Free speech at U of T?

Justice Spiro’s interference, and his association with CIJA, highlights the ways outside individuals and lobby groups aim to shape academic instruction to shield Israel from criticism and accountability.

CIJA, in particular, has been instrumental in pushing for Canada to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s so-called “working definition of anti-Semitism,” which seeks to conflate criticism of Israel’s human rights record with anti-Jewish bigotry.

Nora Barrows-Friedman 

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Free Speech?

By ZACK BABINS

Picture a large Canadian university with a law school. The school is set to offer a directorship to an academic with a long history of pro-Israel scholarship and activism in Zionist causes.

At the last moment, a Canadian Muslim – a federal judge who, along with his family, have been massive donors to this school, likely in the millions – calls the school’s fundraising team. From that point on, negotiations with the Zionist academic are cancelled and the position is somehow “no longer available.”

What would we as a community do? 

Certainly, this school would be labeled antisemitic. It would make the Top 10 list of every “antisemitic school where Jewish students aren’t safe.” We would lament the decline of academia and people would warn their children to stay away from that “Jew-hating school.”

The influencers and organizations that make a living defending Israel would see a spike in donations.

Eventually, the right-wing pundits, Jewish and Gentile, would cry that free speech is about listening to arguments and ideas that you don’t like, and would wonder whether today’s students are so soft (and antisemitic) that they could not tolerate a Zionist Jewish teacher.

This isn’t a hypothetical. We just changed some parts of speech.

Explosive recent media reports alleged that Justice David Spiro, a Tax Court of Canada judge, megadonor to the University of Toronto, and former board member of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, had improperly interfered in the hiring of Prof. Valentina Azarova.

Azarova, who is not Palestinian but sympathetic to Palestinians, and more than occasionally focuses her academic work on the Palestinian cause, was reportedly quite close to landing a position as director of U of T’s International Human Rights Program. According to the school, the program isn’t hiring a director at all.

Law professor Audrey Macklin, who chaired the faculty advisory committee, and was part of the selection panel that unanimously found Azarova the best candidate for the job, resigned from the board in protest.

The Canadian Judicial Council is now considering multiple complaints about Spiro’s conduct. And over 1,000 lawyers, academics, and activists have signed a petition asking U of T’s law school to apologize and reinstate the job.

And in an open letter to University of Toronto President Meric Gertler, a slew of international law and human rights practitioners and law school faculty and staff said they are “deeply concerned” that U of T’s law school dean responded to “external pressure, following the objection of a law school donor to Dr. Azarova’s work on international law and human rights in the Israel-Palestine context.”

One would think that the champions of free speech would be all over this one. But the brave “marketplace of ideas” folks, who have no qualms defending transphobes, homophobes, racists and white nationalists under the banner of free speech, are nowhere to be found. Similarly, those who argue that “sunlight is the best disinfectant” just can’t be bothered to defend an academic who, by their standards, has had her right to free speech violated.

One op-ed submitted by a Jewish organization claimed that “a long history of one-sided critiques of Israel” justified these events. What if the shoe was on the other foot? If a long history of “one-sided activism” surrounding Israel can disqualify you from a job, well, I’ve got some bad news for a lot of my friends who went to Jewish day school, summer camp or synagogue. 

I haven’t even mentioned yet how damaging this move – which any PR consultant could tell you would not remain private for longer than a week – may be to Jewish students who are actually on campus, who will now face slurs and tropes about Jewish power and influence.

Frankly, I’ve never been a free speech evangelist. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing but it must be restrained by reasonable limits to protect marginalized communities from hatred and violence. History bears out that hate speech almost never remains “just words.” 

We either care about free speech or we don’t. We either care about academic freedom or we don’t. We either care about outside political interference in our universities – including the “outside agitators” that Hasbara organizations love to remind you are sent to campuses to scuttle BDS motions and anti-Israel campaigns – or we don’t.

To paraphrase the great “Rabbi” Jon Stewart, if you don’t stick to your values when they’re used by your opponents, you don’t have values. You have hobbies.

We have to make a decision – a microcosm of the same decision Israel has to make when it attempts to administer a democratic state that prioritizes one religion that’s necessary to the idea of a Jewish democracy.

Does Zionism – specifically, right-wing, tribal, expansionist, Revisionist Zionism that leaves no room for the humanity of Palestinians – supersede liberal democratic values like free speech? Are you prepared to defend Israel, no matter the cost? 

In other words, we must decide whether we are prepared to sacrifice our souls. I’m not prepared to do that, and I’m not alone.

pastedGraphic.pngZack Babins

Zack Babins is a professional Jew and Recovering Jewish Professional™, a political communicator and activist, and amateur challah baker. All opinions are his own. You can find him on Twitter @zackbabins.

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Justin Trudeau, Zionist

Follow the money–Trudeau and Liberal bagman Stephen Bronfman, Bob Rae, Israel defender

Montreal professor Dyalah Hamzah strips Trudeau bare. Edited for space.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’: an open letter to Justin Trudeau regarding Palestine

How can Justin Trudeau recognize the “devastating legacy” of the colonization of Canada and continue to be a Zionist?

Whether it is your bias in favor of Israel that recently cost you your seat on the UN Security Council, it is a fact that in the space of five years you have voted “no” 50 times to UN resolutions in favor of Palestine. Of the 166 “no” votes by Canada since 2000 this represents an embarrassing average. Neither the protests of Marc-André Blanchard, nor the denials of Bob Rae, your successive ambassadors to the UN, have been able to diminish the echo of your campaign slogan, as reckless as it is boastful: “Canada is back.”

No, Canada is not back, nor can it be, as long as you sacrifice the rule-of-law, in its various applications, on the altar of the United States. Canada is not, and will not be, back as long as you evade a critical examination of your authoritarian allegiance to Zionism – an allegiance that admits of no opposition from your own government. Far from the clamor of Zionist pressure groups and the blinders of Israeli propaganda, please do see and hear what otherwise looks you in the eye and bursts your eardrums.

Zionism in Canada is a cult: a religious one, for those who conflate Judaism and nationalism; a political one, for those who are illiberal, who well know that violent and eradicative ideologies need an array of anti-democratic laws to shield them. Consider the historical Zionism of the pioneers – Herzl’s foundational Zionism; “transfer-Zionism”, that imagined by the Zangwill, Syrkin, Motzkin and Aaronsohn; or Jabotinsky’s revisionist Zionism. Consider, too, Netanyahu’s Zionism today and some of its laws – to mention but the most recent one, the “Israel Nation-State of the Jewish People” Law.

Zionism in Canada is a bipartisan dogma, which Conservatives and Liberals alike firmly uphold. In Canada today the rules of blasphemy apply to Zionism. Anyone who questions it or criticizes it is first publicly shamed, then quasi-criminalized. With the help of motions and resolutions, definitions, declarations, and tweets, we have built in the space of a few years, in Canada, an impressive gagging arsenal. Here are its pillars:

– BDS. Ever since you assumed power, whether in a private or official capacity, you have not ceased to condemn, vilify and slander the peaceful resistance movement, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, launched 15 years ago by Palestinian civil society. In 2015, you meddled in McGill University’s passage of a pro-BDS motion, declaring that the movement “has no business being on Canadian campuses”; in 2016, your party supported an anti-BDS parliamentary resolution, in the name of friendship and economic and diplomatic relations between Canada and Israel; in 2018, in apologizing for Canada’s rejection of Jewish refugees during WWII, you chanted this worn-out Zionist catchphrase, associating criticism of Israeli ultraviolence with anti-Semitism; in 2019, at a town hall at Brock University, you explained that you uphold your condemnation of BDS, not for foreign policy reasons, but “because of Canadian values”: what values Mr. Trudeau? The colonial ones that you share with Israel?

– IHRA. To give legal legitimacy to your witch hunt, your government announced, in June 2019, that it would formally adopt a controversial and dangerous definition of anti-Semitism, that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, by including it in its antiracism strategy. A definition that allows “friends of Israel” to achieve exactly their goal: to conflate opposition to Zionism and anti-Semitism. A definition above all which now legitimizes the physical and moral harassment practiced by the subsidiaries of Zionist violence in North America against whole sections of the population: namely, those Canadians of Palestinian descent and all those who support them.

That energy that you deploy in support of the unsupportable, would be better channeled in supporting international law. Recently, calls for a change of course in Canadian foreign policy have become deafening. Almost as much as your silence on the annexation scheme for Palestine, fomented by Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu last January. At the time, you failed to consider international sanctions against Israel, which is required by your formal adherence to the “two-state solution”, as well as by the inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by war and its illegal settlement by settlers. It is also required by the absurd impunity of that state, which violates day and night its occupied populations, evading the 4th Geneva Convention, which Canada has, however, ratified. By now, you probably feel exempted from responding to Trump’s annexationist plan, since the United Arab Emirates, and now Bahrain, have just announced a normalization of their relations with Israel. But you are well aware that Netanyahu was quick to apprise us that the said annexation has only been postponed.

Finally, allow us to submit to you some very general recommendations that could serve as a framework for the overhaul of Canadian foreign policy:

1. Conduct the latter without demagogy or avoidance: 2. Make a conscious commitment: remember that if Lester Pearson and Ivan Rand succeeded, in 1947, in becoming the double lever of partition in Canada, one as the Secretary of State, the other at the United Nations, it is because an alternative diplomacy, just and prescient, that of Elizabeth MacCallum, had been stifled. Remember that she had advocated against voting for partition. Remember how she had foreseen the wars to come. When it comes to the Middle East, it seems that Canada has long favored ideologues over experts. Will you break the spell, Mr. Trudeau? Will you clean up around you?

3. Finally, address our foreign policy without denial, without duplicity: Make an effort: when you go before the UN to recognize the “devastating legacy” of the colonization of Canada by the white man, which took place without the consent and participation of indigenous peoples, how can you continue to be a Zionist? One can only assume two things: either you are openly hypocritical, or you are fundamentally ignorant: for Palestine 1920-2020 is one hundred years of servitude. From the British Mandate up to the American Plan.

Dyala Hamzah
Université de Montréal

KAIROS CRY FOR HOPE

The stunning silence of the Catholic church continues. Why?

Kairso once again asks for solidarity

A CALL TO DECISIVE ACTION

WE CANNOT SERVE GOD AND THE OPPRESSION OF THE PALESTINIANS

We, Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice, a worldwide coalition born in response to the Kairos Palestine “Moment of Truth: a word of faith, hope, and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering,” issue this urgent call to Christians, churches and ecumenical institutions. We do this together with committed Christians in Palestine and around the world. This is a call for decisive action on a matter that we believe relates to the integrity of our Christian faith.

We have arrived at a critical point in the struggle to end the oppression of the Palestinian people. The State of Israel’s adoption of the Nation State Law in 2018 legalized institutional discrimination in Israel and the Palestinian territories, officially depriving Palestinians of their rights to life, livelihood, and a future in their homeland. Recent acts of the U.S. administration have supported Israel’s ongoing project of land taking and attaining control over the entire territory of Palestine. These include the 2018 move of its embassy to Jerusalem, its announcement in 2019 that the U.S. government no longer deems West Bank settlements to be “inconsistent with international law,” and the 2020 “Peace to Prosperity” plan. 

Fueled by U.S. support and emboldened by the ineffectual response of the international community, Israel’s newly-formed coalition government has cleared the way for outright annexation of around one third of the occupied West Bank, including the Jordan Valley. These developments make it all the more clear that we have come to the end of the illusion that Israel and the world powers intend to honor and defend the rights of the Palestinian people to dignity, self-determination, and the fundamental human rights guaranteed under international law, including the right of return for Palestinian refugees. It is time for the international community, in light of these events, to recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law.

In affirming this reality, we realize that it is incumbent upon us as followers of Jesus to take decisive action. The very being of the church, the integrity of the Christian faith, and the credibility of the Gospel is at stake. We declare that support for the oppression of the Palestinian people, whether passive or active, through silence, word or deed, is a sin. We assert that Christian support for Zionism as a theology and an ideology that legitimize the right of one people to deny the human rights of another is incompatible with the Christian faith and a grave misuse of the Bible.

We call upon all Christians and on churches at congregational, denominational, national, and global ecumenical levels to engage in a process of study, reflection and confession concerning the historic and systemic deprivation of the rights of the Palestinian people, and the use of the Bible by many to justify and support this oppression. We call on churches to reflect on how their own traditions can express the sacred duty to uphold the integrity of the church and the Christian faith concerning this issue. We cannot serve God while remaining silent about the oppression of the Palestinians.

As we face this kairos, we are mindful of the legacy of faith and action of those who have come before us and have faced circumstances of urgency and crisis. In 1933 German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer declared that the Nazi regime’s denial of the rights of Jews and the interference of the state into matters of religion placed the church in status confessionis. The Barmen Declaration of 1934 reinforced the church’s obligation to stand up to injustice and to unequivocally oppose ideologies of tyranny

In 1964 the first General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Willem Visser ‘t Hooft, stated that racism, like apartheid, constitutes a status confessionis for the churches. The WCC followed this word with action in 1969 in implementing its courageous and far-reaching Program to Combat Racism. In 1977 the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) declared that “apartheid created a status confessionis for the church” and in 1984 suspended the white Lutheran Churches in Southern Africa who practiced apartheid. In 1982 the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) declared apartheid incompatible with Christian belief, and suspended the member churches practicing racial separation.

The present times call for actions as bold, as faithful, and as resolute. The time for decision has arrived. “We call out as Christians and as Palestinians to our Christian brothers and sisters in the churches around the world” reads the 2009 Kairos Palestine document. Eight years later, in 2017, in the Open Letter to the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement, the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine wrote: “Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. This is no time for shallow diplomacy, Christians!” Now, three years later, this is a cry for hope to our brothers and sisters throughout the world. We invite our fellow Christians, their local congregations, churches and international ecumenical organizations, to receive and respond to our common witness, to join the process of confessing, and to initiate processes to formally reject the oppression of the Palestinian people and any use of the Bible to justify this injustice by committing to the following actions:

  • Initiate processes at local, denominational and ecumenical levels that recognize the present kairos and the urgent requirement for decisive action regarding the denial of Palestinian rights and the misuse of the Bible.
  • Engage in study and discernment with respect to theologies and understandings of the Bible that have been used to justify the oppression of the Palestinian people.• Affirm the Palestinians’ right to resist the occupation, dispossession, and abrogation of their fundamental rights, and join the Palestinians in their creative and nonviolent resistance. The 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) provides a framework for economic, cultural, and academic measures and for direct political advocacy as nonviolent means to end occupation and oppression. The purpose of BDS is not to punish or isolate Israel. It is rather to exert pressure on Israel to comply with international law, and to call upon its government and its people, in the spirit of the Word of God, to enter into the ways of justice and peace, thereby affirming its own rights as well as the rights of the Palestinian people.

• Come and see the reality in the Holy Land with compassionate eyes for the suffering of Palestinians, and stand in solidarity with grassroots initiatives on the part of all faiths and secular groups who challenge the occupation and who work for a just peace.

We make this call out of concern for the future of both peoples. In the words of Kairos Palestine, our call is rooted in the logic of love that seeks to liberate both the oppressor and oppressed in order to create a new society for all the people of the land. As followers of Jesus, our response to ideologies of exclusivity and apartheid is to uphold a vision of inclusivity and equality for all peoples of the land and to persistently struggle to bring this about.

Even Ben-Gurion Thought ‘Most Jews Are Thieves’ Gideon Levy

Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them?

David  Ben Gurion

When I read  Ofer Aderet’s excellent summary of Israeli historian Adam Raz’s new book I wondered how this escaped the censors. It’s not that Israeli historians like Morris, Segev and Pappé and a host of others have not  written books which are highly embarrassing to the state mythology but there are mountains still hidden that pull the curtain back on the core of the Zionist movement as “an enterprise of conquest” as Israel’s main ideologue Beryl Katznelson called it. Ethnic cleansing and the theft of Palestinian land and the disappearance of Palestinians was  absolutely central to  its inner dynamic

Recently Netanyahu and Zionist apparatchiks, especially the IDF are scrambling to hide even more shocking revelations which Levy writes about below. In January 2018, Israel’s chief archivist actually admitted as such saying that “ choices of what to declassify sometimes  involve an attempt to conceal part of the historical truth in order to build a more convenient narrative.” In the last few years formerly open files have been jammed shut and a massive stifling operation  is taking place as the true nature of Zionism continues to be revealed as a settler colonial project.

Even Ben-Gurion Thought ‘Most Jews Are Thieves’

Gideon Levy

The quote in the headline wasn’t uttered by an antisemitic leader, a Jew hater or a neo-Nazi. The words are those of the founder of the State of Israel, two months after it was founded. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion was furious, or at least pretended to be, at a meeting of his political party Mapai, in light of the wave of looting of Arab property by the new Israelis throughout the nascent state.

The concept of a state born in sin had never been so concrete: “Like locusts, the residents of Tiberias swarmed into the houses…”; “total and complete robbery…not a thread was left in [any house]”; and “soldiers wrapped in Persian rugs in the streets,” are a few of the descriptions of what happened in front of everyone, and was never told as it really was.

The authorities turned a blind eye and thus encouraged the looting, despite all the denunciations, the pretense and a few ridiculous trials. The looting served a national purpose: to quickly complete the ethnic cleansing of most of the country of its Arabs, and to see to it that 700,000 refugees would never even imagine returning to their homes.

Even before Israel managed to destroy most of the houses, and wipe from the face of the earth more than 400 villages, came this mass looting to empty them out, so that the refugees would have no reason to return.

The looters therefore were motivated not only by ugly greed to possess stolen property right after the war was over, property belonging in some cases to people who were their neighbors just the day before, and not only by the desire to get rich quick by looting household items and ornaments, some of them very costly. The looters also served, consciously or unconsciously, the ethnic purification project that Israel has tried in vain to deny all through the years. The looters were a cog in the large machine of the expulsion of the Arabs.

This looting, in which almost everyone took part, was the small looting, the one that proved if only for a moment that “most of the Jews are thieves,” as the founding father said. But that was mini-looting compared to the institutionalized looting of property, houses, villages and cities – the looting of the land.And so, the intentions of the heads of the Jewish community who allowed the looting are more infuriating than the individual descriptions of it. It is amazing that it was never talked about, another one of the apparatuses of denial and repression by Israel society.

Thirst for revenge and drunkenness with victory after the difficult war might perhaps explain, even partially, the participation of so many. War is an ugly thing, and so is the day after. But when the looting reflects not only momentary human weakness but is intended to serve a clear strategic goal – purifying the country of its inhabitants – words fail.

Anyone who believes that a solution will ever be found to the conflict without proper atonement and compensation for these acts, is living in an illusion. Now think about the feelings of the descendants, the Arabs of Israel and the Palestinian refugees, who are living with us and alongside us. They see the pictures and read these things – what crosses their minds?

Perhaps a few of them once came across a Persian rug that belonged to their parents, or a glass display case that was their grandmother’s, a memory from their childhood, resting in the home of a Jew whose house they cleaned. Perhaps they see their grandmother’s coffeepot or their grandfather’s ancient sword on display in some Jewish home they were renovating.

They will never be able to see the villages of their ancestors: Israel demolished most of them, to leave not a shred. But one small stolen souvenir from the home that was lost might cause a tear to fall. Just ask the Jews enraged over any stolen Jewish property.

Jews ending Zionism

Jewish Voice for Peace bravely leads the way out of the false cred of Zionism, a counsel of despair which believes Jews  cannot integrate into society and that anti-Semitism is a virus without cure. It demands hafrada, separation, in the end segregation and apartheid. It fatally demonizes the Other as forever suspect. Jewish history is a  warning writ large about such a fatal embrace. In the end Zionism is a tragic negation of the universal values of Judaism. This is their welcome credo.

“Solidarity is the political version of love.”

– Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz,
Jewish American lesbian feminist, author and activist (1945-2018)

Jewish Voice for Peace is guided by a vision of justice, equality and freedom for all people. We unequivocally oppose Zionism because it is counter to those ideals.

We know that opposing Zionism, or even discussing it, can be painful, can strike at the deepest trauma and greatest fears of many of us. Zionism is a nineteenth-century political ideology that emerged in a moment where Jews were defined as irrevocably outside of a Christian Europe. European antisemitism threatened and ended millions of Jewish lives — in pogroms, in exile, and in the Holocaust.

Through study and action, through deep relationship with Palestinians fighting for their own liberation, and through our own understanding of Jewish safety and self determination, we have come to see that Zionism was a false and failed answer to the desperately real question many of our ancestors faced of how to protect Jewish lives from murderous antisemitism in Europe.

While it had many strains historically, the Zionism that took hold and stands today is a settler-colonial movement, establishing an apartheid state where Jews have more rights than others. Our own history teaches us how dangerous this can be.

Palestinian dispossession and occupation are by design. Zionism has meant profound trauma for generations, systematically separating Palestinians from their homes, land, and each other. Zionism, in practice, has resulted in massacres of Palestinian people, ancient villages and olive groves destroyed, families who live just a mile away from each other separated by checkpoints and walls, and children holding onto the keys of the homes from which their grandparents were forcibly exiled.

Because the founding of the state of Israel was based on the idea of a “land without people,” Palestinian existence itself is resistance. We are all the more humbled by the vibrance, resilience, and steadfastness of Palestinian life, culture, and organizing, as it is a deep refusal of a political ideology founded on erasure.

In sharing our stories with one another, we see the ways Zionism has also harmed Jewish people. Many of us have learned from Zionism to treat our neighbors with suspicion, to forget the ways Jews built home and community wherever we found ourselves to be. Jewish people have had long and integrated histories in the Arab world and North Africa, living among and sharing community, language and custom with Muslims and Christians for thousands of years.

By creating a racist hierarchy with European Jews at the top, Zionism erased those histories and destroyed those communities and relationships. In Israel, Jewish people of color – from the Arab world, North Africa, and East Africa – have long been subjected to systemic discrimination and violence by the Israeli government. That hierarchy also creates Jewish spaces where Jews of color are marginalized, our identities and commitments questioned & interrogated, and our experiences invalidated. It prevents us from seeing each other — fellow Jews and other fellow human beings — in our full humanity.

Zionist interpretations of history taught us that Jewish people are alone, that to remedy the harms of antisemitism we must think of ourselves as always under attack and that we cannot trust others. It teaches us fear, and that the best response to fear is a bigger gun, a taller wall, a more humiliating checkpoint.

Rather than accept the inevitability of occupation and dispossession, we choose a different path. We learn from the anti-Zionist Jews who came before us, and know that as long as Zionism has existed, so has Jewish dissent to it. Especially as we face the violent antisemitism fueled by white nationalism in the United States today, we choose solidarity. We choose collective liberation. We choose a future where everyone, including Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, can live their lives freely in vibrant, safe, equitable communities, with basic human needs fulfilled. Join us.

Edward Said, prophet remembered

17 years ago this week one of the great public intellectuals died. His name, Edward Said.

Edward Said Dies; U.S. Scholar Was Leading Voice for Palestinians

By The Associated Press

  • Sept. 25, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — Edward W. Said, a Columbia University professor and leading spokesman in the United States for the Palestinian cause, has died, his editor at Knopf publishers said Thursday. He was 67. 

Said had suffered from leukemia for years and died at a New York hospital late Wednesday, editor Shelley Wanger said. 

Said was born in 1935 in Jerusalem, then part of British-ruled Palestine, but he spent most of his adult life in the United States. He wrote passionately about the Palestinian cause but also on a variety of other subjects, from English literature, his academic specialty, to music and culture. 

When it came to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Said was consistently critical of Israel for what he regarded as mistreatment of the Palestinians. 

He wrote two years ago after visits to Jerusalem and the West Bank that Israel’s “efforts toward exclusivity and xenophobia toward the Arabs” had actually strengthened Palestinian determination. 

“Palestine and Palestinians remain, despite Israel’s concerted efforts from the beginning either to get rid of them or to circumscribe them so much as to make them ineffective,” Said wrote in the English-language Al-Ahram Weekly, published in Cairo. 

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Rereading Edward Said’s 1979 classic reissued in 1992, The Question of Palestine, I  was struck by the sheer clarity of his thought and as one of the greatest public intellectuals of the last 50 years, his challenge to somnolent and putative Jewish Intellectuals.

Said understood then, as many do now the absolute and just claims of the Palestinian people.

He wrote then:

It is no exaggeration to say that for the first time in our struggle against Zionism the west appears ready to hear our side of the story. Therefore we must tell it, we must stand in the international theatre created out of our struggle against Zionism and there we must defuse her message dramatically.

In the West our aim should be first to engage the liberal Zionist establishment that has so long turned its back on Zionism‘s victims.

Every day Israeli Occupation practices on the West Bank and Gaza as well as Israeli attacks on civilians in Lebanon pass without so much as a gesture of disapproval from Jewish intellectuals who have traditionally been in the forefront of human rights causes. This community of writers, intellectuals, scholars and professionals has betrayed its human mission.

Why for example did not the mass expulsion of 250,000 civilians from their homes in South Lebanon,  Israeli forces using cluster bombs during the spring of 1978 elicit a single public expression of condemnation? The  outrages go on every day and no one says anything

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Said’s prophetic voice was not wasted. History as always open and he would be most gratified to see young Jews break from the false creed of Zionism the radical departure from the universal ethics of Judaism.

Trump’s Mideast Mirage

Eric Margolis is back and always worth a read. Describing himself as an “Eisenhower Republican,” he bolted from the Tea party/Trump cult a decade ago. For over 25 years he wrote for the Toronto Stun but wore out his welcome  because he knew something about the Middle East where  he had been a war correspondent and saw through Israel’s creeping takeover of all of Palestine. Like Robert Fisk, Margolis spoke Arabic and had this salient fact in his quiver- Margolis’ mother, Nexhmie Zaimi, was also a journalist who spent a long time in the Middle East documenting the plight of the Palestinians during the 1950s.

Reflexively conservative  as the scion of the founder of Jameson’s Drugs and independently wealthy, Margolis who actually knows something about the Middle East.

spoke and wrote unpalatable truths about Israel and quickly found himself banned from the Toronto Stun and virtually disappeared from CNN and Steve Paikin’s Agenda.

Unlike most North Americans who had fallen prey to Israel’s slick hasbara campaigns Margolis  easily saw how Israel the “model of reasonableness” smartly concealed its expansionist project of “disappearing” Palestine from naive Western sponsors. This ‘step by step” approach, flying in the face of international law, never fooled Margolis. His departure from the public Middle East discourse was sealed by his caustic reference to Israel’s mass murder in Gaza as “a final solution campaign.” Well, Eric is  back at EricMargolis.com

Trump’s Mideast Mirage

The Trump administration, desperate for some good news, just manufactured its own news by confecting a ‘peace’ deal between Israel and a bunch of pipsqueak Arab monarchies – just in time for November US elections.

The Gulf monarchies – the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – that signed this agreement are so frightened of neighboring Iran that they would happily have opted for Israeli rule rather than welcome the angry, unforgiving Iranians, who call the Gulf Arabs ‘traitors, cowards and backstabbers,’ a sentiment shared by much of the Arab world.

Few Americans could find these little sheikdoms on a map. But many evangelical voters, who have a comic-book view of the Mideast, will think the Trump administration has achieved a major feat by supposedly bringing peace to the Holy Land. Cynics, among them many Israelis, will likely scoff at such falafel in the sky thinking. Oman is expected to sign the new accord.

Israel remains intent on expanding its borders to gobble up all of what was historic Palestine and its water resources. Five million Palestinians will remain stateless. Israel also has its eye on fertile parts of Syria and Lebanon.

As I suggested in my book on Mideast strategy, ‘American Raj,’ the key beneficiaries of any Arab-Israeli peace deal would be Israel’s bankers, businessmen and arms makers. If a decent peace deal can be made with the Palestinians, the doors of the entire Muslim world (a fifth of humanity) will be opened to Israel’s commerce and finance. This will be a huge bonanza worth orders of magnitude more than the West Bank’s scrubby slopes.

But to do so, Israel’s hard right and religious extremists will have to lessen their demands for Arab land and water – that is, what they term, Greater Israel. Just as difficult and obdurate will be Trump’s evangelical core voters who want to see a mythical Biblical Israel recreated, paving the way for the return of the Messiah and earth’s fiery destruction.

The United Arab Emirates, population just under 10 million, is only 10% Arab. The rest of its people are mainly Indians and Pakistani coolies, giving rise to the old bon mot that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the world’s best Indian-run cities.

Non-Arab members of the UAE are treated like slaves. They are paid a pittance, poorly fed, and live in squalor. Non-Arabs have no rights. Arab citizens don’t have any rights either, just a better standard of living.

I remember these tiny city states from the early 1970’s when I worked for a leading US firm that smuggled high-end cosmetics and perfumes into India, Pakistan and the USSR via Dubai’s busy port.

Back in the day, Britain’s intelligence agency, MI6, controlled Oman and its royal rulers. Similarly, the CIA today exercises great influence over Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, not to mention Egypt and Morocco. Tiny Qatar maintains a degree of independence in the face of Saudi threats and efforts by the Trump people to crush it.

The big Mideast deal ballyhooed by Trump and Co. is in reality a phony peace between secretly allied Gulf States and Israel. They have been playing footsie for over a decade. It is not primarily about peace but about Iran and arms sales to the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia that they have no idea how to use. Weapons sales are a protection payoff to Washington, which has important bases in Qatar, the UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

What next? Will Trump declare a trans-Pacific alliance between Tonga and the US to ‘contain’ China?

As for peace in the Mideast, recall the biting words of Roman historian Tacitus, ‘where they make a desert they call it peace.’ That is what awaits over five million Palestinian refugees, not a new dawn promised by the Trump administration.

Trump for the NOBLE!

Once again   we were  treated to a clown shown in the Trumpian parallel universe. There they were  virtually all white unmasked men flouting  COVID 19 directives promoting an irrelevant “Middle East agreement” as the Second Coming almost akin to V-E Day. Of course  there were no no Palestinians on whom justice depends in attendance. But there he was the other outlier, the Israeli racist in chief Netanyahu preening for the cameras 

This of course was a pathetic attempt to “wag the dog” Trump’s bizarre attempt   to deflect attention from what  Bob Woodward termed his “homicidal” presidency. The shameless narcissist was also busy promoting a NOBLE peace prize as one of his press releases said.

Now it takes a real Israeli writer to put all this Noble nonsense in context.Michael Brizon of Haaretz  writes under B.Michael. Here’s his latest

Netanyahu’s Dream-come-true Kingdom

sign at airport as Netanyahu leaves

B. Michael

Despite all the superlatives being lavished upon it, the hoopla in Washington is nothing more than a double campaign ad by two unbridled narcissists. Both are currently suffering some election anxiety, and so they fabricated a “historic event” to please their base. It wasn’t hard. A pair of tyrannical emirates – no bastions of human rights – were persuaded by Uncle Sam’s purse-strings and weapons store to expose their shadowy ties with a third tyrannical state. What was kept hidden under the rug for years has now been pulled out to be shown off for all to see. This is the whole reason for the big fanfare.

The festive signing of Israel’s new agreements with the UAE and Bahrain will not bring about any significant benefit, will not lead to any important change, will not solve any problem. Some tycoons will get a little wealthier, some arms dealers will get fatter on more blood money, and some tens of thousands of Israeli tourists will have yet another destination to which to flee from their dying homeland. There, in the sparkling shopping malls of the UAE, their money will help to “oil the wheels of the local economy.” What greater joy can there be?

In short, these agreements are as important and historic as a normalization agreement signed between Israel and the Azrieli Mall

Still, there has been something instructive about the whole thing, too. As we’ve learned, Benjamin Netanyahu is a complete cynic without a drop of empathy in his soul, which is entirely dark, cold, twisted and selfish. Witness the family trip he arranged for himself to America while millions of Israelis are struggling to put bread on the table and to keep healthy. But something amazing happened here:

Amid all the cynicism and the spin, there was a glimpse of something human, something real, almost touching, in the way Bibi has referred to his new friends. You could tell that he genuinely likes them, genuinely respects them – maybe even envies them. And it seems that he likes their kingdoms even more.

It’s not hard to see why. These rulers and their countries represent his dream come true. This is exactly the sort of kingdom he envisions. It is just what he wants – a feudal, fawned-over family regime that controls an entire country. Rule that is forever held by one family. A kingdom in which a chosen people that is the minority rules over a majority whose rights are trampled. And in which halakha (traditional Jewish law) is the law of the state and is used to keep the subjects in line and to stamp out any enlightenment.

And that’s not all: At the head of this state is the omnipotent Emir. He appoints judges, certifies police officers, selects generals, controls the media and chooses most of the members of “parliament.” All the state coffers are at the disposal of the Emir and his family, and they can use it to buy themselves yachts and planes, to build lavish mansions, and to purchase as many cigars and as much ice cream as their hearts desire. Needless to say, the Emir and his family don’t have to ask twice to get a tax refund.

Spirit of cooperation…

Is it any wonder that Bibi’s eyes gleam with admiration and envy when he speaks about his new partners in normalization? Partners whose countries are also under investigation for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity? And who make their in-house enemies disappear while scoffing at the critics outside?

So it is in Abu Dhabi, in Bahrain and in the country of Bibi’s dreams – the Abu-Yair Emirate where he is the absolute ruler. No joke. This is where we are headed.

As Zionism is unmasked, hysteria explodes

Israeli Lobby Organizations Seek to Bankrupt Progressive, Pro-Palestinian Restaurant

On July 10, 2020 Yves Engler wrote

The pro-Israel community is engaged in a remarkable effort to bankrupt a small progressive Toronto restaurant. In their attack on Foodbenders, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai B’rith have once again allied with the violent, far-right, Jewish Defence League (JDL).

Over the past week the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has tweeted no less than 25 times about a restaurant known for supporting indigenous rights, Black Lives Matter and other social justice causes. CIJA and associates have targeted Foodbenders’ delivery services, institutional customers, website host and social media accounts. They’ve also gotten the prime minister, premier of Ontario, mayor of Toronto and numerous other politicians to (directly or indirectly) denounce the small restaurant that has “I love Gaza” painted in its window.

A CIJA action alert to its members states, “antisemites MUST be held accountable. We will never hesitate to take strong legal action against business owners in our city who declare Zionists are ‘not welcome’. United Jewish Appeal’s advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is “calling on the Ontario Human Rights Commission to hold Foodbenders accountable for its discriminatory stance against our community. 

B’nai B’rith has also put out dozens of tweets about the restaurant and different ways to bankrupt it. One statement calls on its supporters to “contact 311@toronto.ca to request that Foodbenders have its business license investigated. Be sure to mention section 27 of By-law No. 574-2000, which prohibits the use of a licensed business to ‘discriminate against any member of the public’ on grounds of ‘race, colour, or creed.’ Attach screenshots if you can.”

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and Honest Reporting Canada have put out dozens of tweets supporting efforts to bankrupt the social justice minded business. The Israel-based International Legal Forum filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against Foodbenders’ owner Kimberly Hawkins. In what is thought to be the first time the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism has been employed in this way, they are claiming that under its stipulations the restaurant owner should be charged with discrimination.

The more liberal end of the Israeli nationalist establishment has also joined the pile on. Former Canadian Jewish Congress president and current chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Bernie Farber, has repeatedly denounced the restaurant and so has the Canadian Jewish Record, a publication he recently established. In one tweet Farber denounced “the antisemitic tropes used by Food benders.”

Hawkins has being attacked incessantly since an Instagram post of hers began circulating last week that stated, “Open Now – 8 PM for non-racist shoppers #Bloordale #Bloorstreet, #Toronto, #Open, #ftp [fuck the police] #FreePalestine and #ZionistsNotWelcome.” The anti-Palestinian lobby pounced on the #ZionistsNotWelcome hashtag.

In response to Hawkins’ refusal to back down from her support of Palestinian rights, Jewish Defence League thugs held a rally in front of Foodbenders on Sunday. During their hate fest they scrubbed a Palestinian Lives Matter marking from the sidewalk and, similar to what Jewish supremacist settlers do to Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, someone painted the symbol on the Israeli flag onto the restaurant window. Alongside painting Stars of David on her storefront, Hawkins has faced a bevy of online abuse. The Foodbenders owner has been called a “dirty Palestinian whore” and told “Palestine sucks I will burn your business down” and “I hope your family gets trapped inside the restaurant when it burns.”

In the dozens of tweets and statements they’ve put out about the restaurant B’nai B’rith, CIJA, Wiesenthal Centre, Honest Reporting Canada and Farber have all stayed mum on JDL’s acts of hate, which were carried out in broad daylight and filmed (CIJA referred to “vandalism” in one tweet). This isn’t surprising. Despite the JDL’s racism and violence, the Jewish establishment has tacitly accepted or actively supported its often-violent targeting of Palestine solidarity campaigners.

After JDL supporters attacked peaceful pro-Palestinian activists protesting a presentation by Israeli military reservists at York University in November, the establishment Jewish organizations cried “anti-Semitism”. 

Last year JDL, B’nai B’rith and CIJA worked with Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak in a bid to have the city block Al Quds Day. Banned in the US and Israel, JDL participates in the annual Walk for Israel organized by United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto. JDL has also been allowed to recruit in Jewish high schools and during Israel’s 2014 destruction of Gaza the JDL and B’nai B’rith co-sponsored a counter-demonstration and the group provided “security” for a Canadians for Israel rally.

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On August 3, 2020, unknown individuals vandalized the rear of the store, spray painting, among other things, profanity and the Star of David. Police took a report and did not follow up.

September update

On the evening of Wednesday, September 2, 2020, vandals again attacked the Foodbenders store in Bloordale, this time smashing the storefront window. Responding to a vandalism report from Foodbenders’ lawyer, Detective Jason Crane of the Criminal Investigation Bureau has replied to Foodbenders that he has yet to assign anyone to investigate the incident.

Foodbenders is making a plea to supporters and the public at large to contact Detective Jason (Robert) Crane of the Toronto Police Service at (416) 808 1104 (Robert.Crane@torontopolice.on.ca) to inquire as to what they plan to do concretely to protect Foodbenders from vandalism.

A Clear Message From West Bank Mosque Burning: Palestinians Must Disappear

Ethnic cleansing has never stopped in Israel.This wobderful democracy built on the ruins of Palestine is an embarrassment to the rule of law. Settlers have carte blanche to make life miserable for the indigenous.

Jewish vigilantes below

Amira Hass a real Israeli journalist you can trust, writes for Haaretz

“Where is the El Bir Wa-el Ihsan mosque,” I asked the driver at the taxi stand in northeast El Bireh, a West Bank city, on Monday morning. “The mosque that was torched by the Jews?” he asked. “I have no idea.”

The mosque was opened in August 2016, and most of the people I asked, including other taxi drivers, had never heard of it. I assumed that it must be in a place that’s very accessible to anyone who wishes harm – with a convenient escape route. Near a settlement. Near military cameras. Near an Israel Defense Forces position.

My first guess was the El Bireh industrial zone, past the Beit El army checkpoint and the Civil Administration base. In October 2019 unknown individuals arrived there in a vehicle, punctured the tires of about 30 Palestinian-owned cars, and in order to remove any doubt regarding their identity – left behind graffiti in Hebrew.

But no. The mosque is not in the industrial zone. My second guess was correct: It’s situated in the city’s education complex, right next to the soccer stadium. Opposite it, to the south, less than a kilometer away as the crow flies, is the settlement of Psagot, in all its greenery.

As he does every day, muezzin Jalal Mahmoud Ayesh arrived at the mosque at 3:10 A.M. on Monday. Even before he got out of his car he noticed that the electricity in the building was off. Maybe there’s a short circuit, he thought. He entered the prayer hall via the western entrance, and immediately smelled fire. He followed the smell to the door of the eastern entrance. The handle was hot. When he opened the door, he saw flames climbing up the tiles on the mosque’s outer wall.

Ayesh wasted no time and called the local fire station. He assumed that it was a children’s prank – that perhaps they had set fire to the closet, made of wood and plastic, in which worshippers place their shoes before prayer. The firefighters, who arrived within a few minutes, said, “What are you talking about? It is not children,” and they pointed to graffiti in Hebrew, sprayed in black on a newly whitewashed wall. Later on people would come to translate the words for him: “A siege for the Arabs and not for the Jews,” with one exclamation point. “The Land of Israel for the People of Israel,” with two exclamation points.

A second locus of the arson attack was in the mosque’s bathroom. A carpet, under the sinks, was burned. The wall and floor tiles were charred, as was the windowpane, which was cracked.

At 9 A.M., when I was there, someone said that Palestinian police officers had arrived earlier, but they had been dressed in civilian clothing, because the site is located in what’s defined as “Area C”: under full Israeli security and civil control, where the Palestinian police are not allowed to operate. “C” is an artificial category, but the land belongs to the El Bireh Municipality, and the residential neighborhood in which it is located is within the municipal boundaries – a natural continuation of the city’s older neighborhoods.

In 2009 the settlement of Psagot and the Regavim pro-settler NGO demanded that the Civil Administration demolish the local stadium, then in the final stages of construction. They also warned that thousands of overexcited soccer fans were likely to throw “ballistae” (the term used in their petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice) at the settlement. But it turned out that already in the early 1980s, the military government had given the municipality permission to build in that area. The attempt at demolition was thwarted.

How did the arsonists arrive at the mosque? Perhaps on the road from the settlement to the city’s garbage-disposal site, and from there to the stadium near the mosque. They could have arrived in a car, if the guard at the site was not at his post then, or parked it on the slope of the hill and ascended on foot.

The arsonists’ indirect message is: Look at us, we do whatever we like and will continue to do it, because the police won’t bother to search for us and the army won’t turn us in. And if they do catch us, they won’t prosecute us, and if they do prosecute, the judges will find an excuse to acquit us. That’s how it’s been for years.

The direct message behind the arson attack is written on the wall: The Palestinians must disappear from here. And if they don’t disappear of their own free will then we, anonymous Jews, will force them to do so.