Jan 27, 2016

Israel, Antisemitism and Terrorism

This blog is going to get me in a lot of trouble, but I really feel the need to write it.

I want to comment on a few recent items in the news that have to do with Israel and its annoying practice of labeling any criticism as antisemitic.  Not that this is new but in the last 24 hours I have read where:

  • an “outraged” Paul Bronfman is threatening to cancel support for York University over a mural that shows a Palestinian ready to throw rocks at what I assume is a bulldozer in the Occupied Territories
  • the Israeli ambassador to Canada would not comment on Canada’s move to re-establish relations with Iran but reminded us that Iran is “one of the most dangerous countries in the world”
  • Israeli PM Netanyahu excoriated the UN Secretary General for his criticism of West Bank settlements as “a tailwind to terrorism”

The bottom line is that some of what Israel does is not helpful to world peace and does in fact contribute to terrorism.

(slight pause while I wait for the inevitable accusation of…antisemite)

Israel has long buried any criticism of anything it does as antisemitic.  In a way, and this will get me in even more trouble, it is analogous to the “reductio ad hilterum” style of debate.  In this practice, a person losing an argument accuses his or her opponent of being a Nazi or supporting Hitler.  End of exchange. I win.  Israel’s tactic is no different.

There is no question that Israel faces significant security challenges in its dangerous neighbourhood (although I would stop short of calling those threats existential for the simple reason that Israel’s humongous technological superiority, not to mention its undisclosed nuclear arsenal, makes it more than a match for any state stupid enough to attack it) .  And Israel is, and should be, an ally of this country.  It is a vibrant, albeit unwieldy, democracy that serves as an all too rare example for the region.

On the other hand, it has been increasing settlement activity in the Occupied Territories for decades, a clear and flagrant violation of international law. It is beholden to fanatic religious zealots who are no different than the religious extremists we find elsewhere in the region. It has cracked down on freedom of association, but only for groups that are critical of the Israeli government.  All in all, some of what it does can be seen as kindling for the extremist fire.  No, terrorism does not spring solely from Israeli policies, but some of those policies are counterproductive.

Israel likes to complain that the world holds it up to a higher standard than that of its neighbours and that there are much more egregious actors who are a lot worse.  True, but as a democracy, and one that gets gazillions in subsidies from its main ally, the US, it has to put on its big boy pants and accept criticism. Without pouting and calling those that disagree with it Jew haters.

Israel has to acknowledge that its policies in the West Bank are inimical to its long term security and stop kowtowing to fundamentalist religious kooks.  We will work beside Israel to keep it safe and prosperous.  In exchange it has to accept sometimes harsh words.  Friends tell friends when they err.  Canada is Israel’s friend.  It’s time for the latter to listen.  Because it will hear more honest talk from Canada under the Trudeau government than it did under the previous one.