Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions: Illegitimate Pressure on the University of Windsor Student Union

This letter was first published as “Prof. Michael Keefer's Letter to U. Of Windsor President: Illegitimate pressure on the University of Windsor Student Union over BDS,” Independent Jewish Voices Canada (12 March 2014),; and as “Keefer: Letter to UW President calling on him to support Academic Freedom,” (14 March 2014),


Dr. Alan Wildeman
President & Vice-Chancellor
University of Windsor
12 March 2014

Dear Dr. Wildeman,

I am writing to tell you how dismayed I am by your attempt to have the student union on your campus suppress the results of a student referendum in which a substantial majority voted to support the international campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions that seeks, through peaceful means, to induce the state of Israel to comply with international law and end its oppression of the Palestinians.

I believe that the position you have taken violates the principle of academic freedom—which I regard as being not just a privilege to which tenured academics lay claim, but a foundational principle of the university, and something to be protected for all members of the university community. Of course, a commitment to academic freedom implies at the same time a commitment to civil, humane, and rational discourse, whose goal might be described, in the simplest terms, as one of determining truths (to the best of our abilities) and disseminating them.

I believe that faculty and administrators have a joint responsibility to ensure that discourse within our universities lives up to these standards—and a responsibility, as well, to act in defense of members of the university community who are subjected, from within the university or outside it, to discourse that violates those standards and that commitment to truth—by, for example, having recourse to smears, defamation, and ad hominem attacks of the sort that have been heaped upon the organizers and supporters of this referendum.

I would ask you to consider whether you are living up to this responsibility. The international struggle in support of the rights of Palestinians is one of the great moral issues of our time. It is not an edifying spectacle when a university president obstructs students who are engaging, civilly, humanely, and rationally in that struggle.

I do not ask you to take my word as to the moral import of this struggle. Take instead the word of one of Israel's most distinguished sociologists, Eva Illouz, a full professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the recipient of major academic awards in the United States, France, and Germany, and also concurrently the President of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, her country's national art academy.

Professor Illouz proposed in a long essay published in the newspaper Haaretz on February 7, 2014 that the 19th-century anti-slavery debate in the United States provides a useful analogue to help us understand the present-day debate over the morality of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, which (as other scholars have also observed) has divided Jews both in Israel and internationally. In that essay, to which she gave the resonant title “47 years a slave,” Professor Illouz argues that Palestinians under Israeli occupation are living in what amounts to “conditions of slavery.”

Note, please, that Illouz's essay, together with the work of other distinguished Jewish public intellectuals, including Judith Butler, Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim, Jacqueline Rose, Norman Finkelstein, Naomi Klein, Shulamit Aloni, and Yakov Rabkin, refutes any claim that profound and systematic critiques of Israeli policies and structures of governance can be dismissed as antisemitic.

You accept at face value the statements of some members of your academic community that they feel “threatened” by the outcome of the student referendum, and you appear to regard this as a reason to invalidate it. I would propose that except in cases where the people in question have been subjected to clear deviations from proper standards of civility and humaneness (which would include racist language of any kind), such claims to victim status should be rejected—gently, but firmly—as attempts to infantilize universities, which are or should be places for adult discourse.

It is easy to understand how shocked and saddened a student can be who has grown up thinking of Israel as a great good place, and then discovers that there may be compelling reasons to think otherwise. But the intellectual and moral growth of university students often includes moments of painful cognitive dissonance and dislocation. One should treat such students sympathetically, while at the same time remembering that however arduous it may be for them to deal with competing ethical commitments—which may include well-substantiated claims that some of their prior commitments cannot measure up to generally accepted standards of justice and decency—these students are not in any sense victims of those who invite them to consider unfamiliar evidence and arguments; they are maturing adults.

The real victims are the Palestinians subjected by the state of Israel—with the Canadian state's full complicity—to what Eva Illouz calls “conditions of slavery.” These are the people to whom the BDS movement brings support and solidarity, and whose oppression it seeks by peaceful means to end.

I invite you to move beyond an uncritical acceptance of the slanders of opponents of the BDS movement, to read the statements of its Palestinian proponents, and to learn why it has gathered the support of so many leading Jewish scholars and public intellectuals. You will also learn to respect the courage, integrity, and decency of the supporters of this movement within your own academic community.

Yours sincerely and respectfully,

Michael Keefer
Professor Emeritus, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph


Letter to the New Democratic Party on Israel's Attack on Gaza

This letter, sent on 17 July 2014, was widely circulated at the time, but has not previously been published.

The Hon. Thomas Mulcair, 
Leader of the Opposition,
Leader of the New Democratic Party,

Paul Dewar, MP, 
Foreign Affairs Critic,
New Democratic Party,


Dear Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Dewar,

I am writing to express my dismay over the utter inadequacy of the New Democratic Party's July 14 statement on the subject of Israel's ongoing attack on Gaza.

This statement gives a grotesquely false impression of the responsibility for the present violence. You cannot be unaware that in recent months the Israeli government rejected even the feeble and disingenuous peace proposals advanced by the US Secretary of State; that Mr. Netanyahu responded with aggressive provocations to the ensuing announcement of Palestinian unity; and that he withheld the fact that the three kidnapped Israeli youths had been almost immediately killed both from the public and from their families—and did so in order to be able to carry out, under false pretences, a savage program of repression under the guise of a supposed search for the youths. You must also be aware that the appalling murder of these three young Israelis was both preceded and followed by no less appalling murders of Palestinian youths and children, carried out both by settlers and by the Israeli military.

The launching of home-made Hamas rockets from Gaza into Israel should indeed be condemned, as should any attack on civilians. But the launching of those rockets was preceded—as you know or ought to know—by Israeli attacks on Gaza carried out under the pretext (for which no evidence has been provided by the Israeli government) that the Hamas authorities in Gaza were responsible for the murders of the three settler youths in the West Bank.

Your statement provides no whisper of historical context, and no indication that the present massacre—in which the death toll currently stands at more than 200 Palestinians to one Israeli—stems from Israel's illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank; its ongoing illegal programs of settlement, colonization, theft of land and resources; and its brutal treatment of the population held under occupation—in conditions that Professor Eva Illouz of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who is one of Israel's most distinguished sociologists, has forcefully argued amount to conditions of slavery. Would it not have been relevant to mention, at the very least, that since 2006 Israel, with the Harper government's full-throated support, has subjected the population of Gaza to a barbarous and illegal blockade?

Your statement does not so much as hint at the illegality under international law of Israel's airstrikes against the population of Gaza. (On this subject, please read the report of Human Rights Watch, Israel/Palestine: Unlawful Israeli Airstrikes Kill Civilians [July 15, 2014], which makes it clear that war crimes are being committed.) Nor do you seem aware that, as on other occasions (most notably the 'Cast Lead' assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009), the Israeli military has deliberately targeted Gaza's already desperately inadequate water supply and sewage treatment facilities.

Since one foreseeable consequence of this targeting is going to be an increased mortality among pregnant women, infants and young children in Gaza, it is arguably genocidal in its implications. I refer you to Article 2 of the UN Convention on Genocide, in which the imposition of measures “calculated to bring about [a group's] physical destruction in whole or in part,” or “intended to prevent births within the group,” constitutes a part of the definition of the crime of genocide.

I am forcibly struck by the contrast between the reactions of Canadian and of British parliamentarians to this crisis. It is noteworthy that in Westminster, members not just of the opposition Labour Party, but also of the governing Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, have risen in the House of Commons to denounce the illegality and barbarism of Israel's policies, and in some cases to demand sanctions against the state of Israel. (See “Israel accused of war crimes [UK Parliament],” YouTube,

Is the New Democratic Party no longer willing to take a stand on issues of fundamental human rights, justice, and international law? Has the Opposition in our parliament been so intimidated by the sleaze machine operated by Mr. Harper's government and its media allies that it is afraid to speak out on matters that have touched the conscience of decent people worldwide?

Yours sincerely and respectfully,

Michael Keefer
Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph

Talking About War

This review was first published in University of Toronto Quarterly 83.2 (Spring 2014).


Review of Noah Richler, What We Talk About When We Talk About War (Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions 2012)


Nations, Benedict Anderson wrote, are “imagined communities”; their social imaginaries persuade people separated by class, dialect, ethnicity, occupation, and gender that they have common characteristics, and are moving with shared purpose from a largely agreed-on past into a future about which there is a similar degree of common feeling.

But the myths that induce us to participate in the rituals of citizenship, even to the point of self-sacrifice, are repeatedly contested and re-shaped. From this perspective, Canadian history offers a rich variety of national re-imaginings. Are we two nations warring in the bosom of a single state (slumping, in moments of respite, into Hugh Maclennan's two solitudes)? A transcontinental nation shaped by the geography of the St. Laurence and the political-technological will memorialized in E. J. Pratt's Towards the Last Spike? Or a people who have grown beyond the garrison-culture coloniality diagnosed by Northrop Frye, moving, as A. R. M. Lower asserted, “from colony to nation”—or perhaps, as Harold Innis sardonically proposed, following a parabolic trajectory “from colony to nation to colony”?

Are we, in different terms, a nation devoted, in opposition to the utopian republicanism of the United States, to a vision of “peace, order and good government” expressed in Tommy Douglas's social programs, Pierre Trudeau's slogan of a Just Society, and the ideology of multiculturalism? Or are we a nation forged in war—in the resistance to American invasion in the War of 1812, and, a century later, in the victories won by the Canadian Corps at Vimy and Amiens? English Canadian history has recently been reconfigured by right-wing scholars and ideologues, who in mustering support for military interventions in Afghanistan and elsewhere re-define Canada as a warrior nation, contemptuous of past investments in peacekeeping missions, multilateralism, and “soft power.”

Noah Richler intervenes vigorously against “the fantasy of a political lobby that, unchecked over the course of the last decade, has seen the country's ability to fight wars as the truest indicator of its maturity.” As he lucidly recognizes, this re-imagining of our collective narrative is linked to Canada's abandonment of multilateralism in foreign affairs and our lock-step alignment with the policies of the United States and Israel, as well as to the wider orientation of a government that “reflexively relies on enmities and the cultivation of disputes resolved through the vilification of dissenters, the circumvention of Parliament and an imposition of solutions rather than any reconciliation achieved through 'discussion, negotiation and compromise'.”

Commenting astutely on the Manichaean self-deceptions involved in an “epic” reinterpretation of Canadian history, Richler highlights the sentimental brutality of a discourse that, through the writings of journalists like Rosie DiManno and Christie Blatchford, “trivially sexualize[s]” the soldiers in Afghanistan, forgetting those whose traumatic disfigurements remove them from the categories of the heroically eroticized and the safely memorialized. Richler also exposes the serial dishonesty of ideologues whose early praise of aggression against “scumbags” and disparagement of humanitarian politics modulated into an apologetics based on defending those same humanitarian values against Taliban monsters, then into a redefinition of the war as a “mission,” whose effective failure could be blamed on the Karzai regime (belatedly recognized as including scumbags as well), and finally into a willingness to contemplate negotiations (for which former NDP leader Jack Layton had been excoriated as “Taliban Jack”).

Richler underlines the central irony that “Despite the argument that a stronger military allows Canada to 'lead,' the country follows” in the steps of “more powerful allies,” and “having abandoned Pearsonian ambitions” has no notion of how to “wield its own, perfectly credible and effective version of power.” As the title borrowed from a famous Raymond Carver story makes clear, Richler wants “to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we're talking about when we talk about [war].”

At times the same stricture applies to himself: Richler is unaware of Canada's role in the overthrow of democracy in Haiti; his treatment of diplomat Richard Colvin's revelations of high complicity in the torture of Afghan prisoners of war is inadequate; and his description of Iranian president Ahmadinejad as “one of [the] great allies” of Al Qaeda might have been copied from the war-hawks he criticizes. But despite such lapses, this important book deserves a wide readership.


Professor Emeritus, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph


Law and Order, Mr Harper? First, Let's Put an End to Tory Election Fraud

First published in the Two Row Times (16 April 2014), The notes in the present version did not appear in that text.

The Harper Government—as our Prime Minister modestly likes it to be called—has been showing its teeth during the past several years.

In 2011, though crime rates in Canada had been steadily declining, we were presented with an omnibus crime bill, numbered C-10. Responding to a nonexistent crime wave, this bill set about turning Canada into a prison state on the model of the US, with measures including mandatory minimum sentences that legal experts guaranteed would victimize the vulnerable, overwhelm the courts and legal aid systems, fill to overflowing even the big new jails the government proposed to build, and increase the already scandalous proportion of First Nations people behind bars.

Now we have another Bill C-10, the “Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act,” which targets First Nations directly, offering a toxic recipe of kick-down-the-door-policing, incarceration, economic stagnation, and welfare dependence. Both law-and-order bills have been accompanied by government fear-mongering—including, in the present case, a billboard campaign in major cities that blames gun violence on the illicit tobacco trade. (This happens to be untrue, as a recent monograph by Professor Jean Daudelin of Carleton University makes clear.)1

In between the two Bill C-10s we've had Bill C-45, an omnibus bill that attacked the land and resource base of First Nations, enabling the surrender of reserve lands without majority support, stripping environmental protections from Canada's lakes and rivers, and also, as environmental lawyer Jessica Clogg observes, defying the Supreme Court's requirement that governments should engage honourably with First Nations over land and resource decisions.2

Rammed through the House of Commons, with spin-doctoring and false advertising substituted for the normal democratic procedure of careful study by committees and full parliamentary debate, bills like these have been made possible by one simple thing: the fact that in the election of May 2, 2011 Stephen Harper and his party won majority-government status.

But here's another simple fact that Canadians have to confront: the Harper Conservatives appear to have won that parliamentary majority by fraud.

* * *

Whenever he's asked a question in the House of Commons on the subject of the so-called robocalls scandal of the 2011 election, Harper repeats the same mantra: We know that one or two bad eggs sent out illegal phone calls in Guelph; we're keen to see them punished; and any suggestion that the Conservative Party was to blame is a vicious smear.

Mr Harper is not telling the truth.

There were in fact two campaigns of fraudulent phone calls in the 2011 election—both of them set in motion and coordinated, not by some rogue operative scarcely out of short pants, but by an organization with national reach. That organization was the Conservative Party.

The first set of fraudulent calls, which pretended to come from Liberal Party offices, harassed Liberal supporters across Canada during the last two weeks of the campaign: they woke people in the middle of the night, and pestered Christians on Easter morning and Jews on the Sabbath. They were often rude, and sometimes racist—and there's little doubt that they contributed to the decline in Liberal support.

The second set of fraudulent calls began at the end of the campaign, first with live-operator calls, and then with a surge of robocalls on May 1 and on election day, May 2. These calls gave opposition-party supporters false information about the location of their polling stations, with the aim of suppressing opposition-party turnout; and the robocalls claimed to be from Elections Canada.

On April 29, 2011, when complaints about these vote-suppression calls began pouring in to its offices, Elections Canada knew that the Conservative Party was responsible, because the live-operator calls included call-back numbers which led directly to Conservative Party offices.

The fraudulent robocalls came from the same source. Early in 2012, a CBC investigation and an Ekos Research poll found a pattern in which people who had identified themselves to Conservative voter-identification callers as non-supporters subsequently received vote-suppression calls. Because all information from voter-ID calls goes straight into the Conservative Party's central database, known as the Constituent Information Management System (CIMS), this was an indication that the fraudsters had used CIMS nationwide.

In the riding of Guelph—the only one in which there has been anything approaching a full investigation—the Conservative Party's central office has acknowledged to Elections Canada that the CIMS list of non-Conservatives in Guelph was used by Edmonton voice-broadcaster RackNine in sending out the infamous 'Pierre Poutine' robocalls on the morning of election day. Elections Canada has evidence that a team of five Guelph Conservatives had repeated surreptitious access both to CIMS and to RackNine, and that one of them shared an IP address with 'Pierre Poutine', and Elections Canada has a recording of a harassment call that the operatives sent to RackNine at the end of the campaign but decided not to use.

* * *

What about the scale and impact of the fraud?

During our last federal election, Harper's Conservatives tried to cheat supporters of opposition parties out of their right to vote with fraudulent phone calls—more than a million of them—that were received by voters in 261 ridings across Canada. There's strong evidence that this fraud tipped the balance in enough close races to give Harper his parliamentary majority.

That raises urgent questions. What right does a ruling party that broke the law on this scale have to ram its extremist legislation through parliament? What right do these fraudsters have to lecture Canadians and First Nations people about law and order?




1  See Jean Daudelin, with Stephanie Soiffer and Jeff Willows, Border Integrity, Illicit Tobacco, and Canada's Security (Ottawa: Macdonald-Laurier Institute, 2013), Daudelin says that present policies, which amount to “focussed deterrence,” with severe punishment of “mixed smuggling” (involving drugs, guns, or people, along with tobacco), provide “the most plausible explanation for the remarkable absence of 'mixed smuggling' in CBSA and RCMP seizures” (p. 27). See also Wayne K. Spear, “First Nations Need Tobacco More Than Harper's Law and Order,” Huffington Post (20 February 2014),

2  An interview with Jessica Clogg is posted at West Coast Environmental Law (4 March 2013),   

22 Questions About Electoral Fraud in Canada's 2011 Election

This text was composed in response to written questions sent to me by Howard Breen of Smart Change, an NGO whose project of informing Canadian voters about issues of current concern I had offered to support. This text has not previously been published.

1.  Is it fair to say the Robocall Scandal represents the worst transgression of our electoral institution? (One could argue that there have been worse threats to our democracy i.e. the War Measures Act in October 1970.)

    There was undoubtedly a lot of piecemeal corruption (and indeed, outright violence) in Canadian elections during the 19th century. But I believe that Canadian elections were largely free from fraud during the latter half of the twentieth century. Under Stephen Harper's leadership, the Conservative Party has descended to what I believe are unprecedented levels of impropriety and systematic law-breaking.

    In 2006, Stephen Harper came to power through the RCMP's mid-campaign intervention with subsequently dismissed accusations of corruption against Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, and through the “in-and-out” campaign finance scandal, which gave the Conservatives some $1.3 million of illegal advertising money. The 2011 electoral fraud that we refer to as the Robocall Scandal was the largest-scale and most systematic instance of electoral fraud in Canadian history—and since it very probably gave the Conservatives their parliamentary majority, it has had a substantial institutional impact: they are now able to implement measures that were beyond their power to push through Parliament when they formed a minority government.

    The 1970 use of the War Measures Act was not damaging to democracy in the same way: it was indeed invoked and then given approval by a panicked Parliament on the basis of false and misleading information, but it did receive the support of an overwhelming majority of MPs, and apart from flipping a Montréal municipal election (I believe Jean Drapeau's chief opponents were all in jail) and indirectly inspiring the Québec electorate to vote in René Lévèque's PQ government in 1976, it didn't alter Canadian structures of governance. 


    2.  Are there any obvious Robocall Scandal ties between electoral corruption and inequality and/or poverty (other than the obvious current Fair Elections Act maneuvering to eliminate ‘vouching’ etc.)?

    Since the 1980s in the U.S., and during the past decade in Canada, electoral fraud has to an overwhelming degree been practised by right-wing parties (the Republicans in the U.S., and the Conservatives here). These parties have quite consistently pursued policies that are more damaging to the poor and more productive of inequality and increased poverty than the policies advocated by their opponents.

    To the extent that electoral fraud has empowered the Conservatives, bringing them into office in 2006 and giving them majority-government status in 2011, it has very obviously enabled them to enact policies that have harmed poor and First Nations people. 


    3.  Where does the Robocall Scandal rank in terms of any international corruption indexes monitoring election fraud (2008-2014)?

    I'm not inclined to put much reliance on such indexes, though I don't claim to have studied them closely. I have noted, however, that rates Colombia as being very much less corrupt than Venezuela—a conclusion that is blatantly incorrect and that must result from political bias. (Trade unionists, journalists, and opposition politicians are routinely murdered in Colombia, while Venezuelan elections have repeatedly been pronounced clean by organizations like the Carter Foundation.) also gives a comparatively high score to the United States, a judgment that I know to be false. (I have studied the last four U.S. presidential elections quite closely, and I published several articles on the subject of Republican election fraud in the 2004 election.) A comparison with U.S. practices can tell us something about where we now stand.

    U.S. elections are more corrupt than even our 2011 election by a very substantial margin. The electoral system is a two-party duopoly which places serious legal and institutional barriers in front of third-party candidates for office. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's “Citizens United” decision, candidates who have the support of major corporate interests have the overwhelming advantage of unlimited campaign funding. And thanks to the denial of voting rights to prisoners throughout the U.S. and to former felons in many states, as well as to Republican obstruction of voter registration, deliberately dishonest and racially biased purging of voters' lists by Republican state governments, strict identity-document requirements, and polling station challenges (often based on illegal “caging” practices), a substantial proportion of the U.S. electorate which would vote for Democratic Party candidates is regularly disenfranchised. Telephone-fraud vote-suppression tactics of the kind used by the Harper Conservatives were developed by Republican operatives, and continue to be used by them.

    In addition to this widespread disenfranchisement, corrupt vote-counting practices—including the non-counting of “provisional ballots,” the non-counting of “over-” or “under-votes” produced by punch-card voting machines, the use of touch-screen voting machines to flip or discard votes, and massive fraud committed through manipulation of electronic vote-tabulation machines—have given the Republican Party a further advantage of 5 percent or more in each of the last three presidential elections. Corrupt vote-counting turned a 3-percent Kerry victory over Bush in 2004 into a 3-percent Bush victory over Kerry; and turned Obama's complete rout of McCain in 2008 into a decisive but not completely overwhelming victory.

    By these (appalling) standards, our 2011 election was only moderately dirty. On the basis of the far-from-adequate available evidence, I would suggest that the Conservatives' telephone fraud (which aimed at disaffiliating and suppressing opposition-party votes) probably increased the Conservatives' vote share by one-half to three-quarters of one percent nation-wide. This may not seem like much—but of course the fraudulent calls were very unequally distributed: they appear to have been concentrated in many cases on swing ridings, and they arguably produced narrow Conservative victories in enough such ridings to make the difference between minority-government status and a parliamentary majority. And as in the U.S., it is a very serious matter when a major political party engages in systematic and nation-wide electoral fraud.

    The intention of Bill C-23, the “Fair Elections Act,” is very obviously to move our system towards the kind of corruption that is endemic in the U.S.—by weakening current limitations on campaign spending, by disproportionately disenfranchising poor and First Nations voters, by putting the local administration of elections into the hands of people appointed by the sitting MP, by disempowering still further the Chief Electoral Officer, and by making decisions over the prosecution of electoral fraud subject to the (partisan) authority of the Attorney General. 


    4.  Did the Council of Canadians court case reveal any quotable measurement of the impact and scope of Robocall corruption victimization which the judge in fact validated?

    No, it didn't. Federal Court Judge Richard G. Mosley chided the Conservative MPs for waging “trench warfare” designed to prevent the case from being judged on its merits, and found both that widespread electoral fraud had occurred and that the most likely source of the misleading calls placed across the country was the Conservative Party's CIMS database (accessed by persons unknown).

    However, Mosley had no adequate notion of the scale of the fraud (he believed that the “vote suppression effort was geographically widespread but, apart from Guelph, thinly scattered”), and he made what I believe are several significant errors in interpreting the evidence.

    (1) Judge Mosley dismissed the testimony of the whistleblowing call-centre employee Annette Desgagné, preferring to accept that of a Responsive Marketing Group executive, even though Mosley's own summary reveals a major contradiction in the RMG executive's evidence.

    (2) He made an important category error in deciding that the evidence provided by the polling company Ekos Research differed in kind from other sorts of expert evidence and therefore could not be given determinative weight in his decision.

    (3) He decided not to use the calculating method that had been applied by the Supreme Court in deciding the Opitz case in favour of the Conservative who had defeated a Liberal incumbent by 18 votes. My analysis shows that had Mosley applied the Supreme Court's calculus to the six seats in question, he would have had to conclude that without fraud two of them would have been won by the Liberal Party, two by the NDP, and two by the Conservatives. 


    5.  With respect to the culture of robocall corruption that has now emerged in the 2008/2011 elections, can any activities be traced to public/private financing, MPs or their campaign teams (worthy of indictment after the Sona trial), or to third party middlemen acting as robocall operatives (possibly with some taint of bribes, patronage or gift-giving), or to the PMO?

    I suspect that Conservative operatives in a number of ridings may have had a nodal function in the organization both of the mid-campaign harassment calls (which early reports indicated were directed against Liberal supporters in 22 ridings, most of them in Ontario)1 and also of the end-of-campaign vote-suppression calls (which occurred nation-wide from April 29 to May 2, election day). Julian Fantino should certainly be investigated: in June 2011 three members of his own riding association denounced the fact that his riding organization had an illegal slush fund containing $300,000 to $400,000 dollars.

    It seems to me obvious that the fraud must have been organized out of the Conservative Party's headquarters, and I can think of a number of people who should be persons of interest in any serious investigation. It is a sad fact that much of the crucial evidence that could have led to the conviction of such people—I'm thinking of telephone-company records in particular—has almost certainly been irretrievably lost.

    But for two reasons—Stephen Harper's known habits as a micro-manager, and the principle of “The Buck Stops Here”—I believe that the person who should most distinctly be held responsible is the Prime Minister. 


    6.  Is Harper using Bill C-23, the new “Fair Elections Act,” to further subvert our democracy (through vote suppression), or to change channels and cover up the Robocall scandal? Or is it a stretch (& something that shouldn’t be done formally) to directly tie the Robocall Scandal to the vote suppression embedded in Bill C-23?

    Bill C-23 is transparently designed to do two things: to further corrupt our electoral process to the advantage of the Conservative Party, and to ensure that any future investigation of electoral fraud cannot take place. A government that was not deeply and unrepentantly stained by electoral fraud could never have formulated such an act. I would suggest re-naming it the Tory Electoral Fraud Enablement Act. 


    7.  What is your assessment of the Canadian mainstream media in covering the Robocall scandal? Who were the worst offenders at spouting yet more CPC propaganda, or minimizing the wrongdoing? Who provided the best coverage?

    On the whole, the mainstream coverage of the scandal has been shockingly poor. The Globe and Mail's coverage has been particularly feeble and misleading (especially given its pretensions to be English Canada's national newspaper); the Toronto Star, our largest-circulation daily, has not been a whole lot better. The CBC has given the issue extensive coverage, including some significant investigative reporting. Surprisingly, perhaps, the best coverage has come from the Postmedia group (including the National Post and the Ottawa Citizen). A very large proportion of the best reporting on the scandal has come from Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher of the Ottawa Citizen. Although much of the National Post's political coverage in other areas is biased, and much of the paper's political commentary is fatuous, I have (with some degree of unwillingness) become a regular reader.


    8.  Ignoring Bill C-23, what should have been the new Elections Canada policy choices, electoral rules, and investigation directions which should have addressed/emerged from the scandal?

    In May 2013 Marc Mayrand, Canada's Chief Electoral Officer, published a 44-page report, Preventing Deceptive Communications with Electors: Recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the 41st General Election (Ottawa: Elections Canada, 26 March 2013),, which offered a detailed outline and justification of the necessary changes to the Canada Elections Act. The Conservatives refused any consultation with Mayrand, and ignored his recommendations. They likewise ignored a private member's bill tabled in October 2012 by Craig Scott, the NDP's critic for parliamentary and democratic reform.

    The basic changes that are needed are quite simple. Elections Canada must have full investigative powers and adequate investigative resources. There must be substantially increased penalties for electoral fraud. Elections Canada and the Commissioner for Canada Elections must continue to report to Parliament as a whole, and must remain independent of any control or influence by government ministers. Strict constraints must be placed on the databases built up by the political parties. Measures need to be taken to increase voter turnout, not to suppress the vote (through, for example, photo-ID requirements or a rejection of “vouching”).


    9.  Are any constitutional structural constraints on electoral corruption now eliminated or minimized by Harper’s latest efforts?

    Yes. Bill C-23 is designed to ensure that there can be no future repetition of what happened in late February 2012, when news reports by Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher based on court documents filed by Elections Canada investigators revived public and parliamentary awareness of the election fraud scandal.

    Not merely will Bill C-23 make it unlikely that the public could learn about any ongoing investigation; by putting the Commissioner of Canada Elections under the power of the Attorney General, it will ensure that no investigations can even be launched without the approval of the government in power.


    10.  Given Elections Canada's inability to educate voters under Bill-23, what NGO, public, or governmental actions or changes are needed by 2015 to ensure more ‘informed voters versus uninformed voters’ re: election fraud?

    People need to know, first, that the governing party of this country engaged in very large-scale and nation-wide electoral fraud during the last federal election—and that the Conservatives very probably owe their majority in parliament to this fraud. Whatever their political beliefs, most Canadians value decency and honesty; when they realize that there has been systematic cheating, they may well be motivated to learn more about a range of issues, and to withdraw support from the party that cheated.

    People who have had no previous experience of telephone-fraud vote-suppression (in the form, for example, of calls impersonating Elections Canada which gave false information about supposed changes in polling-station locations) are vulnerable to being deceived by it. We can draw some comfort from evidence that suggests that people who know about this kind of fraud, or who have actually experienced it, are much less likely to be fooled. Telephone fraud brings diminishing returns.

    It's not hard to predict that people who have engaged in electoral fraud in the past will attempt new forms of it in the future. Citizens need to be informed that high-tech voting systems—touch-screen voting machines, electronic ballot counters, electronic vote-tabulators, and on-line voting systems—are highly vulnerable to systematic and large-scale electoral fraud. (In a U.S.-style system, where federal elections are conducted in every county and state by partisan officials rather than by a neutral and arms-length Electoral Commission like Elections Canada, fraud of this kind is inevitable when the technology provides an opening for it.) Citizens need to know that the system that is least vulnerable to fraud is one in which paper ballots are counted and tabulated by hand by well-trained officials, and remain available for possible recounts when the results are close or are disputed. (As computer security experts know well, meaningful recounts are impossible with electronic voting machines or with on-line voting.)

    Citizens need to be aware as well that the vote-suppression measures proposed in Bill C-23 are aimed particularly at reducing the turnout of opposition-party supporters. The Conservatives will gain a larger (if less focused) advantage from these measures than they did from their telephone fraud in 2011.


    11.  What role, if any, do special interests and elite cartels (e.g. Big Oil, Gas and Coal etc.) play in tempting or incentivizing Harper people to embark on illegal election practices?

    I have no hard facts to work with on this subject, so can only speculate. Opinion polls regularly show that Canadians are deeply concerned about what they understand of environmental issues—and, in particular, about the accumulating evidence that indicates we are in the midst of processes of probably cataclysmic climate change.

    But the Harper Conservatives are committed to unconstrained development of hydrocarbon resources—tar sands, shale gas, and pipeline systems. Political parties committed to unpopular policies are as a matter of course tempted to engage in corrupt practices as a means of frustrating the will of the majority.


    12.  Many third world countries with petroleum assets are afflicted by petro-corruption. Can we expect much more of the same here given the current Canadian fossil fuel boom?

    Yes. Climate scientists indicated several years ago (using figures that accelerating climate change processes have now made out-of-date) that the largest global temperature increase that could be permitted without risking global catastrophe is one or two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. It has been estimated that burning about one-fifth of existing proven reserves of oil, gas, and coal will raise global temperatures up to that two-degree-increase level. There is very good reason to think that burning more than this amount of hydrocarbons will take us past tipping-points (e.g. with a loss of most of the polar ice-caps and massive releases of methane clathrate deposits in the arctic tundra and arctic ocean) that will produce runaway global warming, runaway mass extinctions, and the end of human civilization. This means of course that increased tar sands exploitation amounts, together with shale-gas exploration , amount to a form of eco-suicide.

    Oil and gas company executives and the politicians who serve them—and who are engaged in facilitating expanded tar-sands and shale gas production, along with the environmental devastation they produce—are not interested in evidence of this kind. They can be expected to do what they feel necessary in order to preserve and increase corporate profits.


    13.  Do you think Big Blue Conservative ‘machine politics’ played a significant role in this illegal choice or a few highly-placed individuals?

    I assume the question here is about the choice to carry out systematic electoral fraud in our 2011 election. “Highly-placed individuals” make the decisions in machine politics. In party organizations, as in military hierarchies, information about centrally-planned operations is made available to party operatives on a “need-to-know” basis.


    14.  How significant a role is Harper’s personal overly-paternalistic view of our democracy playing in the ongoing corruption?

    Harper's contempt for democracy and for parliamentary procedures is legendary, and he is a micro-manager. I regard him as directly responsible for the 2011 electoral fraud scandal.


    15.  How much will any provisions of Bill C-23 (or other new CRTC regulation?) practically deter further robocall corruption?

    Bill C-23 is designed to enable and facilitate electoral fraud. (One can anticipate that the Conservatives will take action in the near future to corrupt the regulation-enforcement practices of the CRTC. They have been quite heavily fined by the CRTC for robocall violations of CRTC regulations carried out since the 2011 election. The Harper Conservatives do not forget or forgive insults of this kind.)


    16.  In your view, are there any swing ridings with incumbent Conservatives who should be closely monitored or ranked as the most likely (of any) to consider fraudulent practices in 2015?

    All ridings won by any party with a lead of less than about 3,000 votes should be closely monitored.


    17.  Will ‘third party [illegal] robocalling’ likely become a greater concern in 2015 due to competitive factional conflict and political malfeasance?

    The Harper Conservatives have in the past (e.g. in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding in 2008) gotten away with flagrant violations of the spending limits governing 'third-party' advertising in federal elections. They may well try to do so again.

    High levels of voter turnout tend strongly to favour parties of the left and centre. Vote suppression will no doubt continue to be of interest to Conservative Party strategists. Negative, dirty campaigns are known to produce lower overall turnout, and political tacticians always hope that if enough of the mud they sling through attack ads sticks, the reduced-turnout effect will be greater among supporters of opposition parties. Attack ads (whether paid for by political parties or by supposed 'third-party' agencies) are legal, even when they are seriously misleading in content—but one can assume that a party which has developed a culture of cheating will also make use of whatever illegal means its decision-makers think they can get away with.

    I can't predict whether other political parties will also decide to make use of telephone fraud. Except in one minor and isolated instance involving a single robocalled message in the riding of Guelph during the 2011 election, the Liberals have not used illegal robocalls. The NDP stupidly used improper robocalls against one of their Québec MPs who defected to the Liberals after the 2011 election (they were duly fined for this transgression by the CRTC). I am not aware of any evidence suggesting improper use of robocalls by the Green Party or the Bloc Québécois.


    18.  Crony capitalism is alive and well under Harper. What undemocratic transgressions may come from Bill C-23 contribution cap removals for fundraising etc.? 

    I think I've answered this in responding to questions 9, 10, and 15 above.


    19.  Does Bill C-23 and the new separation of powers for Elections Canada have any as yet undiscussed implications for political electoral accountability in 2015?

    The Advisory Committee of Political Parties provided for in section 21.1 is clearly designed to hamstring the Chief Electoral Officer (any “guidelines” or “interpretation notes” s/he issues are automatically delayed by that committee for at least a month [section 16.2]).

    I have not yet had time to do an adequate comparative study of the previous text of the Canada Elections Act and the revisions proposed in Bill C-23. However, I believe that the changes have the effect of increasing the input of the incumbent party into the process of selecting the people who administer the election in each riding.


    20.  Does ‘robocalling’ have any use in CPC ‘political advertising’ (and GOTV campaigning) which they may employ in 2015 that we should be monitoring?

    It will be heavily used in both functions, as it was in 2011. It is important for opposition political parties to monitor this kind of stuff, and to be in a position to counter the falsehoods and smears that will no doubt figure in Conservative Party advertising robocalls.

    Given that other kinds of fraud (beyond vote-suppression phone calls) are likely to figure in future elections, it may be necessary to start thinking about monitoring existing media-conducted exit polls—and organizing citizen-conducted exit polls as well.

    In the 2004 US presidential election, I monitored exit-poll results of three kinds: the national exit poll, and the state exit polls in the key swing states of Florida and Ohio—and found conclusive evidence that the results were fraudulently altered during the night following the election. Parallel monitoring of all of the state exit polls was done by only two researchers in all of the U.S., Jonathan Simon and Steven Freeman. (That evidence turned out to be quite important in assessing the scale of the fraud in the official vote-tally—though one would never know that from the reporting of the mainstream US media.)


    21.  Does Bill C-23 have any new bearing on expenditure auditing for auto-dialing campaigns?

    I need to do further study here. I believe that Bill C-23 will facilitate certain kinds of unregulated campaign expenses.


    22.  If there is any robocalling in 2015, any breaches will regrettably have the new Commissioner report to government, not parliament. What changes might we demand in the hopes of amending the bill before passage?

    The Commissioner of Canada Elections, and the power to recommend prosecutions of violations of the Canada Elections Act, must remain within Elections Canada. Transferring this power into the hands of a member of the government (the Attorney General/Minister of Justice) is completely unacceptable.




    1  Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté's Summary Investigation Report on Robocalls, published on April 24, 2014, revealed that 51 percent of the 2,448 documented complaints about which Elections Canada preserved records were complaints about harassment calls. Given that the recorded complaints came from 261 ridings across Canada, it is clear that harassment calls, even if they were concentrated in certain ridings, must have occurred in a large majority of the ridings from which complaints were recorded.    

    A Double Bouquet for Catherine Chatterley

    The first short piece reproduced here appeared in the Winnipeg Jewish Review (23 November 2010), The two footnotes in the present version have been added to the text. The first of these provides information about the Ottawa conference, hosted by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA), at which the article by Catherine Chatterley to which I objected was first presented, and about my participation in the press conference held at the same time on Parliament Hill by Independent Jewish Voices to protest against that conference.

    In August 2010, my book Antisemitism Real and Imagined, which assembled an array of texts by human rights activists and human rights organizations as well as my own contributions, had been praised by Gerald Caplan in the Globe and Mail as “important,” “timely,” and “indispensable.” It is perhaps not surprising that Chatterley's article attempted to smear me as exemplifying what she called “Antisemitism Denial” (a concept that chimes obliquely with “Holocaust Denial”).

    Together with my response, the WJR printed a rejoinder by Chatterley that contained another much nastier oblique smear. But the WJR's response to a letter from Professor Joanne Naiman reproaching Chatterley for the tone and content of her second text—it printed two absurd letters from hardcore Zionists in Canada and Israel, together with a shrill editorial—dissuaded me from wasting any further time in attempting to reason with such people.

    In August 2014, however, the exposure by the American website Common Dreams of hasbara smear tactics reminiscent of Chatterley's behaviour prompted me to write a sequel analyzing her reply to me. This text, the second one provided here, has not previously been published.


    1. Right of Reply: A Response to Catherine Chatterley (2010)

    I applaud Dr. Catherine Chatterley’s statement (in her November 15, 2010 article on “Campus Antisemitism”) that debates over subjects like antisemitism, Israel, and Palestine “must be self-reflexive, reasoned, and accurate,” and that we need to avoid ad hominem attacks, so as to “encourage intelligent discussion and debate that employs meaningful, ethical, and accurate language”—the italics are Dr. Chatterley’s—“to describe what are truly difficult, complex, and contested histories.”1

    But Dr. Chatterley abandons her own standards of ethics and accuracy when she refers to me as exemplifying what she calls “Antisemitism Denial.” It is not unduly sensitive to hear in these words a deliberate echo of “Holocaust Denial”—and therefore a vicious ad hominem attack. Dr. Chatterley’s claim that I have “gone on the assault against antisemitism as a contemporary problem, arguing that there is no such thing and comparing this so-called phantom to the ‘real’ antisemitism of the past,” goes beyond mere inaccuracy: it is a flagrant falsehood.

    In addition to my work in other fields, I am the editor and part-author of Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (Waterloo: The Canadian Charger, 2010). This book includes texts by eleven Canadian scholars and human rights activists (a majority of whom, as it happens, are Jewish), and by the leaders of seven human rights organizations. Far from minimizing the reality of contemporary antisemitism, these texts recurrently express concern that uncritical support for the state of Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights could feed a renewal of antisemitic prejudice and hatred in this country.

    My own contributions, which make up just over half of the book, include an extended analysis of the statistical evidence relating to antisemitic incidents and hate crimes. My study of UK government figures, Statistics Canada data, the annual incident-report tallies published by the Community Security Trust (CST) in Britain, and B’nai Brith Canada’s annual audits of antisemitic incidents, led me to conclude that the CPCCA’s claims of an alarming resurgence of antisemitism in Canada are untrue, and B’nai Brith’s figures seriously inflated.2 But after noting that police statistics show a declining trend in hate crimes, I wrote that “I am not suggesting that we should find anything very reassuring about the data analyzed in this chapter: Jews are indeed being disproportionately targeted by hatemongers.”3

    Readers of my contributions to the book will find many further examples of a lively concern over real present-day antisemitism—together with a strong critique of the deceptions practiced by those who imagine that they can get away with smearing advocates of international human rights law by labelling their criticisms of Israeli policies as instances of a “new antisemitism.”

    As for Dr. Chatterley: If she genuinely wishes to earn a reputation for responsible, accurate, and ethical scholarship, she will have to begin by making some effort to live up to her own ideals.

    Michael Keefer
    Professor, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph


    2. Dr. Chatterley's Scurrilous Sequel: A Further Response, August 2014

    A reply by Catherine Chatterley which appeared in the same November 23, 2010 issue of the Winnipeg Jewish Review made it clear that the scurrilous overtones of her first reference to me were not accidental—and that her commitment to the ethics of scholarly discussion is, as one might already have suspected, a pious fraud.

    Dr. Chatterley began by quoting, to no obvious effect, from comments I had made about my book Antisemitism Real and Imagined in an interview with Mordecai Briemberg on the Redeye program of Vancouver Public Radio,4 in one of my public lectures during a book tour across western Canada in September-October 2010,5 and in an interview with Jack Etkin on a community television program in Victoria, BC.6 “In your public discussions about this book,” she wrote,

    you make a distinction between what you view as real antisemitism and the new antisemitism, which you call a “rhetorical shell game” and rhetorical trickery.” You say that real antisemitism is a “toxic prejudice,” now largely on the wane in Canada, and that the new antisemitism is “not new and it's not antisemitism” but it makes “use of this history of suffering, this history of martyrdom, in a way that is at the service of unacceptable political positions.” You argue that in 1973, when “real antisemitism was in rapid decline ... leading figures in the Anti-Defamation League [tried to] redefine antisemitism to incorporate criticism of the State of Israel, and to use that as a way for providing public support ... to hold on to the conquered territories, the occupied [Palestinian] territories.”7

    The point of this unfocused sequence of quotations may seem opaque: the matters alluded to are all exhaustively documented in the final three chapters of Antisemitism Real and Imagined. The only distortion appears in the last sentence, which alludes not to any argument originated by me, but rather (as anyone doing scholarship in the field should know) to my repetition of plain facts that had been laid out five years previously by Norman G. Finkelstein in his book Beyond Chutzpah,8 and that have remained unchallenged since then.

    However, Dr. Chatterley's purpose became clear when, having provided links to the lecture and the interviews from which she quoted, she wrote (in italics) that “The two public comments below your discussion on the last site clearly illustrate the consistencies between old and new, or classic and contemporary, antisemitism.”

    Following the link that Dr. Chatterley gave, which takes the reader, not to the original online posting of the television interview I did with Jack Etkin of ICTV Victoria in early October 2010, but rather to an unauthorized reproduction of it at Wide Eye Cinema,9 one discovers that the first two comments on my interview which appear at this internet site are vehemently antisemitic—indeed, neo-Nazi—in tone. These semi-literate rants, posted on October 24 and November 1, 2010, by 'paschn' and 'Annie Ladysmith' respectively, attribute the murder of “tens of millions” (in the second comment, “60 millions of white Christains” [sic], plus a further “10 millions of the same in the Ukraine, hung up to trees after torture”) to the “Jew treachery” of the “Bolshevik Revolution.” In the words of 'Annie Ladysmith', capitalized by herself for emphasis, this was “HOLOCAUST BY THE JEWS.”10 There's none of the “sophistication” here that Chatterley and other Zionist ideologues—among them, Prime Minister Stephen Harper11—have ascribed to the so-called “new antisemitism.” As the commenters' linking of Jews and Bolsheviks makes plain, this is “old” or “classic” antisemitism of the Joseph Goebbels variety.12

    Dr. Chatterley's point was obvious enough. She was implying (with what she perhaps believed to be cunning indirection) that if these comments represent the old antisemitism, then my television interview exemplifies the new antisemitism whose actuality I was challenging. It need hardly be said that in asserting the existence of “consistencies” between my interview and the deranged ranting of neo-Nazis, Dr. Chatterley was not trying to “encourage intelligent discussion and debate that employs meaningful, ethical, and accurate language.

    For her polemical purposes, neo-Nazis like these two commenters are useful idiots. In some instances, however, comment posters of this sort turn out to be useful idiots of another kind: hasbara agents whose deliberate function is to litter the internet with antisemitic filth, for the precise purpose of enabling slander tactics like those of Catherine Chatterley.

    Such a pattern might seem improbable. But in August 2014, an investigation conducted by the news website Common Dreams revealed that more than a thousand inflammatory antisemitic comments posted at the site during the preceding two years, under dozens of different screen names, had all been authored “by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website's discussion of issues involving Israel.”13 One of the masks this man adopted, the African-American identity of 'DeShawn S. Williams', cemented his antisemitic street creds by posting not just at Common Dreams, but also at the white-supremacist Vanguard News Network, where his more than 1,400 posts included over 200 comment-thread exchanges in which 'Williams' “encouraged the malevolence of Frazier Glenn Miller, the neo-Nazi [who is] accused of killing three people whom he believed were Jews outside a Jewish community centre and retirement home in Kansas in April [2014].”14

    This hyperactive Harvard man, now a graduate student at a midwestern university, appears to have devoted more effort to sleazy hasbara work than to his studies. When he was not inciting Vanguard's antisemites to acts of violence, he was posting neo-Nazi rants in the comments sections of the Common Dreams site, most frequently under the screen name 'HamBaconEggs'—and at the same time, entering into earnest debates with that persona under the screen name 'JewishProgressive'.

    The aim of this shadow-boxing was of course to show up Common Dreams as a website that had itself to blame for attracting antisemitic commenters, for the simple reason that it published articles that were themselves antisemitic. In one exchange, 'JewishProgressive' wrote:

    I stopped posting on this site and others like it a long time ago, as it became increasingly clear to me that genuine anti-Semitism and their purveyors were becoming tolerated and, at worst, embraced by so-called progressive communities [....]
    I would challenge anyone to find a Common Dreams article relating to African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, or LBGT people containing the volume of hateful, venomous garbage found in the comments section of this article. Sadly, I would offer the additional challenge of finding any CD article relating to Israel that doesn't contain copious amounts of Jew-hatred.15

    In another posting, once again in debate with his alter ego 'HamBaconEggs', 'JewishProgressive' declared more emphatically:

    Common Dreams and Stormfront: the web's foremost hubs of unapologetic anti-Semitism. True progressives don't support this sort of rank Jew-hatred, even though it's become increasingly conflated with legitimate criticism of Israel.16

    What then about the comments on my interview to which Dr. Chatterley referred readers of the Winnipeg Jewish Review? One might well suspect that the “hateful, venomous garbage” of 'paschn' and 'Annie Ladysmith' came from a single keyboard and IP address. I do not mean to imply that Catherine Chatterley—'Lady Chatterley', I am tempted to call her, in ironic deference to her less than flawless manners—and 'Annie Ladysmith' could be one and the same person. The neo-Nazi author of both comments could well be someone from Ladysmith, South Africa, or the Gulf Islands village of Ladysmith, BC—or possibly even someone actually named 'Annie Ladysmith'.

    But while Dr. Chatterley has, one must hope, been spared the multiple-personality disorder that afflicts 'HamBaconEggs', a.k.a. 'JewishProgressive' and 'DeShawn S. Williams', she is playing a less elaborate form of the same dirty game. Someone else may have written the neo-Nazi filth that she found posted at a site that reproduced my interview, but she is the one who turned it into a smear by claiming to find “consistencies” between my interview and comments that at no point intersected with anything I had said. 

    * * * *

    Two other features of Dr. Chatterley's response might also be of passing interest. She of course did not acknowledge, much less apologize for, the initial misrepresentation to which I drew attention. But her rejoinder exposed a derisory lack of scholarship when, to display her understanding of “the global resurgence of antisemitism, which is in fact a very serious problem,” she wrote:

    The most obvious example is the leader of Iran, who routinely threatens the nuclear destruction of the Jewish State, which constitutes incitement to genocide and is a clear violation of international law.17

    This sentence drew a rebuke from Joanne Naiman, Professor Emerita of Sociology at Ryerson University, who wondered politely what sources Chatterley might be relying on, and quoted recent news reports which make it clear that “the Israelis and Americans know full well that Iran does not yet have nuclear weaponry,” and that “it is Israel and the U.S. that are routinely threatening Iran militarily, not the reverse.”18

    The Winnipeg Jewish Review promptly published stern but foolish rejoinders from David Matas, B'nai Brith Canada's Senior Honorary Legal Counsel,19 from Professor Elihu Richter of the Hebrew University-Hadassah in Jerusalem, who is also active in an organization called Genocide Prevention Now,20 and from the WJR's editor, Rhonda Spivak:21 these contributed some heat to the discussion, but no light.

    Despite the rhetoric of Matas, Richter, and Spivak, Dr. Chatterley's sentence does indeed contain compounded stupidities. Although there's evidence that the former President of Iran to whom she was referring, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is indeed an antisemite, he was not the leader of that country (a position held rather by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei). Akbar Ganji wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2008 that “Despite all the attention he receives, Ahmadinejad does not even rank among Iran's top 100 leaders over the past 30 years [...]. Ahmadinejad is only as powerful as he is devoted to Khamenei and successful in advancing his aims.”22

    Moreover, the statement that Dr. Chatterley was remembering—made in a speech Ahmadinejad delivered in October 2005, and subsequently repeated in variant forms—was mistranslated in the Western press, and misrepresented as a threat of military action, a threat to literally wipe Israel off the map. It was in fact no such thing, but rather a re-statement of a supposed prophecy.

    Ahmadinejad reminded his audience that the Imam Khomeini, the founding leader of Iran's theocracy, had said that the Shah of Iran's “regime must go,” had predicted the end of “the rule of the East” (the USSR), and had said that the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein “must go” amid unprecedented humiliation. To this sequence of fulfilled prophecies of regime changes Ahmadinejad added a fourth as yet unfulfilled one: “The Imam said (Imam ghoft) this regime (een rezhim-e) occupying Jerusalem (ishghalgar-e qods) must vanish from (bayad [...] mahv shavad) the page of time (az safheh-ye ruzgar).”23

    Arash Norouzi, whose transliteration and translation of the Farsi I have borrowed, noted that “Ahmadinejad would seem to be calling for regime change, not war.”24 Jonathan Steele of The Guardian, who is well enough informed to know that Ahmadinejad had misquoted Khomeini, saying “page” instead of “stage of time” (the Farsi words safheh and sahneh also rhyme),25 likewise judged that the sentence is not a military threat,26 and found support in the reference to the fall of the Shah's regime for the view that Ahmadinejad was talking “about regime change, not the end of Israel.”27 University of Michigan Middle East scholar Juan Cole was of the same opinion, remarking that the Khomeini quotation “does not imply military action, or killing anyone at all.”28

    Given Dr. Chatterley's taste for ad hominem smears, it is perhaps necessary to remark that Arash Norouzi and Juan Cole, my main sources on this translation issue, are not supporters of the Iranian regime. Cole has written that he despises “everything Ahmadinejad stands for, not to mention the odious Khomeini, who had personal friends of mine killed”; while Norouzi, after citing a statement of the Iranian president to the effect that “History shows us that oppressive and cruel governments do not survive,” commented that “With this statement, Ahmadinejad has also projected the outcome of his own backwards regime, which will likewise 'vanish from the page of time'.”29 But along with their contempt for the Iranian theocracy, both writers also share a commitment to truth.

    As Karim Sadjadpour has observed, the consistent position of the Ayatollah Khamenei has been “that Iran's goal is not the military destruction of the Jewish state or the Jewish people....” In Khamenei's own words, in June 2005, “[the] solution to the issue of Palestine [...] is to hold a referendum with the participation of all native Palestinians, including Muslims, Jews and Christians, the Palestinians who live both inside and outside the occupied territories. Any government that takes power as a result of this referendum [...] will be an acceptable government....”30 In his speech at Columbia University in September 2007, Ahmadinejad echoed this position: “What we say is that to solve this 60-year problem, we must allow the Palestinian people to decide about its future for itself. [....] We must allow Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians to determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum.”31 But to supporters of the Zionist project who believe that full rights of citizenship in Israel must continue to be reserved for Jews alone, a democratic solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is anathema.

    However unpleasant some of Iran's public discourse may be, and however violent its suppression of internal dissidence, Dr. Chatterley was wrong in claiming that Ahmadinejad threatened Israel with war, or with “nuclear destruction.” Any such threat, moreover, would have been toothless, for as U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly acknowledged, Iran has no nuclear weapons and (whatever its ambitions may have been more than a decade ago) no nuclear weapons program.32 

    * * * *

    One last issue raised by Dr. Chatterley's rejoinder remains to be discussed. In 2010 she became the founding director of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA)—from which position she declared, in a 2011 op-ed on disputes over the allocation of exhibition space in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, that “Subjective feelings are influencing [the Museum's] content and design choices rather than objective historical and legal reality and this does not bode well for the international reputation of this institution.”33 She rightly reproached the Ukrainian Civil Liberties Association for its interventions in that debate, which included the distribution of antisemitic postcards. But it does not bode well for the future of CISA, as a centre whose professed aim is to support research, that its director has shown so little respect for the ethics of scholarship in her own public pronouncements—and that in the closing paragraphs of her rejoinder to me she revealed a strangely deficient understanding of the very issues CISA was founded to study.

    Dr. Chatterley objected there to my statement that the texts by scholars and human rights activists that I had published in Antisemitism Real and Imagined “recurrently express concern that uncritical support for the state of Israel's systematic violations of Palestinian human rights could feed a renewal of antisemitic prejudice and hatred in this country.”

    Her first reason for objecting is a foolish and dishonest non sequitur: “First, I do not know anyone who actually supports human rights violations in the Palestinian territories or anywhere else.”34 The range of Dr. Chatterley's acquaintanceships was not a matter I had raised—but she is mistaken. A moment's attentiveness to the Socratic injunction Gnothi seauton35 would show her that she knows one such person rather well.

    In a situation in which Jews were being violently persecuted, with the facts authenticated by human rights organizations and agencies of the United Nations, we would not hesitate to declare that any scholar or public intellectual who denied that human rights violations were taking place was by that act lending support to their continuation.

    Consider, in this light, the essay on “Campus Antisemitism” in which, while accusing me of “Antisemitism Denial,” Dr. Chatterley argued that

    The seriously flawed accusations that underpin IAW [Israeli Apartheid Week] events must be addressed head on by reasoned academic presentations given by leading scholars. [....] What we need [...] is high quality academic programming that both unpacks and counters the Israel Apartheid propaganda that we see on our campuses and actually engages with the difficult and contested reality of the conflict.

    [....] Students care about racism and human rights [...]. As a result, they are easily and actively mobilized against those labeled racists and human rights violators, for whom there is little sympathy in our contemporary culture. IAW relies on the lack of public and student knowledge about Israel and the complex history of the Middle East, and it also depends upon the widespread ignorance about the system of Apartheid and the history of South Africa.36

    She is claiming, in an essay whose title implies that IAW events foment antisemitism,37 that only people befuddled by propaganda and false labelling could believe Palestinians to be victims of systematic policies of racism and human rights violations. It follows that she is a supporter of and apologist for Israeli policies of internal discrimination and of violent oppression in the occupied territories—policies that have been correctly identified, by South African legal scholars among others, as involving the crime of apartheid, defined under international law as a crime against humanity.38

    Secondly, Dr. Chatterley says,

    antisemitism is not a form of normal human hostility or even a function of normal human outrage, both of which are inevitable human reactions to war and conflict. This is precisely why criticism of Israel is not by definition antisemitic.

    Antisemitism is never a legitimate reaction to the behaviour of Jews, either as a collective or as individuals. Antisemitism is the product of a conspiratorial ideological way of thinking about Jews that relies on a belief in the actual existence of “Jewish power and its evil machinations for control.” To understand the nature and motives of antisemitism one does not study Jews or their behavior but those who manifest this antisemitic mindset.39

    Let's be clear: no form of racism is ever legitimate; and whatever the boundaries of “normal” hostility or outrage might be, most of the manifestations of antisemitism that go beyond sullen prejudice into hurtful action fall outside them. But Chatterley's thinking here is coarse, and tells against the point she would like to make.

    Set aside the fact that serious historians and sociologists study all aspects of such matters, perpetrators and victims alike. Set aside the fact that throughout nearly all of the long and atrocious history of antisemitism it has been obvious to even the most blinkered antisemites that, whatever fantasies they might entertain about “the synagogue of Satan” or some demonic conclave of Jewish Elders, the Jewish communities they were assaulting were largely powerless and unable to defend themselves, whether against judicial persecution or mob violence.

    Delusions about Jewish power and machinations did become a significant part of antisemitic discourse during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries;40 and as the historian Tom Segev has shown, Chaim Weizmann made astute use of such beliefs prior to and during World War I in the maneuverings that culminated in the 1917 Balfour Declaration.41 During recent decades, however, Jewish elites have come to exercise a very considerable degree of actual power, in the United States especially.

    That power may to a considerable degree be permissive or derivative in nature—based, that is, on a combination of geopolitical calculations by Western political elites which find Israel useful as a proxy and assistant in their own imperial ventures; of religious beliefs, ranging from the colonial impulses of Christian Zionists since the mid-nineteenth century to the apocalyptic fanaticism of present-day Christian fundamentalists; and of guilt, stemming from memories of institutionalized antisemitism and of the failure during World War II to mitigate the Shoah by any timely intervention.

    Western political elites have found it convenient to have an Israel that is also a Spartan garrison-state, militarized to the hilt, nuclear-armed, and bristling with advanced weaponry. They are happy to make use of Israeli technologies of surveillance, policing, and population control. They don't seriously object to Israel's seizure and colonization of Palestinian land and resources, or to its increasingly bloody-minded treatment of the rightful owners of that land and those resources. If anything, they find the political interventions of Zionist organizations, pressure groups and ideologues congenial, because these prod their populations, for the most part, in directions they have already decided upon themselves.

    If I am right in thinking of the power exercised by Western Jewish elites in support of the actions of the state of Israel as at least partially permissive or derivative, that doesn't make it any the less real as power, any less dangerous to its primary victims, the Palestinians42—or for that matter, any less dangerous, in a secondary manner, to Jewish communities worldwide.

    Among people who have studied such matters, it is patently obvious that there is a direct connection between the recurrent surges of violence against Palestinian civilians by the state of Israel—let us call it the “behaviour” of the Jewish elites who govern that state—and corresponding surges in antisemitic incidents acts in Western countries.43

    Dr. Chatterley's apparent denial of any such connection is a further sign that her scholarship is no less shoddy than her ethics.




    1  Catherine Chatterley, “Campus Antisemitism: Combating Israel Apartheid Week on Campus—Thoughtful Engagement Required,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (15 November 2010), That article offers the text of a paper Dr. Chatterley delivered at the Ottawa conference of the Interparliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA), November 7-9, 2010, an event hosted by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA). I was in Ottawa at the same time, and as I said in my “Statement at the Independent Jewish Voices Press Conference” on Parliament Hill (8 November 2010): “The conference is being held under false pretences because the CPCCA and the ICCA are not so much concerned with real and actual antisemitism as they are with extending the definition of antisemitism to encompass any systematic criticism of the state of Israel's systematic violations of international law in its oppressive occupation and colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. [....] [T]he CPCCA is attempting to create a climate of opinion in which Canadian defenders of Palestinian human rights and exponents of the universal principles of international law can be smeared as antisemites and disseminators of hatred.” For an account of the origins of the ICCA and CPCCA, see my Introduction to Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Antisemitism (Waterloo: The Canadian Charger, 2010), pp. 12-18.

    2  See Michael Keefer, ed., Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 165-77, 185-205. Prior to the publication of this book, suspicions that B'nai Brith Canada's annual tallies of antisemitic incidents are significantly inflated had been voiced by Gerald Caplan in the Globe and Mail and by Jonathan Kay in the National Post. Their suspicions are understandable, given such statements by B'nai Brith as that the eighteen-fold increase in the number of antisemitic incidents recorded since the organization first began to tally them in 1982 reflects a corresponding worsening of antisemitic hatred in Canada (rather than, for example, a substantially increased effort devoted to tracking such incidents). My conclusion that B'nai Brith's figures are inflated arose primarily out of comparative study of the parallel tallies of antisemitic incidents kept since the early 1980s by the Community Security Trust (CST) in the UK.

    3  Ibid., p. 191.

    4  Interview with Mordecai Briemberg, “Antisemitism: Real and Imagined,” Redeye (Vancouver Community Radio), 14 September 2010. posted at,

    5  Public lecture at the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library, 25 September 2010,; Chatterley's link is to a reproduction of this video at

    6  Interview with Jack Etkin, “Face to Face with Jack Etkin: #46. Professor Michael Keefer: Criticize Israel—Go To Jail?” ICTV Victoria, 7 October 2010, Chatterley provided a link to the reproduction of this interview at Wide Eye Cinema, http://wideeyecinema/?p=9534, where it is followed by three comments. The first two, posted on October 24 and November 1, 2010, are discussed below. The third comment, posted much later, in September 2011, is likewise antisemitic, but in a tone of arrogant pseudo-erudition rather than of neo-Nazi ranting.

    7  “Dr. Chatterley's Response to Professor Keefer's Right of Reply,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (25 November 2010),

    8  Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), pp. 21-27. Finkelstein devotes the entire first part of this book (pp. 21-85) to an incisive demolition of the ideology of the “new antisemitism.” My own critique of this ideology (which includes detailed citations of Finkelstein's work) can be found in the final two chapters of Antisemitism Real and Imagined (pp. 165-259).

    9  See note 6 above.

    10  Wide Eye Cinema, http://wideeyecinema/?p=9534.

    11  In his address to the Israeli Knesset on January 20, 2014, Prime Minister Harper proposed that serious criticism of the policies and structures of governance of the state of Israel must be understood as impelled by “a mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism and the emergence of a new strain,” a translation into “more sophisticated language for use in polite society” of the “old hatred” that “led to the horrors of the [Nazi] death camps.” See “Read the full text of Harper's historic speech to Israel's Knesset,” Globe and Mail (20 January 2014),

    12  The reference in these comments to supposed genocidal atrocities committed in Ukraine and blamed on Jews might suggest some connection to the organized and institutionally supported antisemitism now widely disseminated in Ukraine: see Per Anders Rudling, “Organized Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Ukraine: Structure, Influence and Ideology,” Canadian Slavonic Papers/Revue canadienne des slavistes 48.102 (March-June 2006): 81-119; available online at The accusation, together with the Jew/Bolshevik motif, of hallucinatory numbers of Ukrainians “hung up to trees after torture,” is a marker of the historical layering of antisemitic hatred: in many medieval and more recent Christian devotional texts, the cross on which Jesus was crucified (after torture) is spoken of as a tree. The wording of the comments thus evokes the original blood libel of the canonical gospels (in which the Jews were said to accept guilt for the shedding of Jesus's blood), while also alleging a multiplication of that original crime that is suggestive of the reign of Antichrist prophesied in a long tradition of commentaries on the New Testament book of Revelations. A demonizing of Jews in apocalyptic speculations forms a consistent part of patristic, medieval, and more recent forms of antisemitism.

    13  Lance Tapley, “The Double Identity of an 'Anti-Semitic' Commenter: Smearing a Progressive Website to Support Israel,” Common Dreams (20 August 2014),

    14  Ibid.

    15  Ibid.

    16  Ibid. Stormfront is a white supremacist and neo-Nazi website that describes itself as “the voice of the new, embattled White minority.”

    17  “Dr. Chatterley's Response to Professor Keefer's Right of Reply.”

    18  Joanne Naiman, “RE: Catherine Chatterley's Response to Dr. Michael Keefer,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (27 November 2010), Professor Naiman also described Chatterley's response as “shoddy” and “a weak piece of propaganda masquerading as academic analysis.”

    19  David Matas, “To the Editor,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (1 December 2010), Matas declared that “Independent intelligence sources consistently over years have reported that Iran is developing nuclear weaponry.” Since this is the precise inverse of the truth, and U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies have in fact come to the opposite conclusion, “independent intelligence sources” must mean something like “PR flaks of Dick Cheney and Benjamin Netanyahu.” Matas proposed as authoritative an article by Gregory S. Gordon, “From Incitement to Indictment? Prosecuting Iran's President for Advocating Israel's Destruction and Piecing Together Incitement Law's Emerging Analytical Framework,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 98.3 (2008): 853-920. This article, an exemplary instance of “lawfare,” the deliberate perversion of international law in the interests of U.S. and Israeli political goals, fails to distinguish between critically established evidence and journalistic or governmental propaganda. Noting the judgment of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, Gordon attempts to counter this with the opinions of “Henry Kissinger and other experts” (864), and states, without further evidence, that Iran “is attempting to develop nuclear weapons for the ostensible purpose of annihilating Israel” (900). His treatment of translation issues (896-99) is comparably slipshod. And nowhere, in his concern with possible or prospective genocide, does he ask why legal precedents in the field should apply to the Iranian president—but not to U.S. and Israeli leaders, who have threatened to use nuclear weapons in first-strike attacks on Iran (with obviously genocidal consequences), and who actually possess such weapons.

    20  Elihu D. Richter, “To the Editor,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (1 December 2010), Richter referred readers to the website of Genocide Prevention Now, where one finds, from 2012, his open letter, “Israeli Genocide Scholar Protests Israeli President Shimon Peres Opposing Military Action Against Iran,” This might seem an odd position for a scholar concerned to prevent genocide to take. In one of the footnotes in Antisemitism Real and Imagined (p. 258 n. 142), I commented on another genocide scholar who in 2009 recommended putting an end to what he called “Gaza's extreme demographic armament” by de-funding UNRWA and thereby starving the people of Gaza: see Gunnar Heinsohn, “Ending the West's Proxy War Against Israel,” Wall Street Journal Europe (12 January 2009), One would think scholars in this field ought to understand the difference between researching genocide and helping to provoke it.

    21  On the same page, Rhonda Spivak provided several paragraphs of irrelevancies, focusing largely on the fact, revealed by Wikileaks, that authoritarian Arab states allied to the U.S. (Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan, and Egypt) have also advocated pre-emptive war against Iran. What bearing she thought this might have on the issues raised by Professor Naiman is anyone's guess.

    22  See Akbar Ganji, “The Latter-Day Sultan: Power and Politics in Iran,” Foreign Affairs 87.6 (2008): 46, available online at

    23  See Arash Norouzi, “'Wiped off the Map'—The Rumor of the Century,” The Mossadegh Project (18 January 2007), I have altered slightly the Farsi word order to conform with the word order of the English translation; the original is as follows: “Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.” Claims that the Farsi verb rendered as “vanish” is active and transitive and hence deserves a more forceful translation (see Gordon, “From Incitement to Indictment?” 897-98) do not alter the fact that the sentence does not identify any agency that is to produce this effect of the vanishing of a regime—unless perhaps the divine will with which Khomeini was supposedly in touch.

    24  Ibid.

    25  Jonathan Steele, “Lost in translation,” The Guardian (14 June 2006),

    26  Jonathan Steele, “If Iran is ready to talk, the US must do so unconditionally,” The Guardian (2 June 2006),

    27  Steele, “Lost in translation.”

    28  Juan Cole, “Hitchens the Hacker; And, Hitchens the Orientalist,” Informed Comment (3 May 2006),

    29  Cole, “Hitchens the Hacker”; Norouzi, “'Wiped off the Map'.” (The name of Norouzi's website, The Mossadegh Project, is indicative of a commitment to secular democracy.)

    30  Karim Sadjadpour, Reading Khamenei: The World View of Iran's Most Powerful Leader (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2009), p. 20; available online at

    31  “President Ahmadinejad Delivers Remarks at Columbia University,” Washington Post (24 September 2007),

    32  See Rory McCarthy, “Israel considering strike on Iran despite US intelligence report,” The Guardian (7 December 2007),,,2224052,00.html; Gareth Porter, “Iran Nuke Laptop Data Came from Terror Group,” (1 March 2008),; “US believes Iran not trying to build a nuclear bomb,” Ynet (24 February 2012),,7340,L-4194307,00.html; John Glaser, “US, Europe, Israel Agree on Solid Intel: Iran Nuke Threat Far Off: Solid, in depth intelligence confirms with high confidence Iran has no weapons program, but peace is still rejected,” (23 March 2012), See also Ed Cropley, “Massive Diplomatic Leak Exposes Israel Claims on Iran: Mossad Contradicted Netanyahu 'Red Line' Speech,” Forward: The Jewish Daily (24 February 2015),

    33  Catherine Chatterley, “The war against the Holocaust,” Winnipeg Free Press (2 April 2011),

    34  “Dr. Chatterley's Response to Professor Keefer's Right of Reply.”

    35  “Know thyself!”

    36  Chatterley, “Campus Antisemitism.”

    37  My own experience goes counter to this claim. I have been an invited speaker at Israeli Apartheid Week events on four occasions at three different Canadian universities. On those occasions anyone who spoke in defence of Israel was given a courteous hearing, and the organizers made it clear that any expression of antisemitism or any other form of racism would not be tolerated.

    38  See Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 231-32. Israeli behaviour in the occupied territories has been denounced as not merely answering to the legal definition of the crimes of apartheid and of colonizing, but also as being genocidal in intention and effect: see, for example, Kathleen and Bill Christison, Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation (London: Verso, 2009), pp. 136-37. For discussion of this and similar opinions, see Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 234-38; and for indications of the increasing willingness of Israeli politicians, state agencies, and a large part of the Israeli public to accept genocidal discourse and implicitly genocidal treatment of the Palestinians as normative, see Max Blumenthal, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (New York: Nation Books, 2013), pp. 250-60, 278-84, 303-29, 353-64.

    39  “Dr. Chatterley's Response.”

    40  Close analogues to these delusions are provided by some of the Sherlock Holmes fictions of Conan Doyle, in which all of the criminal activity in London is ascribed to a single mastermind, Moriarty, “the Napoleon of crime”; and by a similarly conspiratorial mindset evident in the spy fictions of John Buchan, such as Greenmantle (1916).

    41  Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, trans. Haim Watzman (New York: Henry Holt, 2000), pp. 38-50.

    42  Middle Eastern Muslims in other countries have also been victims of the power exercised by organizations like AIPAC in the U.S. The Israel lobby was strongly supportive of the George W. Bush regime's invasion of Iraq, supported the bombing campaign that reduced Libya to chaos, continues to support the proxy war that has devastated Syria, and has agitated for a war of aggression against Iran.

    43  See, for example, “Anti-Semitic attacks reach record UK high, Israel's Gaza offensive blamed—study,” RT (5 February 2015), Robert Cohen is one of many who have stated the obvious fact: “What's clearly nonsense is to claim that Israel's behavior plays no part in the political and cultural dynamic that is provoking growing racism against Jews. When things kick off in Israel and the Occupied Territories anti-Semitic attacks spike in Western Europe. When peace is being talked about, with real plausibility, anti-Semitism in Europe dies down.” Robert Cohen, “#JeSuisUnJuifBritannique,” Mondoweiss: The War of Ideas in the Middle East (18 January 2015),   

    The So-Called War on Terror is a Criminal Fraud: Interview with Kourosh Ziabari, Fars News Agency

    The so-called War on Terror is a criminal fraud, designed to frighten Americans and the citizens of its allies into supporting systematic violations of international law. It was from the outset Islamophobic both in intention and in the wars of aggression it has been used to justify,” said Prof. Michael Keefer in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency.

    Read More

    Criminalizzazione della critica d'Israele in Canada

    This translation by Oscar Mina of my article “Criminalizing Criticism of Israel in Canada: A Hate-Propaganda Trojan Horse in Bill C-13,” was first published in Eurasia: Rivista di Studi Geopolitici (17 May 2014),


    La campagna internazionale di boicottaggio, disinvestimento e sanzioni (BDS) contro Israele—quale mezzo pacifico di persuasione nei confronti di Israele ad abbandonare le sistematiche violazioni del diritto internazionale e le politiche di apartheid, espropriazione, colonizzazione e blocco nei territori palestinesi occupati—ha riscontrato ultimamente numerosi successi.1

    Ad inizio febbraio 2014, The Economist sottolineava che la BDS “sta diventando una tendenza dominante,”2 mentre l’ex portavoce alla Knesset israeliana, Avraham Burg, scriveva su Haaretz che “il movimento BDS sta guadagnando terreno e si avvicina il momento […in cui] le sanzioni contro Israele diverranno fatto compiuto.”3

    Il Primo Ministro israeliano Benjamin Netanyahu ha affermato che lui e i suoi alleati risponderanno con forza a tale tendenza. Alcuni resoconti relativi a una riunione del consiglio, dove si discussero le “tattiche”, mettono in luce le divisioni intestine più che la sostanza stessa della riunione: “Netanyahu indìce riunioni strategiche per contrastare i boicottaggi”—ma ha escluso di proposito alcuni Ministri più esperti:
    “Ministri di sinistra tenuti fuori dalla seduta straordinaria del consiglio sulla BSD.”4 Tuttavia, sebbene la stampa israeliana sostenne “che ‘la discussione fu tenuta in segreto’, con un imposto ‘oscuramento televisivo’,” una delle fonti che riportarono il fatto diede un significato piuttosto preciso a ciò che accadde a porte chiuse:

    A quanto pare, le idee discusse dai Ministri inclusero cause “in corti europee e nordamericane contro organizzazioni [pro-BDS]” e “azioni legali contro istituzioni finanziarie che boicottano gli insediamenti israeliani… e compagnie israeliane [complici]”. Vi è anche la possibilità di “promuovere leggi anti-boicottaggio in capitali amiche nel mondo, come Washington, Ottawa e Canberra” e, a tale scopo, “attivare la lobby pro-Israele negli Stati Uniti”.5

    Questa specie di “guerra legislativa”, com’è a volte chiamata, non è una novità (né, si può aggiungere, lo è il concetto, altresì discusso in tale riunione, di sostenere la sorveglianza di organizzazioni pro-BDS da parte dei servizi segreti militari—la Shin Bet Security Service e il Mossad). È altrettanto evidente che la lobby pro-Israele ha mobilitato politici nelle “capitali amiche” di Washington, Ottawa e Canberra per molti anni.

    Recenti sviluppi di queste iniziative hanno portato alle minacce perpetrate a Canberra, nel giugno 2013, da Julie Bishop—membro del nuovo governo australiano di Julia Gillard—secondo le quali “i sostenitori di un boicottaggio accademico di Israele” vedrebbero “sommariamente tagliati i fondi per la ricerca pubblica.”6 A Washington, è stata sottoposta all’attenzione del Congresso una legge chiamata “Protect Academic Freedom Act”, la quale negherebbe l’accesso a fondi federali “per college ed università che partecipano al boicottaggio di istituzioni accademiche o di studiosi israeliani.”7

    E cosa dire del Canada, il cui Primo Ministro è l’amico più fidato del signor Netanyahu?8

    Questo saggio stima che le revisioni del codice penale canadese, proposte dal governo Harper, contengono espressioni usate ad arte al fine di consentire procedimenti legislativi contro attivisti per la difesa dei diritti umani, esattamente come voluto dal signor Netanyahu e collaboratori.


    1. Disegno di legge C-13 e relativi sotterfugi

    Il disegno di legge (DDL) C-13, la legge che protegge i canadesi da crimini sulla rete, ha ricevuto una prima lettura presso la Camera dei comuni nel novembre del 2013. In una pagina web dedicata a “miti e fatti” del progetto di legge in questione, il dipartimento della giustizia rigetta il “mito” secondo cui “il DDL C-13 è un’antologia di diritto penale che tratta qualcosa di più del bullismo in rete”.

    Il DDL C-13 non è un’antologia di diritto penale. Esso propone un nuovo reato di distribuzione non consensuale di immagini a contenuto intimo per affrontare il bullismo virtuale mediante strumenti legali autorizzati ad aiutare polizia e procuratori nell’investigare non solo il nuovo illecito proposto, bensì anche altri reati che vengono commessi via internet o includono prove elettroniche. […] Il DDL non contiene il vecchio e controverso emendamento del DDL C-30, relativo all’accesso illegittimo ad informazioni circa i firmatari e alla modifica dell’infrastruttura delle telecomunicazioni.9

    Ciononostante, il dottor Michael Geist—preside Canada Research di Diritto informatico e commercio elettronico all’Università di Ottawa—osserva che in realtà il DDL C-13 conserva provvedimenti che permettono un maggior accesso illegittimo ad informazioni personali, ben oltre ciò che è previsto dall’odierno codice penale.10 L’avvocato penalista Michael Spratt stigmatizza il DDL come un “cavallo di Troia digitale per la sorveglianza statale”:

    Gran parte del C-13 ha poco a che fare col proteggere chi è vittima [del bullismo virtuale]. Questo DDL espanderebbe a dismisura i poteri di sorveglianza dello Stato. Sacrifica la privacy della persona. Limita o elimina il controllo giudiziario. È incompatibile con la giurisprudenza della corte suprema. È un DDL pericoloso.11 (11

    L’affermazione del Dipartimento della giustizia che “il DDL C-13 non è un’antologia di diritto penale” è evidentemente falsa. Come sottolinea un altro critico, Terry Wilson, sebbene promossa “come legge di prevenzione del bullismo virtuale, il DDL ha in realtà molto poco a che vedere con i bulli, inoltre prevede sezioni che vanno dal furto di cavi, dalla pirateria informatica, dalla sorveglianza, fino al terrorismo (il bullismo virtuale conta due pagine del DDL su cinquanta totali) […]. Il DDL include persino ‘crimini d’odio’…”.12

    In questo senso, il DDL C-13 costituisce, ancora una volta, un cavallo di Troia. Il DDL aggiunge alcuni enunciati a quelle sezioni del codice penale relative alla propaganda dell’odio che sembrano, a giudicare dalle apparenze, non fare altro che conformare quelle sezioni ad altri testi paralleli—con molteplici documenti rilevanti in materia di diritto internazionale e con provvedimenti di condanna, successivi nel codice penale, dove già compaiono le stesse espressioni. Ma in questa parte del DDL C-13, v’è presumibilmente un secondo fine in atto, poiché si ha motivo di pensare che le nuove espressioni mirino, evitando ingannevolmente qualsivoglia dibattito pubblico sulla questione, a rendere penalmente perseguibili come incitamento all’odio il discorso e la difesa dei diritti umani – in relazione al trattamento oppressivo dei palestinesi da parte dello Stato d’Israele.

    Questa visione dell’intento sottostante il DDL C-13 è sostenuta dal Primo Ministro Harper nel suo discorso alla Knesset tenuto il 20 gennaio 2014 (che verrà discusso più avanti). Essa trova poi supporto anche dal fatto che un’identica modifica alla formulazione del codice penale francese, implementata nel 2003 dalla cosiddetta legge Lellouche, ha permesso la condanna per incitamento all’odio razziale di ben venti attivisti francesi per i diritti umani.13

    In Francia, il risultato è stato paradossale. La Francia è, come il Canada, un’Alta Parte contraente della Quarta convenzione di Ginevra del 1949—il cui primo articolo recita che “le Alte Parti contraenti s’impegnano a rispettare e a far rispettare la presente Convenzione in ogni circostanza.”14 Le persone condannate dalla legge Lellouche per incitamento all’odio razziale, partecipano ad un movimento consistente nel fermo ripudio dell’antisemitismo e di qualunque altra forma di razzismo.15 Questo movimento raccomanda un esercizio pacifico di pressione economica, allo scopo di persuadere lo Stato d’Israele a mettere fine alle molteplici e sistematiche violazioni del diritto internazionale, in particolare della Quarta convenzione di Ginevra, per la cui trasgressione Israele è stato ripetutamente condannato da commissioni e rapporti dell’ONU, nonché da agenzie indipendenti come la Human Rights Watch e Amnesty International. La realtà dei fatti è dunque inequivocabile: applicando la legge Lellouche e ridefinendo i suddetti attivisti in qualità di persone colpevoli di crimini d’odio, lo Stato francese ha simultaneamente violato il precedente impegno “a rispettare e a far rispettare” la Quarta convenzione di Ginevra “in ogni circostanza”.

    Uno degli obiettivi del DDL C-13 sembra essere quello di mettere il Canada in una situazione simile, in piena violazione di uno dei principali strumenti del diritto internazionale.


    2. Modifiche al significato delle sezioni 318 e 319 del codice penale

    La sezione 12 del DDL C-13 propone svariate aggiunte, di minor entità, a quella parte del codice penale (sezioni 318-321.1) che porta il titolo di “Propaganda all’odio”. La sezione 12 recita come segue:

    12. La sottosezione 318.(4) della legge è sostituita dalla seguente:
    (4) In questa sezione, l’espressione “gruppo identificabile” rappresenta qualsiasi settore del pubblico distinguibile per colore, razza, religione, identità nazionale o etnica, età, sesso, orientamento sessuale o disabilità mentale e fisica.16

    (Il grassetto indica la formulazione aggiunta all’attuale codice penale tramite il DDL B-13).

    Queste aggiunte alla sezione 318 del codice penale, riguardante il reato di “esortazione al genocidio”, impattano anche su significato ed applicazione della sezione 319, riguardante il reato di “pubblico incitamento all’odio” e “intenzionale promozione dell’odio”, in cui—come enuncia la sottosezione 319.(7)—“‘gruppo identificabile’ ha lo stesso valore presente nella sezione 318”. Le clausole rilevanti della sezione 319 sono:

    319. (1) Chiunque, attraverso dichiarazioni pubbliche, inciti all’odio contro quale che sia gruppo identificabile, dove tale incitamento risulti in una violazione della pace, è considerato colpevole di

    (a) un’offesa incriminabile che prevede la reclusione per una durata di non più di due anni; oppure

    (b) un’offesa incriminabile, punibile con una condanna sommaria.

    (2) Chiunque, per mezzo di dichiarazioni, oltre ad altre forme di conversazione privata, promuova intenzionalmente l’odio contro quale che sia gruppo identificabile si rende colpevole di

    (a) un’offesa incriminabile che prevede la reclusione per una durata di non più di due anni; oppure

    (b) un’offesa incriminabile, punibile con una condanna sommaria.17

    L’aggiunta più importante al concetto di “gruppo identificabile” risiede nella categoria d’identità nazionale, che non ha legami evidenti con il verosimile obiettivo del DDL C-13, ma che potrebbe essere percepita come legata ad un’altra agenda, enfaticamente pronunciata dal Primo Ministro Stephen Harper nel suo discorso alla Knesset israeliana nel gennaio 2014—ossia quella di ridefinire, come propaganda all’odio, la critica di politiche e comportamenti dello stato-nazione di Israele nei confronti dei cittadini palestinesi e degli abitanti dei territori palestinesi occupati.

    Come evidenziò il principale quotidiano israeliano, Haaretz, in un servizio del febbraio 2014, le condanne per crimini d’odio promulgate in Francia, parecchi mesi prima, contro dodici attivisti per i diritti umani—sostenitori della campagna internazionale esortante al boicottaggio, disinvestimento e sanzioni (BDS) contro Israele—furono assicurate grazie alla legge Lellouche, la quale “estendeva la definizione di discriminazione oltre i previsti parametri di razza, religione ed orientamento sessuale, per includere membri appartenenti ai gruppi nazionali”.18


    3. Legge Lellouche: un altro cavallo di Troia?

    Intenzionalmente o meno, la legge Lellouche ha funzionato come una specie di cavallo di Troia. Il dottor Jean-Yves Camus ha osservato che questa legge, “approvata il 3 gennaio 2003, a seguito di un’ondata di violenza antisemita senza precedenti, permette ai giudici di imporre pene più severe nei confronti degli autori di violenze a stampo razzista, rispetto a quelle che riceverebbero normalmente nel caso di violenze simili non motivate da razzismo.”19 Come nota Haaretz, in un rapporto sulla criminalizzazione del movimento BDS in Francia, l’obiettivo apparente della legge—in un’epoca in cui l’apertamente antisemita e neofascista Fronte Nazionale di Jean-Marie Le Pen vedeva crescere il proprio supporto, specialmente nel sud della Francia—era di “rafforzare i valori repubblicani e contrastare le tendenze settarie”.

    La legge passò nel 2003, poco dopo i successi strabilianti del Fronte Nazionale di estrema destra alle elezioni presidenziali.

    La misura fu adottata per rispondere al clima sociale caratterizzato non solo da un crescente sentimento antisemita, ma anche da discriminazione antiaraba e xenofobia.20

    Il “quadro dei motivi” che introduce la legge Lellouche al momento della presentazione all’assemblea nazionale, nel Novembre del 2002, fu esplicito nelle sue ripetute dichiarazioni che le aggiunte al codice penale proposte dalla legge erano prettamente volte a combattere la violenza di chiara matrice razzista:

    “Violenze chiaramente razziste”, “atti di violenza volutamente razzista”, “violenze di carattere razzista”, “aggressioni di stampo razzista”.21 Sebbene il testo specificasse che la violenza razzista poteva essere sia “morale” che fisica,22 i due esempi suggeriti ai deputati dell’assemblea nazionale erano uno, nell’ottobre del 2002, “l’omicidio chiaramente razzista” di un giovane francese di origine marocchina nel nord della Francia; l’altro, ad inizio novembre, un’aggressione razzista rivolta contro giovani studenti di una scuola privata ebraica della tredicesima circoscrizione di Parigi.23 Ponendo l’attenzione sul fatto che in Francia esistono già leggi che si occupano di discriminazione razziale, incitamento all’odio o alla violenza e negazionismo dell’Olocausto, il quadro introduttivo definisce il fine della legge come tentativo di incrementare sensibilmente le pene imposte nei casi in cui gli attacchi a cose o persone siano di matrice razzista – come quando il razzismo si fa movente di atti di tortura e barbarie, violenza con morte preterintenzionale, atti che sfociano in mutilazioni o disabilità permanenti e, ancora, atti che comportano danno o distruzione di proprietà.24

    Nonostante l’esplicita dichiarazione di intenti, la legge Lellouche è stata applicata in ben altra maniera—col pretesto che, in otto dei nove articoli, viene inclusa la categoria di “nazione” nella definizione di gruppi percepibili come vittime. Come osserva il servizio di Haaretz, la legge “è stata invocata ripetutamente contro attivisti anti-Israele. In Francia, hanno avuto luogo dieci processi contro sostenitori della BDS, iniziati per mano della legge Lellouche”.25

    Pascal Markowitz, capo dell’unità legale della BDS, facente parte del consiglio rappresentativo delle istituzioni ebraiche di Francia (CRIF), è chiaro nel dare un giudizio al valore strumentale della legge Lellouche. Haaretz lo cita testualmente: “la legge è ‘ad oggi, la più efficace legislazione in materia di BDS’. ‘C’è stata una sola assoluzione, perciò le statistiche sono positive’, ha detto”.26 Ma in Francia, altri personaggi politici sostengono posizioni differenti sulla questione:

    “Queste condanne sono irragionevoli,” si esprime a proposito del caso Nicole Kiil-Nielsen—membro francese del Parlamento europeo—durante una sessione straordinaria a Strasburgo nel 2011. “I governi non stanno facendo nulla per mettere fine all’occupazione illegale [dei territori palestinesi] da parte di Israele e la corte francese sta ingiustamente negando ai cittadini la possibilità di agire attraverso la BDS”.27

    È essenziale capire cosa significhi, nel contesto odierno, “cavallo di Troia”. In ogni versione della storia antica, da Omero a Virgilio,28 il punto nodale è sempre lo stesso. Il cavallo vuoto fatto di legno fu uno sleale stratagemma utilizzato dall’armata greca che assediava Troia da dieci anni; ebbe successo perché il cavallo era un’ingannevole artifizio dalla duplice natura. Fingendo di disertare l’assedio, i greci lasciarono indietro l’enorme oggetto: la funzione manifesta più plausibile era quella di un’offerta fatta agli dei, che i troiani furono persuasi a trasportare all’interno della città come celebrazione per la loro presunta vittoria. Tuttavia, l’artefatto aveva una seconda funzione segreta—quale sleale espediente per portare un manipolo di greci armati entro le mura di Troia, cosicché costoro potessero poi aprire le porte di notte, quando il resto dell’esercito avrebbe fatto ritorno.

    La legge Lellouche è servita come cavallo di Troia perché, quando fu promulgata, sembrò un mezzo verosimile ed appropriato per far fronte ad un aumento della violenza razziale in Francia, che coincideva con un brusco sollevamento a sostegno di un partito politico di estrema destra, incline a posizioni nettamente razziste. Ma da allora la legge viene usata per uno scopo alquanto diverso: criminalizzare le posizioni degli attivisti per i diritti umani, i quali affermano palesemente la necessità di rispettare e far rispettare le norme di diritto umanitario internazionale.


    4. Inserimento di “nazionale” nelle sezioni 318 e 319: semplice “messa in regola”?

    Secondo un rapporto di Paul McLeod dell’Halifax Chronicle-Herald, l’aggiunta della parola “nazionale” alle sezioni 318 e 319 del codice penale si deve, spiega il dipartimento della giustizia, al fatto di essere stata “adottata per uniformarsi alla formulazione di un protocollo del Consiglio d’Europa, un’organizzazione per i diritti dell’uomo”.29 Si fa qui riferimento al Protocollo addizionale alla Convenzione sulla criminalità informatica, riguardante l’incriminazione di atti di natura razzista e xenofobica commessi a mezzo di computer, adottato a Strasburgo nel gennaio del 2003. Nel capitolo I, all’articolo 2.1 di questo testo, la parola “nazionale” ricorre in una definizione dei gruppi percepiti come vittime di “materiale razzista e xenofobico”.30

    McLeod afferma che alcuni esperti di diritto hanno inteso che la modifica è “probabilmente un mero emendamento di messa in regola al fine di portare il codice penale in linea con le formulazioni di altre normative”.31 La parola “nazionale” appare, infatti, in contesti similari, nel Patto internazionale sui diritti civili e politici dell’ONU (articolo 20) e nella Convenzione sul genocidio (articolo 2), sempre dell’ONU. Inoltre, il DDL C-13 adegua le sezioni 318 e 319 del codice penale alle disposizioni di condanna della sezione 718, che include già tutti i gruppi (identità nazionale, età, sesso e disabilità mentale e fisica) che non erano inclusi nella sezione 318.(4), ma che ora sono stati aggiunti.

    Una decifrazione delle modifiche in chiave “riassestamento” risulta così totalmente plausibile.

    Ad ogni modo, non vi è stata poi troppa meticolosità nella messa in regola. Nella sua forma attuale, la sezione 318 del codice penale, che definisce la giusta pena per il crimine di difesa o promozione del genocidio, è un testo alquanto particolare—dato che la relativa sottosezione 2, malgrado derivi chiaramente dall’articolo 2 della Convenzione sul genocidio dell’ONU, omette però le clausole (b), (d) ed (e) attinenti alla definizione di quello stesso articolo.32

    David MacDonald e Graham Hudson sottolineano che quando il parlamento ratificò la Convenzione sul genocidio nel 1952, risparmiò il codice penale canadese da alcune delle clausole pertinenti all’articolo 2, in virtù del fatto che tematiche come quella dell’allontanamento forzato di bambini non sono rilevanti per questo paese. (Siccome il sistema canadese prevede l’esistenza di istituti scolastici gestiti dalla Chiesa, sotto la cui custodia vengono forzatamente trasferiti bambini indigeni, pare ovvio che l’ultima clausola dell’articolo 2 della Convenzione fu esclusa in cattiva fede). MacDonald e Hudson rilevano altresì che quando il parlamento adottò, nel 2000, la Legge sui crimini contro l’umanità e i crimini di guerra, inglobò lo Statuto di Roma della Corte penale internazionale del 1998 (che include la definizione completa di genocidio in seno alla Convenzione sul genocidio) all’interno della Legge canadese.33 La sezione 318 del codice penale è pertanto anomala nella sua forma corrente, in quanto la sua definizione di crimine di genocidio esclude clausole che, tuttavia, non sono parte della Legge canadese, a causa della loro assimilazione nella Legge sui crimini contro l’umanità e i crimini di guerra.

    Uno scrupoloso riassestamento di questa parte del codice penale avrebbe di certo incluso le tre clausole omesse dall’articolo 2 della Convenzione sul genocidio.

    Dico ciò non per dare contro all’interpretazione in chiave “riassestamento” dell’aggiunta della parola “nazionale” alle sezioni 318 e 319 del DDL C-13 del codice penale: come si è visto prima, tale spiegazione rimane totalmente credibile. Invece, ciò che l’esempio suggerisce è che gli estensori del DDL C-13 potrebbero non essere stati risolutamente concentrati sulla messa in regola.

    Il discorso del Primo Ministro Harper, tenuto il 20 gennaio 2014 alla Knesset israeliana, ci porta ad una seconda lettura riguardo ai propositi dell’inserimento della parola “nazionale” nella definizione di gruppi potenzialmente vittimizzabili dalla propaganda all’odio. Nel suggerire che il discorso rivela, con un certo grado di chiarezza, il pensiero sottostante tale aggiunta al testo del codice penale, non intendo insinuare che la spiegazione primaria e manifesta della modifica come “messa in regola” sia rimpiazzata da questo secondo intento—poiché non è così che funzionano i cavalli di Troia.

    Un cavallo di Troia è, per sua natura, sleale; ma questa slealtà può avere successo solamente nella misura in cui l’obiettivo primo e dichiarato del cavallo rimanga credibile.


    5. Il discorso del Primo Ministro Harper alla Knesset israeliana il 20 gennaio 2014

    Durante il suo discorso, il Primo Ministro chiese, in modo retorico, cosa sia oggi a minacciare società che, come Israele, abbracciano “gli ideali di libertà, democrazia e stato di diritto”. La sua risposta fu piuttosto ampia:

    Coloro che aborrono la modernità, che minacciano la libertà altrui e che guardano con disprezzo alle diversità di popoli e culture. Coloro che, spesso cominciando con l’odiare gli ebrei, finiscono—la storia ce lo insegna—con l’odiare chiunque sia diverso da loro. Quelle forze che hanno minacciato lo stato di Israele ogni singolo giorno della sua esistenza e che, oggi—l’11/9 ne è la riprova—minacciano tutti noi.34

    Ciò può sembrare approssimativo. Ma il Primo Ministro Harper continuò dicendo che “viviamo in un mondo in cui […] il relativismo morale dilaga incontrollato”.

    E nell’orto di siffatto relativismo morale, possono essere piantati facilmente i germi di concetti ben più sinistri.

    Così abbiamo assistito, negli ultimi anni, alla mutazione dell’antico male dell’antisemitismo e alla progressiva affermazione di una nuova tensione.

    Tutti conosciamo lo storico antisemitismo.

    Fu rozzo ed ignorante e condusse agli orrori dei campi di concentramento.

    Certo, in molti angoli bui, ci persegue ancora.

    Ma, in gran parte del mondo Occidentale, l’antico odio si è trasformato in un più sofisticato strumento di comunicazione delle società civilizzate.

    Le persone non diranno mai di odiare ed accusare gli ebrei per i loro propri fallimenti o problemi del mondo; al contrario, dichiareranno il proprio odio verso Israele, trovando in esso soltanto la causa delle problematiche mediorientali.

    Come un tempo venivano boicottate le aziende israeliane, oggi i capi di società civilizzate chiedono il boicottaggio di Israele.

    In alcune sedi universitarie, argomentazioni intellettuali contro Israele mascherano debolmente le realtà sottostanti, quali la repulsione di professori israeliani e la molestia di studenti ebrei.

    La cosa più vergognosa, è che alcuni definiscono Israele come stato-apartheid.35

    A parere del il Primo Ministro, qualsiasi aspra critica di politiche ed amministrazione di Israele può essere solamente il risultato dell’odio antisemita da parte di persone alla ricerca di ulteriori mezzi con cui accusare gli ebrei. Dal resoconto traspare che gli ebrei, in veste di membri di un gruppo nazionale—in quanto cittadini di Israele, presenti o futuri che siano—, vengono accusati da questi nuovi antisemiti raffinati. Gli stessi ebrei canadesi sono vittima di tali accuse, visto che secondo la Legge del ritorno, anche coloro che non possiedono la cittadinanza israeliana sono comunque potenziali cittadini d’ Israele.

    L’assunto che le critiche di Israele siano motivate da una “nuova tensione” antisemita, e che quindi possano essere legittimamente categorizzate e stigmatizzate come forma di propaganda all’odio, non è un’invenzione del Primo Ministro. Come scrive nel 2005 lo storico Norman G. Finkelstein, “l’accusa di neo-antisemitismo non è né nuova né riguarda l’antisemitismo”: è, piuttosto, un’ideologia plasmatasi nei primi anni settanta con il chiaro scopo di allentare la pressione sullo stato di Israele circa l’occupazione dei territori palestinesi di Gaza e Cisgiordania, conquistati da Israele nella guerra dei sei giorni del 1967.36

    Le sezioni seguenti mostrano che l’ideologia e la retorica del “neo-antisemitismo” è stata decisamente rigettata da molti accademici e intellettuali pubblici ebrei contemporanei, di cui una parte significativa ha riconosciuto, nel dibattito etico interno alla comunità ebraica a proposito del trattamento dei palestinesi da parte di Israele, una ragione per appoggiare il crescente movimento di boicottaggio, disinvestimento e sanzioni contro Israele. Questa divisione intestina della comunità ebraica fornisce prove extra alla condanna delle affermazioni del Primo Ministro come fuorvianti e false. Si dimostrerà inoltre che l’etichetta affibbiata ad Israele quale stato-apartheid (che il signor Harper reputa “la cosa più vergognosa”) è stata effettivamente avallata da eminenti studiosi e personaggi pubblici sia in Israele che a livello internazionale – compreso il Sudafrica, ove esperti legali e funzionari pubblici possono tranquillamente affermare di sapere meglio del signor Harper cosa significhi la parola apartheid.


    6. Rifiuto del cosiddetto “neo-antisemitismo”

    Il neo-antisemitismo può essere brevemente definito come stratagemma retorico consistente nell’affermare che i tropi dell’antisemitismo, una delle cui funzioni è stata (e continua ad essere) quella di giustificare l’esclusione degli ebrei dal diritto di cittadinanza in qualunque paese abitino, vengono ora a ritorcersi contro la “collettività ebraica”, incarnata nello stato di Israele—con l’intento, questa volta, di impedire agli ebrei, intesi come collettività, di godere di pieni diritti di partecipazione alla famiglia delle nazioni. Lo scopo di tale atteggiamento retorico è di difendere azioni e politiche d’Israele, asserendo che i corrispettivi critici stiano esclusivamente fingendo di agire sulla base di princìpi universali quali giustizia e uguaglianza. In realtà, queste persone sono antisemiti che hanno “educatamente” riversato il proprio odio contro lo stato-nazione di Israele.

    Ritroviamo le medesime dinamiche del suddetto stratagemma in tre istanze recenti, riguardanti attribuzioni di reimpiego di alcuni dei più crudeli tropi circa l’antisemitismo: “ebreo” come incarnazione di degrado, lerciume ed escremento; “ebreo” come presenza contaminatrice o avvelenatrice (specialmente di fonti d’acqua comuni); “ebreo” come assassino di bambini.37 Nel corso dei secoli, gli antisemiti hanno usato queste ripugnanti accuse, in particolar modo la terza (conosciuta come la “calunnia del sangue”), per sollevare violenze di massa e persecuzioni di stato delle comunità ebraiche.

    Il primo di questi tropi fu usato contro il giornalista inglese Johann Hari quando, nel 2008, scrisse di non poter prendere parte ai festeggiamenti del sessantesimo anniversario della fondazione di Israele, a seguito degli accertati abusi nei confronti di palestinesi all’interno dei territori occupati—come lo scarico di acque di scolo non trattate su colture palestinesi dalla cima di insediamenti illegali sulle colline e l’embargo su attrezzature necessarie alla riparazione del sistema fognario di Gaza, con conseguenze potenzialmente devastanti per la salute. La Community Security Trust britannica (simile per certi aspetti alla B’nai Brith Canada) accusò Hari di “strumentalizzare la questione dei ‘liquami non trattati’ e della ‘merda’ israeliana per spiegare il perché non potesse festeggiare i sessant’anni dalla creazione di Israele” – lasciando così supporre ai lettori, siccome non venne fatta menzione del reportage di Hari né di riferimenti ad inchieste sul tema, di essersi cimentato in una vera e propria turpe apologia antisemita contro la collettività ebraica di Israele.38

    Il secondo tropo fu introdotto dall’ex Ministro alla giustizia canadese Irwin Cotler in uno scritto sui “Diritti umani e la nuova anti-ebraicità”, pubblicato sul Gerusalem Post nel 2004. Egli dichiarava che “in un mondo in cui i diritti umani sono comparsi come la nuova religione secolare del nostro tempo, il ritratto di Israele [da parte dell’ONU] come metafora del violatore di diritti umani vale ad additare Israele quale ‘nuovo anticristo’, ‘avvelenatore dei pozzi internazionali’…”.39 Notevole il fatto che Cotler non offra alcuna prova di tali traslati antisemiti, adottati da chiunque all’interno delle commissioni ONU che egli attacca—ci si può solo rammaricare che un esperto di legge, famoso a livello internazionale per essere un difensore dei diritti umani, sia diventato ostile a questo discorso al punto da caricaturizzarlo come pseudo-religione pervasa di antisemitismo.

    Il terzo tropo venne usato il 22 marzo 2009 da Jonathan Kay, quando protestò sul National Post che “dall’avvio della campagna di Gaza [Operazione Piombo fuso], le calunnie del sangue quali ‘massacro’ e ‘genocidio’ si sono susseguite spesso e volentieri”; lo stesso giorno Melanie Philips, scrivendo sullo Spectator, accusava il quotidiano israeliano Haaretz di calunnia di sangue per aver pubblicato la testimonianza di soldati israeliani rei di aver partecipato a crimini di guerra contro civili di Gaza.40

    Comune a tutti e tre i casi l’intenzionale omissione di prove materiali relative alle accuse di illecito contro Israele: simili prove vengono puntualmente fatte sparire da un’inversione retorica che trasforma lo stato d’Israele da persecutore di palestinesi in vittima dei propri accusatori antisemiti; e che trasforma giornalisti o attivisti per i diritti umani—che raccolgono e denunciano prove su crimini di guerra e crimini contro l’umanità—in qualcuno che deve invece rispondere alle accuse di diffusione di odio antisemita.

    In breve, la strategia retorica dell’ideologia di questo “neo-antisemitismo” è di allontanarsi tempestivamente da prove materiali per nascondersi nell’inversione retorica e nella diffamazione. Nel 2009, Yuli Edelstein, Ministro della Diplomazia pubblica e degli affari sulla diaspora, spiegò come approcciare il problema durante il Forum globale per la lotta all’antisemitismo a Gerusalemme. Le parole in maiuscolo sono sue:

    Dobbiamo ribadire più volte questi dati di fatto—ESSERE ‘anti-Israele’ significa ESSERE ANTISEMITA. BOICOTTARE ISRAELE, I PROFESSORI ISRAELIANI e le aziende ISRAELIANE, non sono mosse politiche, sono atti di odio, atti di antisemitismo! L’isteria anti-Israele è isteria antisemita. Sono la stessa identica cosa.41

    Massimi intellettuali israeliani hanno screditato l’ideologia da cui si genera codesta retorica “neo-antisemita”. Dei molti che si potrebbero citare, ne menziono solo due.42 Il filosofo dell’Università di Oxford, Brian Klug, scrisse in un saggio sul “Mito del neo-antisemitismo” che “quando ciascun antisionista è antisemita, non sappiamo più distinguere la verità—l’accezione antisemitismo perde di significato”.43 La filosofa e teorica letteraria americana Judith Butler, insistendo sul fatto che ci si debba “rifiutare di bollare l’istinto critico come antisemita o di accettare il dettame antisemita come attendibile sostituto della critica”, analizza con estrema lucidità la maniera in cui false accuse di antisemitismo “servono ad immunizzare la violenza di Israele contro la critica, rifiutando di tollerare l’integrità delle affermazioni fatte contro tale violenza”. Ha denunciato il bisogno di “un certo coraggio collettivo” per dar modo al pubblico di “dichiararsi fermamente contrario all’ovvia ed illegittima violenza…”.44

    Un tentativo di riaccendere questa già rifiutata ideologia “neo-antisemita” fu intrapreso in Canada fra il 2009 ed il 2011 per mano di un gruppo di deputati—guidati da Irwin Cotler e dal Ministro della Cittadinanza, immigrazione e multiculturalismo Jason Kenney—che formò una Coalizione parlamentare canadese per la lotta all’antisemitismo (CPCCA). Il tentativo fallì. Le prove fornite da ufficiali di polizia ed amministratori universitari alla commissione d’inchiesta, rappresentata dalla CPCCA, confutano le affermazioni di quest’ultima secondo cui il Canada sta assistendo ad un incremento di incidenti antisemiti e che gli ebrei (specie quelli che sostengono Israele) vengono regolarmente perseguitati e molestati nelle università canadesi. La CPCCA, che inizialmente godeva di rappresentanza in ogni partito, perse l’appoggio dei membri del Blocco del Québec, i quali non approvarono il rifiuto della CPCCA di concedere spazio, durante le sue sedute, a gruppi per la difesa dei diritti umani aventi opinioni contrastanti con quelle dei principali organizzatori. La pubblicazione del rapporto finale della CPCCA maturò un ritardo di molti mesi dovuto a disaccordi creatisi, in parte, dallo scandaloso tentativo (per il quale Jason Kenney rifiutò di scusarsi) del Partito conservatore di danneggiare Irwin Cotler nella sua campagna di robo-chiamate e, in parte, dalla campagna diffamatoria che lo accusava, ironicamente, di prestare troppo poco sostegno a Israele. Seppure la CPCCA si premurò di non accettare alcuna presentazione d’istanza alla propria inchiesta che fosse critica nei confronti dei suoi stessi presupposti, diciotto di quelle petizioni furono pubblicate in un libro che uscì svariati mesi prima del tardivo rapporto della CPCCA e che fu consigliato dal Globe and Mail quale lettura estiva “per Tories desiderosi di imparare”.45


    7. Il dibattito fra ebrei circa l’eticità del trattamento dei palestinesi da parte di Israele

    Come si è detto sopra, molti professori ed intellettuali ebrei, sia in Israele che nel mondo, si sono schierati in ferma opposizione alle politiche israeliane di apartheid nei confronti dei palestinesi e alla continua colonizzazione dei territori occupati. In tali circostanze, assieme al fatto che in Canada e altrove si uniscono a queste posizioni anche vari cittadini ebrei attivisti, vi è un profondo rifiuto della ripetizione retorica “antisemita” del Primo Ministro Harper.

    Come ci si poteva aspettare, le opinioni in Israele circa il significato delle parole di Harper non furono unanimi. In attesa delle dichiarazioni di Harper, Benjamin Netanyahu lo definì “un amico che sta sempre dalla nostra parte”.46 Altri israeliani, sebbene siano di certo una minoranza, la pensano diversamente. Uri Avnery, ex membro della Knesset, figura importante del (purtroppo vacillante) movimento per la pace israeliano, nonché rispettato giornalista a livello mondiale, rigetta il discorso di Harper come “ridicolo”.47

    Due settimane dopo quel discorso, uno dei massimi sociologi in Israele, la professoressa Eva Illouz dell’Università Ebraica di Gerusalemme, pubblicò un lungo saggio su Haaretz che esplorava la profondità e l’importanza della divisione fra gli ebrei riguardo alla problematica morale del trattamento dei palestinesi da parte di Israele. Il titolo del saggio, “Quarantasette anni schiavo: una nuova prospettiva sull’occupazione”, è alquanto impressionante;48 lo studio della Illouz lo è ancora di più.

    Illouz inizia ricordando che, ogni giorno, tre quarti delle notizie presenti su Haaretz “girano regolarmente attorno agli stessi due argomenti: persone che lottano per proteggere il buon nome di Israele e persone che si battono contro le sue violenze ed ingiustizie”. Poi menziona due sorprendenti caratteristiche di questa lotta: primo, benché ci si cerchi di infangare a vicenda, “il fango è lanciato da ebreo a ebreo”; secondo, “i valorosi combattenti per il buon nome di Israele dimenticano un fatto essenziale: le critiche a Israele negli Stati Uniti provengono sempre più da ebrei, e non da antisemiti”.49

    Affermando che “se Israele viene certamente identificato fra le molte nazioni che registrano scarsi risultati in materia di diritti umani, ciò è dovuto al sentimento di vergogna e imbarazzo che gran parte degli ebrei in Occidente prova verso uno Stato che, con le sue politiche e i suoi costumi, non li rappresenta più”, Illouz cita l’osservazione di Peter Beinart secondo cui “gli ebrei sembrano essere divisi in due fazioni distinte…”.50 Diversamente dalle più comuni divisioni della storia, questa, dice la Illouz, è avvenuta a causa di un problema morale, e cioè quello del trattamento dei palestinesi nei territori occupati da Israele. Entrambe le parti affermano di dover rispondere ad imperativi morali. Quello che lei chiama il gruppo di “sicurezza come moralità” crede che “siccome gli ebrei furono le grandi vittime della storia e vista l’intrinseca vulnerabilità dello Stato d’Israele, accerchiato da un mare di nemici”, Israele “è doppiamente irredarguibile”. Il secondo gruppo, invece,

    si basa su princìpi universali di giustizia, sottolineando che Israele si sta allontanando rapidamente dalle pacifiche, multietniche e pluralistiche democrazie del mondo. Israele smise di rappresentare una valida fonte di identificazione per questi ebrei, non perché essi odino se stessi, ma perché molti di loro hanno partecipato attivamente, a parole o con i fatti, alla liberazione delle rispettive società—cioè, all’estensione di diritti umani, economici e sociali ad una più vasta gamma di gruppi.51

    Illouz sostiene, precisamente, che il miglior esempio di parallelismo storico utile a comprendere questa divisione comunitaria è dato dalla disputa del diciannovesimo secolo che ebbe luogo negli Stati Uniti intorno al tema della schiavitù.

    Due elementi rendono convincente tale analogia. Il primo è suggerito dal sociologo di Harvard Orlando Patterson, “esperto di storia e sociologia della schiavitù”, secondo cui il fulcro della questione della schiavitù non è rappresentato dal fatto che le persone vengono comprate e vendute come proprietà, ma piuttosto dal fatto che esse vengono obbligate a sopportare condizioni di “dominazione permanente, violenta e personale” e “isolate dalla nascita e generalmente disonorate”.52 Illouz osserva che “quello che iniziò come un conflitto militare nazionale” fra israeliani e palestinesi

    si è trasformato in una forma di dominazione dei palestinesi che sfiora le condizioni di schiavitù. Se concepiamo la schiavitù come condizione di esistenza e non come proprietà e commercio di corpi umani, la dominazione che Israele esercita sui palestinesi risulta aver creato il contesto di dominazione che definisco “condizione di schiavitù”.53

    Come spiega in dettaglio, il contesto di dominazione include l’assoggettamento ad arresti arbitrari, incarcerazione e tortura; imposizione di un sistema legale kafkiano, alquanto diverso da quello che regola la vita degli israeliani; attacchi militari (che comprendono l’uso di palestinesi come “scudo umano”), violenza e distruzione di proprietà senza inflizione di pena nei confronti dei colonizzatori; rigorose restrizioni al movimento, accompagnate strangolamento economico; contenimento dei matrimoni e sistematica violazione della proprietà privata; imposizione di “un costante senso di disonore” su persone che “conducono una vita imprevedibile e discontinua, che vivono nel terrore ebraico e nella violenza delle milizie israeliane e che temono di non trovare lavoro, riparo o famiglia”.54

    Il secondo elemento è la sconcertante ideologia predicante l’intrinseca superiorità ebraica rispetto agli arabi—totalmente analoga a quella delle dottrine fondate sulla Bibbia relative alla supremazia bianca propugnata da sostenitori della schiavitù nell’America del diciannovesimo secolo—adottata in Israele per giustificare l’assoggettamento dei palestinesi, oggi tendenza dominante circa il tema degli insediamenti. “Come i bianchi in Sudamerica,” scrive Illouz, gli ebrei d’Israele “si considerano evidentemente più virtuosi, superiori, civilizzati e tecnologicamente ed economicamente più avanzati rispetto agli arretrati arabi”; “parimenti alla controparte sudista del diciannovesimo secolo, i coloni hanno largamente santificato la loro terra attraverso predicazioni bibliche e credono, come i proprietari schiavisti, di eseguire la volontà di Dio”.55

    Da professore responsabile, Illouz descrive con precisione sia le limitazioni di quest’analogia, sia—mediante ampie analisi e citazioni piene di dettagli sulle condizioni di schiavitù sopportate dai palestinesi e sul motivo della dominazione ormai radicato in Israele—il suo potere esplicativo.

    Le sue conclusioni sono infatti convincenti. Israele, pur essendo “lo stato maggiormente preoccupato al mondo in materia di sicurezza,”

    ha fallito nel tramutare il conflitto coi palestinesi in conflitto militare. Viceversa, è stato trasposto in un disastro umanitario che ha provocato una guerra morale ed un’incolmabile frattura in seno alla comunità ebraica. Le strategie di relazioni pubbliche dello stato non metteranno a tacere questa guerra morale.

    Ciò implica un crescente isolamento internazionale:

    L’Israele sta pericolosamente salpando dal vocabolario etico della maggioranza dei Paesi civilizzati di questo pianeta. A riprova di ciò sta il fatto che molti lettori giudicheranno inaffidabili le mie fonti poiché provengono da organizzazioni che difendono i diritti umani. Israele non parla più la comune lingua etica delle nazioni illuminate. E rifiutandosi di parlarla, si sta di fatto condannando all’isolamento.56

    Dovrebbe dunque risultare ovvio quanto duramente il saggio della professoressa Illouz critichi le false pietà del discorso tenuto alla Knesset da Stephen Harper. Alla radice dei fatti, la dichiarazione di Harper che i critici delle politiche e dell’amministrazione di Israele siano per definizione antisemiti si dimostra sventuratamente falsa—qualcheduno auspicherà che il parallelismo, sviluppato in maniera così puntuale ed esauriente dalla professoressa Illouz, farà torcere il naso persino a qualcuno della sua (di Harper) stessa obliquità mentale.


    8. La cosa più vergognosa di tutte… un stato-apartheid

    Nella parte finale del saggio, Eva Illouz sottolinea che gli israeliani non realizzano l’entità della loro colonizzazione ed occupazione “perché la lingua stessa è stata colonizzata”. Molti Israeliani interpretano l’occupazione in quanto “terroristi e nemici; il mondo vede gente debole, nullatenente e perseguitata. Il mondo reagisce indignandosi alla persistente dominazione israeliana dei palestinesi, mentre Israele dileggia tale indignazione in quanto espressione di doppia morale…”. A causa di questa “colonizzazione” della parola, “la disputa che divide gli ebrei è più complicata della disputa sulla schiavitù, perché non esiste accordo nemmeno su come definire adeguatamente l’enorme iniziativa di dominazione creata nei territori”.57

    In realtà, vi è un’intesa piuttosto diffusa sull’appropriatezza del nome—almeno circa i “princìpi universali di giustizia” pertinenti al divario, analizzati dalla professoressa Illouz.58

    Il termine “apartheid” venne adoperato con distaccata accuratezza da Marwan Bishara, nel 2001, per descrivere ciò che Israele ha fatto nei territori occupati dai primi anni Novanta in poi: “ha diviso fisicamente e demograficamente la Cisgiordania e Gaza in isole di povertà o bantustan, mantenendo dominazione economica e controllo diretto su territori e risorse naturali palestinesi”.59 Fu poi riutilizzato nel 2006 dall’ex presidente degli Stati Uniti Jimmy Carter; utilizzo approvato nel 2007 dall’insignita del Premio Israele ed ex ministra dell’istruzione Shulamit Aloni.60 Nel gennaio 2010, Henry Siegman—ex direttore esecutivo del Congresso ebraico-americano ed attuale Presidente del Progetto USA/Medio Oriente del Consiglio sulle relazioni estere—scriveva che “l’inarrestabile” edificazione di nuovi insediamenti da parte di Israele “sembra essere finalmente riuscita a fissare l’irrevocabilità del progetto coloniale. Come conseguenza di tale 'conquista', che i successivi governi israeliani hanno inseguito per molto tempo con l’intento di precludere la soluzione a due Stati, Israele è passato dall’essere 'unica democrazia in Medio Oriente' a unico regime apartheid del mondo Occidentale.”61

    Come rileva il dottor Jason Kunin, si fa pungente ironia sul fatto che mentre esponenti accademici—per non parlare di politici—condannino come inaccettabile ogni accostamento del termine “apartheid” a pratiche di furto di terreno, acquartieramento ed assoggettamento, separazione ed oppressione raziale di un popolo soggiogato che caratterizzano il trattamento israeliano dei palestinesi, “professori di diritto sudafricani—da cui ci si aspetterebbe una più diretta comprensione delle dinamiche dell’apartheid—non hanno esitato a descrivere il comportamento dello stato d’Israele, nei territori palestinesi occupati, come ‘un sistema coloniale che instaura un regime di apartheid’.”62 (Il suo riferimento è legato ad un articolo di professori e giuristi sudafricani pubblicato dallo Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa nel maggio 2009: Occupazione, colonialismo, apartheid? Una rivalutazione di diritto internazionale sulle politiche di Israele nei territori palestinesi occupati).63

    Una delibera che veda lo Stato di Israele instaurare un regime di apartheid si ripercuote sul diritto internazionale—ove l’apartheid è definita come crimine contro l’umanità. È dunque poco sorprendente che il vincitore del Premio Nobel per la pace, l’arcivescovo Desmond Tutu, abbia osservato: “Alcune persone sono furibonde per il paragone fatto tra il conflitto israelopalestinese e ciò che accadde in Sudafrica…”. Ma Tutu andò avanti insistendo che “per quelli di noi che hanno vissuto gli orrori disumanizzanti dell’epoca dell’apartheid, il paragone non sembra appropriato, […] ma è pur necessario se vogliamo continuare a sperare che le cose cambino”.64

    Il paragone non implica alcuna dichiarazione di identicità fra il regime di apartheid israeliano e quello avutosi in Sudafrica. Secondo Naomi Klein,

    la domanda non è “Israele è uguale al Sudafrica?”, bensì “la condotta di Israele soddisfa i criteri internazionali che determinano cosa sia l’apartheid?”. Se si guarda a quelle condizioni che includono il trasferimento di persone, i diversi usi della legge, la segregazione ufficiale di stato, allora sì, quei criteri vengono soddisfatti—il che è diverso dal dire che è uguale al Sudafrica.65

    Ma i sostenitori delle politiche di Israele cadrebbero in errore se pensassero di poter trovare consolazione od incoraggiamento nelle differenze tra i regimi di Israele e Sudafrica. Secondo Ronnie Kasrils, che fu uno dei molti ebrei sudafricani a combattere l’apartheid con onore e che, successivamente, diventò Ministro durante il governo Mandela:

    Senza dubbio, noi sudafricani che combattemmo l’apartheid consideriamo, unanimemente, molto molto peggiori i metodi di repressione e punizione collettiva di Israele rispetto a qualsiasi cosa vissuta durante la nostra lunga e difficile lotta per la liberazione. I diffusi ed indiscriminati bombardamenti di Israele su aree popolate, con scarso riguardo per le vittime civili, furono assenti in Sudafrica perché il regime di apartheid si affidava all’economica forza lavoro nera. Israele rifiuta completamente un intero popolo e mira ad eliminare del tutto la presenza palestinese, non importa se in maniera collaborativa o tramite “trasferimento” forzato. È proprio questo che contraddistingue la maggior brutalità duratura di Israele rispetto all’apartheid del Sudafrica.66

    Forse, alla luce dell’analisi di Eva Illouz, dovremmo integrare la voce “apartheid” parlando anche di “condizioni di schiavitù”. Ma che si accetti o meno quest’intensificazione del vocabolo, dovremmo ricordare qualcos’altro che viene evidenziato in un recente articolo dal professor Jake Lynch, direttore del Centro per gli studi sulla pace e sul conflitto dell’Università di Sydney. Come fa notare, il rapporto del South African Human Sciences Research Council che giudicava Israele quale trasgressore della Convenzione internazionale sulla soppressione e punizione del crimine di apartheid, dichiarava inoltre che tale sentenza obbligava i governi a “cooperare per mettere fine alla violazione, a non riconoscere l’assetto illegale scaturito da quest’ultima e a non porgere aiuto né assistenza allo Stato che se ne faceva artefice”.67

    Non appare necessario commentare la visione del Primo Ministro Harper che giudica vergognosa l’applicazione del termine “apartheid” a ciò che Israele sta facendo. Uri Avnery potrebbe avere ragione nel credere che la miglior risposta a tali fanfaronate sia ridicola.


    9. Conclusioni

    Ma qualcosa che vada oltre il ridicolo risulta doveroso per far fronte ad un’evidente minaccia al diritto dei cittadini di protestare pacificamente e boicottare quando lo si reputi necessario ad attirare attenzione pubblica sul fallimento del nostro governo (e di molti altri) nell’onorare i propri obblighi in ambito di diritto internazionale.

    Due passi paiono fondamentali per rispondere a ciò che ho definito un cavallo di Troia relativamente alle modifiche delle sezioni 318 e 319 del codice penale canadese, apportate dal DDL C-13. Il primo dovrebbe essere indiscutibile e può essere compiuto immediatamente. La sezione 12 del DDL C-13 (la sezione che contiene queste revisioni) può essere facilmente modificata al fine di includere la dichiarazione che “nulla in questa sezione dev’essere interpretato in contrasto con la responsabilità del Canada, ai sensi dell’articolo 1 della Quarta convenzione di Ginevra, ‘di rispettare e far rispettare’ quella Convenzione ‘in ogni circostanza’; né nulla in questa sezione dev’essere interpretato in contrasto con le responsabilità assunte dal Canada sotto altri strumenti di diritto umanitario internazionale di cui il Canada è firmatario”.

    Il secondo passo che raccomanderei ai canadesi è di sostituire il governo che si imbarca in simili legiferazioni in stile cavallo di Troia con uno migliore.

    Michael Keefer è professore emerito presso la School of English and Theatre Studies dell’Università di Guelph. Laureato presso il Royal Military College of Canada, l’Università di Toronto e l’Università del Sussex, è l’ex presidente dell’Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, membro del Seriously Free Speech Committee e socio dell’Independent Jewish Voices Canada.




    1  Vedi, ad esempio, Michael Deas, “Norway’s pension fund divests from Israel’s largest real estate firm”, The Electronic Intifada (19 giugno 2012),; “Major US pension fund divests ethical fund from Veolia”, BDS Movement (22 novembre 2013),; “Veolia Campaign Victories: Total value of lost Veolia contracts: €18.122 billion ($23.97 billion)”, Global Exchange (febbraio 2014),; Asa Winstanley, “Dutch pension giant divests from 5 Israeli banks”, BDS Movement (13 gennaio 2014),; Elena Popina, “SodaStream Drops Amid Sanctions Over Jewish Settlements”, Bloomberg (3 febbraio 2014),

    2  “Sanctions against Israel: A campaign that is gathering weight”, The Economist (8 febbraio 2014),

    3  Avraham Burg, “What’s wrong with BDS, after all? Israel will be helpless when the discourse moves from who’s stronger/tougher/more resilient to a discourse on rights and values”, Haaretz (3 febbraio 2014),; citazione del reverendo Robert Assaly, “BDS movement scores huge in Superbowl victory over Sodastream”, NECEF: Near East Cultural & Educational Foundation (20 febbraio 2014),

    4  Herb Keinon, “Netanyahu convenes strategy meeting to fight boycotts”, Jerusalem Post (10 febbraio 2014),; Gil Ronen, “Leftist Ministers Kept Out of Secret Cabinet BDS Session”, Arutz Sheva 7 (10 febbraio 2014), Il fatto che personaggi del calibro di Tzipi Livni vengano descritti come “sinistroidi” è sintomo di uno spostamento verso posizioni di estrema destra all’interno dello spettro politico israeliano.

    5  “Israeli ministers discuss using lawyers and Mossad to fight BDS”, Middle East Monitor (10 febbraio 2014),

    6  Jake Lynch, “Coalition plans to punish those who boycott Israel”, The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) (25 giugno 2013),

    7  Abdus-Sattar Ghazali, “Academic Freedom Act threatens academic freedom?”, OpEd News (16 febbraio 2014),

    8  Campbell Clark, “Netanyahu calls Harper a ‘friend that always stands by us’,” Globe and Mail (19 gennaio 2014, aggiornato il 20 gennaio 2014),

    9  “Myths and Facts: Bill C-13, Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act”, Dipartimento di Giustizia Canadese (novembre 2013, modificato il 5 dicembre 2013),

    10  Vedi Michael Geist, “The Privacy Threats in Bill C-13, Part One: Immunity for Personal Info Disclosures Without a Warrant”, Michael Geist (25 novembre 2013),; e “The Privacy Threats in Bill C-13, Part Two: The Low Threshold for Metadata”, Michael Geist (11 dicembre 2013),

    11  Michael Spratt, “C-13: A Digital Trojan horse for the surveillance state”, iPolitics (28 novembre 2013),

    12  Terry Wilson, “The Dangers Hidden in Bill C-13 ‘Protecting Canadians From Online Crime Act’”, Canadian Awareness Network (23 novembre 2013),

    13  “BDS a hate crime? In France, legal vigilance punishes anti-Israel activists”, Haaretz (15 febbraio 2014),

    14  Quarta convenzione sulla Protezione delle persone civili in tempo di guerra. Ginevra, 12 agosto 1949,, Articolo 1.

    15  Vedi, ad esempio, Omar Bargouti, “Besieging Israel’s Siege”, The Guardian (12 agosto 2010), “Creata e guidata da Palestinesi, la BDS si oppone ad ogni forma di razzismo, incluso l’antisemitismo, e si ispira a quei valori universali di libertà, giustizia e parità di diritti che motivarono le lotte anti-apartheid e per i diritti civili negli Stati Uniti”.

    16  Bill C-13. An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act,

    17  Codice penale (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46. Legge del 14-01-2014, ultima modifica al 12-12-2013, Justice Laws Website,

    18  “BDS a hate crime?” Haaretz (15 febbraio 2014).

    19  Jean-Yves Camus, Racist Violence in France (Bruxelles: European Network Against Racism, 2011),, p. 4.

    20  “BDS a hate crime?” Haaretz (15 febbraio 2014).

    21  “Proposta di legge che mira ad aggravare le pene per i reati a sfondo razzista e a consolidare l’efficacia del codice di procedura penale”, N° 350, presentato dai signori Pierre Lellouche e Jacques Barrot, deputati dell’assemblea nazionale (7 novembre 2002),, “Quadro dei motivi”.

    22  Ibidem: “Morali o fisiche, le violenze razziste offendono non soltanto le persone che ne sono vittime, ma attentano altresì alla coesione nazionale e ai princìpi fondamentali della nazione”.

    23  Ibidem: “Resta il fatto che il fenomeno può risorgere in qualsiasi momento, come lo testimoniano svariati casi recenti, particolarmente preoccupanti, come l’omicidio dichiaratamente razzista, del mese di ottobre, di un giovane francese d’origine marocchina in un dipartimento del nord, o l’aggressione di inizio novembre contro i giovani allievi di una scuola privata ebraica della XXX circoscrizione di Parigi, per il solo motivo di essere ebrei”.

    24  Ibidem: “L’oggetto della presente proposta, senza aggiungere nuove incriminazioni al codice penale, prende in considerazione l’intenzionalità razzista e, dunque, aggrava pesantemente le pene per i colpevoli di attentato alla persona e alla proprietà in caso esse siano di matrice razzista. Questi aggravamenti delle pene vanno ad applicarsi agli atti di tortura e barbarie, alle violenze culminanti in omicidio preterintenzionale, mutilazione, infermità permanente o incapacità di lavorare, così come agli atti di distruzione, degrado e deterioramento della proprietà”.

    25  “BDS a hate crime?” Haaretz (15 febbraio 2014).

    26  Ibidem.

    27  Ibidem.

    28  La prima versione dell’episodio del cavallo di Troia si trova nell’Odissea di Omero, libri IV. 271-89, e VIII. 492-520. La vicenda fu raccontata ancora da poeti successivi, fra cui Quinto Smirneo, in La Caduta di Troia, libri XII. 104-520, e XIII; e Virgilio, nella sua Eneide, libro II. 13-267.

    29  Paul McLeod, “Hate law favours Israel, critics charge”, Chronicle-Herald (19 marzo 2014),

    30  Protocollo addizionale…,, cap. I, art. 2.1: “Ai fini di questo Protocollo: ‘materiale razzista e xenofobico’ sta per ogni scritto, immagine o altra rappresentazione di idee e teorie che difendano, promuovano o incitino all’odio, alla discriminazione o alla violenza contro quale che sia individuo o gruppo di individui, sulla base di razza, colore, estrazione, identità etnica o nazionale, ma anche su base religiosa quando questa viene usata come pretesto per qualunque dei succitati elementi”.

    31  McLeod, “Hate law favours Israel, critics charge”.

    32  Nel Codice penale, 318.(2), “‘genocidio’ sta per ciascuno dei seguenti atti commessi intenzionalmente per distruggere, interamente o in parte, quale che sia gruppo identificabile, cioè (a) uccidere membri del gruppo, (b) imporvi, di proposito, condizioni di vita pensate per ottemperare alla sua distruzione fisica”.

    L’articolo 2 della Convenzione sul genocidio dichiara che “genocidio sta per ciascuno dei seguenti atti commessi intenzionalmente per distruggere, interamente o in parte, un gruppo nazionale, etico, razziale o religioso, quali (a) uccidere membri del gruppo, (b) causare grave danno fisico o mentale a membri del gruppo, (c) imporvi, di proposito, condizioni di vita pensate per ottemperare alla sua distruzione fisica, totale o parziale, (d) imporvi misure intese a prevenire le nascite, (e) trasferire forzatamente bambini da un gruppo all’altro”. (Vedi Convenzione per la prevenzione e punizione del crimine di genocidio. Adottata mediante la Risoluzione 260 [III] A dell’Assemblea generale delle Nazioni Unite il 9 dicembre 1948,

    33  David MacDonald e Graham Hudson, “The Genocide Question and Indian Residential Schools in Canada”, Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue Canadienne de Science Politique 45.2 (giugno 2012): 427-49,; vedi in particolare pp. 434-38. MacDonald e Hudson sottolineano che la Legge sui crimini contro l’umanità e i crimini di guerra del 2000 esclude esplicitamente la possibilità di procedimenti retroattivi per crimini di genocidio commessi in Canada prima del 1998.

    34  “Leggi l’intero testo dello storico discorso di Harper alla Knesset d’Israele”, Globe and Mail (20 gennaio 2014),

    35  Ibidem.

    36  Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), pp. 21 sgg.

    37  Seguendo l’esempio di Brian Klug, faccio riferimento a “ebreo” tra virgolette per rendere chiaro che ciò a cui ci si riferisce in questa frase è il personaggio di fantasia creato dallo stereotipare antisemita. Vedi Klug, “What do we mean when we say ‘antisemitism’?”, Conferenza plenaria presso il Museo Ebraico, Berlino, 8 novembre 2013, YouTube (21 novembre 2013), Klug cita il sopravvissuto alla Shoah Imre Kertész: “In un ambiente razzista, un ebreo non può essere umano, ma non può nemmeno essere un ebreo, poiché ‘ebreo’ è un appellativo ambiguo agli occhi dell’antisemita soltanto”.

    38  Questo incidente è discusso in Michael Keefer, “Data and Deception: Quantitative Evidence of Antisemitism,” in Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (Waterloo, Ontario: The Canadian Charger, 2010), pp. 183-85. Vedi Johann Hari, “Israel is suppressing a secret it must face”, The Independent (28 aprile 2008),; Hari, “The loathsome smearing of Israel’s critics”, The Independent (8 maggio 2008),; e Community Security Trust, Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2008 (CST, 2009),, p. 24 (corsivo nel testo originale).

    39  Vedi Keefer, “Desperate Imaginings: Rhetoric and Ideology of the ‘New Antisemitism’”, in Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 212-15; e Irwin Cotler, “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness,” Jerusalem Post (5 febbraio 2004); disponibile presso SPME: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East,

    40  Ibidem, p. 211; vedi Jonathan Kay, “Here is the difference between Israel and its Arab enemies”, National Post (22 marzo 2009),; e Melanie Phillips, “The Ha’aretz Blood Libel”, Spectator (22 marzo 2009),

    41  Citato in Keefer, Antisemitism Real and Imagined, “Introduzione”, p. 15.

    42  Altri che potrebbero essere citati sono: Shulamit Aloni, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Marc Ellis, Richard Falk, David Theo Goldberg, Neve Gordon, Amira Hass, Tony Judt, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Baruch Kimmerling, Naomi Klein, Joel Kovel, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappe, Harold Pinter, Yakov Rabkin, William I. Robinson, Jacqueline Rose, Israel Shahak, Avi Shlaim e David Shulman. (Molte di queste persone hanno anche sostenuto la BDS).

    43  Brian Klug, “The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism”, The Nation (15 gennaio 2004),

    44  Judith Butler, “The Charge of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and the Risks of Public Critique”, in Precious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (2004; Londra e New York: Verso, 2006), pp. 126-27.

    45  Gerald Caplan, “A Mideast reading list for Tories willing to learn”, Globe and Mail (27 agosto 2010, aggiornato il 15 novembre 2010), Il libro Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism contiene, nella prima delle sue tre parti, undici petizioni da parte di professori ed attivisti per i diritti umani (si dà il caso che la maggior parte di costoro sia ebraica) e, nella seconda parte, petizioni respinte di sette organizzazioni per la difesa dei diritti umani; la terza parte è costituita da tre saggi dell’autore (la cui petizione alla CPCCA fu altrettanto rifiutata).

    46  Campbell Clark, “Netanyahu calls Harper a ‘friend that always stands by us’”, Globe and Mail (19 gennaio 2014). Quest’affermazione fu fatta un giorno prima del discorso di Harper alla Knesset. Ma, come Netanyahu sapeva, le dichiarazioni di Harper facevano da eco a ciò che lui diceva da anni. Nel marzo 2014, Netanyahu dichiarò all’AIPAC che i sostenitori della BDS “dovrebbero essere contrastati perché sono contrari alla pace e perché la BDS è semplicemente sbagliata. Quelli che portano lo stemma della BDS dovrebbero essere trattati allo stesso modo degli antisemiti e dei bigotti. Andrebbero smascherati e condannati” (video riprodotto da Lia Tarachansky, “Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase”, The Real News [23 marzo 2014],

    47  Uri Avnery, “Nothing New Under the Sun”, Gush (25 gennaio 2014),

    48  Eva Illouz, “47 years a slave: a new perspective on the occupation”, Haaretz (7 febbraio 2014), Illouz è autrice di otto libri e più di ottanta articoli e capitoli di libri; i suoi lavori sono largamente tradotti, e hanno vinto importanti premi in Germania, Francia e Stati Uniti, compreso, nel 2013, il Premio Anneliese Meier della Fondazione Alexander von Humboldt. È anche presidentessa, dal 2012, della Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, accademia di belle arti del proprio paese.

    49  Ibidem.

    50  Ibidem. Illouz si riferisce al saggio di Peter Beinarts, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment”, New York Review of Books (10 giugno 2010),; e probabilmente anche al suo libro, The Crisis of Zionism (New York: Times Books, 2012).

    51  Ibidem.

    52  Illouz cita queste espressioni di un’altra rispettata autorità internazionale in tema di schiavitù, David Brion Davis, il quale cita Patterson nel proprio libro Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). Il libri di Orlando Patterson include lo studio classico Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1982).

    53  Illouz, “47 years a slave.”

    54  Ibidem.

    55  Ibidem.

    56  Ibidem.

    57  Ibidem.

    58  I due paragrafi seguenti sono estrappolati dal mio saggio, “Desperate Imaginings: Rhetoric and Ideology of the ‘New Antisemitism’”, in Antisemitism Real and Imagined, p. 231.

    59  Marwan Bishara, Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid (2001; seconda edizione, Londra e New York: Zed Books, 2002), p. 4.

    60  Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006; New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007); vedi anche “Canada’s withholding funds from Palestinians ‘criminal’: Carter”, CBC News (9 dicembre 2006), http://www.cbca/ca/canada/story/2006/12/08/carter-israel.html; e Shulamit Aloni, “Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel”, CounterPunch (8 gennaio 2007), Aloni è anche autore di Demokratia ba’azikim [Democracy or Ethnocracy] (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 2010).

    61  Henry Siegman, “Imposing Middle East Peace”, The Nation (7 gennaio 2010),

    62  Jason Kunin, “Freedom to Teach, Freedom of Speech: Israel-Palestine”, in Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 58-59 n. 2.

    63  Middle East Project of the Democracy and Governance Programme, Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law (Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, maggio 2009), pp. 302; disponibile su

    64  Citato da Ronnie Kasrils, “Sour Oranges and the Sweet Taste of Freedom”, in Audrea Lim, The Case for Sanctions Against Israel (Londra e New York: Verso, 2012), p. 109 (citazione dell’arcivescovo Desmond Tutu, “Realizing God’s Dream for the Holy Land”, Boston Globe [26 ottobre 2007]). Vedi anche “Palestinian ‘humiliation’ by Israel reminds Tutu of apartheid”, Mail & Guardian (10 marzo 2014),

    65  “Trascrizione del seminario di Naomi Klein a Ramallah”, BDS Movement (10 luglio 2009),; citata da Ken Loach, Rebecca O’Brien e Paul Laverty, “Looking for Eric, Melbourne Festival, and the Cultural Boycott”, in Lim, The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, p. 200.

    66  Ronnie Kasrils, “Sour Oranges…”, in Lim, The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, pp. 109-110.

    67  Jake Lynch, “Coalition plans to punish those who boycott Israel”, The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), (25 giugno 2013). La sezione rilevante della Convenzione internazionale sulla soppressione e punizione del crimine di apartheid è l’articolo IV: “I paesi che aderiscono alla presente Convenzione s’impegnano a: (a) adottare qualunque misura legislativa necessaria a sopprimere e prevenire ogni incoraggiamento al crimine di apartheid e a simili politiche segregazionistiche o loro manifestazioni e di punire le persone colpevoli di tale crimine…”. Il testo è disponibile su