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September 8, 2009

Dear Mr. Reid - On Combating Antisemitism

Karin Brothers

Karin Brothers(This letter was submitted to The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism )

Dear Mr. Reid,

I applaud any efforts to discourage racism, particularly anti-Semitism.

While I am glad that your committee is calling for responses from all interested individuals and groups, I am concerned that this call is when many are on vacation and unaware of its summertime deadline.

While your website claims that the Canadian Parliamentary Committee for Combating Anti-Semitism is not " about limiting legitimate criticism of the State of Israel" it goes on to claim that "rhetoric and political action" against the State of Israel indicate prejudice.

While the site notes that "dissent and opposition to individual actions of the Israeli government are both permitted and encouraged", presumably "individual actions" are not to be confused with criminal state policy, such as apartheid, ethnic cleansing, targeted assassinations, collective punishment and attacks using new and banned weaponry on a virtually defenseless civilian population.

I am concerned about the conflation of ethnic/religious racism with opposition to a state that:

Denies both its 1948 and continuing ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population;

Treats the native population under occupation in such a way as to meet the legal definition of apartheid, as determined by the May 2009 legal analysis of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, which is by definition a crime against humanity;

Continues to violate virtually all articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Convention Against Torture, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, numerous UN resolutions including its agreement to attain membership, as well as the Convention against Genocide;

Is committing an act of war against the Palestinian people in its ongoing (since 2006), siege of Gaza, according to UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, who -- while noting that a recent study finds that almost half of the children of Gaza have lost the will to live -- believes that "the Palestinian people stand out as the most victimized people in the world...".

I am disturbed by some points in particular:

What legal right does any state have "to exist"? Does the State of Israel have rights accorded to no other country on earth? What is specifically meant by this term?

Since the State of Israel has never defined its boundaries; exactly what is to be "recognized"? What are Palestinian rights if they "recognize" a state which then defines its borders as encompassing territory internationally- recognized as Palestinian?

If the elected Palestinian government "recognizes" Israel, does this legitimize the Israeli treatment of Palestinians? As you know, lawyers are advising Palestinians against this potential quagmire trick.

What is meant by the "destruction of Israel" that qualifies as "anti-Semitism"?

Since no one is calling for the destruction of the political state, we must assume that the "destruction" refers to Jewish privilege over all other inhabitants of the country.

Do the calls for a truly democratic state in which human and civil rights are not defined by race, religion or ethnicity qualify as "anti-Semitism"?

I would refer the committee’s definition of "anti-Semitism" to the new book by Jewish theologian Marc Ellis, "Judaism does not equal Israel" in which he states that this conflation is heresy to Judaism and in violation of Jewish values.

Is your definition of anti-Semitism actually anti-Semitic? Or would your committee call Professor Ellis of Baylor University an anti-Semite?

Many in the Jewish community do not believe that the actions of the Israeli state are legal or acceptable; would your committee brand these Jews or their actions as anti-Semitic?

As a signatory to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Canada is under a contractual legal obligation to uphold the rights of Palestinian civilians living under Israeli occupation: would such "political actions" to protect them be equated in the definitions of your committee to anti-Semitism?

Given the blatant criminality of the State of Israel, and -- by legal definition, as noted by Richard Falk -- the criminal Canadian complicity to Israeli actions, I am concerned that calls for justice and for a just peace will be branded by the definitions of this committee as criminal anti-Semitism.

I would appreciate your response to my concerns and an opportunity to testify at any hearing.


Karin Brothers


Note: The legal analysis of whether Israeli treatment of Palestinians under occupation constituted apartheid under its legal definition was confirmed in the May 2009 report "Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law" published by the Middle East Project of the Democracy and Governance Programme of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa.

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