in on the ME-it's a foreign matter. Canada is all about...peace, order and good government...and leaving all that stuff foreign behind. The US perhaps is different because it is a world power. But we're not. The amount of influence we have in Canada over the outcome is negligible. I do care about how we discuss the issue here and don't think either side should be viewed as un-Canadian or otherwise deligitimized as "beyond the pale." But you've reframed what the MPP's have done as being about uncritical support of Israel. Are you sure that's what they've done? (They're not Jason Kenney, are they?) Because you could interpret what they done as being about only the use of the word "apartheid." And they didn't pass any legislation. They just said what they thought about the use of that powerful term.

However, when Muslim Canadians are viewed as less than real Canadians the line is crossed. And, similarly, given our history of Judeophobia, I worry about the ME debate fanning the embers of that old evil. Since I don't think using the term "apartheid" at, say, Ryerson, is going to make an iota of difference to the outcome THERE, my only concern is its use HERE if it's done in the way that the MPP's described. Whether they're correct I don't know, but this year I may check it out in person and see for myself what it really is like.

you've reframed what the MPP's have done as being about uncritical support of Israel. Are you sure that's what they've done?

Skdadl quoted the motion in the first comment to this thread. It's pretty uncritical. There is no acknowledgment that Israel has done anything to be criticized.

And frankly, you didn't answer my question which is a habit of yours. You haven't really explained what the actions of Palestinians celebrating an attack in Jerusalem or whoever it is that used the phrase "white supremacist" with regards to Israel has to do with my own sense of responsibility. Putting aside the nature of your rhetoric, you still haven't made it clear what your point was. You don't give direct answers to direct questions; instead you seem to dance around the question and veer off into your own talking points.

The crime of apartheid is described here. It makes no mention of white supremacism. Among the people who have used the word apartheid in reference to the Israeli treatment of Palestinians are Desmond Tutu, Kgalema Motlanthe, Hendrick Verwoerd of South Africa and Michael Ben-Yair, Amira Hass and Menon Benvenisti of Israel. The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa has concluded that what Israel is practicing with regard to Palestinians does, in fact, meet the definition of apartheid. Perhaps you and Peter Shurman should debate that definition with them.

When I get angry I often do more research. The more research I do, the weaker your position looks. I'm going back to work.

OK, from your very definition:

"The crime of apartheid is defined by the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity '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.'"

I note the inclusion of the word "domination" in this definition that you prefer.

Respectuflly, I don't think that Israel meets that definition. People like Jimmy Carter who used the term said he used it to be provocative and to spur an examination of Israeli actions. He also used it ONLY in reference to how the '67 lands have been handled and not in reference to Israel itself. This distinction is lost and cunningly obfuscated by that segment of the IAW and BDS movement who would like to see a one state solution. They're free to advocate such a solution, but those who think the tactic of branding Zionism as apartheid are equally free to call them on it.

IMHO, the purpose of Israel never was and is not now to dominate the Palestinians. The creation of Israel may raise all sorts of issues and moral quandaries, especially in the West Bank, but apartheid as it always has been understood isn't one of them.

And I don't think many of the people behind IAW want to debate the issue at all. If that were the case the panels would be debates with other points of view represented. Have you taken a look at the list of panelists? Why is such a one sided event taking place on publicly funded university campuses without a full range of opinions?

So where does that leave us? IAW will proceed but some legislators have expressed their disagreement with the use of the term "apartheid." That's all they've done. If rank and file party members disagree they're free not to renominate the MPP's or the voters in the next election can turf them out. Ditto re: the MP's that are part of CPCCA.

It's interesting, because if the same MP's had passed a resolution expressing solidarity with the Palestinians or something of that nature, B'nai Brith would condemn them for being biased and for being on the side of Hamas, but you would be quite satisfied. I actually think they should stay out of it until it becomes domestic.

Michael Ratner reports on his recent visit to the West Bank

When you hear the word apartheid, it's not misused...

That's a ten minute video report. Michael Ratner is a Jewish American and the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Yes, I see he is another distinguished alumnus of Brandeis University, an institution which has a long and rich tradition of students, faculty and alumni who fight for social justice (and which welcomed Jimmy Carter despite his "apartheid" book that many didn't like). That being the case I will have a listen...

I will listen to the video tomorrow but FYI here is a link to his blog which has posts reporting on his recent trip. I think it's fair to say he thinks Israel is an apartheid state and that Zionism is a form of apartheid.

The balance of this comment is a direct quote from this article.

"Following the Oslo Accords in 1993 the West Bank was divided into Areas A, B and C. Area A falls under Palestinian control, Area B under joint Israeli and Palestinian control and Area C is controlled by the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA).

"Idna is one of hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns which falls within Area C. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a report last year called, "Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank."

"According to the report Palestinian farming and construction is effectively prohibited in 70 percent of Area C, or approximately 44 percent of the West Bank, which is reserved mainly for the benefit of Israeli settlements.

"The restrictions in the remaining 30 percent of Area C make it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain the requisite permits necessary to build there. Only about one percent of Area C is left for Palestinians to farm or build on and that area is already built up.

"A further 18 percent of the West Bank has been declared a closed military zone by the IDF for military training. This does not include the closed military areas around Israeli settlements.

"Another 10 percent of the West Bank, overlapping with closed military zones, has been declared nature reserves by the ICA.

"The restrictions in Area C adversely effect Palestinians living in Areas B and C too. Over 400 Palestinian communities have land in Area C. The majority are mixed between Area C and either Area A or B, or both.

"The building restrictions have prevented Palestinian communities from expanding and being able to build new homes, hospitals and schools in parts of the West Bank falling under Area C. Many have, therefore, built "illegally".

"As a result nearly 3,000 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C have been demolished by the ICA in the last 12 years with hundreds more under threat of demolition."

The settlement policy makes me sick and I really wish Israeli voters hadn't elected governments that have gone about such a policy. I also can't believe that the US hasn't tied its large aid package to Israel ceasing such activities. But I also wish Palestinian voters hadn't elected the rejectionist and hatemongering Hamas.

When people point things out like the above, it's compelling. When people then attach a loaded label like the A word, it either closes the deal for some or it loses converts in the case of others. That's the risk of using the A word. Yes, there are arguments it applies, but also arguments that it doesn't. The result is that people debate the use of the A word and not the consequences of objective facts.

I really see a parallel to the tactic on the other side of the debate of labeling certain criticsm of Israel (including the use of the A word) as anti-Semitic. The debate moves from whether the criticsm is correct to whether it is anti-Semitic.

If each side in our domestic debate spent as much effort trying to come up with solutions as they did trying to label the other side as unspeakably evil, there might be a sliver of a chance for a solution.

I really see a parallel...

I don't. I see someone continuing to suggest that we should concentrate our efforts on finding a way to describe the crimes that is more acceptable to the criminal while the victims are left to fend for themselves.

So if Israel were described as a "Nazi" state committing "genocide" against the Palestinians with Gaza being the same as the "Warsaw Ghetto" it would be a bad thing to object?

It's like entire chunks of the previous conversation haven't taken place. From the original post:

explain why using the term apartheid in discussion of Israeli treatment of Palestinians is not only wrong but is so far over the top that people who do deserve the unanimous condemnation of elected officials who are supposed to be representing them.

Since then I've pointed to eminent South Africans and Israelis who believe that the use of the word apartheid in this context is perfectly appropriate. Playing the Nazi card is pathetic. Are you familiar with Godwin's Law? You just lost.

the use of the words 'settlers' and 'settlements' is pap--the zionists have stolen the land of the Palestinians--they are not 'settlers' they are thieves and therefore criminals. Apartheid is practiced daily against the Palestinians by the zionists and using that word also mutes the real truth--the zionists are using genocide to steal what they want. But this is Canada and the truth dare not be spoken or written.

no-you're saying it isn't open to the "criminal" to question the term-so I'm asking you how far that goes.

Putting words in my mouth. You're being dishonest. FAIL.

I don't think so. This is a classic example of why debate is impossible. Since self proclaimed activists have decided Israel is an Aprtheid state it must be so.

Hmmn. I do think it's fair enough to call Gaza especially a ghetto, given the blockade. I wouldn't claim it was the Warsaw ghetto, but there were, of course, many ghettos in Europe, and the term applies (unless you're a Disneyfied North American who only knows the most famousest examples of anything).

Anyway, I think the mulberry bush is all beside the point. We have Canadian parliamentarians who have crossed a number of lines and are committing insults to the Charter and to their fellow citizens, or trying to, and it's time we brought them up short.

self proclaimed activists

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Deputy President of the African National Congress Kgalema Motlanthe
Former South African Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd
Former Israeli attorney-general Michael Ben-Yair
Israeli journalist Amira Hass
Israeli political scientist Menon Benvenisti
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter
Former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski

Wow. Debate is impossible because you completely ignore evidence. We really are done here.

All I can say is this-the people who are behind IAW don't want to debate it-they want to exert pressure because in their view there is nothing to debate. Yes, there are arguments for the A word but there also are arguments against it, and the list of names would probably be a lot longer and at least as distinguished as the one you put forth above.

So now in step the legislators and condemn IAW because it is a loaded word that isn't being debated at all. They aren't infringing on any Charter rights because they haven't passed any laws-they simply exercised their own speech rights to condemn IAW.

It seems to be that you have anti-Israel activists using the A word and Ontario legislators saying there is no apartheid. Neither of them is willing to debate it and both simply make pronouncements filled with contempt.

Well, that picture isn't exactly the whole truth, MM. Some of our legislators, particularly in Ottawa, do in fact have power and act on it. Their anti-democratic views are already screwing up our foreign policy in any number of ways.

There's no equivalence here in terms of effective power, just as there is not in the ME. There is no solution but to throw out any of the bastards who don't believe in the human rights of every living human bean -- which at the moment would certainly mean the governments of both Israel and Canada.

skdadl, I really do agree with that, but for me I would include, in the case of Israel, all of the other state and non-state actors to the intractable conflict, rather than blame Israel alone. For me that's the issue. Even looking at it from the sole vantage point of Palestinian human rights, part of the discussion is that they are denied their rights in other countries that are party to the conflict, such as Lebanon, where they are prohibited from owning land or working. I think, FWIW, that those facts readily meet the test for apartheid that started this thread. But yes, I agree that Israel more than Lebanon has the power to effect change.

Hey, MM, can we make a deal? Sometime in the next few days I'm going to put up a post about Anne Frank that I've owed her and Miep and Margot for about a year now. You promise to comment?

FYI yet another motion! I actually like how BCL puts it.

"Because some good people say it is an apartheid state, and some say it ain't, and some (like myself) think the phrase is an exaggeration that hides a germ of truth. None of us needs the federal government to step in and offer guidance on the issue."


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