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April 21, 2011

The truth about Zionist Israel

Scott Stockdale

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With overwhelming evidence to the contrary, one has to wonder why Canadian Jewish organizations such as the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee and B'nai Brith continue to claim Zionist Israel is a liberal democracy - a beacon in a sea of repressive regimes, that western governments just happen to support.

But when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his government ministers  and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, and the right-wing section of the Canadian media also take this same stance, who's going to let the facts cloud the issue.

It's often said that if a lie is repeated often enough, it comes to be an accepted fact, and this, according to Sid Shniad, spokesperson for Independent Jewish Voices Canada, is the strategy Canadian Jewish organizations and political leaders are employing.

“Liberal democracy is an unqualified expression that resonates with people, and Israel's supporters - such as Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff -  want to have that brand stuck to it, while they remain silent about the profoundly anti-democratic developments in Israel.”

Considering the Canadian government's and its western allies' calls to respect democratic rights in other Middle East and North African countries - and even military intervention in Libya to support these goals - our government's hypocrisy about Israel is astounding.

Israeli supporters will be quick to use the fatuous argument that the situation is worse in places like Libya and Zimbabwe, but violations of international norms of human rights in other places doesn't justify silence about Israeli violations.

And these violations continue to escalate.

“Israel’s friends tout it as the only democracy in the Middle East. But at a time when democracy is breaking out in countries all over the region, Israel’s Knesset (the country’s parliament) has mounted a legislative attack on the fundamental freedoms of its Arab citizens and Israeli Jews who support them,” Mr. Shniad said.

“If they are seriously committed to the fundamental principles of democracy, we expect organizations like the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee and B’nai Brith to condemn these outrageous, anti-democratic laws.”

He explained that on March 23, the Knesset adopted two of these anti-democratic laws.

“The first allows the state to annul the citizenship of anyone found guilty of ‘security offences’. It is widely acknowledged that this law is designed to be used against Palestinian Israelis who take action against the discrimination they are experiencing.”

Making citizenship contingent on not transgressing certain lines and staying within acceptable limits - whether verbal, written or organizational – violates international universal norms of human rights, Mr. Shnaid said.

When asked, he said he's not aware of anywhere else in the world – certainly not the developed world – where this is done; but he added that “Whether or not it's being done somewhere else, it's wrong.”

The second law which allows small Israeli communities to exclude ‘unsuitable’ persons from taking up residence, is quite amazing, Mr. Shnaid said.

“This is unbelievable to say that someone can't live in the community because they don't meet community standards of acceptability, whether it be for grooming or any other reason. Imagine if this were to happen in the American south.”

Although Palestinians aren't mentioned in the law itself, Mr. Shnaid said this law is also designed to be used against Palestinians.

“This is clearly directed at preventing Palestinian Israelis from living in villages where the Jewish majority wishes to exclude them.”

A third law that is in the final stages of receiving legislative approval outlaws the boycotting of products from Israel as well as areas under its control — in other words, products from Israeli settlements situated on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights.

While the Israeli government insists that the international BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign is having no effect, Mr. Shnaid said that introducing a law to outlaw the boycott is a clear indication that Israeli government officials themselves don't believe their own rhetoric.

“They're rather concerned because it (BDS) challenges the legitimacy of the state as well as having an important economic impact on it ... The law says anybody suffering from the boycott can sue for unlimited damages. This includes Israel and the area controlled by Israel, which means you can't have a boycott against an illegal occupied territory.

“These Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. Yet under the terms of this new law, actions like the recent refusal by Israeli actors to perform in the illegal settlement of Ariel would be liable to criminal prosecution. We agree with Uri Avnery, the Israeli activist, who argues that this law amounts to a legislative annexation of the occupied Palestinian Territories,” Mr. Shnaid said.

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