The bogus cry of antisemitism

The  worn out and totally discredited cry of “antisemitism” is the latest rendition of the boy who cried wolf.The desperate attempt to conflate criticism of the state of Israel with a hatred of Jews has proven again and again to be a canard.Three cities  have already panned this ludicrous and desperate attempt at censorship but never discount clueless Toronto  mayor John Tory (“#Israel is a beacon of respect for #democracy and human rights in the region.”  and rabid Zionist councillor James Pasternak from flogging this anti-democratic dead horse.

Onne of the latest attempts occurred at  UBC and officials have strangely reamained mum about  it.

Academic freedom at UBC threatened by false allegations of anti-semitism (edited)

By Paul Tetrault and Sid Shniad

In 2018, six members of the UBC community were the subjects of an investigation based on allegations that they had engaged in antisemitic behaviour after they declared their opposition to holding the Geography Department’s year-end party at Hillel UBC. 

Their email comments explaining this opposition became the subject of a six-month investigation that ended with an outside investigator finding there had been no expression of antisemitism. Although the 52-page report was completed in October 2018, UBC officials have refused to publicly acknowledge the fact that the case was dismissed. In addition, they have not released the investigator’s findings.

As members of Independent Jewish Voices Canada(IJV), a grassroots organization that opposes all forms of racism and advocates for justice and peace for all in Israel-Palestine, we provided support to the students who werethe subject of the investigation. Because we were participants, we were given redacted copies of the investigator’s report. After careful consideration, we have become convinced that the findings in this investigation are too important to be kept secret. 

Here, in brief, is what happened. In February 2018, the executive members of the Geography Students Association (GSA) announced in a departmental email discussion group that they had decided to hold their annual party, the Geogala, at a rental space owned by UBC Hillel. After several professors and students objected to renting from Hillel because of its unqualified support of Israel despite the country’s horrific treatment of Palestinians, the GSA executive members chose another venue for the party.

The email discussionleading to the decision to change venues included reference to Hillel’s “ongoing role and politics,” mention of the “controversial nature of Hillel,” “being all too familiar with Hillel’s politics,” and the statement that “I found article …that outlines growing Zionism in organization (and its fervent opposition to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions)”. 

Much of this is not contentious. Hillel’s website prominently declares that “Israel is at the heart of Hillel’s work.” Hillel is so dedicated to supporting Israel that it proudly declares it will not host organizations, groups or speakers that “support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the state of Israel.”

It was Hillel’s political stance that the Geography students and faculty were opposing when they made their critical comments. There was never any evidence that either these comments or the GSA decision to change venues had been motivated by hatred of Jews, which is the standard definition of antisemitism. UBC responded by appointing an outside lawyer, Lindsay M. Lyster, to investigate the charges. 

When Ms. Lyster issued the report of her investigation in October 2018, she found that there had been no violation of UBC’s Policy 3 and no expression of antisemitism on the part of the respondents. 

Unfortunately, the situation that arose at UBC is far from unique. Internationally, pro-Israel campaigners are lobbying national, provincial and municipal governments as well as universities, school boards and police departments, to adopt CIJA’s “new” definition of antisemitism. Known as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition, it includes a list of 11 examples of antisemitism. Seven of theserelate to Israel and/or Zionism. The campaigners hope that the IHRA definition will focus the conversation on instances mislabelled as antisemitism in order to discourage criticism of Israel’s egregious behaviour.

We agree with the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which declared that theIHRA definition is “extremely vague, open to misinterpretation and a threat to freedom of speech because it conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism”. Independent Jewish Voices notes that the supporters of the IHRA definition are using society’s concern about real antisemitism to suppress criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights. In so doing they are actually undermining the fight against genuine antisemitism, which is increasing with the spread of the Alt-Right and white nationalism.

Regrettably, Canada’s Liberal government chose to include the IHRA definition in its anti-racism strategy adopted this past year. But when the IHRA definition was brought before Vancouver’s city council in July 2019, the council referred the matter to the city’s Racial and Ethno-Cultural Equity Committee, asking the committee to make recommendations on how to oppose all forms of racism, including antisemitism. Recently, the Calgary City Council was asked to simultaneously recognize January 27 as Holocaust Remembrance Day and adopt the IHRA definition, but the IHRA definition was deleted when the final version of the resolution was passed. (See item 10.1 in the November 18, 2019 Combined Meeting Minutes.) And most recently, when the IHRA definition was brought to the Montreal City Council, it generated sufficient opposition that demands were made to give the matter further study. Instead, the motion’s sponsor withdrew it altogether. 

We believe that it is legitimate to voice criticism of an organization that provides unqualified support to Israel and its mistreatment of the Palestinians. That graduate students at an institution like UBC were investigated for expressing such critical views constitutes a violation of the very fundamental purpose of the university.

In a time when concern for the plight of Palestinians suffering repression at the hands of Israel is growing dramatically, it is incumbent upon university officers and administrators to resist demands to investigate specious charges of antisemitism that are designed to suppress the expression of these legitimate concerns.

Sid Shniad is a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada. Paul Tetrault is a supporter of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

Canada celebrates agents of Palestinian misery

Ambassador Deborah Lyons with Canadians fighting in IDF Yaakov Herman, Robbie Kohos and Ayala Rotenberg

What in justice’s name was this ambassador thinking Yves Engler asks

Last month the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv held an event to celebrate Canadians fighting in the Israeli military. They invited all 78 Canadians in the IDF to the ambassador’s residence to demonstrate their appreciation. Referring to non-Israelis who join the IDF, ambassador Deborah Lyons told the Jerusalem Post, “Canadian lone soldiers are a particularly special group … This is something we want to do on a yearly basis to show our support.” At the event Canada’s ambassador said, “we both share a love of Canada and a love of Israel. We at the embassy are very proud of what you’re doing.”

A top diplomat organizing an event to celebrate Canadians fighting for another country’s military ought to generate criticism. Doing so while that force humiliates Palestinians at checkpoints in the West Bank, fires on protesters in Gaza and bombs Syria in violation of international law is an outrage that must be condemned.

The government has legislation designed to deter Canadians from joining other countries’ militaries. The Foreign Enlistment Act is supposed to prohibit Canadians from recruiting for a foreign army. It notes, “any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”

Similarly, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) restricts registered charities from supporting other countries militaries. CRA guidelines note, “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”

Despite these rules, ambassador Lyons celebrated Canadians fighting for the IDF. The event promoting the IDF was a nod to a network of Canadian organizations backing the Israeli military. In November 1100 people attended an Association for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada and Canadian Zionist Cultural Association event in Toronto. The Canadian Jewish News reported, “the evening featured heartfelt and captivating speeches from IDF commanders, as well as a performance by the IDF Ensemble.”

Two months ago, Herut Canada brought Israeli military reservists to a number of Ontario universities. At York their event sparked a high-profile confrontation.

A number of Jewish day schools promote the Israeli military. At Toronto’s Leo Baeck an Israeli emissary spends a year at the school and when they return, notes the Canadian Jewish News, “engages with students by way of live video chat from their Israel Defence Forces barracks dressed in their military uniforms.” Students also pay “tribute  to Israel’s fallen heroes” and fundraise for Beit Halochem Canada/Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel, which supports injured IDF soldiers.

At the other end of the age spectrum a group of 80-something Torontonians gather regularly to make hand-knitted tuques for IDF soldiers. They are part of the Hats for Israeli Soldiers initiative. Another organization that supports the IDF is Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans-Canada. Sar-El offers more concrete support to the IDF. Some 150 Canadians volunteer on Israeli army supply bases each year with an organization founded by an IDF general.

For its part, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (Canada) has sponsored “fun activities” for “lone soldiers”.Established by billionaire power couple Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers also supports non-Israelis in the IDF.

At its Toronto office, the Friends of Israeli Scouts’ Garin Tzabar program provides Hebrew lessons and support services, as well as help with transport and accommodation in Israel, for Canadian “lone soldiers”.  Nefesh B’Nefesh’s also helps non-Israelis join the IDF.

In November the Israeli consulate in Toronto announced a military recruiting effort. According to their announcement, “an IDF representative will conduct personal interviews at the Consulate on November 11-14. Young people who wish to enlist in the IDF or anyone who has not fulfilled their obligations according to the Israeli Defense Service Law are invited to meet with him.”

Sar-El, Nefesh B’Nefesh, Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers, Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans-Canada andAssociation for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada (through the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association) offer tax receipts for donations. In January of last year the Beth Oloth Charitable Organization, which had $60 million in revenue in 2017, had its charitable status revoked for supporting the Israeli military. Not particularly well known, the organization appears to have been a conduit for donations to different Israeli charities.

In response to a formal complaint submitted by four Palestine solidarity activists and Independent Jewish Voices Canada in fall 2017, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) began an audit of the Jewish National Fund for contravening Canadian charitable law. The JNF financed multiple projects for the Israeli military in direct contravention of CRA rules for registered charities. Despite the JNF openly supporting the Israeli military, the audit of its operations has gone on for two years. The CRA is undoubtedly facing significant behind-the-scenes pressure to let the JNF off with little more than a slap on the wrist. In 2013 Justin Trudeau attended a JNF gala and other Liberal cabinet ministers participated in more recent events put on by an explicitly racist organization that Liberal MP Michael Leavitt once oversaw. Ambassador Lyons attended a JNF event in Jerusalem in 2016 and another one in October.

Canadian charitable guidelines and the Foreign Enlistment Act are designed to deter Canadians from supporting other countries’ militaries. Yet Canada’s ambassador in Israel is celebrating Canadians fighting in that military.

How many Canadians consider that appropriate?

"Palestinians are the real heroes" B'Tselem head

Hagai El-Ad the head of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem is despised in Israel. An authentic Jew of Conscience he shames the government on a daily basis.

Recently on the panned Trump Peace Plan he was quoted as saying: “What the Palestinians are being offered right now is not rights or a state, but a permanent state of Apartheid. No amount of marketing can erase this disgrace or blur the facts.”

He recently tweeted my own belief “But, the painful facts of today give rise to hope for the future, the only future that can genuinely offer peace. A future not based on supremacy for some and oppression for others, but on full equality, liberty, dignity, and rights for all.

That day will come.

Gideon Levy another prophetic Israeli wrote this in October 2018

The Real Hero Is the B’Tselem Chief

On the day the world realizes that the UN ambassador is Israel and Hagai El-Ad represents a muzzled minority, maybe its forgiving attitude toward Israel will change

Who contributes more to Israel’s status in the world, UN Ambassador Danny Danon or B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad? Who generates more respect, the diplomat or the human rights activist? Which of the two disgraced Israel with his words and who retained some of its humane image? Who told the truth and who lied? Whom does the world believe – excluding Nikki Haley, the only true collaborator in the hall – and whom can the no world no longer believe?

They sat opposite each other at the Security Council – two Israelis of the same age, born here, army veterans, with totally different worldviews and conflicting moral standards. Their values are contradictory and their information on what’s happening under the occupation is divergent. One relies on the lies of Israel’s propaganda machine while the other’s views are based on the investigative efforts of an organization whose work couldn’t be more reliable and professional.

El-Ad reminded the world of something the world still clings to, the belief that there is still a difference between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Danon tried to erase the difference with his pitiful response: “IDF soldiers protect you and you come here and slander them. You should be ashamed, collaborator.”

Danon is a faithful representative of the majority in Israel. His appearances are important – he reminds the world that the illusion of the “only democracy in the Middle East” must be dispelled. On the day the world realizes that Danon is Israel and El-Ad represents not just a negligible minority but one muzzled by an aggressive majority, maybe its forgiving attitude toward Israel will change.

The reactions in Israel only intensified the damage wrought by Danon. Not only the right pounced on El-Ad with viciousness – the center-left took part in the fascist revelry as well. 

El-Ad showed the truth – naked, ugly and disturbing. Anyone calling him a snitch actually admits to this truth and is ashamed of it. It’s not only El-Ad’s right to behave this way, it’s his obligation. The occupation is not and cannot be an internal Israeli matter. The abuse of people without rights under a military tyranny in occupied territory is an international crime.

Anyone seeing these crimes must report them to the authorities. If you see a man striking a woman or abusing a child or some other helpless creature, you have an obligation to report it to the police. If you see a tyrannical government abusing another nation for decades, killing, destroying, causing hunger, imprisoning people and blocking medical aid, you are obliged to report this to the United Nations, to The Hague and to other international institutions.

El-Ad fulfilled his civic and moral duty. The chorus of his detractors knows this, which is why it’s so vicious and strident. If Danon really believed his own hollow speeches at the United Nations, he wouldn’t be alarmed at one Israeli speaking out differently. But Danon and Cabel, Benjamin Netanyahu and Miri Regev know that not one word in the restrained and to-the-point speech by El-Ad wasn’t truthful. This is why their reaction was so aggressive.

El-Ad was modest, as is his wont. He said he was no traitor or hero; the Palestinians are the true heroes. He’s right, of course. Every demonstrator along the Gaza border is far more courageous than any Israel sniper shooting him from a distance. Every shepherd at the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar exudes more justice than the entire chorus of those attacking B’Tselem.

But El-Ad too is a hero; he’s the ambassador of Israel as it should be, a public relations officer of an alternative Israel, a beautiful and just one. Now we have to be concerned about his safety. He has been marked as a target and must wear a bulletproof vest. If he comes to harm we’ll remember those who are to blame: Not just people on the right, but also the sanctimonious hypocrites on the center-left – Lapid, Cabel and Nahmias-Verbin, the spokespeople of Israel’s shameful and imaginary opposition.

Trump’s embrace of apartheid was brought to you by the organized Jewish community

Phil Weiss  the founder of the brilliant blog Mondoweiss as written the most cogent analytical piece of the failed and justifiably ridiculed Trump peace plan.

Trump’s embrace of apartheid was brought to you by the organized Jewish community

Weiss puts the blame on the Jewish community who has refused to organize as equals with the community Israel is oppressing: Palestinians.

In this he is correct. In this highly sensitive piece he exhibits great understanding and compassion for several in the Jewish community who have attempted to move beyond tribalism, the general default position of most groups. He writes

But whenever push came to shove it has sold that principle out in favor of Jewish communal cohesion and support for the Israeli government.

There were brave Jews of course  whose respect for universal values trumped the tribe. He names some of them in the USA. He could have added several more anti-Zionists in Israel who also paid the price for breaking ranks with the community.

To me this is understandable. Jews for obvious reasons have  had to be very careful as members of a minority community in ”Christian” America. Self criticism as Weiss writes, gets you ostracized very fast.

Within the rabbinate in particular no criticism of Israel was brooked so rabbis reflexively toed the line. Those who did like Toronto’s Reuben Slonim were quickly shunned.After the Six Day War of 1967, Jewish life in North America changed. Jews swelled with pride as “little David” destroyed the Egyptian air force. As Norman Podhoretz claimed, “Israel became the religion of American Jews.

The 67 war also created another phenomenon. The sudden emergence of the Nazi holocaust as the “Get out of jail” card for  American Jews who used it at every opportunity to silence any critic of Israel. Former  Israeli PM Golda Meir had boasted, “after the holocaust, Jews are allowed to do anything.” 

Then there was the “ecumenical deal” described by Jewish theologian Marc Ellis. The deal replaced authentic interfaith dialogue. Jews accepted Christian  acknowledgement of hisstorical anti-Semitism which helped create the Nazi holocaust which had now become “The Holocaust.” In return Christians were expected to be silent about any justice for Palestine. This was tacitly accepted as the mass murder of Jews was still fresh in our memory and too many Christians were immobilized by guilt.

                       Wealth and Power

Weiss writes: 

Obama and the liberal Zionists crumpled for simple reasons: because the center of the Jewish community was too far right on the issue, and Obama was dependent on that community for financial and political support.

This has always been the case. In the 1948 presidential election Jews  1% of Americans contributed 50% of Harry Truman’s war chest. Today Weiss quoting J.J. Goldberg pointed to the shocking” degree of dependence by Democrats on Jewish donors. Look no further than Hilary Clinton’s fawning over Jewish billionaire Haim Saban whose “only issue is Israel.”Look at all the timorous Democratic hopefuls for president who are  shamed into silence by AIPAC. Joe Biden  could easily speak for all except the one critic of Israel Bernie Sanders. Biden described himself as a Zionist.

This brings us to the power of wealth. According to the PEW forum Jews are the richest religious group in America with prominence in finance and culture. On the Forbes list of American billionaires 25% are Jewish. 46% of Jews earn more than $100,000 per year versus 19% of among all Americans.This oversize influence is a tribute  not to “Jewish blood” but the community’s emphasis on high education. 28% of post grad students are Jews versus 10% of the rest according to Robert Mnookin in his book The Jewish American Paradox:

With money comes power but as another Jew presciently said, “No man can serve two masters…you cannot serve God and mammon.” Jews are like any other group susceptible to the same sweet seduction that affluence brings. As Jews moved to the suburbs the power of prophetic religion grew weaker. The universal values inherent in an exodus religion of liberation to the captives, the memory  of Judaism’s great gift, prophets who spoke truth to power dimmed. Many Jews began to side with Pharaoh, the powerful state  Israel which continued to dispossess the native Palestinians.

My own Roman Catholic tradition  made a similar debilitating trip to the suburbs  and remained mute and  marinated in Holocaust guilt, terrified  to speak on behalf of a largely Muslim people whose world was brutalized  by Zionism. Bishops became absolutely deaf to  solidarity requested by  Palestinian Christians who in 2009  had the courage “ declare that the military occupation of Palestinian land constitutes a sin against God and humanity. We ask our sister Churches not to offer a theological cover-up for the injustice we suffer, for the sin of the occupation imposed upon us.” The Palestinian Christian community is still waiting for a response. 

Weiss of course writes for Jews whose establishment Zionist voice is a tragic betrayal of Judaism’s universal values. Great Jews, many of them rabbis, warned fellow believers not to go down the perilous road of nationalism.Yeshayayu Leibowitz  the  polymath Israeli Orthodox thinker warned Israeli leaders not to make the state rather tham the living God  the centre of worship. This would be catastrophic and a betrayal of Judaism. By the 90s it was obvious that Israel had become a Zionist state and in no way Jewish. He wrote

If there exists Jews willing to join the national-occupationists trend and go so far as to make ‘a greater Israel’…..the essential element of their faith, a religious commandment, well then, these people have become the heirs of worshippers of the golden calf who also proclaimed: “Behold your God, O Israel.” The golden calf need not be made of gold. It may also be called “nation”,“land”, “State.”

Great “Jews of  conscience” saw through Zionism, a nationalist political movement as an ersatz  religion not one a of universal values. Leibowitz  had a clear vision  of Zionist use and abuse of religion.

“It was a spiritual corruption at the hands of lies and hypocrisy that borders on blasphemy, in the fact that a people could make use of the Torah to strengthen its national pretensions, while the majority of its members, as well as the social and political regime that it has adopted, have no connection with religious faith,

Today it is young Jews, reared in the synagogue with authentic Judaic values who are rediscovering the prophetic dimension of their faith and breaking with the “cheque book Judaism” of the Adelsons et al.

L

Trump legitimizes apartheid

Jeff Halper summarizes in prescient terms the Trump plan the “steal of the Century.” The prophetic American-born Israeli has struggled valiantly for decades to challenge Israel’s original sin, the dispossession of the country’s indigenous.

His analysis, born of decades of principled resistance to such an egregious assault on injustice and human dignity is a wake up call to the embarrassing self-censorship and craven lack of leadership to both the Canadian and American political class.

This Jew of Conscience from Hibbing, Minnesota shames the silence of too many putative reliious leaders

Trump’s plan legitimizes apartheid. Our task is equal rights for all.

Jeff Halper

The Trump “Deal of the Century” is nothing if not predictable. The product of a small group of Orthodox Jewish Americans willingly adopting the long-standing plans of the Israeli right, it merely reaffirms what Israeli policy has in fact done “on the ground” over the past 53 years. In fact, we in the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) made a map 15 years ago that corresponds closely to Trump’s map. Once we knew the route of the separation barrier, the Apartheid Wall, it was easy to draw the map that would eventually emerge.

Needless to say, the plan is a non-starter. Rather than even a mini-state on 22% of historic Palestine as proposed in the two-state option, the Palestinians — who are both the indigenous and the majority population in the country — will have to do with only 15% of their country, and that truncated into 4 cantons: three in the West Bank separated by Israeli settlements, and Gaza. The “refugee problem” will be solved by denying them the right to return to their homeland, or to somehow squeeze the 5-6 million strong refugee population to the tiny enclaves of the Palestinian “state.” Few, if any, of the 700,000 Israeli settlers in the OPT will be removed, nor will the matrix of control of massive settlement blocks, highways and military bases be dismantled.

While Israel expands from 78% to 85% of the country, the Palestinians are left with a sterile bantustan: no contiguous territory, no border with the Arab states, no control over water or other vital resources, loss of Jerusalem as a religious, cultural and political center, not to mention its loss as a tourist site — economically non-viable patches of barren land, whether you call it a state or a prison.

Israel, of course, continues to rule the entire country militarily, the Palestinians bereft not only of an armed force but even of the right of defending themselves, any opposition to Israeli repression being characterized by Trump (following Israel) as “terrorism.” He spent a lot of time, as Netanyahu does, condemning Palestinian terrorism and demanding security for Israelis, without mentioning Israeli state terror that has killed, maimed and terrorized the Palestinian public for over 5 decades. (Israel has, among other crimes, demolished about 130,000 Palestine homes since 1948, 55,000 in the OPT since 1967.) If anything, Trump’s Plan should have guaranteed the Palestinians their security.

Trump also threatened the Palestinians that if they did not accept his plan in four years, Israel would be allowed to build settlements in the land they would have received.

TOne item that was missed because it was raised by Netanyahu and not Trump: before any negotiations, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a demand that goes beyond the mere recognition of Israel by Arafat in the Oslo process. This not only prejudices the civil rights of the 25-30% of Israelis who are not Jewish, but forces the Palestinians tolegitimize Jewish colonial claims over their country.

There is one silver thread to Trump’s Plan: it puts to bed once and for all the “two-state solution” that Israel never intended to implement and which it buried under its settlements decades ago. For Zionism never considered itself in a “conflict” with the Palestinians. As the native people, they were irrelevant to the Zionists’ goal of judaizing the country, of turning an Arab country into a Jewish one. They had to be displaced or confined or eliminated, but they were not a side” in a “conflict” with national rights equal to those of the Jews. 

Trump’s plan — which is actually Netanyahu’s plan (and agreed upon Gantz and 95 out of the 120 members of Israel’s parliament) — simply recognizes the judaization of Palestine begun 125 years ago, and gives the green light to completing it. Zionism is a settler colonial project. It can only be ended by a process of decolonization — not merely “ending the occupation,” but ending the colonization of the entire country and bringing the refugees back home. Transforming the one apartheid state created by Israel and given political legitimization by Trump into a single democracy of equal rights for all its citizens is the task before us all. 

This is urgent, and it demands Palestinian leadership beyond the bankrupt collaborationist policies of the Palestinian Authority. A new national leadership must emerge, and it must see its critical Israeli allies as crucial to our joint struggle against colonialism. That is what the Trump Plan imparts to us.

Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and a member of the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC). He can be reached at jeff@icahd.org.

Netanyahu exploits the holocaust

Hagai El-Ad, the executive-director of the brave Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem  is merely the latest Jew to question the cynical use of the holocaust. The most famous one-liner on the subject was by the Israeli diplomat Abba Eban who said, “There’s no business like Shoah business.”

Netanyahu Exploits the Holocaust to Brutalize the Palestinians

Hagai El_Ad

Netanyahu didn’t invent the idea of leveraging the Holocaust for political gain. Yet he is taking even that low to new depths, stripping Palestinians of basic human rights in the name of the survivors of the Holocaust

Benjamin Netanyahu did not invent the idea of leveraging the Holocaust for political gain. Yet, like so much else in current Israeli politics, he is taking even that low to new depths.

According to Haaretz, Israel’s prime minister intends to exploit the Fifth World Holocaust Forum – convening this week in Jerusalem to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz – to call on world leaders to publicly back Israel’s self-serving position that the International Criminal Netanyahu began this exercise barely 48 hours after ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced last month, after five years of preliminary examination, that she is ready to open an investigation  into potential war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza, pending an ICC judicial decision on jurisdiction.

Wasting no time, Netanyahu responded that “new edicts are being issued against the Jewish people – anti-Semitic edicts by the International Criminal Court.”

This cynical reframing is staggering, both intellectually and morally.

The Palestinians who live under Israel’s occupation are a people bereft of rights. For decades, their existence has been governed by the arbitrary whims of their occupiers. They cannot vote for the government that controls every aspect of their lives. They have no army to defend themselves. They do not control the borders of their own territory, or their ability to travel abroad, or even how long it will take them to get to the nearest Palestinian town – if even allowed to do so.

They also have no recourse to justice through Israel’s legal mechanisms. Israeli prosecutors and judges process Palestinians in the occupied territories through a “justice system” that delivers an almost 100 percent conviction rate. At the same time, this system works to ensure impunity for Israeli security forces who kill, abuse or torture them.

For Palestinians, quite literally, the International Criminal Court is their court of last resort. Yet Netanyahu, backed by Israel’s entire political leadership, is trying to quash even this faint hope.

How dehumanizing, to insist on denying a people’s last recourse to even an uncertain, belated, modicum of justice. 

What a lack of historical memory and moral compass it must take to ignore the key lesson the world gleaned from the ashes of the 1940s: that no person should ever, under any circumstance, be left bare of rights, precisely because – as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights tells us – “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.”

But Netanyahu goes even further, arguing that the very same ashes give rise to the opposite conclusion: that there is a people – the Palestinian people – who should remain bare of rights under all circumstance.

A bare life with neither land nor ballot, court nor justice. Where freedom of movement extends only as far as the nearest checkpoint. Where soldiers can enter any home, at any time. Where the only constant is how little control one has over one’s life.

Shame on you, Prime Minister Netanyahu. Shame, also, on any world leader who goes along with the travesty of equating a people’s attempt to achieve justice with anti-Semitism. Taking this cowardly position does not only betray the Palestinians’ hope for freedom and dignity. It joins in the slow death of the lessons that have guided humanity for the past 75 years and are now drowning in the rising authoritarian tide around the world.

This is not the world that humanity tried to build after World War II, after the Holocaust – but it is the world of Putin and Trump, Modi and Orbán, Netanyahu and Bolsonaro. Indeed, we are already living in their cowardly new world. Yet it remains in our hands to decide if the past’s painful lessons will be allowed to be turned on their head in order to further oppression – or remain loyal to a vision of freedom and dignity, justice and rights, for all.

Hagai El-Ad is the executive director of B’Tselem. Twitter: @HagaiElAd

The holocaust—again

“An abused child becomes a violent parent.” The most persecuted nation in the world has been transformed – almost naturally – into a persecutor. 

Avraham Burg

The holocaust has proven to be an indispensable weapon.

Norman Finkelstein

Charlie Angus wrote on Facebook.

75 years ago this week soldiers of the Red Army arrived in the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. They saw the face of pure evil in the mass killings and torture that had taken place in this place.

I am heading to Jerusalem to be part of the international commemoration of this historic moment. There is a small Canadian delegation, and we will be with our Governor General Julie Payette. I am honoured to represent Canada as we remember the dead and pay respect to those who survived the evils of the Holocaust.

Also attending will be Nancy Pelosi and  US Vice-president Mike Pence who join prime ministers and royalty from around the world  today in Israel for the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

I fear, though hoping for the best, that this may have a numbing effect on Charlie. Given historical antecedents  this will be more manipulation, stoking Christian guilt and buttressing the state of Israel. The holocaust has long been used to smother criticism of Israel and its abominable treatment of Palestinian indigenous. Payette and Angus need to visit Gaza and Hebron where the lessons of the holocaust “never again to anybody” has not been learned.

What will the beautiful Charlie Angus do or say after revisiting the horror of the holocaust? Every politician who comes to Israel  is taken first to Yad Vashem the great holocaust museum. The purpose has always been to mute any criticism of the state, The fundamental role of the holocaust now, to riff on Charlie’s post,  is enact a double solidarity— first pay respect to those who survived the evils of the Holocaust then secondly  to extend solidarity to those people enduring the ongoing brutality of the occupation.

Sadly, this is a bridge too far for world leaders. No international flights will land fo say no to the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

There is no finer member of parliament than Chuck Angus and so I proffer these wise words of the former Speaker of the Knesset, the kippah-wearing Orthodox Jew  Avraham Burg. These thoughts appear to me to be so redolent of the great gift of Judaism, the neviim (prophets).

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The constant presence of the Shoah is like a buzz in my ear. In Israel, children are always, it seems, preparing for their rite-of-passage “Auschwitz trip” to Poland. Not a day passes without a mention of the Holocaust in the only newspaper I read, Haaretz. The Shoah is like a hole in the ozone layer:unseen yet present, abstract yet powerful. It’s more present in our lives than God.

The Shoah is so pervasive that a study conducted a few years ago in a Tel Aviv school for teachers found that more than 90% of those questioned view it as the most important experience of Jewish history. 

That means it is more important than the creation of the world, the exodus from Egypt, the delivering of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, the ruin of both Holy Temples, the exile, the birth of Zionism, the founding of the state or the 1967 Six-Day War.

The Shoah is woven, to varying degrees, into almost all of Israel’s political arguments; over time, we have taken the Shoah from its position of sanctity and turned it into an instrument of common and even trite politics. It represents a past that is present, maintained, monitored, heard and represented. Our dead do not rest in peace. They are busy, active, always a part of our sad lives.

I cannot be an accomplice in such a way of life, with no spiritual compass or moral direction. Never — or so I’ve been taught from infancy — have the Jewish people existed only for the sake of existence; never have we survived only in order to survive; never have we carried on for the sole purpose of carrying on by itself.

The Jewish existence was always directed upward. Not only toward our king and father in the heavens, but also our gaze upward was an answer to the great call of humanity; an answer of liberty in the times of enslavement in Egypt, an answer to the need of a righteous and egalitarian law in the days of Sinai when we wandered through the desert, an answer to the call of human universalism manifest in the Scriptures of the great prophets, and finally, an answer to the cry opposing unjust and imperial occupation throughout late antiquity.

Even the Zionist idea was not merely an attempt to rescue the Jews from violent anti-Semitic prosecutors, but rather was a heroic attempt to establish a model society. Zionism meant to create a society that avoided any form of discrimination or oppressive policy toward non-Jews, of the kind under which Jews had suffered for more than two millenniums.

I believe Israel must move away from trauma to trust, that we must abandon the “everything is Auschwitz” mentality and substitute for it an impulse toward liberty and democracy.

I fully understand that this will require a slow process of change. It will take more than one or two years for a new Jewish humanism to be accepted, allowing Israel to become a less traumatic place, a country in which school trips do not only present Israel’s high school students with extermination camps. Israel must rethink its strict law of return (which defines Jewishness the same way Hitler did), its relationship with Germany, and it must reaffirm its commitment to being a democratic state of the Jewish people, a state that belongs to all of its citizens, in which the majority decides on its character and essence, with the utmost sensitivity to all the “others” — and especially the Arab non-Jewish minority.

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The holocaust’s unholy hold must end  and the Deutreronomists’s cry must rise up from Judaism tzedek,tzedek, tirdof   Justice, justice you shall pursue  16:20