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November 24, 2010

Why is Israel singled out for unconditional support?

According to the recently published Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism, Israel is being singled out for "selective condemnation and opprobrium, [which] is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest."

But is Israel being singled out for selective condemnation and opprobrium? No. Is it singled out for selective unconditional support in the United States and Canada? Yes. Are Arabs and Muslims singled out for selective condemnation and opprobrium? Also, yes.

Anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism is rampant on university campuses, especially within the ranks of the Zionists. So I have to wonder: how does all that fit with the Ottawa Protocol? The answer is: it doesn’t.

Evidently, Zionists and their supporters would like to paint a very dark picture of student activism on campus. They do not hesitate to approach university administrations and student unions to ask them to ban pro-Palestinian events and disallow criticism of Israel’s war crimes.

Very often, they approach members of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) with extreme hostility.

For example, I have personally been told that my “hatred” towards Israel is grounded in the teachings of the Qur’an, which they claim preaches hatred.

I have been called a “Hamas jackass who wears a turban,” and just recently I was wearing an “In Gaza I Would Be A Target” T-shirt when a Zionist asked me: “Is it because you’re gay?” as if being homosexual were inherently bad.

To this blatant racism from Zionists, the federal government is not only indifferent, but supportive. As is evident from their press releases and speeches, the creators of the Ottawa Protocol are not the least interested in fighting racism; rather, their objective is to create a framework that:

• legitimizes the occupation of Palestine;

• defends Israel’s egregious violations of human rights and international law; and

• stifles free speech and legitimate criticism of Israel on university campuses.

Zionists may claim that Israel is singled out for criticism and condemnation, but the opposite is true.

For example, in his speech to the Inter-parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (ICCA), Prime Minister Stephen Harper voiced his unconditional support for Israel: “As long as I am Prime Minister, whether it is at the UN or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost.” [my emphasis].

Harper is not alone. Every prime minister since the 1940s has expressed unconditional support for Israel.

In his book Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid, Yves Engler thoroughly documents the positions of prime ministers and other Canadian officials from this period. For example:

• Lester Pearson and his associates George Ignatieff, Judge Rand and others were the architects of the unjust “Partition Plan” (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181), which carved a “Jewish State” out of Palestine.

• Canada co-sponsored the resolution (UNGA Resolution 273) that conditionally admitted Israel to the United Nations; and

• Prime Minister Joe Clark voiced his government’s intention to move Canada’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, disregarding Palestinians’ internationally recognized right to East Jerusalem as their future capital.

As Harper indicated, international opinion on Israeli war crimes is irrelevant when it comes to Israel. When the entire international community condemned Israel’s aggression against Lebanon in 2006, he called the invasion a “measured response.” When Palestinians held a democratic election, Canada was the first country to impose economic and political sanctions. When a slaughter was being executed by the IDF against unarmed Palestinians, Harper and Ignatieff were the first to defend Israel and condemn the Palestinians.

On the other side of the border, President Barack Obama was thought to be the symbol of hope and change, but he has turned out to be no different than his predecessors regarding Israel and Palestine.

The last speech he delivered before winning the Democratic nomination was in front of AIPAC, where he indicated his support for a unified Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State, which as we know would be a contravention of international law.

Just recently, he promised to give Israel warplanes in exchange for a temporary freeze on settlement activity in the occupied West Bank—an absurd proposal given that international law is very clear on the illegality of these settlements.

Israel enjoys the protection and the support of the most powerful country in the world, yet the Zionist camp still claims there is a bias against it.

Pro-Israel clubs and associations enjoy disproportionate funding and support from universities while pro-Palestine clubs have to jump through hoops just to make a booking or do the mundane task of pamphleting or postering.

If the ICCA and its look-a-likes are truly concerned about anti-Semitism they should repudiate the notion that Israel acts in the name of the Jewish people. Various groups such as Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Just Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace and Not In Our Name have made it clear that Israel does not represent the Jewish people or Jewish tradition.

If Israel is indeed the most democratic and liberal state in the Middle East, as it claims to be, why is it so sensitive to criticism, and why does it refuse scrutiny by international human rights organizations and committees?

And if Israeli politicians are convinced that they possess the moral high ground, why do they put so much effort into hiding their crimes?

These are questions that members of ICCA, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA) should demand answers to.

Until then, every Canadian, every university student, professor, faculty member and administrator should reject the Ottawa Protocol in its entirety.

Omar Shaban, a third-generation Palestinian refugee from the Nahr El-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon, is president of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) at UBC, co-founder of Palestine Speaks (, and a fourth-year student of international relations and political science.

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