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May 26, 2015

Hard Truths: For Canada About Israel and Palestine

Scott Stockdale

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In the wake of the recent passage of Bill C-51 (anti-terrorism bill), the Harper government is moving Canadian public opinion toward criticizing Israel as a crime, according to Dr. Michael Keefer, professor emeritus in the English Department at the University of Guelph.

Speaking at Beit Zatoun in Toronto recently to introduce his latest book Hard Truths: For Canada About Israel and Palestine, Dr. Keefer said his book is to further support Palestinian actions to peacefully push Israel toward respecting international law.

Dr. Keefer said the Harper government's Bill C-13 – passed earlier this year – is not about cyberbullying: its about surveilling internet traffic, which includes an attack on free speech.

Bill C-13 gives government law enforcement authorities, particularly secretive agencies such as the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) and CSIS increased surveillance powers.

Moreover, Dr. Keefer said Bill C-13 introduced a change to the Criminal Code of Canada: It added the word “national” to groups that can be considered victims of hate crimes. This means that criticizing a government's policies or actions can now be considered a hate crime.

“When Harper was in Israel in 2014, in stages, he announced the criminalizing of BDS (Boycott, Diversification and Sanctions).”

BDS was begun by a majority of Palestinian civil society groups on July 9, 2005 (a year after the International Criminal Court declared the Israeli separation wall illegal) with a request to their international counterparts to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognized in full compliance with international law.

Thus, Dr. Keefer said that although the BDS movement is peacefully trying to get their government to respect international laws against colonizing and occupying another people's territory and imposing an apartheid regime on the occupied population in accordance with international law, the Harper government continues to support these violations of International Law, while claiming its stance is in keeping with its “principled” foreign policy.

“The Canadian government has cast aside its responsibility for international law.  Under the Fourth Geneva Convention Article 1, it should have told Israel that to colonize and occupy Palestinian territory is a violation of international law. If the government respects international law, under the Convention Against Apartheid, we would be bound to take action.”

Although Mr. Harper and his ministers continue to rail against the use of the term apartheid to describe Israel's treatment of Palestinians, some of Israel's most revered leaders have said that the Israeli government's policies toward Palestinians are in fact apartheid policies.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak stated: "If there is only one political entity, named Israel, it will end up being either non-Jewish or non-democratic... If the Palestinians vote in elections, it is a binational state, and if they don't, it is an apartheid state."

Shulamit Aloni, who once served as minister of education under Yitzhak Rabin, wrote: "The state of Israel practises its own, quite violent form of apartheid with the native Palestinian population." And in November of 2007, Israel's then prime minister Ehud Olmert said:  "If the day comes when the two state solution collapses, and we face a South African style struggle for equal voting rights, then as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished."

As well as providing noisy diplomatic cover for Israel's violations of international law, Dr. Keefer said the Harper government provides material support for the matrix of domination in the Palestinian occupied territories.

Meanwhile, the Liberal and NDP parties agree with the Harper government that supporting the BDS movement is antisemitic; and no pro-Palestinian candidate can get elected to represent any of the three major Canadian political parties in an election.

In stark contrast to Canada, where all the English political elites support Israeli government policy, Dr. Keefer said Jewish public opinion is divided on Israeli criminal behaviour. He said Jewish liberation theologian Marc Ellis has conceptualized this division as a contrast between prophetic Judiasm and what he calls “Constantinian” Judiasm.

The later refers to a form of accommodation to imperial power such as that which allowed the Roman Emperor Constantine to impose Christianity as the official state religion of the Roman Empire in the early fourth century.

Prophetic Judiasm refers to a period nearly five centuries or more before the Common Era, when the prophetic writings that have defined Jewish ethical traditions were composed and reshaped.

Dr. Keefer said “revolutionary forgiveness” is the process Marc Ellis believes contemporary sustainers of prophetic Judiasm have chosen. He quoted Mr. Ellis:

“The Jewish prophetic believes that justice and peace are possible if the hard choices are made and that the hard choices include confession and forgiveness and reconciliation. That becomes possible when a new path that emphasizes justice and compassion is sought and walked.”

After having stolen most of the land in the West Bank, where over 60,000 Jewish settlers now live, Dr. Keefer said the Israeli government has not only created an intractable situation that makes a two state solution impossible, it has fostered a level of hatred, supported by the rabbinical, which has allowed the mainstream of Israeli society to drift toward advocating genocide.

He cited the example of Ayelet Shaked, recently appointed Israeli Justice Minister, who advocates the murdering of Palestinian “terrorists” mothers and Modechai Kedar, who lectures on Arab literature at Bar Ilan University, who said the sisters and mothers of Palestinian 'terrorists” should be raped.

Moreover, Dr. Keefer said that astonishingly, Mr. Kedar's university administration supported his remarks. The University administration wrote: “The purpose was to define the culture of death of the terrorist organizations. Dr. Kedar illustrated in his words the bitter reality of the Middle East....”

Dr. Keefer said we (Canadians) need to support the BDS movement to show our politicians how violently wrong they are in their support of Israeli policies.  He used the example of Canada Park, situated in the West Bank, just a few kilometres north of Jerusalem, as an example of Canada's insupportable complicity in Israeli government crimes.

Canada Park was paid for the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in the early 1970's, using $15 million in tax- deductible funds from Canadian citizens. It stands on the site of three West Bank Palestinian villages Yalu, Beit Nuba, and Imwas, that Dr. Keefer said were captured by Israel in the 1967 war, ethnically cleansed and promptly bulldozed.

“What does it mean to take action to forcefully disappear an entire community to make Canada Park? Canada Park has become a byword for crime against humanity and Canadians are complicit.”

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