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Israel Apartheid Week Instant Hansard

Israel Apartheid Week Instant Hansard

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Published by: BMFCJC on Feb 25, 2010
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Mr. Peter Shurman:
I move that in the opinion of this House, theterm “Israel Apartheid Week” is condemned as it serves to incite hatredagainst Israel, a democratic state that respects the rule of law and humanrights, and the use of the word “apartheid” in this context diminishes thesuffering of those who were victims of a true apartheid regime in SouthAfrica.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters):
Pursuant to standing order 98,the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.
Mr. Peter Shurman:
We debate some interesting things in thechamber, not always what appear to be provincial business. One might thinkthat my resolution falls into that category. But since Israel Apartheid Weektakes place next week on campuses across Ontario, I’d submit that it verymuch concerns us in this place and it should concern all fair-mindedOntarians.Resolutions here do one thing only: They send a message, moralsuasion, pertinent to any given subject. I am passionate about my resolutiontoday and the subject Israel Apartheid Week. I am the MPP for Thornhill; over40% of my constituents are Jewish. Understandably, there is broad supportfor Israel in Thornhill, and not just in Thornhill and not just among Jewishpeople. I have been approached in and outside of Thornhill, on and off collegecampuses all over Ontario, to champion this cause, and I’m very happy to doso.I am sick and tired of the demonization of Israel by the use of a wordthat was only ever applied in one historical case and remains applicable onlyto that one period of South African history. In honesty, I have also, along withall colleague MPPs, been approached as well by those not in agreement withthis resolution. I say here and now that I reject their position out of hand. Thisis a resolution that is entirely appropriate for discussion in our OntarioLegislature. It’s about an annual event in our province on our campuses, andmost significantly it’s about our values, because our values are the same asthe values of the state of Israel: democracy, education, individual freedom,human rights and the right to defend oneself from aggressors. In fact, thevalues of Judaism and of Israel were bedrock values for the foundation of Canada, and those values from Judaism and from Israel date back over 3,000years, all to say that if you’re going to label Israel as apartheid...L208-1330-25 follows(Mr. Shurman)
In fact, the values of Judaism and of Israel were bedrock values for thefoundation of Canada, and those values from Judaism and from Israel dateback over 3,000 years—all to say that if you’re going to label Israel asapartheid, then you are also calling Canada apartheid and you are attackingCanadian values. The use of the phrase “Israeli Apartheid Week” is about asclose to hate speech as one can get without being arrested, and I’m notcertain it doesn’t actually cross over that line.It’s also a thinly veiled campaign by those whose real agenda is toeradicate Israel entirely. During the last week, I read an online blog or journal—there are, sadly, many like it—and I’ll quote from it. Bear in mind that thisis not a secret website. It came to me because I am personally mentioned init, and that simply triggered a Google alert. It’s called ziofascism.net. Nowquoting: “Israel is a terrorist, apartheid state that bombs civilianneighbourhoods and hospitals, and engages in ethnic cleansing against itsenemies and covert terror against its ‘friends.’“In Canada, the Israel Lobby—a web of organizations presided over bya handful of Jewish billionaires, who head the nominal ‘Jewish groups’ thattogether with media [are] owned by some of the same billionaires—hasshaped Canada’s policy to favour Israel’s security interests at the expense of Canada’s.” Pure garbage—and Israeli Apartheid Week the same.A few pertinent details about what my resolution is not:I am not attempting to tackle in 10 minutes in the Ontario LegislativeAssembly any of the vast, ongoing problems relative to Israel: no discussiontoday of the peace process; no discussion of the existential questions of anIsraeli state. Israel is quite simply there. It isn’t going anywhere—not now andnot ever.Let me say that Israel, while demonstrating some very remarkablepositives, is, in the end, just like Canada or any other democratic country: notalways right, and always dealing with political challenges. My resolution is,however, not about any of that. I raise it by way of asserting that I or anyoneelse can debate such issues any time, any place, as long as such a debate isrespectful and fair to all who seek to express an opinion. That is precisely what Israeli Apartheid Week does not do, and in ourfree environment, in our hate-free public forum, it has no place.Israeli Apartheid Week occurs about this time of year every year invarious locations around the world, and it runs sometime within the first twoweeks of March. As I have said, here it’s in the first week of March, nextweek.Here’s what is truly remarkable about those who are supportive of Israeli Apartheid Week: Their very use of that phraseology and the content of the supposedly neutral discussion seminars is really about an apartheid thatis quite the reverse of what they contend exists.Here’s why: Those behind Israeli Apartheid Week are attempting toisolate Israel and place Israel on the receiving end of an apartheid experience—the minimization and the diminishment of any Jewish heritage in the region,the denigration of Jewish rights to a homeland, the lessening of Jewish peopleas not being on an equivalent level with any other members of humankind.How dare they? How dare they?Do I have a problem with informed discussion about Israel or aboutWest Bank Palestinians or Gazans? No, I do not.
Do I have a problem with people of any stripe engaging in politicaldialogue about that region? No, I do not.Do I have a problem with one-sided views being expressed by eitherside? That’s never a great idea, but actually, the answer there is also no, I donot.So what is my problem? Well, my problem is the name Israeli ApartheidWeek and what’s in a name. Calling this series of events by a name that is, initself, both assumptive and declaratory prior to anyone debating anything, wecome dangerously close to an outright condemnation and engaging in hatespeech before any dialogue—and there is no such dialogue. Dialogue ismultifaceted, and this event is not. The name is hateful, it is odious, and that’s not how things should be inmy Ontario, in our Ontario. In fact, my Ontario is not about drawing linesbetween differing elements of our diverse society and fighting battles 10,000kilometres away by using labelling and unilateral positioning and sometimeseven outright intimidation to make points.My Ontario is about informed discussion, and if informed discussionshould occur anywhere, it should be on the campuses of our universities andcolleges. Israeli Apartheid Week is not and never has been about informeddiscussion. I became acquainted with campus activism ...L208-1335-25 follows(Mr. Shurman)... I became acquainted with campus activism as it exists today when Ibecame personally and intimately involved in the York University strike andassociated issues about 16 months ago. Factions on that and other campusesfind themselves under siege—and that is quite unacceptable. There are people on our campuses who assume untenable, unilateralpositions about faraway places and offer no reasonable room for discussion.As a matter of fact, by way of example, in the last week, a group that wentcounter to Israeli Apartheid Week applied to York University—the sameuniversity that I mentioned—to hold an equal and opposite session, if youwill, and was told that it couldn’t. It certainly displayed a wide array of speakers, but it couldn’t hold its session because, the York Universityadministration told it, “the security of those people couldn’t be guaranteed.”Isn’t that interesting? You can’t guarantee the security of people who want tospeak in favour of Israel, but you can guarantee the security of people whodon’t? What does that say about balance on that campus?In my day, universities were the places where solutions were foundthrough informed dialogue. It seems we’ve moved away from that and into aconfrontation and intimidation stance. Isn’t that precisely that from whichpeople have escaped to take up a new life in multicultural, multi-ethnicCanada, where all are free and no one need be afraid? Isn’t that one of themain reasons that we are all here in this place together?My generation has not handled some things well. Perhaps the nextgeneration will do better. But with a confrontational approach through eventslike Israeli Apartheid Week, how can we even begin?“Apartheid” is an Afrikaans word that only applies to one single eventin the history of humankind: the legislated separation and differentiation bycolour in pre-Mandela South Africa. There is no comparison with any other

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