Silenced Dissent: Four Short Texts on Israel/Palestine

The four short texts reproduced here, which date from 2002, may be of interest as samples of the routine exclusion by the Canadian media of voices dissenting from a pro-Zionist political orthodoxy. These texts have not previously been published.

 

1. Margaret Wente and Ariel Sharon: Letter (unpublished) to The Globe and Mail, 9 March 2002

To the editor, Letters Page:

Margaret Wente enlists support for the Sharon government by claiming that Israeli “fair-mindedness and compromise have led to a murderous dead end” (“Why they booed Bill Graham,” March 9).

Would she describe as “fair-minded” the processes of expropriation, settlement and cantonization that went on under South African apartheid? Why does she find similar processes acceptable when applied to the Palestinians of the occupied territories?

As for “compromise,” it was the Sharon government that closed down all negotiations. Twice in recent months when lulls in the violence opened the possibility of renewed talks, Israel launched renewed attacks (including targeted assassinations that might fairly be described as “murderous”).

Wente paints a dismaying picture of Muslim anti-Jewish sentiments, and of Yasser Arafat's duplicity. Given the enormously greater power held by the Israeli Prime Minister, his record is rather more dismaying. Sharon's paratroop unit perpetrated well-documented massacres of civilians in 1953, and there is compelling evidence that the appalling 1982 massacres in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila were carried out under his orders.

Current Israeli reprisal attacks upon civilians reveal a willingness to repeat this behaviour on a massive scale. Canadians should unequivocally condemn these acts of state terror.

 

2. Phone-In (not broadcast) to the Talk-Back line of CBC Radio's As It Happens,” 11 March 2002

This is Michael Keefer calling, from Toronto. I'd like to respond to the claims made on your show by the scholar from the “conflict resolution” institute at Bar Elam University in Israel whom you interviewed yesterday.

The violence on both sides of the Israeli-Palestine conflict is sickening, but there's no need to misrepresent historical facts as he did. Since 1977—that's twenty-five years ago now—the PLO has repeatedly offered to renounce violence and to recognize Israel's statehood in return for a Palestinian state in the occupied territories. It's a fact that the Sharon government unilaterally shut down all negotiations. It's a fact that the Israeli occupation, the building of settlements, the bombing of civilians, and the bulldozing of houses are all violations of international law.

And finally, there's good reason to believe that Prime Minister Sharon is guilty of war crimes. This is the man who oversaw the massacre of 2,000 civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982.

It looks as if he's up to his old tricks again.

 

3. Rex Murphy's Abuse of NDP MP Svend Robinson: Letter (unpublished) to The Globe and Mail, 20 April 2002

So what is it exactly that Rex Murphy finds so contemptible and absurd about Svend Robinson? The state of Israel is enforcing its continuing illegal occupation of territories conquered in the war of 1967 by deploying overwhelming military force against Palestinian cities, towns, and refugee camps. Not merely are Israeli forces rocketing and bombarding civilian populations; they have also attacked hospital facilities, ambulances, and medical personnel. Civilians injured by Israeli military action have been actively prevented from receiving medical assistance, and left to die in the streets. There is mounting evidence that hundreds of civilians have been killed, and that Palestinian fighters and civilians captured by Israeli forces have been tortured and summarily executed.

These policies are being directed by an Israeli Prime Minister who provoked the present intifada eighteen months ago by invading the precincts of the Dome of the Rock with a large “protective” force of police and soldiers; who sabotaged and cancelled the already faltering peace negotiations as soon as he came to power; and who has, in addition, a well-documented record as a war criminal that now stretches back almost a half-century. (Ariel Sharon's responsibility for the massacres of civilians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in September 1982 is well known—but he first made a name for himself in August and October 1953, when the paratroop Unit 101 which he commanded massacred over 100 civilians in night-time “reprisal” attacks on the El-Bureig refugee camp and on the Jordanian village of Qibya.)

In the face of George Bush's declaration that Prime Minister Sharon is “a man of peace,” Svend Robinson is one of the very few politicians in this supine country who has had the guts to speak out against Israeli state terrorism, and to make the more significant gesture of travelling to the places where war crimes are still being committed to speak out against them there.

Robinson must have guessed that many in his own party would be too confused or too cowardly to follow his lead; he must have anticipated that Canadian supporters of Israel would attempt to smear him as an antisemite; and I'm sure he knew that his principled acts would be subjected to ridicule by every oily orthodox pundit in the country.

I honour Svend Robinson for his courage in defending human rights and international law.

(Professor) Michael H. Keefer

 

4. Incitement to hatred: Letter (unpublished) to The Toronto Star, 2 December 2002

I am writing in response to Rosie DiManno's grotesquely one-sided column (“Latest attack on Jews,” 2 December 2002), to express my shock that the Star would print what amounts to an incitement to sectarian and racial hatred.

One premise of DiManno's column is entirely correct: people everywhere, no matter what their religious or political commitments, should be prompt in condemning terror attacks upon civilians. She is thus right to criticize Muslim authorities who have failed to condemn the murderous attacks upon Jews in Kenya.

But let us pretend for a moment that the old notion of journalistic balance has some meaning. DiManno characterizes Palestinians as “bleat[ing]” when they plead for justice in the face of an illegal occupation in which they are subjected to Israeli state terror—which includes ethnic cleansing, indiscriminate attacks upon civilians, and a systematic denial of medical assistance to the victims. When has DiManno ever raised her voice against these crimes? Would she dare to describe as “bleating” the outcries of Israeli civilians who have been injured or bereaved by suicide bombers?

DiManno compares violent Islamicists who commit acts of terror against civilians to “cockroaches.” Would she dare to describe as vermin those members of the Israeli Defense Force who have committed acts of terror against Palestinian civilians? Would she, for that matter, apply to Judaism or to American Evangelical Christianity the same analysis that she applies to Islam?

Whether one believes, with DiManno, that Islamicist terrorists are motivated by an irrational hostility to the West and to Jews, and only opportunistically took up the cause of the Palestinians, or whether one sees a connection between the state terrorism inflicted by Israel upon the Palestinians and the retail terrorism practised by violent Islamicists, there can be no excuse for speaking of an entire people in language normally reserved for farm animals.     

Text, Apparatus, History

One of the oddest pieces of Shakespearean commentary written during the past century is an extended dialogue by one William Bliss, published in 1947, which contains on its first page an urbane denunciation of Shakespearean commentators as “the ultimate nadir of human foolishness." If in this regard the book invites description as a self-subverting artifact, in other respects as well it is a thoroughly paradoxical performance. 

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