By Michael Elterman
There are people with good intentions who reflexively apply the same political template to every situation. They need to divide the world into perpetrators and victims regardless of the complexities of the situation. They buy into the victimhood public relations rhetoric and they are manipulated and used by a cynical but skilled few. I would put large numbers of the United Church of Canada into this group of well-meaning people who wish to do the right thing but are unfortunately being duped.
Another person I would put into this group is Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, who spoke in Vancouver on September 28.
Ms. Maguire came to Canada for the Vancouver Peace Summit: Nobel Laureates in Dialogue. While in town, she was also sponsored to speak by the Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign about her experiences with the Free Gaza Movement aboard boats which have attempted to break the "siege on Gaza". We only need to look at Maguire's record of social justice and peace activism to realize that she likely has good intentions in her advocacy on behalf of the Palestinian people. The reality, however, is that the agenda that she is promoting (hopefully unbeknownst to her) is one of hatred and anti-Semitism.
Ms. Maguire is part of a movement to demonize and delegitimize Israel, to label it as an "apartheid state" and thus worthy of boycotts and sanctions leading to its destruction. By calling for a one-state solution, when even the Palestinian authority has accepted a two-state solution, this movement wishes to destroy Israel as the state of the Jewish people. That the Palestinian people want and deserve a state of their own is obvious, but this is a state alongside and at peace with Israel, not one to rise from the destruction of Israel. The Jewish people want and deserve to live in their ancestral homeland.
Ms. Maguire is largely active in a group called the “Free Gaza Movement”. This group unashamedly advocates for the "Palestinian right of return". While this is cloaked in human-rights speak, it is code for the destruction of Israel (as the only Jewish state) and it promotes a Palestine-Israel as a country with an Arab-Muslim majority. There are already dozens of Arab-Muslim countries in the world, including Jordan, which already has a Palestinian Arab majority. So why is this anti-Semitism?
The reason is that implicit in this movement is the belief that only Jews don't deserve a homeland and must again be homeless unlike all other national groups. The true obscenity here is that this movement would have you believe that Jewish self-determination is racist. Are Italians racist for wanting to live in Italy? Similarly, Greeks, Germans, and all others who have a deep historical tie to the land of their ancestry.
It has been said that "if the Arabs put down their weapons there would be peace; if the Israelis put down their weapons there would be no Israel". If you come upon a fight in progress it is difficult to tell who is the aggressor and who is the victim. So much of the assaultive rhetoric against Israel focuses on Israel's reactions to attacks as the aggressive act. When, after years of suicide bombings in its cities, Israel puts up a security barrier (and a very effective one it has proven to be), Israel is seen as taking Palestinian lands and creating a de facto border. When, after five years of daily rocket attacks on citizens in southern Israel, the army goes in to stop the shelling—as would any country under the circumstances—it is depicted as a brutal invasion. When Israel pulled out of every inch of Gaza in 2005 and closed the borders to prevent Hamas from coming into Israel and murdering its citizens, it was seen as "occupying" Gaza.
Some serious questions must be directed at Ms. Maguire and other followers of the "anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian" movement by Canadians and those who truly seek justice for all. Do Jews have a right to self-determination in Israel, the ethnic and historic cradle of Jewish civilization? Does Israel have a right to self-defense against those who vow to destroy not only the country but the Jewish people? Finally, is there anything at all Israel could possibly do right, short of committing political suicide, to appease any of you? If you answered "no" to these questions, the only logical course of action for Israel and its supporters to do is to take the road of virtue and ignore your prejudice for what it really is: anti-Semitism.
Michael Elterman is the chairperson of the Canada-Israel Committee Pacific Region.
This commentary was sent to the Straight in response to ”˜Gaza shocks Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire’, published on September 24, 2009. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Georgia Straight.