Well, the freedom to speak out, protest and criticize injustice just got a whole lot more complicated in Canada. The Canadian Parliamentary Commission to Combat Antisemitism released its report and to the surprise of almost no one, it opted to pretty much redefine criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, instead of proposing ways to deal with real instances of antisemitism.
Well, not quite. In fact, it states that criticism of Israel isn’t by definition anti-Semitic, but then goes on to say that “applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” is. It continues by claiming that “singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest.”
So basically, if you want to criticize Israeli government policy or practice, you have to criticize some other nation at the same time or else be labelled an anti-Semite.
Well, that can be difficult, particularly for those organizing events specifically dealing with what’s going on in Gaza like Apartheid Week, seemingly the real target of this commission’s findings. But on the other hand, I’m always up for a challenge so I think I’ll give this a shot. Now, I’ve got to remember the rules: I can criticize Israel all I want, I just need to criticize someone else for the same thing or something comparable. Let’s get started:
Okay, so I’m against how the Israeli government cuts off freedom of mobility to Palestinians in Gaza, passes laws effectively creating a second class of citizens who are then discriminated against and labels any attempt to resist a terrorist act. Now, I’ve got to think of another regime guilty of the same thing and speak out against them, too. Got it! Pre-Mandela South Africa, I’m against that regime, too.
No, wait, it’s a dated example. Things have changed in South Africa in the past little while and it’s a bit of a cheat to say I’m protesting something that isn’t happening there anymore along with what’s happening now in the occupied territories. I’ll try again…
I’m against how the Israeli government continues to authorize and even encourage new settlements on occupied land, evicting Palestinians for no good reason, further aggravating a situation that is already pretty damn tense. Okay, so far so good, now for the second part…hmmm…ha. I’m also against the way the Canadian government under Harper (and let’s face it, under previous administrations, too) continues to ignore Native land claims while permitting new encroachments on un-ceded territory like they did for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. I’m also not thrilled with the way they issued a tepid apology for what happened in the Residential School system without acknowledging the extent of what really happened.
Ha. I’m starting to like this game. I’ll try another one:
I’m appalled at how the Israeli Knesset recently passed a law making it illegal to criticize what’s going on in the occupied territories or organize a boycott of products from there or anywhere in Israel. This is a violation of the very principles of freedom of speech and such a law has no place in a free and democratic society.
Now, to cover my ass, the second part:
I am equally appalled at how Canadian parliamentarians from almost all parties (the Bloc opted out of this commission shortly before voters opted out of the Bloc) decided to use the spectre of antisemitism as a weapon to stifle criticism of the actions of a government, not the actions of a country’s citizens or people of a particular religion. It’s an attack on freedom of speech, that much is clear, but it’s also an attack on logic.
It’s a move that makes no sense unless you’re thinking in an Orwellian sense, but it does make for a fun game as I just demonstrated. This game isn’t free, though. To play it, you have to give up your right to protest injustice, a fundamental right in any democracy.
> Okay, so far so good, now for the second part…hmmm…
I am not a huge fan of this legislation, however, the need for it is because some people and organizations are so overwhelming anti-Israel, but are then silent in the face of other government atrocities.
Your difficulty in finding other countries or governments to criticize actually demonstrates this point quite well. Are the only two governments you can think to criticize really Israel and Canada? Really Jason? How do you call yourself an “activist” and are not able to recall Assad’s current slaughter in Syria? Or the fact that a women can’t even drive in a car without a male chaperone in Saudi Arabia? Belarus…? Libya…? Iran…? Somalia…? Sudan…? North Korea…? You couldn’t think of anything to mention about those regimes?
With all the obsession about Israel, it may be easy to forget that it is the only true democracy in the middle east. In Israel there are Arab police men, Arab judges, Arab lawyers, Arab politicians, Arab newspapers.. even Arabs on the Israel soccer team! Israel is clearly not perfect.. but neither is America. Or Russia. Or China. Or England.
Here is a list of the world’s most repressive societies. I suggest you read up so you will not have so much difficulties recalling other repressive regimes other than Israel and Canada. (Note: Israel and Canada did not make the list.) http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/special-reports/worst-worst-2012-worlds-most-repressive-societies
Another good read on selective outrage: http://gazit.me/2012/04/29/Selective-Outrage.html
Um, maybe my sarcasm was lost on you. Of course I could think of many examples of horrible things done by other regimes.
The reason I chose Canada was to prove a point that forcing an individual or organization to criticize another state when criticizing Israel or else be labelled an anti Semetic by the government is ridiculous. Imagine an organization set up to criticize the GMO food industry being forced to mention something worse the tobacco industry was doing each time they sent out a press release.
Same thing. If the purpose of a group is to highlight unethical practices brought on the Palestinians by Israel, then that is their purpose as a group. What other nations do is irrelevant.
Jason, try this game: replace each of your sarcastic examples in your article with actual examples injustices around the world. Now re-read your article. How does it sound? It would sound quite reasonable! It would sound like you are against government injustices no matter where they occur.
Forgetthebox.net is not an anti-semitic website. You know why? Because it covers a range of issues instead of just singling out one country. This legislation is not an attempt to stop sites like Forgetthebox.net. This is more aimed at groups like Queers Against Apartheid Israel that protest loudly against Israel (and many protestors don’t realize that Israel is by far the most progressive country in the middle east in regards to LGBT issues) but then hardly have a word to say against the current slaughter in Syria, etc.
You may say, why can’t QuAIA just protest against Israel, why do they have to protest against other countries? My response is, where is Queers Against Syria? Queers Against Jamaican Homophobia?
If you want to see those groups, why not create them? I’m sure you’ll find support, maybe even from some of the same people who support QuAIA.
To insist a group whose mandate is to speak out against Israel’s wrongdoing (and in this case how that wrongdoing is pushed under the rug because of progressive policies in another area) must champion other causes as well makes no sense. It is also very unfair.
> To insist a group whose mandate is to speak out against Israel’s wrongdoing ..must champion other causes as well makes no sense.
No, it is not a matter of “they have to speak equally about countries like Syria”. The question is, why on earth aren’t they?
Why on earth are groups like QUAIA completely silent about what is going on in Syria? (Their website does not contain a single reference to the slaughter in Syria?) You know there have been an estimated 30,000 deaths in Syria in less then two years? For comparison, there were an estimated 7,238 Palestinian deaths and 1,096 Israel deaths for the past 10 years from Sept 2000 to Oct 31st 2011.
Syria is just an example. Why are they silent on any of the dozens of conflicts and abuses going on right now? http://www.globalconflictmap.com/
Would it be right Jason, for me to vocally criticize Mexicans in my city for throwing trash in the streets (just making up an example), and then be silent when White people do the same? And then when asked why I don’t complain about the white people would it make sense for me to say, “someone else can complain about White people polluting..I am only interested about complaining when Mexican’s pollute.” Of course not. If I actually said that it would be quite clear my issue is less with pollution and more with Mexicans because I am applying a double standard.
If I was really interested in the issue of pollution, I would be vocally complaining about *anyone* who was polluting. If I had an agenda against Mexican’s specifically I would only be complaining about Mexican’s polluting.
The report states that, “applying double standards by requiring of [a country] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation [is wrong]. Sounds reasonable to me.