Citizen Action Monitor

Premier Wynne’s trade delegation to Israel legitimizes seven decades of military brutality

Canadian blogger’s pursuit of “a fair and balanced public policy towards Israelis and Palestinians” doesn’t cut it.

No 1640 Posted by fw, April 14, 2016

“To act ignorantly when knowledge is available, to deny realities that patently exist and make a genuine difference, is the worst crime of civilized man.”Herbert Thelen, (1913-2008) American educator

“[Wynne’s] trip to Israel has provoked controversy since it was first discussed. Back in 2015, Joanne Naiman, a Jewish [former] professor at Ryerson University had pleaded in an op ed for Wynne not to visit Israel. Independent Jewish Voices Canada denounced the trip which ‘whitewashes Israeli criminality.’ Some other Palestinian human rights groups have opposed the trip as a violation of the BDS strategy of boycotting Israel.”Peter Larsen, Canada Talks Israel-Palestine.

In reading Peter Larsen’s latest article, reposted below, and in visiting his website, Canada Talks Israel-Palestine, “provoking controversy” is clearly not the style of this mild-mannered author with a particular interest in human rights issues in the Middle East.

Terms such as ‘fair and balanced’, ‘respect’, ‘protect’, ‘objective analysis’, ‘reconciliatory solution’, ‘better understand’ populate his writing. They appear in his article below in reference to Wynne getting a ‘balanced view’, ‘deeper understanding’, ‘opportunity to raise questions’, ‘realistic vision’.

In his concluding paragraph, Larsen writes: “Ms. Wynne is an experienced and thoughtful politician. There is every reason to believe that she has a genuine concern for human rights and social justice.” On what basis, one wonders, does Larsen surmise this? Certainly not on the basis of any evidence of which I’m aware, of her “genuine concern” for the human rights and social justice of Palestinians. If he has such evidence, let him share it.

Being balanced, when faced by egregious barbarism, really doesn’t cut it. It won’t change anything. But candid, unvarnished truth, based on incontrovertible empirical facts, might sway public opinion.

Larsen’s invitation to readers to submit questions sets the tone for what is expected: “What would you suggest the Premier visit? Any and all comments welcome as long as they are respectful.”

For the purpose of contrast and comparison to Peter Larsen’s writing style, do not miss the repost, at the bottom, of an article by Dr. Ramzy Baroud, author and journalist. His piece, The Logic of Murder in Israel: A Culture of Impunity in Full View of the Entire World opens with this observation: “The vast majority of Israelis, 68%, support the killing of Abdel Fatah Yusri al-Sharif, 21, by the solider who had reportedly announced before firing at the wounded Palestinian that the ‘terrorist had to die.’”

And he concludes his article with these words:

“The danger of impunity is not merely the lack of legal accountability, but the fact that it is the very foundation of most violent crimes against humanity, including genocide…. This impunity began seven decades ago and it will not end without international intervention, with concerted efforts to hold Israel accountable in order to bring the agony of Palestinians to a halt.”

Wynne’s trip to Israel sends exactly the wrong message to Canadians and Israelis: too many Canadians will not bother to think much of anything of the trip; Israelis, on the other hand, will feast on the impunity that will travel with Wynne to Israel.

Below is a repost of Peter Larsen’s post with my comments interspersed — beginning with my initials FW, comments in italics. To read Peter’s original piece on his blog, click on the following linked title.

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Premier Wynne’s trade mission to Israel provokes controversy  by Peter Larsen, Canada Talks Israel-Palestine, April 12, 2016

At a big event organized last January by the Jewish community in Toronto, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced she would lead a delegation to Israel. She said she wanted to promote “political, economic and cultural ties”. If she wants to get a balanced view of Israeli history, politics and culture, I have several suggestions for her team to consider. including in her itinerary. She leaves on May 15th, so there might be time to adjust her agenda. Read more.

FW – In keeping with his mild-mannered style, Larsen’s introductory paragraph is not particularly forceful, setting a conciliatory tone for the piece. It’s a pity the Israelis do not adopt a more conciliatory tone in their dealings with the Palestinians. Larsen does not question why Wynne would seek to promote “political, economic and cultural ties” with a reprehensible state that in 2015 arrested 860 children in East Jerusalem alone. Of these 105 were under 12. (Source: watch 5-min video).

As Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne has made trade promotion a priority. She has already made trips to China, Canada’s #2 trading partner and to India (#14).

Her upcoming trip to Israel is promoted as a “business trip”, and she will be accompanied by a significant Toronto business delegation, but she is probably thinking electoral politics as much as commerce. After all, Canada’s two-way trade with Israel is actually very small, coming well after countries like Norway and Peru.

FW — Why is Wynne using taxpayers’ money to encourage increased trade with a state that in a single day made 124 Palestinians homeless by multiple demolitions. According to UN figures, Israeli authorities have demolished 539 structures in the occupied Palestinian territory’s Area C since the beginning of 2016. (Read more)  

A clue to the motivation for the trip is included in the Premier’s press release, in which she notes that “Over 60 per cent of Canada’s Israel-born immigrants live in Ontario. The province is also home to about 200,000 people of Jewish faith.”

FW — by showing support for increased ties with Israel, Wynne will garner the local pro-Israeli Jewish vote and financial support. Meanwhile, Wynne apparently remains conveniently and willfully ignorant of the fact that Some 75,000 Palestinians in Gaza, half of them children, remain displaced after their homes were destroyed during Israel’s assault in July and August 2014, according to a new United Nations study. (Read more )

Her trip to Israel has provoked controversy since it was first discussed. Back in 2015, Joanne Naiman, a Jewish [former] professor at Ryerson University had pleaded in an op ed for Wynne not to visit Israel. Independent Jewish Voices Canada denounced the trip which “whitewashes Israeli criminality“. Some other Palestinian human rights groups have opposed the trip as a violation of the BDS strategy of boycotting Israel.

FW – It’s too bad that Larsen failed to expand on the controversy provoked by Wynne’s trip to Israel. In addition to citing the criticisms of others, he could have introduced at least one story of his own of Israel’s inhumanity to his fellow man. For example, why should we be promoting trade with a state that has killed more than 5,500 Palestinians in the last 15 years and not one soldier has been prosecuted for murder. (Read more )

Despite the opposition, it now seems unlikely that the trip will be cancelled. We know some things about her itinerary, but not everything. Undoubtedly, she will visit the Israeli Parliament (or Knesset), Yad Vashem (the holocaust museum), Tel Aviv, and she will probably make a quick stop in the West Bank as well.

Perhaps there might still be time to fine tune her agenda. This could be a terrific opportunity for the Premier, and those in her delegation, to get a deeper understanding of the history, culture and politics of the region.

FW – Larsen’s itinerary suggestions imply that the Premier is unaware of the “deeper” history of the region, which is probably true. For had she a deeper grasp of Israeli barbarity, it is unlikely the Premier would be making the trip. For example, she would surely already know that she should not be pursuing a trade deal with a state that is now jailers to a third generation of Palestinian children living under occupation. (Read more)

Here are five suggestions for her staff:

  1. While she is at the Israeli Knesset, Premier Wynne should request a meeting with the leader of the Arab opposition in parliament, Ayman Odeh.  Ask him about his party’s perspective and vision for Israel.  He will no doubt agree that Israel has a flourishing democracy for its Jewish citizens. But he will patiently explain that for its Arab citizens, Israeli democracy is extremely limited. Premier Wynne will probably be shocked by the extent of legal discrimination against non-Jews in the areas of housing, employment, education, etc.
  2. When she is at the Israeli Holocaust Museum (Yad Vashem), she should ask for a Palestinian guide to show her around Dir Yassin, the site of a massacre of Palestinians carried out by Zionist militias almost exactly 68 years ago. The Dir Yassin massacre was key to the Israeli takeover of West Jerusalem in 1948. It is plainly visible from the back of the Holocaust Museum.
  3. On her way to Tel Aviv, Premier Wynne should request a tour of “Canada Park,” a flagship project of the Jewish National Fund of Canada, and financially supported by all Ontario and Canadian taxpayers through JNF-Canada’s tax-free charitable status.  Canada Park is a mere few hundred metres off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway.  She is likely to be embarrassed to learn that Canadian taxpayer money has been used to hide the remains of a Palestinian village destroyed by Israel in 1967.
  4. While she is in the West Bank, she should ask to visit a refugee camp, and talk to some refugees. There are 750,000 Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, in 19 different camps. They were expelled from their homes and villages when Israel was created in 1948. In 2014, Pope Francis made a very public visit to Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem. I’m sure they would be very happy to tell her their stories.
  5. Visit Nazareth the largest Arab city in Israel, and then visit Nazareth Ilit, the Jewish city that surrounds and overlooks Nazareth. Even a quick trip through both places would be enough to raise questions in her mind about whether Jews and non-Jews get equal treatment in Israel.

FW — Even Larsen’s suggested itinerary tip toes around any direct criticism of Israel.  He leaves it to others “to tell their stories.” For example, in the case of Dir Yassin, the site of a massacre of Palestinians, Larsen misses an opportunity to share with Canadians that Deir Yassin has long been a symbol of Israeli violence for Palestinians because of the particularly gruesome nature of the slaughter, which targeted over 100 men, women, children, and the elderly in the small village west of Jerusalem, this vile act coming before the establishment of Israel. (Read more)

FW — And in speaking of the Holocaust museum, Larsen might have directed Canadians’ attention to the photo essay of comparative Holocausts — Jews in Europe and Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank — assembled by  the head of the Norwegian Embassy in Saudi Arabia.  (Read more )

Ms. Wynne is an experienced and thoughtful politician. There is every reason to believe that she has a genuine concern for human rights and social justice. Being exposed to any of these additional realities will allow her to better assess whether her Israeli guides are giving her a complete and realistic vision of Israel’s politics, culture and history.

FW — In the context of this compliment, I remind readers of the words of Herbert Thelen: “To act ignorantly when knowledge is available, to deny realities that patently exist and make a genuine difference, is the worst crime of civilized man.” The knowledge is available, Ms. Wynne. As premier, there is no excuse for your ignorance of it.

Peter Larsen, author of this blog, has authored or directed many studies on governance and public administration, and has worked as a consultant in Canada and internationally. Currently he has a particular interest in human rights issues in the Middle East, and has made several trips to the area, including the Palestinian occupied territories of the West Bank, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Iran.

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Related Repost

The Logic of Murder in Israel: A Culture of Impunity in Full View of the Entire World  by Ramzy Baroud , counterpunch, April 14, 2016

“Whether he made a mistake or not, is a trivial question,” said an Israeli Jewish man who joined large protests throughout Israel in support of a soldier who calmly, and with precision, killed a wounded Palestinian man in al-Khalil (Hebron). The protesting Jewish man described Palestinians as ‘barbaric’, ‘bestial’, who should not be perceived as people.

This is hardly a fringe view in Israel. The vast majority of Israelis, 68%, support the killing of Abdel Fatah Yusri al-Sharif, 21, by the solider who had reportedly announced before firing at the wounded Palestinian that the “terrorist had to die.”

The killing scene would have been relegated to the annals of the many ‘contested’ killings by Israeli soldiers, were it not for a Palestinian field worker with Israel’s human rights group, B’Tselem, who filmed the bloody event.

The incident, once more, highlights a culture of impunity that exists in the Israeli army, which is not a new phenomenon.

Not only is Israeli society supportive of the soldier behind this particular bloody incident, almost a vast majority is in support of field executions as well.

In fact, the culture of impunity in Israel is linked both to political leanings and religious beliefs. According to the latest Peace Index released by Tel Aviv University’s Israel Democracy Institute, nearly 67% of the country’s Jewish population believes that “it is a commandment to kill a terrorist who comes at you with a knife”.

Killing Palestinians as a form of religious duty goes back to the early days of the Jewish state, and such beliefs are constantly corroborated by the country’s high spiritual institutions, similar to the recent decree issued by the country’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef. While 94% of ultra-Orthodox agree with the murder edict of Yosef, 52% of the country’s secularists do, too.

In fact, dehumanizing Palestinians – describing them as ‘beasts’, ‘cockroaches’, or treating them as dispensable inferiors – has historically been a common denominator in Israeli society, uniting Jews from various political, ideological and religious backgrounds.

Rabbi Yosef’s decree, for example, is not much different from statements made by Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, and other army and government official, who made similar calls, albeit without utilizing a strongly worded religious discourse.

Using the same logic, the quote above describing Palestinians as beasts is not divergent from a recent statement made by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. “At the end, in the State of Israel, as I see it, there will be a fence that spans it all,” Netanyahu said in February. “In the area that we live, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts,” he added.

While pro-Israeli pundits labor to explain the widespread Israeli perception of Palestinians – and Arabs, in general – on rational grounds, logic and commonsense continues to evade them. For instance, Netanyahu’s last war on Gaza in the summer of 2014 killed a total of 2,251 Palestinians – including 1,462 civilians, among them 551 children, according to a report prepared by the UN Human Rights Council. During that war, only six Israeli civilians were killed, and 60 soldiers.

Who, then, is truly the ‘wild beast’?

However, Palestinians are not made into beasts because of their supposedly murderous intent for, not once, statistically, in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict did Palestinians ever kill more Israelis, as opposed to the other way round. The ailment is not the number, but a common Israeli cultural perception that is utterly racist and dehumanizing.

Nor is the Israeli perception of Palestinians ever linked to a specific period of time, for example, a popular uprising or a war. Consider this eyewitness account from August 2012, cited in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, years before the current uprising in the West Bank and Jerusalem:

“Today I saw a lynch with my own eyes, in Zion Square, the center of the city of Jerusalem … and shouts of ‘A Jew is a soul and Arab is a son of a –,’ were shouted loudly and dozens of youths ran and gathered and started to really beat to death three Arab youths who were walking quietly in the Ben Yehuda street,” the witness wrote.

“When one of the Palestinian youths fell to the ground, the youths continued to hit him in the head; he lost consciousness, his eyes rolled, his angled head twitched, and then those who were kicking him fled while the rest gathered around in a circle, with some still shouting with hate in their eyes.”

Imagine this graphic account repeated, in different manifestations, every day in Occupied Palestine, and consider this: rarely does anyone pay a price for it. Indeed, this is how Israel’s culture of impunity has evolved over the years.

According to Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, “approximately 94% of criminal investigations launched by the IDF against soldiers suspected of criminal violent activity against Palestinians and their property are closed without any indictments. In the rare cases that indictments are served, conviction leads to very light sentencing.”

And no one is immune. Israel’s 972Mag wrote in December 2015 about the hundreds of violent incidents of Israeli forces targeting Palestinian medical staff. Palestinian rights group, Al-Haq, documented 56 cases in which “ambulances were attacked”, and 116 assaults against medical staff while on duty.

How about violence meted out by illegal settlers whose population in the Occupied Territories is constantly on the increase?

Armed settlers rampage daily through villages of the Occupied West Bank and the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. The number of their violent crimes has grown tremendously in recent years, and even doubled since 2009.

In August 2015, months before the current uprising, Human Rights Watch senior researcher, Bill Van Esveld, wrote:

“Settlers attack Palestinians and their property on a near-daily basis – there were more than 300 such attacks last year, but few attackers faced justice. In the past decade, less than two percent of investigations into settler attacks ended with convictions.”

In case one is still fooled by the ‘rational’ argument used to justify the murder of militarily occupied, oppressed and besieged Palestinians, Batzalel Smotrich, from the Jewish Home Party, which is part of Netanyhu’s ruling coalition, protested via twitter that his wife was expected to give birth in the same hospital room where Arab babies are born.

His written ‘rationale’, after declaring that his wife “is not a racist’, “It’s natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie next to someone whose baby son might want to murder my son.”

The likes of Smotrich, and the majority of Israelis are morally blind to their own wrongdoing. They have long been sold on the idea that Israel, despite its brutality is a ‘villa in the jungle’. According to a recent Pew survey, nearly half of Israelis want to expel Palestinians Arabs – Muslims and Christians, from their ancestral homeland.

The danger of impunity is not merely the lack of legal accountability, but the fact that it is the very foundation of most violent crimes against humanity, including genocide.

This impunity began seven decades ago and it will not end without international intervention, with concerted efforts to hold Israel accountable in order to bring the agony of Palestinians to a halt.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

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