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March 16, 2011

Israel: A state for Jews everywhere not for its people

Reuel S. Amdur

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Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, was a speaker at Carleton University's Israeli Apartheid Week on March 10. He began his presentation by taking some skin off Michael Ignatieff's hide.

In a recent statement, Ignatieff said that the Israeli Apartheid movement is characterized by “ignorance and intolerance” and suggested that it was promoting anti-Semitism.  Then Abunimah showed Ignatieff’s other face.

Writing in the Guardian back in 2002, he described his experience in taking a helicopter ride over the West Bank:

“When I looked down at the West Bank, at the settlements like Crusader forts occupying the high ground, at the Israeli security cordon along the Jordan river closing off the Palestinian lands from Jordan, I knew I was not looking down at a state or the beginnings of one, but at a Bantustan, one of those pseudo-states created in the dying years of apartheid to keep the African population under control.”

Abunimah charged that Ignatieff and Harper are playing a double game, claiming to support free speech and yet at the same time suggesting that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic and hinting broadly that it may be hate speech, which would make it illegal.  It is, he charged, “an intimidation tactic.”

Israel, he stated, is “a racist state.”

Many Gazans, he pointed out, lost their homes in the Negev during the 1948 war and were forced to flee to Gaza. 

If they had been Jews, they would be welcomed back with open arms.  “That,” he said, “is racism.” 

In Jerusalem, houses and even parts of houses are taken from Palestinians and given to Jews because Jews are alleged to have owned them prior to 1948.  However, Palestinians have no claim on houses in West Jerusalem that they owned in 1948. 

He gave another example.  The Jewish National Fund (JNF), which is a registered charity in Canada and the United States, will lease or sell only to Jews. 

The JNF acts for the state of Israel in its control of large swaths of property.  “Israel is the only state in the world that is not the state of its people.”  It is instead a state for Jews everywhere.

In a current situation, Israel is battling its own citizens, Bedouin in the Negev.  It is destroying their village in order to give the land to the JNF to make a park.  The Bedouin rebuild, the government tears things down, and the process repeats itself again and again.

Other examples of mistreatment of the Palestinians:

-A declaration by 300 rabbis, who are state employees, that all Jews should boycott any Jew who rents or sells property to an Arab.

-Discrimination in education.  Arabic is an official language of Israel, but there is not a single Arabic institution of higher education in the country.

Israel, he charged, has its own BDS campaign in the field of education.

Palestinians wanting to study abroad are routinely refused permission to leave, and those that are allowed out have no guarantee that they will be able to return.

He favors a boycott of Israeli universities, with all other universities cutting all ties.  He made it clear that he in no way proposes discrimination against Israeli students, who he said should be treated fairly like any other students.

A couple days before his talk, MP’s Joe Volpe and John Baird attended a meeting at Carleton sponsored by the Israeli Awareness Committee and the Carleton campus Tories and Liberals, attacking Israeli Apartheid Week and denying as absurd the notion that Israel is an Apartheid state. 

This outrageous notion has, of course been put forward by Bishop Desmond Tutu, who should know what an Apartheid state looks like, and by Jimmy Carter. 

Baird charged that the term “misrepresents” the reality of what Israel is like.

While their program was called “Standing Up for Campus Dialogue,” should there be a desire for dialogue, I would be willing to wager that the organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week would be happy to accommodate them.

On a related note, the Ottawa Citizen remained true to its well-earned reputation for one-sided reporting. 

It covered the 90-person session put on by the Zionists but nary a word about the considerably larger turnout for Abunimah.  It never covered Israeli Apartheid Week speakers in previous years either.

Want to put a bet on next year?

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