Saturday, July 16, 2016

Free Speech Is Fine

.... except when it is used to criticize Israel, as Mississauga, Ont. teacher Nadia Shoufani is learning.
She addressed a downtown Toronto rally on 2 July, marking al-Quds Day, an annual event held around the world to support Palestinian rights and to protest Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

“Silence in situations of oppression and injustices is a crime against humanity,” Shoufani said in her speech at the rally, in which she condemned the Israeli occupation and Israel’s policies of home demolitions, land confiscation and arrests of Palestinians.

The fact that Shoufani called upon the occupied to resist was apparently too much for the Jewish lobby.

CBC reports that she is now being investigated on several fronts after Bnai Brith et al. complained:
Bruce Campbell, general manager of communications and community relations for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board [for whom she works], said Wednesday an investigation has begun. He said the matter was brought to the board's attention through a number of sources, including the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and B'nai Brith Canada.
The governing body for Ontario teachers is also prepared to bring down the hammer:
A spokesperson for the Ontario College of Teachers said the organization is "aware of the matter.

"If and when a complaint is launched to the College, we will deal with it accordingly," Gabrielle Barkany said in an email to CBC News.
Toronto police are also involved:
Toronto police said they have opened an investigation into comments made at the Al-Quds rally, but could not confirm that Shoufani herself is under investigation.

"It's being investigated as we speak," Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said on Wednesday. "I can confirm that we are investigating comments made at the rally and there is more than one person involved."
MintPressNews reports that her stance has support, however, from those not afraid to criticize Israel:
Tyler Levitan, campaigns coordinator at Independent Jewish Voices-Canada, a group that supports Palestinian rights, said organisations like Bnai Brith Canada and Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal “are shills for Israel”.

“Ms Shoufani was speaking passionately in support of the Palestinians’ right to defend themselves against an occupying power,” Levitan told MEE in an email.

“Under international law, those living under military occupation and a system of colonialism have the absolute right to resist. Ms Shoufani spoke as a defender of the rights of an occupied and besieged people to resist an obscenely violent and criminal military occupation over their lands.”
Nonetheless, mainstream lobbyists who oppose any defence of Palestinians have shown remarkable effectiveness in stifling criticism of the Jewish state:
Recently, pro-Israel lobby groups in Canada have launched several campaigns targeting groups and individuals supporting Palestinian rights.

Bnai Brith Canada lauded a parliamentary motion passed earlier this year condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to hold Israel accountable under international law.

In March, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs accused Canadian law professor Michael Lynk of demonstrating a pro-Palestinian bias and of being involved in “anti-Israel advocacy”. The accusations came after Lynk was appointed as the new Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Pro-Israel groups have also urged Canada to maintain funding cuts on the United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

They are also pressuring the Green Party of Canada to dismiss two motions, set to be debated at a party convention in August, that would strip the Jewish National Fund of its charitable status and endorse BDS.

“I know from past experience that Bnai Brith would be using every means possible to try to shut down the al-Quds rally,” said Ken Stone, treasurer of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War and another speaker at the al-Quds Day rally in Toronto this year.

Stone told MEE that Bnai Brith Canada has taken the comments made at the rally out of context and distorted them in an effort to shut down the annual event and silence Canadian supporters of Palestinian rights.

“What they’re trying to do is … put a chill on people like Nadia Shoufani,” he said.

“[And] put a chill on people who might be tempted to get up at an al-Quds rally and declare their support for the Palestinian cause.”
What a wonderful ideal to aspire to - free speech and the open exchange of points of view. Too bad that when it comes to Israel, such democratic mainstays seem to have no place.


  1. The Government of Israel does not represent Judaism. There are many progressive Jewish Canadians who do not agree with the Netanyahu Government's continued expropriation of Palestinian lands and homes in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

    Hopefully, the investigation will exonerate Ms. Shofani, who should launch a legal appeal for violation of Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms against the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and B'nai Brith Canada..

    1. Thanks for your input and your perspective, Anon. I think it is important, as you suggest, to remind ourselves that the lobbyists and uncritical defenders of all things Israel only represent special interests, not necessarily a wide spectrum of Jewish people.

  2. I wish a case such as this would be taken to a senior court, perhaps a provincial Court of Appeal if not the Supreme Court of Canada. Harper inculcated this rot and Trudeau threw in with it in his government's support of the Tory resolution to censure the BDS movement. When it comes to our rights and freedoms, many Liberals turn a blind eye when their leader scuttles them for partisan political advantage.

    1. Our government epitomizes the kind of doublethink that Orwell warned us about so many years ago, Mound.

  3. Mound is right. Someone should bring this case to court. The powers that be have forgotten that we have, in the country, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    1. Now that the press has given this issue some prominence, Owen, I suspect many people will be watching it closely, and hopefully many of them will not be afraid to address what would appear to be egregious efforts to stifle a crucial element of our Charter. It is only the simple-minded and the zealots, in my view, who see the issue of criticizing Israel as black and white - a bifurcated view of an issue is seldom evidence of deep reflection.