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June 17, 2010

To Jack Layton on Libby Davies's comments

Dr. Michael Keefer

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Dear Jack Layton: I'm writing to express my very serious concern over the recent attacks on your colleague Libby Davies for what she has freely acknowledged to have been a mis-statement.

Ms. Davies stated that the Israeli occupation of Palestine began in 1948, when she meant to say 1967.

Why, precisely, must this be categorized, in your own words, as "a very serious mistake"? And why did you find it necessary to go cap in hand to the Israeli ambassador to say so?

Forgive me if I have missed the appropriate news story (I have been out of the country for the past fortnight), but I am not aware that you spoke to the Israeli ambassador about the three Canadians kidnapped in international waters by Israel following that country's murderous (and, under international law, piratical) attack on the Gaza aid convoy.

I do give you credit for having spoken up on that issue in parliament.

But if you did not also contact the Israeli ambassador to express your firm disapproval of that blatant violation of international law--and the disapproval of your party and of the millions of Canadians who support it--would this not indicate that you regard Libby Davies' quickly corrected slip of the tongue as a more serious transgression than the state of Israel's kidnapping of three Canadian citizens?

I cannot help seeing your position--if I have understood it rightly--as both ethically deficient and politically unbalanced.

I am equally disturbed by recent attacks from within your caucus on Libby Davies' support for a policy of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) toward Israel, until that country takes firm and decisive steps to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories illegally occupied since 1967, and also comes to appropriate terms with those Palestinians who were 'ethnically cleansed' in 1948-49.

Israel is in very serious violation of international law, and its government has made clear its intention to continue and indeed intensify its defiance of the rulings of international bodies of all kinds.

Together with many Israelis, among them Professor Neve Gordon, Chair of Political Science of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, I support BDS as the only means to a peaceful settlement of the present impasse.

Why does the New Democratic Party as a whole not do likewise?

I have had copies of my recent book "Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism" sent to all members of your caucus.

Might I suggest that you urge your colleagues to read with particular attention the concluding section of its last chapter--a section entitled "Opposition is True Friendship"?

(The phrase is from the great English poet William Blake. I take it to imply that peaceful but firm opposition to Israeli policies, through boycott, divestment, and sanctions, is the only true way of expressing and sustaining Canada's long-term friendly relations with Israel.)

In that last section of the book I show, I believe conclusively, that the Harper government's support for Israeli policies in relation to the Palestinians has made Canada complicit in Israeli violations of international law and war crimes, and in Israeli policies which the material facts, as well as recent statements by members of the Israeli government, reveal to be genocidal under the terms of the Geneva Convention on Genocide.

I very much hope that the NDP as a whole will follow Libby Davies' lead in taking an informed and principled stand on these issues.

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