No 1863 Posted by fw, January 7, 2017
“The Azaria case was the ultimate trial of Israeli society. A disastrous precedent has now been set: cold-blooded murder of Palestinians has been officially sanctioned by the Israeli mainstream and the political class, and the perceived rule of law severely undermined. No more hiding behind words like ‘collateral damage’ when employing missiles dropped by F-16s or drones. Israeli politicians have declared an open season on Palestinians. The precedent set by this case will further solidify the complete dehumanization of Palestinians and pave the way for further ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” —Yoav Litvin, Mondoweiss
I chose to introduce this shocking article by Yoav Litvin on Israelis’ mainstream descent into moral corruption, with reference to an event that took place in the Ontario Legislature. On December 1, 2016, in an apparent display of wilful ignorance of the history of the unimaginable brutality characterizing Israel’s colonization, expansion and expulsion of Palestine’s inhabitants, 49 members of the Ontario Parliament passed a motion to “endorse the Ottawa Protocol on Combatting antisemitism; and reject the differential treatment of Israel, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”
In part, the motion moved that “…the Legislative Assembly of Ontario… recognize the long-standing, vibrant and mutually beneficial political, economic and cultural ties between Ontario and Israel, built on a foundation of shared liberal democratic values…”
To repeat, for emphasis: “…built on a foundation of shared liberal democratic values…”
These 49 Ontario MPP’s – 26 Liberals, 23 Conservatives — ignored a plea from Israeli Citizens “to reject the private member Motion Number 36. Please do not vote for repression.” They wrote: “This anti-BDS Motion adds insult to injury by using this false and misleading identification of all Jews with Zionism and Israel to protect Israel’s occupation and egregious human rights violations.”
In his article, reposted below, Yoav Litvin, a doctor of psychology/behavioral neuroscience, documentary photographer and writer living in New York City, sees precious little of Israel’s “shared liberal democratic values” that the Ontario government motion mythologizes.
Compare Litvin’s account of an Israeli society that appears to have lost its moral compass with the glowing tributes of Israel voiced by Ontario’s MPP’s, as captured in the official Hansard Transcript, which is appended at the end of this post.
To read Litvin’s article as it appeared on the Mondoweiss website, click on the following linked title. My repost, below, includes added subheadings and text highlighting.
Elor Azaria, Israeli soldier and cold-blooded murderer of wounded Palestinian, is now a hero
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldier and medic Elor Azaria, who was filmed last March (by Imad Abu Shamsiya, a Palestinian B’Tselem volunteer) executing an incapacitated Palestinian man, Fattah al-Sharif, in cold blood has been convicted of manslaughter. He is now the modern Israeli hero, “the child of all of us” as many Israelis refer to him.
Whopping 70% if Israeli public and government officials called for pardon of Azaria
Shortly after the verdict was announced a poll showed that a whopping 70% of the Israeli public support Azaria’s pardon. What’s more, key figures of the Israeli government have unified in their call for pardoning Azaria in what can only be interpreted as an expression of cynical political opportunism. Those calling for a pardon include Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, and of course Israel’s Prime Minister (PM) Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, who is currently under investigation for numerous corruptions. Even Shelly Yacimovich of the opposition, to the extent that the use of the word is even valid when referring to the Israeli Knesset, has conveyed her support for pardoning Azaria.
The Palestinian was “a terrorist who deserved to die” said Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett
“Today a soldier who killed a terrorist who deserved to die, who tried to slaughter [another] soldier, was placed in shackles and convicted as a criminal”, Bennett declared.
Bennett dismissed the overwhelming evidence against Azaria as “too complicated”
Naftali “shrapnel in the butt” Bennett, the Education Minister who hails from the far-right Habayit HaYehudi party, was in the past quoted bragging about killing Arabs and how he had “no problem with that”. Bennett does not care that each and every one of the arguments for self-defense brought forth by Azaria’s lawyers was completely and utterly debunked by the judges. It makes no difference to him that the act was caught on tape and that the murdered Palestinian was clearly incapacitated and neutralized. It is immaterial that if Azaria thought the Palestinian man had a suicide belt, one of the defense’s arguments, his actions would have made even less sense and endangered more of his surrounding comrades. All this is too complicated for Israeli politicians like Bennett. Who has time for details when political points are to be had? Bennett and others like him have become so adept at riding the waves of incitement to further their personal agendas, it is their second nature.
Ironically, Israel’s defence minister, a convicted child beater, called on the public to “respect the rule of law”
Avigdor Lieberman, a convicted child beater and Israel’s Defense Minister said:
“this is a harsh verdict. I ask we all respect the court’s ruling and show restraint. What is important – despite the harsh verdict – is that the defense establishment help the family and this soldier. I call on the public not to lambaste the IDF and the defense establishment. We must respect the ruling.”
You know we live in surreal times when Lieberman, who has been charged with numerous corruptions in the past (e.g. see here) and has come out with some of the most vile and racist statements on record, preaches about respecting the rule of law.
The trial judges are under IDF protection after being threatened on social media
Since the announcement of the verdict the judges involved in the case have been threatened on social media to the point where they have been assigned a security detail by the IDF. The few Israeli voices calling to respect the rule of law and come to terms with the severity of Azaria’s deeds, such as Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, have been threatened, ridiculed and called out as “traitors” by significant numbers of Israelis.
Israeli officer who presided over “Operation Protective Edge”, massacring thousands, now serves as a “moral beacon”
It is an especially dark day when a war criminal like Ya’alon, who presided over “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014 with its thousands of Palestinian deaths and injuries, serves as any kind of moral beacon. In 2002 Ya’alon said:
“The Palestinian threat harbors cancer-like attributes that have to be severed. There are all kinds of solutions to cancer. Some say it’s necessary to amputate organs but at the moment I am applying chemotherapy.”
Last May Ya’alon resigned from the Israeli government due to his loss of faith in Netanyahu and the PM’s encouragement of “extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society that threaten its fortitude,” forces that “are trickling into” the military. Ya’alon knows a thing or two about extremism and about the Israeli macho military culture.
Killer Azaria is not “a rotten apple”, he is “a mirror unto mainstream Israel”
But let’s be clear: this is not the first summary execution of a Palestinian by an IDF soldier nor will it be the last. It was just coincidentally captured on film, and consequently caused an uproar that led to an unavoidable trial. Elor Azaria is not a rotten apple and Israelis are indeed correct in calling him “the child of all of us”. He is a mirror unto mainstream Israel.
Azaria’s case sets a “disastrous precedent”, severely undermining the rule of law: it’s open season on Palestinians
The Azaria case was the ultimate trial of Israeli society. A disastrous precedent has now been set: cold-blooded murder of Palestinians has been officially sanctioned by the Israeli mainstream and the political class, and the perceived rule of law severely undermined. No more hiding behind words like “collateral damage” when employing missiles dropped by F-16s or drones. Israeli politicians have declared an open season on Palestinians.
It paves the way for “further ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”
The precedent set by this case will further solidify the complete dehumanization of Palestinians and pave the way for further ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The incoming Trump administration will not stand in Israel’s way
Those hoping for some sort of American intervention that will avoid this catastrophe are delusional- the incoming Trump administration will certainly not stand in Israel’s way and will likely even support it with arms sales and diplomatic immunity.
Private Members’ Public Business — Support for Israel — From Ontario Legislature, Hansard Transcript, December 1, 2016.
Page 2016 — Mrs. Gila Martow: Today I’m very pleased to welcome many people here—I’m going to read their names off as quickly as possible—from many Jewish youth organizations, as well as the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs: reads 30 names
Pages 2026 to 2033
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS — SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL
Mrs. Gila Martow: I move that, in the opinion of this House, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario should stand firmly against any position or movement that promotes or encourages any form of hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance in any way; recognize the long-standing, vibrant and mutually beneficial political, economic and cultural ties between Ontario and Israel, built on a foundation of shared liberal democratic values; endorse the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism; and reject the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Mrs. Martow has moved private members’ notice of motion number 36. Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for her presentation.
Mrs. Gila Martow: I want to start by saying that my name, Gila, is the Hebrew word for “joy.” We had a press conference early this morning, and I apologize if some people were there and I’m repeating myself by saying that joy, to me, means approaching things with a positive attitude, not a negative attitude. To me, one of the problems that I want to discuss is the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. It’s negative.
If you have an issue with any policies of the Israeli government, if you have any concerns with any advocacy work by the Jewish community here or around the world, please discuss it with yourselves, discuss it among your clubs, discuss it with me, discuss it with all the Jewish organizations that are here today. We are so pleased to have discussions. It’s what we do best.
I just spoke to a statement about volunteerism. We were recognizing that December 5 is the international day of volunteering. One of the aspects of volunteering is to promote peace in the world. So I invite everybody to get involved in a positive organization and to help bring about that peace that we all so desire, not just in the Middle East but all across the world, here in our streets and on our university campuses, because, Madam Speaker, too often, we are hearing that our university campuses sound more like a battleground of intolerance instead of that joyful place that I would like them to be, and a positive place. It has been more than a few years since I myself was on a university campus as a student.
Yes, it’s true. I have to say that I came back to my dorm room one day and somebody had marked a swastika on my door with a marker or a pen or something. I put sort of a positive spin on it and I said, “I guess somebody’s upset that I am in an optometry program at a fairly young age”—I was only 19 years old— “and it has nothing to do with being Jewish or anything like that. It’s just strictly a way to get under my skin.” The door was painted and I just went on. I forgot about it, kind of. It’s one of those things that pops back into your head every now and then. I’m short but I’m tough; that’s what I’m told. I’m a pretty strong person. I have to say that I found it hard, when I was alone afterwards. I found it hard, even though I put a smile on my face, to deal with.
So not every student on our campuses is going to school fully and emotionally—they may have parents at home who are sick. They might themselves be sick. Then, if they have to walk on the campuses and incur hostility and see demonstrations that are demonizing the Jewish community and demonizing Israel, that affects their psychological well-being. It makes it difficult for them to continue their studies.
We would not be here supporting a Ku Klux Klan on our campuses, so why are we allowing BDS movements and other anti-Jewish communities and anti-Israel organizations to have demonstrations and use our campuses, which are taxpayer-funded? It’s a PR battle, Madam Speaker.
I hate to hear about people who want to hide behind freedom of speech, because the boycott movement is actually not just boycotting Israel, it’s boycotting voices. It’s telling people, “You cannot support Israel.” It’s telling people, “You cannot do advocacy work on our campuses.” We are hearing reports of students who want to run for student councils—nothing to do with Jewish clubs or the Jewish community or anything—and they’re told, “We know that you’re Jewish and you’re a Zionist,” or “You support Israel,” or “You’ve been to Israel” and
“We don’t want you in our club.”
Mrs. Gila Martow: It is shameful, Madam Speaker.
I think all the organizations here like to remind people that Israel is a vibrant country, that the boycott move-ment is failing, that foreign investment is going up in Israel, it’s not going down. All it’s doing is silencing some of those investors, which, again, is a boycott of those investors’ voices.
People here have cellphones. Unfortunately, many of the people in the gallery were shocked to find out that they weren’t allowed to bring their cellphones in. That’s what a boycott feels like, because most of those cell-phones have Israeli technology, I’d like to remind everybody here.
Medical innovations, other apps, software and things like that, that’s why people are investing in Israel, because they put a smile on their face and they get on with the work, and the job of enjoying life—not just surviving but enjoying—and trying to make the world a better place. It’s a real mandate in the Jewish culture and the Jewish community to try to make the world a better place.
I, myself, had four children who, at various stages of their development, would approach me very quietly and say, “Why do they hate us?” What am I supposed to say to my children when they ask why the Jewish community is so disliked and why Israel is so vilified in the world? It’s not something that has just happened since the State of Israel was developed, only 69 years ago. This has been ongoing for millennia, that the Jewish community is used as some kind of scapegoat for problems in a country, maybe to take away attention from bad governance or bad times or whatever, that somehow the Jewish com-munity takes the blame.
Interjection: Blame the Jews.
Mrs. Gila Martow: Yes.
We have a federal resolution in Canada that passed that was anti-BDS. The Congress in the US passed anti-BDS; 16 states have passed it, and there are quite a few more that are looking to pass it and may have even passed it that I haven’t heard of.
Again, I want to remind people that BDS is the negative way of doing things. We’ve all heard of concerts that have been cancelled in Israel, or concerts that went on in Israel where in fact the artists were encouraged to cancel but they refused to cancel. And stickers that are being put in stores—private property. A store or a business owner has products there that come from Israel, and people are sneaking in and putting stickers on that say, “Boycott this product because it comes from Israel.” That is not what I call a positive and encouraging way to promote peace or to promote any countries that surround Israel that are hostile to Israel. You want to help those countries— perhaps it’s even a country that’s an enemy of Israel— you want to promote their products? Go ahead and promote their products, but don’t try to encourage some kind of progress in those other countries by vilifying Israel.
We all know that peace is not always easy to achieve. We’ve heard in committee—just yesterday we were talking about grandparents’ rights. We were hearing from grandparents coming in and, on the silliest things— buying their grandchild candy—the parents never allowed them to see the grandchild again and never spoke to them again.
Within families there are disagreements, so we can just imagine how difficult it is to broker peace agree-ments between countries.
Back to the positive, Madam Speaker: Look at what is positive in your relationships and your families and your neighbourhoods and your work colleagues. Look at what’s positive in Ontario, in our communities, in our campus clubs. Get to know the members of the other campus clubs. Have that open dialogue. Do it in a positive way, not a negative way.
How about if I invite everybody here to visit Israel? Even if you’ve been to Israel before, visit it again. If you’ve never been to Israel, please, take the time out of your busy life. It can be a vacation; it can be a work trip; it can be a volunteer experience. There are organizations that are so happy to encourage you and to help you plan the trip. You can even get in touch with me, and I’ll put you in touch with the right people.
I want to just say that this motion has been difficult because it’s a bit of a—I hate when people call it controversial, because I don’t think it’s controversial. I just think it’s uncomfortable for people because whenever they try to say something positive about Israel, they get yelled at and shut down and they’re told all kinds of nasty, misleading facts.
The fact is, Madam Speaker, that I’m expecting this motion to pass because I’ve had a lot of dialogue, with help from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. A lot of their members and people who work there and people who volunteer there have had a lot of dialogue with a lot of the members here to promote open dialogue, to promote passage of this motion. I want to really thank everybody who’s here for supporting not just myself, but supporting all the Jewish organizations and supporting the students on our campuses, because really they’ve endured the brunt of this movement.
This movement is failing and it’s going to continue to fail and it will fail. My problem is, what comes next? We saw Israel Apartheid Week, and when that fell flat on its face—because finally people got educated and realized how ridiculous it was—they moved on to the boycott movement. Soon people are going to realize how ridiculous it is and that you can’t stand behind it and say “freedom of speech” because it’s actually a boycott of voices.
What’s going to be the next movement to try to vilify Israel, to delegitimize Israel, to stigmatize Israel, to make Jewish students feel uncomfortable identifying as Jews on campus or belonging to Jewish clubs? What is going to be that next movement?
I hope it’s not going to happen. I hope that everybody who is reading about this in the newspaper or watching this on TV is going to start to look at the facts and to realize that Israel is being unfairly singled out.
If you have any issues with any Israeli policies, that’s absolutely fine. Write your letters to the editor, contact Jewish agencies and ask, “Maybe I don’t have the facts straight. This is what I was told,” but don’t go about it by boycotting, divestment and sanctions. That’s not the positive way to address any issues that you have.
Madam Speaker, right here in Canada we have on-going discussions. We even have a ministry for dialogue with our native and aboriginal communities and to address many past injustices that were done. They don’t call for boycotts of us; we don’t call for boycotts of them. In fact, we’re all working together to make Canada and Ontario strong economically and to improve our environmental practices here in the province of Ontario and in Canada and to spread peace throughout the world. This is the holiday season. It’s called the season of peace and goodwill to all men.
On that note, I’m just going to say that I’m looking forward to all my colleagues who are going to rise today with me and speak against boycotting voices and boycotting Israel.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Before I begin, I also want to acknowledge CIJA’s tremendous work. They are a paramount of professionalism in the way they conduct themselves and the way advocate their position, and I want to acknowledge that as well.
I think we need to be very honest about the situation we’re in as a society. There is a deeply troubling rise in hatred in our society across the board. We see this across the world in the rise of bigotry and the rise of prejudice and the rise of racism. And it is all of our responsibility together. It is a shared responsibility for us all to recognize this trend and to fight against this trend, to oppose this trend. We must specifically acknowledge the various forms of hatred that exist in our society. We must call them by name, and then we must denounce them.
I want to make it absolutely clear: New Democrats absolutely stand firmly opposed to any movement which encourages hate, prejudice, racism or intolerance in any way. We stand opposed to those types of movements. We recognize, in fact, the long-standing relationship and ties between Ontario and Israel, and we want to make sure it’s clear that we stand against all forms of repression.
Let’s name some of those forms of repression. We know there’s systemic discrimination. There’s systemic discrimination based on race, and specifically I want to name anti-black discrimination as a particularly, heinous form of discrimination. I want to also acknowledge that there are definitely various forms of hatred directed towards religions and ethnicities. It’s important to name those as well. That’s why I specifically name Islamophobia as a problem in our society. And, of course, today I think it’s very important for me to direct all of the rest of my comments toward anti-Semitism—as a growing problem, as a historic problem, and as a current-day, modern problem. It is a serious issue.
This specific hate is something we have to name because it is so pernicious and it is so insidious. It has been historic, and it has left a truly lasting, very negative and heinous impact on our society. So it’s particularly important for us to name anti-Semitism, to acknowledge it and then to very repeatedly denounce it. If we can denounce it in this chamber—it’s not enough. We need to continue to do that. The more we can denounce anti-Semitism—it’s not only important for members of the Jewish community. The solidarity that we show with the Jewish community on this issue of anti-Semitism and acknowledging the great suffering of the community is also a way for us to raise awareness of all communities that are suffering, all marginalized communities which suffer.
As a member of a community which is a survivor of a genocide, I have a particularly strong sense of solidarity with the Jewish community as a community that has endured a great and terrible, terrible suffering and tragedy. As a survivor community of that genocide, they are a community that we all look toward for leadership in terms of raising awareness and of remembering that heinous, heinous tragedy and heinous, heinous act of violence against their community.
It’s important for us to acknowledge that by remembering the injustice, we actually work towards preventing injustice. By remembering and acknowledging those who have suffered, we actually prevent future injustices; we prevent future generations from suffering. That’s why it is so important for us to acknowledge that.
In Canada, I feel that we often point fingers in other directions. We look at other communities or other countries and say, “There is injustice there. There is anti-Semitism there. There are problems in other countries.” We often fail to acknowledge that anti-Semitism is alive and real here in Ontario.
All too recently, we’ve seen attacks on members of the Jewish community, and particularly on synagogues. The act of defacing synagogues is an ongoing trend when it comes to one of the more visible forms of anti -Semitism, one of the most visible forms of hatred against the Jewish people. We see that all too often. We must denounce it. We must name it as a hate crime. It’s not simply an act of mischief, but it’s specifically a targeted attempt to create hatred or incite hatred against a community. That’s why it’s so important for us to name it as such, to name it as a hate crime. As always, whenever we name these in-justices, we must also commit toward working toward ending all forms of this hatred.
In our fight to end anti-Semitism, in our struggle to raise awareness about this injustice, in our struggle to denounce it and to fight against it, we must not be distracted and we must maintain a focus that is laser-sharp, that is directed at the problem—which is anti-Semitism— and direct it at solutions toward solving this problem and ending this problem.
In our focus, we can’t be distracted by conflating criticisms of a government or criticisms of a government’s policies with anti-Semitism. That distracts us from the real problem, which is anti-Semitism. It exists. It’s real. We see it. We know that it exists. We hear it in the banter that sometimes goes on and in jokes that sometimes go on. We need to address the root causes and the actual problems and combat them. But we can’t be distracted by conflating the criticism of a government’s policies, of a government itself, and the criticism of a people, of a religion, of a faith, of an ethnicity.
People around the world and here in Canada have a right to dissent and to criticize. Specifically, I’ll give you an example here in Canada. I would suggest that it would be well within the right of many people to criticize Canada for its deplorable treatment of the indigenous community. It’s absolutely within the right of people. From direct genocides to a cultural genocide based on residential schools, the ongoing systemic discrimination of indigenous people and their deplorable conditions— people would be fully justified to raise a concern about the treatment of indigenous people. But it would absolutely not permit people to incite hatred against Canadians. It would absolutely not be permissible for people to incite any sort of sentiment of hating the people of the country and of hating the actual community. But concern around the government’s policies—historic and present-day—and criticism of that policy is absolutely appropriate and, in fact, a part of a democratic society. We can criticize the policies of the United States, for example, without hating Americans. We can criticize Saudi Arabia’s government and still combat Islamophobia.
It’s absolutely important for us to recognize that peaceful demonstrations, discussions, debate, discourse, whether we agree with them or not, if they are expressed towards the criticism of a government or its policies, are absolutely, within our democracy, something appropriate, whether we agree or disagree.
We must similarly separate the criticism of the government of Israel or its policies from criticism of its people. That distinction must be made. That should never be conflated. A criticism of a country or its policies, particularly its government, should never mean it’s a criticism of the people of that country or the ethnicity or the religion of that country.
People must be able to have a right to criticize a state’s policies or its decisions. People must be able to encourage a state to follow through on its obligations, whether they’re international human rights obligations or whether they’re international environmental rights and agreements. People must be able to raise their concerns. But we should never allow people to raise those concerns in a way that inflames hatred against the people of that community.
There are serious concerns with respect to the human rights violations endured by the Palestinian people. We must support the freedom to raise these concerns. People have that right, and we should support people’s right to do that.
In a free and democratic society, peaceful advocacy directed toward a government or its policies must never be silenced. We should allow that discourse to happen. We should allow that to occur in a free and democratic society.
The only limitation that we place on freedom of speech is specifically hate speech: speech which directs people to hate a particular community, to create violence against a particular race, ethnicity or members of a community. That is something that is simply not accept-able in our society, nor should we ever support it.
We cannot support a motion which, in effect, seeks to ban the right to dissent. That is one of the most fundamental rights of any society: the ability to raise your voice in opposition, your ability to criticize, your ability to have dissent. The right to criticize, the right to raise awareness, the right to advocate for a marginalized people is something that we must protect.
Anti-Semitism is real. It exists and it is growing. We can’t be led to believe that in some way it has been addressed; it’s something of the past; it’s not something that we need to address moving forward. Anti-Semitism is something that we have to denounce. We have to denounce it together. We must use all tools available to denounce it. We must use education. We must use aware-ness. We must use legislation where it’s appropriate and we must absolutely use enforcement. We must use all the tools that we have as a society so that we can combat this very serious and very real problem.
However, we can’t allow ourselves to be distracted by a movement which seeks to criticize a government and conflate that with the real issue of anti-Semitism. We can’t conflate anti-Semitism with a movement that seeks perhaps to influence a government to change its course of action.
These types of discourse, these types of engagement, are something that we don’t have and—in this Legislative Assembly, in this province or in this country—we shouldn’t silence. We should, in fact, encourage more advocacy work towards denouncing anti-Semitism. We should encourage more awareness around the ills, the impacts. The impacts aren’t only to the Jewish community. Anti-Semitism hurts all of us. Hatred against a community poisons the entire society. We must ensure that we work together to solve this problem.
This isn’t something that’s going to be dealt with by one group alone. We need to show solidarity with groups and movements which seek to end anti-Semitism and which raise awareness about the harms and impacts on not only the Jewish community but our society at large. We need to show that solidarity to ensure that we stand up and show that our society is a society that believes in inclusivity, believes in accepting differences, believes in celebrating those differences, believes in diversity and in celebrating that diversity. That’s the country, that’s the province, that’s the city that we live in. That’s the type of society that we need to build.
I support the member’s concerns around anti-Semitism, and as New Democrats we stand always opposed to it.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?
Hon. Steven Del Duca: I am truly honoured to have the opportunity to rise in my place here this afternoon in this chamber to lend not only my voice but my very strong support for the motion that’s being brought forward by the member from Thornhill.
I had the privilege, Speaker, to sit alongside the member who has brought forward this motion and also members from the Jewish community—leadership from CIJA—earlier today. I had in that opportunity the chance to read a statement with respect to the motion and some of the broader themes that are part and parcel of what this motion is all about.
There will be others from the government caucus who will be speaking on this motion this afternoon, and I look forward to hearing their remarks.
I do want to take a very quick moment, in addition to thanking the member from Thornhill for sponsoring and bringing forward this motion, to thank the leadership from the community, CIJA in particular—many who are here in the gallery with us today—for their staunch support in ensuring that all parties working on this can find a way to get it right. I think that’s what we’ve managed to do here with this particular motion.
I know in particular there are a number of members on our side of the aisle, including the member from Eglinton–Lawrence, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and the member from York Centre—among many, many others—who have spent years working hard and working relentlessly to make sure that this particular issue is one that gets dealt with, and gets dealt with in a way that is appropriate.
Much of what we see in the discussion and much of what we see in the motion today can also be captured in comments that the Premier made when she was in Israel in May.
Really quickly, Speaker, from my statement earlier this morning—it’s something I want to point out with my remaining time—I did say, and it bears repeating, “I would be remiss if I failed to recognize that our government supports the right of individuals and groups to freely express their views, without fear of discrimination or persecution, whether in Ontario or in the Middle East. Freedom of speech is something that all Canadians value and we must”—and we do— “vigorously defend” that right.
“However”—and this is the most important part to consider in the context of this discussion—“we oppose those who spread hatred and fear under the guise of free speech.”
What we have seen here in the province of Ontario, and frankly beyond our borders, specifically around the BDS movement, goes right to the heart of what I just said a second ago. We all support the values and the principles that are wrapped up around the notion of defending and standing up for free speech, but we need to draw the line. We need to draw the line collectively in this chamber and beyond and send a very clear message that to do that and to confuse the notion of free speech with what the BDS movement propagates is not appropriate.
That’s why, not only as an individual but as a minister and also as the member of provincial Parliament for Vaughan, I am very proud to support this particular motion.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Thank you.
Mrs. Julia Munro: It is my pleasure today to rise in support of the motion brought forward by my colleague the MPP for Thornhill. This motion recognizes the shared liberal democratic values between Ontario and Israel. It rejects the concept of different treatment from Israel to other countries, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Today’s motion rejects hate and anti-Semitism and embraces tolerance.
In 1996, the then Liberal government signed the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement. Since then, trade between Canada and Israel has more than doubled to approximately $1.4 billion annually. Recently, in 2015, Ontario and Israel signed a bilateral trade agreement worth more than $900 million.
This year, both Premier Wynne and the mayor of Toronto, John Tory, led independent trade missions to Israel. As a direct result of the Premier’s mission, 44 new agreements were signed worth over $180 million. This created hundreds of new jobs in Ontario at a time when far too many Ontarians are finding it tough to make ends meet.
Trade is good. It is good for Canada, it is good for Ontario and it is good for Israel. Trade is an engine of growth and an opportunity to reach out from our society and culture to those around the world. Trade is an opportunity to exchange more than just goods and services. It is an opportunity to share values, culture and our way of life.
The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement claims to be a movement for freedom, justice and equal-ity. However, the reality is that this movement is thinly veiled anti-Semitism.
BDS is discrimination. Just as boycotts have targeted Jews and other vulnerable minorities throughout history, today BDS activists call for a boycott of the citizens of the world’s only Jewish state and the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. The BDS movement isn’t pro-Palestinian, it’s simply anti -Israel. BDS threatens the livelihood of tens of thousands of Palestinians who work side by side with Israelis. Economic co-operation, not boycotts, will help foster peace.
These boycotts take many forms: telling consumers not to purchase Israeli products; calling for Canadian universities to cut ties with Israeli professors. This is not tolerance. This is not in the spirit of globalism. It is pure discrimination. BDS undermines peace, not just in Israel but also in our communities.
Recent research shows that they have been a strong predictor of anti-Semitic hostility, and today across campuses, our Jewish students fear for their safety.
University and college campuses are intended to be a place of learning and growth, of expanding one’s mind to new ideas, not shutting down their ideological opponents.
I hope members of all parties will join me in supporting this motion and support tolerance and multiculturalism.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?
Hon. Michael Coteau: Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I want to first start by thanking the member from Thornhill for her motion and her advocacy on this issue. I also want to thank the Minister of Transportation and the many members from our side— the Minister of Health, the member from Eglinton–Lawrence and other members—who have been very passionate about the issue in regard to any form of discrimination and prejudice that is attributed to any group here in the province of Ontario.
Let me start by saying that, like all members of our government, we condemn any form of racism or prejudice, including anti-Semitism, here in the province of Ontario. It’s completely unacceptable. We don’t believe that by building walls, by boycotting, by stopping that conversation that takes place between Ontario and a place like Israel, it’s something that’s good for this country, let alone good for this province. So when our Premier went to Israel to build relationships, it’s something that we believe is good for Canada and good for future generations of Canadians.
I had a school in here earlier today, The North Toronto Christian School, and I was downstairs talking to them about this very issue. I actually invited them in here to come and listen because I think it’s important, especially for young people, to understand the issues of today that seem to divide us and to be aware that there is strength when we come together.
I want to thank members from the Jewish community here today who are here because of this motion, and thank them for their support in supporting the member opposite in bringing this forward.
I’ve been going around the province having conversations about racism, anti-Sikhism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism—all different forms of hate across the province of Ontario. We’ve probably had, I would say, anywhere between 3,000 to 4,000 people show up to these meetings. Many members on our side have been part of those conversations. I would actually encourage the Conservative Party to at least try to show up to one of these meetings. They haven’t showed up to one yet, but there’s one in Ottawa this week, and I invite the member from Ottawa to come and join us at the conversation.
I think it’s important for us as Ontarians to have these conversations and to continue to build on the goodwill that we have with the State of Israel and continue to build a positive environment here in Ontario that does not tolerate any form of hate and discrimination.
Again, thank you to the member for bringing forward this motion here today.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?
Mr. Sam Oosterhoff: I want to thank my colleague the honourable member for Thornhill for her advocacy for the Jewish people and her stand against discrimination with this important motion. It gives me great pleasure to rise today for my first speech in this House, and I’m honoured to start here where my predecessor, Tim Hudak, left off. It’s definitely an honour to address this important motion.
I’m reminded of a Yiddish proverb: “The world rests on the tip of the tongue.” This proverb reminds us that words matter. This motion, although just words, matters a great deal. The motion before the Legislature deals with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, also known as BDS, against the State of Israel. The BDS movement is poison: poison to those engaged in it and poison to the well-being of the Palestinian people and our allies, the State of Israel. BDS is vindictive, short-sighted and fails to improve the lives of either Palestinians or Israelis.
At its root, the BDS movement is based in the dislike of a minority based on its nationality and ethnicity. At its root, this movement is steeped in anti-Semitic discrimination.
This movement is not pro-Palestinian; it is anti-Israel, it is anti-Jewish and it is anti-Semitic. It poisons whatever potential for goodwill there exists between Israel and the Palestinian people, and promotes hatred.
This is a very necessary motion. Anti-Semitism is alive and well. We need to fight against the ethnic intolerance and, to put it bluntly, xenophobia that BDS personifies, which impacts many of Jewish descent, including here in Canada. Gila mentioned that she didn’t get off the university campus recently, but I did, and I can speak about the impact, the toxic environment that’s being created by the BDS movement on campuses across the country and across Ontario. It’s creating a toxic environment for Jewish students and their friends.
In the most recent annual audit of anti-Semitic events, co-authored by B’Nai Brith and the League for Human Rights, over 1,600 cases of harassment, violence and vandalism conducted against individuals were documented here in Canada because of hatred towards not only the Jewish people but their nation.
Don’t take it from just one source. The Toronto police department released their 2015 Annual Hate/Bias Crime Statistical Report and in it they found that the Jewish population is the most subject to hate crimes for their ethnic background and heritage. The reality of the matter is that anti-Semitism is egged on by enablers such as the BDS movement.
Let’s be very clear about BDS: It’s not only an anti-Jewish movement, but it’s anti-Palestinian, by threaten-ing the jobs of many Palestinian employees. In 2012, Israel accounted for 81% of Palestinian exports. BDS supporters want to get rid of the huge trade surplus Israel extends to Palestine and offer nothing in its place. This trade is a good thing. It builds trust, it builds under-standing and it builds successes that can be built on over time. We should be encouraging dialogue and trade between Israel and the Palestinian people, not vilifying Israel, a nation with a stellar human rights record.
The BDS movement poisons rather than assists dialogue towards a peace process. The BDS movement tells those of Jewish descent and background, “You’re not welcome here.” It tells Jewish shopkeepers and trades-people that they’re not good enough. The BDS movement fails to promote the respectful dialogue necessary to move Palestinian and Israeli relationships forward, and we should firmly oppose it.
I’m very pleased to be supporting this motion. I urge all members on the government benches, and also those on the other opposition benches, who believe in tolerance and inclusion to stand with me against discrimination and bigotry and support this motion.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?
Mr. Mike Colle: Yes, tolerance, tolerance: This week, I was very proud to be part of a Legislature of all parties when we stood up for tolerance when we said no to homophobia and discrimination against gays. As you know, we’ve gotten a lot of hate mail this week from those who oppose Bill 28, the all parents are equal act. They said, “Do not be tolerant towards homosexuals. Do not be tolerant towards parents who have children who are gay.”
We have to be consistent when we talk about tolerance. So in this motion, which I support, it really talks about the essence of Judaism, and the essence of Judaism is that they are in Israel because no one else would take them. Canada would not take Jews. The United States would not take Jews. They had to fight to go back to their land of Abraham, and they’ve been fighting ever since. They only make up 1.5% of all the landmass of the Middle East, yet they are under constant attack from ISIS, from Iran—always under attack.
That’s why you can’t separate the Jewish people from the Jewish nation. They say, “Well, it’s all right to criticize Israel but you can be nice to Jews.” I say hog-wash. You can’t separate the two. Just like you can’t separate tolerance for homosexuals and gays and tolerance for everybody else. You’ve got to be consistent when you talk about tolerance. Here, BDS tries to man-oeuvre this idea that, “We’re just against Israel. We’re not against the people.” Hogwash. The BDS is an insidious attack on Jewish people.
Yesterday, at Ryerson University, a group of Jewish students tried to move a motion to have Jewish Education Week celebrated at Ryerson University. They were blocked from doing that. This isn’t a theoretical international issue. This is happening on our campuses—at York University, at Ryerson last night. Students in my riding, grandsons and granddaughters of Holocaust survivors, are afraid to go to school—physically attacked, emotionally attacked on a daily basis. This is going on, folks. It’s not just happening in Israel.
This kind of insidious attack of intolerance is being proposed and being exposed and promoted by BDS. That’s why this motion is a time to stand up and say no to this type of intolerance towards Israel and the Jewish people.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: It’s my pleasure today to support my dear friend Gila Martow and this positive motion on a very hateful initiative put forward by some on university campuses in the great province of Ontario.
Like my friend Gila says, her name is “joy,” so I want to talk about something very positive. In 2014, I travelled to Israel. I have always been a supporter of our Jewish community in this province, particularly in my riding of Nepean–Carleton, where we have a number of beautiful, welcoming and open synagogues in Barrhaven and in Craig Henry.
But it wasn’t until I actually travelled to Israel that I understood what a contrast she actually is. She is a contrast of antiquity and modernity, a state that is galvanized by religion but is secular. And it’s driven by democratic values: the only democracy in the Middle East that allows for a gay pride parade and the only democracy that has a functioning government. I note that in Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas is now in the 11th year of a four-year term.
But the contradictions are much more than that. When I was in Israel, I understood a little bit about the security threats that the people of Israel deal with every day.
We would often go to checkpoints. I went to Lebanon, and the corner with Hamas was as far as I am from the people in the gallery.
I went to the Golan Heights, where stray bullets were coming in, and shelling from the night, because of the conflict in Syria.
And I went to a place called Sderot, where we toured a bomb shelter disguised as a caterpillar for the children in that community.
I went to Yad Vashem, where I recognized that my grandfather fought in a war against tyranny, and at the same time, the Jewish people of this community were threatened. I saw that at Yad Vashem when I saw tiny black slippers under a glass floor, to recognize that Canada and Israel came of age at the same time—Israel as a result of World War II. But it was also one of the proudest and most defining moments of the people of this country.
I once got to meet Ehud Barak. He was the former defence minister as well as the former Prime Minister of Israel. I met him, with Peter MacKay, at a state dinner. He held up his glass and he said, “To Canada and Israel, best friends. We are, together, the largest country in the world.”
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I’m glad that you all had a good laugh at that. We actually felt it was quite prophetic because we are so close and we have worked so well together over the years fighting for freedom against terrorism. I would hope that, together in this assembly, we would join together to fight anti-Semitism, hatred, bigotry, and the terrorism of our students on campuses across this province.
With that, I conclude with: Am Yisrael Chai.
Mrs. Gila Martow: Very close.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I did it wrong?
Mrs. Gila Martow: Very close.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Thanks, Gila. Anyway, I’m proud to support my friend and colleague. To the people from CIJA and from the Jewish community here today in Ontario, I will stand by you as much as I will stand by my colleague. I know in the assembly here today, we may not get unanimity, but we will get a majority.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?
Hon. Glen R. Murray: I want to commend the mem-ber from Thornhill for this motion. It is a good motion and deserves support of all members in this House. I just want to say that we need to do a lot more than pass motions, though. I think the member would agree.
When I was mayor of Winnipeg, I rebuilt the relation-ship with Be’er Sheva and my friend Yaakov Turner, who was not just the mayor, but was, at I think 78 years old, an Air Force fighter pilot, which not too many mayors in Canada are, which gives you some dimensions of that.
We also built the Jewish community centre in Winnipeg, and we reached out, during periods of horrible anti-Semitism in Argentina, to very proudly bring more Jews from Argentina than just about any other place.
We also established the Winnipeg refugee settlement centre for Falasha Jews in Be’er Sheva, paid for both by the Asper Foundation and by the city of Winnipeg in that very strong relationship. I made many trips with the Canada-Israel Committee to Israel.
It was important to me because I’m not Jewish. My friend Gail Asper chaired all of my campaigns. With her and her father, we worked together on the human rights museum, which, with this government, put $5 million into Winnipeg, and I’m very proud of that. When you go in there, you see the stories of Sikhs beside the stories of Jews, beside the stories of Muslims. I miss my friend Izzy so much because very few Canadians had such a global role.
It’s also important that we never, ever, ever back away from our commitment to Israel. But we understand, while the member from Nepean is right—she talked about how it’s often said that it is a good home in a bad neighbourhood when you talk about Israel—that the situations in Syria and situations with the Palestinians are also terrible.
I too toured many parts in many, many trips, I went into Palestinian communities and met young democratic Palestinians who are trying to achieve self-determination and remember that the Jordanian government shot 30,000 of them. I just want to make sure that we stand also against Islamophobia, and join the Israelis who are trying to work to support Palestinians as well.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): I return to the member from Thornhill to wrap up.
Mrs. Gila Martow: I’m very pleased to rise today and thank all of my colleagues who spoke so supportively.
I respect everything that the member from Bramalea– Gore–Malton said, but I would just remind him that the Jewish community finds the BDS movement anti-Semitic and hateful. The Jewish students on campus feel intimidated and worse. As my colleague from Nepean– Carleton alluded to, it’s almost like being the victim of terrorism on the campuses. It’s a terror campaign against the Jewish students.
Maybe it’s not presented that way. Maybe when you read an article or you google something don’t feel the emotion. But the member from Bramalea– Gore–Malton, as he said, is a member of a visible minority, and I know that he has experienced, in his life, some very difficult and intimidating circumstances. I would like to remind him that our university campus students aren’t always as emotionally strong as he is to deal with it.
I want to thank not just the Jewish students and the Jewish community organizations that are here but all of the Christian groups and churches that are so supportive of Israel and are so adamantly against the BDS movement.
I also want to mention that, on this Monday, there’s a big gala by Hasbara Fellowships. One of the honorees is here—Shir Barzilay is here—but one of the other honourees is a Muslim couple, Sohail and Raheel Raza, a husband-and-wife team. They’re Muslim, and they support Israel and they talk anti-BDS.
I want to just mention that this is something we are all in together. It’s not just a Jewish community issue. The Jewish community is not just focused on Israel; it’s focused on everything in Ontario that we can do to make life better and a better quality of life; it’s focused on disability and health and everything else that we worry about and talk about here in the Legislature.
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): We will vote on this item at the end of private members’ public business. Before I call orders of the day, I wanted to remind members that you are not allowed to address each other by first name. You must address each other by the riding.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I was just using the Hebrew for “joy.”
The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): No, no. The member knows better. That’s the rule.
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