Mable Elmore's comments on Zionism: should she have apologized?
I wrote a blog posting about NDP Leader Carole James's response to Vancouver-Kensington NDP candidate Mable Elmore's 2004 comments on Zionism. You can see what she told Seven Oaks, and fill in the comment space below to say if you think these comments warranted an apology.
Seven Oaks: What kind of reactions have you received -- because you’re a rank-and-file activist -- from your co-workers and your fellow union member in your local to some of the anti-war work that you’ve been doing in the union?
Mable Elmore: It’s been tough. And I’m in a male-dominated union, we’re ninety per cent men, and a lot of middle-aged brothers and I’m in the minority; I’m an activist, I’m a lesbian of colour, and out in the union, and so it’s kind of hitting all those fronts. And in terms of the anti-war stuff, it’s really been a struggle. We have vocal Zionists in our worksites, and we’ve had to battle them, and – really, I’d characterize it as ”˜battles,’ in terms of turning our executive members around, and bringing educationals into our workplace, and being shut out by management, and having to have our workshops outside of the worksite, and facing continual backlash. But the backlash is also a sign of making progress. So that’s how we take that perspective, but, it’s been tough but we’re going to continue to push. We’re signing up more and more members [to the Peace and Justice Committee], and that’s continuing that mobilizing, and that hasn’t been easy.
Mar 24, 2009 at 10:57am
Sometimes I wonder if the response would have been different if Mel Gibson had ranted about Zionists that fateful night in Malibu? Maybe if he had blurted out something that didn't include the terms "sugar tits" and "jews", people would have been willing to offer support instead of condemnation?
Google 'Jews against Zionism' if you'd like a better understanding of this issue. Congrats Mabel. I was there on Sunday and you've worked hard for this. Now if I could just get over this gnawing discomfort about believing Jinny Sims could have been the best thing to happen to the NDP in years. Don't take that the wrong way Mabel...the party needs you as well.
Mar 24, 2009 at 11:32am
Do these comments warrant an apology? That depends on who hears them, and what it is that they hear. To many a Western Canadian ear, not educated to making any real distinction between Zionism and being Jewish, there could be what the public relations types like to call a communications problem. As always, the answer is clarity.
Mar 24, 2009 at 1:55pm
I'm very saddened that such a worthy candidate was forced to these measures by the Israel lobby and a gutless NDP. To be clear - the only people that would equate zionism with anti-semitism are those within the pro Israel lobby, and they are doing so as a tool to silence legitimate criticism of the Israeli government and military. Mabel's comments were neither offensive nor anti-semitic, and she should not have had to apologise for them.
The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions defines Zionism as " a global, political, ideological movement that aims to return the land of 'Israel' to the Jewish people." (never mind who my have been living there at the time) Propogandists will suggest that opposing this is akin to opposing the existance of the state of Israel. They conveniently gloss over the heinous acts committed by this same state in the name of Zionism. If Zionism has been tinged with ugly tones, the state of Israel has no one to blame other than itself. All of the people I know who would describe themselves as anit-Zionist do not oppose the existance of Israel, but rather the deplorable policies, decisions and acts of the state of Israel. Many of these same people are Jewish. All of them take great pains to ensure that their comments and actions are not, and cannot be perceived as anti-semitic. I find it ironic that I - who am not Jewish - am consistently struggling with mainstream (read pro-Israel) Jews to separate issues concerning Israel from Judaism. Surely they have the most to lose if anti-state-of-Israel anger becomes anti-Jewish anger generally? These separations have been reduced solely to allow any criticism of Israel to be labelled as anti-semitic - effectively silencing the speaker.
Carole James should know better. This is not leadership, but cowardice. When did the NDP start supporting war criminals? If Carole James follows through by compelling Mabel to publicly apologise to the Canadian Jewish Congress, she can count on having one less vote and worker for the NDP in my lifetime.
Mar 24, 2009 at 5:23pm
How did she pass the "smell test" when it came to choosing candidates?
I'm considering revoking my membership in the NDP. I may vote for her but I don't know if I can hold my nose that long.
Mar 24, 2009 at 6:45pm
This can only be described as a witchhunt. It's intention can only be to silence people and make them afraid of discussing such contentious issues as Israeli policies and practices in the Middle East. There's nothing wrong with Mabel Elmore describing people who support Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine as Zionists. And there's nothing wrong with being anti-Zionist, of disagreeing with a state that has waged war, expanded its territory, and denied basic human rights in the name of its religion. What's seriously wrong here is to call people anti-Semitic or racist for holding these political views. What's seriously wrong is to intimidate people from daring to question, to challenge, and to freely discuss these questions. What's seriously wrong is for journalists to do the dirty work of hounding Mabel Elmore and Carol James. Isn't this exactly how it worked with Joe McCarthy's witchhunt of communists? I'm sad that Mabel Elmore apologized. I'm sadder that Carol James not only demanded an apology but called the remarks "offensive" and "unacceptable." If we value free speech, we must stand up against bullies who sling mud rather than engage in a full and open discussion of the issues. It doesn't matter if you agree with Mabel Elmore. If she can be silenced, then who is next?
Mar 24, 2009 at 6:46pm
In the last 2 days I've witnessed 2 people being silenced in regards to the Israel/Palestine question:George Galloway and Mabel Elmore. The culprits? Federal Conservatives and the BC NDP. The message is that under no circumstances shalt thou criticize Israeli actions. It seems that the state of Israel can violate international law by killing, indescriminately, Arab women and children . It seems like apartheid, institutionalized state racism and collective punishment must not be commented upon or opposed. My heart goes out especially to Mabel. The forced apology reminded me of Galileo's obligatory apology before the Pope for his telling it like it really is. The term "Zionist" of late has been seen by progressive people as representing the most extreme nationalistic, chauvinistic and racist elements of the Jewish people that has as its ultimate goal, an expanded, Jewish dominated state with a SMALL minority of vestigial, impoverished, 2nd class Arabs. Progressive Jewish people ( my friends) inside and outside Isreal also act in opposition to "Zionism"...are they "anti-Semitic" too??? I think not. Racism is wrong. PERIOD! I can no longer stomach the BC NDP...I will no longer donate $$. Mable has nothing to apologize for.
Mar 24, 2009 at 8:06pm
Take the time to read Herzl and the early Zionists, including David Ben Gurion (real name David Gruen/Green) and you will discover that the objective of the Zionist movement from the very beginning was to take possession of historic Palestine through massive immigration of European Ashkenazi Jews, drive out as many of the native Palestinian/Canaanites as possible and create therein an exclusionary "Jewish State." This was accomplished in 1947/48 and the resulting state of Israel has been in a state of constant territorial expansion and more ethnic-cleansing since. If this isn't "racism," what is?
Mar 26, 2009 at 8:15am
Last Federal Election I gave $800 to the Federal NDP for the election. This Provincial Election I will be keeping my principles and not donating to the James led NDP. I'm sorry Carole, as you know, everything has a cost and to alienate your loyal constituents means you put me on the sidelines. Good luck this May.
Mar 26, 2009 at 1:05pm
Perhaps Carole James should apologize for being anti-semantic?
Mar 26, 2009 at 2:12pm
Maybe she should apologize for using a word like "educationals," but not otherwise.