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Opinion Editorials, February 8, 2010


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Canadian Inter-Faith Groups Denounce Harper Government, Call for Boycott of Illegally-produced Israeli Goods

By Brian McIntosh, February 8, 2010


Canadian Christian, Jewish, Muslim Faith and Cultural Groups Denounce Harper Government’s Dismal Record on Human Rights for Palestinians,

Call for Boycott of Illegally-produced Israeli Goods

On February 3, 2010, a number of Canadian faith and ethno-cultural organizations denounced the Harper government’s record regarding human rights for the Palestinian people, calling it an affront to democracy, Canadian values and international law.  In addition the groups called upon the Canadian government and the Canadian people to respond to the united cry of the Palestinian community for the application of international means of pressure on Israel, particularly through boycott, divestment and/or sanctions, to live up to its obligations as defined by the United Nations.  Speakers represented the Holy Land Awareness and Action Task Group of South West Presbytery in The United Church of Canada, Independent Jewish Voices, the Canadian Arab Federation, the Canadian Islamic Congress, and the Peace and Social Action Committee of the Toronto Friends Meeting (Quakers).
Brian McIntosh, representing the Holy Land group within the United Church, whose national body has been severely criticized by the Canadian Jewish Congress in recent weeks, said that the regional group has sought to be in solidarity with Independent Jewish Voices and others who share the view that the Harper government has become ideologically biased with regard to policies of the Israeli government and human rights for Palestinians.  “We are … alarmed by a series of decisions made and events perpetrated by the Stephen Harper government in recent months which betray a clear if unspoken agenda to refrain from any criticism of Israel’s violation of international law regarding human rights for Palestinians, and a politicizing of the Canadian cultural landscape away from the upholding of those rights and toward the vilification of any who advocate for those rights.” 
McIntosh, whose Holy Land group called those present at the news conference together, said that they did so to make public the growing unity across Christian and interfaith groups regarding the pursuit of a just peace in the holy land through the upholding of Palestinian human rights.  He also said that the groups were united in their denunciation of any “ideological intention to criminalize criticism of Israel as anti-semitic.”
McIntosh and other presenters made reference to the unquestioned right of Israel to exist, to the necessity to “root out all real and dangerous forms of anti-semitism,”  and criticized suicide bombings as an illegitimate form of political dissent.  But McIntosh also asserted that historic Christian guilt about the Holocaust has created a code of silence regarding Israel .  “Our historic shame regarding the Holocaust has left us unable, in many cases, to actually speak the truth as we see it regarding Palestinian human rights, an inability that, in our opinion, creates a new collective shame,” said McIntosh. 
Speaking on behalf of the Canadian Arab Federation, who along with the Christian interchurch agency KAIROS Canada were abruptly defunded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) late last year, Khaled Mouammar said that it was alarming that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians in the Near East (UNRWA) has received substantially less support from the Harper government than from previous Canadian governments.
Mouammar, who made reference in his presentation to the takeover, by Harper appointees, of the board of the once credible Rights and Democracy organization in Canada, also said “We find it regrettable that the Harper government has not endorsed the UN report produced by Richard Goldstone, a renowned South African judge and a Zionist Jew, which concludes the 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza were victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity during Israel’s assault last year.”
Mouammar joined McIntosh in endorsing “the Kairos document produced by Palestinian Christians in December 2009 condemning all forms of racism, whether religious or ethnic, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism; and calling on the international community to take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land by engaging in boycott and disinvestment as non-violent tools in the pursuit of justice, peace and security for all.”
Judith Deutsch, representing Independent Jewish Voices, denounced Canadian government attempts to label criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic.  She expressed concern that the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA), in collaboration with the CJC in its pursuit of exposing the so-called new anti-Semitism, was actually “flirting with dangerous and anti-democratic rhetoric, as legitimate criticism of Israel ’s human rights violations may be equated with the horrific reality of anti-Semitism.”
Deutsch also quoted Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur, who has written that “The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty. The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy. If ever the ethos of 'a responsibility to protect,' recently adopted by the UN Security Council as the basis of 'humanitarian intervention' is applicable, it would be to act now to start protecting the people of Gaza from further pain and suffering."
Speaking on behalf of the Quaker community in Toronto , Lyn Adamson quoted an approved document from 2009 as follows: “We call on the State of Israel to end the blockade of Gaza , and to end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem , in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. We call on the State of Israel and the Palestinians to end assaults against civilians.”  Adamson also called for the embrace of non-violent means of conflict resolution, claiming that “only such methods are able to produce the political trust necessary to create the conditions that make reconciliation in a post-combative landscape possible.”




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