HANSARD, THURSDAY, FEB. 25, 2010
Israel Apartheid Week
Mr. Peter Shurman: I move that in the opinion of this House, the term â€œIsrael Apartheid Weekâ€ is condemned as it serves to incite hatred against Israel, a democratic state that respects the rule of law and human rights, and the use of the word â€œapartheidâ€ in this context diminishes the suffering of those who were victims of a true apartheid regime in South Africa.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.
Mr. Peter Shurman: We debate some interesting things in the chamber, not always what appear to be provincial business. One might think that my resolution falls into that category. But since Israel Apartheid Week takes place next week on campuses across Ontario, Iâ€™d submit that it very much concerns us in this place and it should concern all fair-minded Ontarians.
Resolutions here do one thing only: They send a message, moral suasion, pertinent to any given subject. I am passionate about my resolution today and the subject Israel Apartheid Week. I am the MPP for Thornhill; over 40% of my constituents are Jewish. Understandably, there is broad support for Israel in Thornhill, and not just in Thornhill and not just among Jewish people. I have been approached in and outside of Thornhill, on and off college campuses all over Ontario, to champion this cause, and Iâ€™m very happy to do so.
I am sick and tired of the demonization of Israel by the use of a word that was only ever applied in one historical case and remains applicable only to that one period of South African history. In honesty, I have also, along with all colleague MPPs, been approached as well by those not in agreement with this resolution. I say here and now that I reject their position out of hand. This is a resolution that is entirely appropriate for discussion in our Ontario Legislature. Itâ€™s about an annual event in our province on our campuses, and most significantly itâ€™s about our values, because our values are the same as the values of the state of Israel: democracy, education, individual freedom, human rights and the right to defend oneself from aggressors. In fact, the values of Judaism and of Israel were bedrock values for the foundation of Canada, and those values from Judaism and from Israel date back over 3,000 years, all to say that if youâ€™re going to label Israel as apartheid…
In fact, the values of Judaism and of Israel were bedrock values for the foundation of Canada, and those values from Judaism and from Israel date back over 3,000 yearsâ€”all to say that if youâ€™re going to label Israel as apartheid, then you are also calling Canada apartheid and you are attacking Canadian values. The use of the phrase â€œIsraeli Apartheid Weekâ€ is about as close to hate speech as one can get without being arrested, and Iâ€™m not certain it doesnâ€™t actually cross over that line.
Itâ€™s also a thinly veiled campaign by those whose real agenda is to eradicate Israel entirely. During the last week, I read an online blog or journalâ€”there are, sadly, many like itâ€”and Iâ€™ll quote from it. Bear in mind that this is not a secret website. It came to me because I am personally mentioned in it, and that simply triggered a Google alert. Itâ€™s called ziofascism.net. Now quoting: â€œIsrael is a terrorist, apartheid state that bombs civilian neighbourhoods and hospitals, and engages in ethnic cleansing against its enemies and covert terror against its â€˜friends.â€™
â€œIn Canada, the Israel Lobbyâ€”a web of organizations presided over by a handful of Jewish billionaires, who head the nominal â€˜Jewish groupsâ€™ that together with media [are] owned by some of the same billionairesâ€”has shaped Canadaâ€™s policy to favour Israelâ€™s security interests at the expense of Canadaâ€™s.â€ Pure garbageâ€”and Israeli Apartheid Week the same.
A few pertinent details about what my resolution is not:
I am not attempting to tackle in 10 minutes in the Ontario Legislative Assembly any of the vast, ongoing problems relative to Israel: no discussion today of the peace process; no discussion of the existential questions of an Israeli state. Israel is quite simply there. It isnâ€™t going anywhereâ€”not now and not ever.
Let me say that Israel, while demonstrating some very remarkable positives, is, in the end, just like Canada or any other democratic country: not always right, and always dealing with political challenges. My resolution is, however, not about any of that. I raise it by way of asserting that I or anyone else can debate such issues any time, any place, as long as such a debate is respectful and fair to all who seek to express an opinion.
That is precisely what Israeli Apartheid Week does not do, and in our free environment, in our hate-free public forum, it has no place.
Israeli Apartheid Week occurs about this time of year every year in various locations around the world, and it runs sometime within the first two weeks of March. As I have said, here itâ€™s in the first week of March, next week.
Hereâ€™s what is truly remarkable about those who are supportive of Israeli Apartheid Week: Their very use of that phraseology and the content of the supposedly neutral discussion seminars is really about an apartheid that is quite the reverse of what they contend exists.
Hereâ€™s why: Those behind Israeli Apartheid Week are attempting to isolate Israel and place Israel on the receiving end of an apartheid experienceâ€”the minimization and the diminishment of any Jewish heritage in the region, the denigration of Jewish rights to a homeland, the lessening of Jewish people as not being on an equivalent level with any other members of humankind. How dare they? How dare they?
Do I have a problem with informed discussion about Israel or about West Bank Palestinians or Gazans? No, I do not.
Do I have a problem with people of any stripe engaging in political dialogue about that region? No, I do not.
Do I have a problem with one-sided views being expressed by either side? Thatâ€™s never a great idea, but actually, the answer there is also no, I do not.
So what is my problem? Well, my problem is the name Israeli Apartheid Week and whatâ€™s in a name. Calling this series of events by a name that is, in itself, both assumptive and declaratory prior to anyone debating anything, we come dangerously close to an outright condemnation and engaging in hate speech before any dialogueâ€”and there is no such dialogue. Dialogue is multifaceted, and this event is not.
The name is hateful, it is odious, and thatâ€™s not how things should be in my Ontario, in our Ontario. In fact, my Ontario is not about drawing lines between differing elements of our diverse society and fighting battles 10,000 kilometres away by using labelling and unilateral positioning and sometimes even outright intimidation to make points.
My Ontario is about informed discussion, and if informed discussion should occur anywhere, it should be on the campuses of our universities and colleges. Israeli Apartheid Week is not and never has been about informed discussion. I became acquainted with campus activism …
… I became acquainted with campus activism as it exists today when I became personally and intimately involved in the York University strike and associated issues about 16 months ago. Factions on that and other campuses find themselves under siegeâ€”and that is quite unacceptable.
There are people on our campuses who assume untenable, unilateral positions about faraway places and offer no reasonable room for discussion. As a matter of fact, by way of example, in the last week, a group that went counter to Israeli Apartheid Week applied to York Universityâ€”the same university that I mentionedâ€”to hold an equal and opposite session, if you will, and was told that it couldnâ€™t. It certainly displayed a wide array of speakers, but it couldnâ€™t hold its session because, the York University administration told it, â€œthe security of those people couldnâ€™t be guaranteed.â€ Isnâ€™t that interesting? You canâ€™t guarantee the security of people who want to speak in favour of Israel, but you can guarantee the security of people who donâ€™t? What does that say about balance on that campus?
In my day, universities were the places where solutions were found through informed dialogue. It seems weâ€™ve moved away from that and into a confrontation and intimidation stance. Isnâ€™t that precisely that from which people have escaped to take up a new life in multicultural, multi-ethnic Canada, where all are free and no one need be afraid? Isnâ€™t that one of the main reasons that we are all here in this place together?
My generation has not handled some things well. Perhaps the next generation will do better. But with a confrontational approach through events like Israeli Apartheid Week, how can we even begin?
â€œApartheidâ€ is an Afrikaans word that only applies to one single event in the history of humankind: the legislated separation and differentiation by colour in pre-Mandela South Africa. There is no comparison with any other situation on earth. Systemic racism is fairly uncommon, thank goodness, and it certainly is no hallmark of Israel. To say otherwise is at best a huge distortion and at worst, a damned lie. So I say to those who are behind Israel Apartheid Week, the name of your event is propagandist and you are liars.
Israel Apartheid Week, even according to some of its own proponents, makes historically inaccurate comparisons in order to delegitimize Israel and singles it out from every other country in the world. Campaigns like this are aimed solely at denying Israelâ€™s right to exist and they do nothing at all to promote any kind of reconciliation or any kind of real dialogue. A true and lasting peace in the Middle East will only come through direct negotiation and open dialogue. Peace will never be achieved through any kind of inflammatory language promoted by this or any other campaign.
Israel is undeniably a democracy. It grants full rights to all of its citizens, regardless of race or religion. Arab- and Christian- and Muslim- and Druze- and Bedouin-Israelis have full citizenship and, foremost, the right to vote and to sit as members of the Israeli Parliament known as the Knesset.
Finally, Israeli Apartheid Week creates a toxic atmosphere on campuses that labels supporters of Israel as racists and lessens their feelings of security. That is the truth. I have seen it personally.
It is time in Ontario to say what I am saying, to call for an end to hate speech. Israeli Apartheid Week is not an exercise in your free speech; it is an exercise in the curtailment of mine.
I said earlier that my resolution is not relevant to the existential question of Israel. Israel lives; it always has. The doubters can refer to archaeology. This is a land where Jewish people predate every other existing civilization, every other race on earthâ€”and by thousands of years. Israel operates in a remarkably open and fully democratic way. Where else can anyone make that claim, especially in that region and, in a very, over millennia?
The objectionable â€œapartheidâ€ reference relates to the supposed isolation of Gazan and West Bank residents and their minimization by Israeli actions and policies. Anyone with an iota of intelligence knows that the day the Katyusha rockets stop landing in Israel and on its children for goodâ€”the day Israel is fully accepted and recognized by its neighboursâ€”that will be the day that productive dialogue and resolution will begin and come quickly.
Finally, I call on this Legislature to do what it has the moral right and obligation to do: Tell the people behind this odious distortion of facts and language that we donâ€™t do what theyâ€™re trying to do in Ontario, that there is no Israeli apartheid and that there should be no Israeli Apartheid Week suggesting anything to the contrary.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?
(Mr. Peter Shurman)
… and that there should be no Israel Apartheid Week suggesting anything to the contrary.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Before I begin, I want to dedicate these comments to someone that many of us knew and loved: a campaign manager, union activist, social justice activist and my campaign manager, who passed away on February 4, Julius Deutsch.
Julius asked me to officiate at his funeral, a funeral attended by some 500 people. The mayor spoke, among many others. And one of the things that Julius said to me before he passed away was when I asked him if there were any regrets in his life, and he lived three lives, not one. He said, â€œI never got to go to Israel.â€
I also want to dedicate these comments to my sister-in-law, who is Muslim and has travelled extensively in the Middle East, and to my church, because many of you know I was a United Church minister before I was elected to this position.
At Emmanuel Howard Park United Church, we did a number of firsts for a Christian church. The first thing we did was that on Holy Thursdayâ€”with many churches now, itâ€™s a tradition to do a Christianized reproduction, if I can say that, of seder supper. What we did was a really Jewish seder supper. We invited a Rabbinic friend to come in and to really walk us through, to have us experience was Jesus experienced on Holy Thursday.
The very Sunday after 9/11, we were the first church outside of Riverside in New York to recognize that what happened in 9/11 was going to be problematic for our Islamic neighbours. We invited Jami Mosque, the oldest mosque in Toronto, to come and worship with us that Sunday, and they cameâ€”a whole busload of them came. It was the first time anything like that had ever happened. They sat in our pews, we worshiped together and we started a fast and friendly dialogue.
What I think we want on this issue, my friends, what we want in the Middle East and what we want in the world is the same, independent of our religious stripe, and that is peace. We want peace. We donâ€™t need inflammatory language on either side of this issue. We donâ€™t want it. We donâ€™t need it. We reject it. And is â€œapartheidâ€ an inflammatory term? Absolutely. There are lots of inflammatory terms flying around about the issue in the Middle Eastâ€”lots of them on all sides of that issue. They are not helpful. They detract from the cause weâ€™re all engaged in, and that is peace.
I spoke to a number of people before I stood here today about this very issue and how really to deal with it. I heard from many Muslimsâ€”Muslims who have lived in Israel and lived in other places in the Middle Eastâ€”and many of them said the same thing to me: â€œWe are not vested in that term. We donâ€™t like that term. Weâ€™d like to talk about ending the occupation. Weâ€™d like to talk about the wall. Weâ€™d like to talk about substantive issues.â€ And these are both Jews and Muslims, both in and outside Israel. We donâ€™t want to talk in inflammatory terms, and thatâ€™s what this motion speaks to.
It was interesting that one of the Muslims, a well-respected one, and I wonâ€™t drag his name out, said that, really, just like you heard from the member from Thornhill, Israel is one of the few if not the only real democracy in the Middle East. He said, having been a struggler for rights in Iran, â€œCertainly Iâ€™d rather live as a Muslim in Israel than in Iran at the moment.â€ And I think he speaks for many Muslims and certainly many of usâ€”certainly as a woman.
As a woman who had the great good fortune of being the one to perform the first legalized same-sex marriage in North America, I know that the rights of LGBT people are important to me. Theyâ€™re important to me, and theyâ€™re important to my constituents. So I look around the world as to where those rights are upheld, and itâ€™s problematic. There are not too many places. Weâ€™re very much engaged, some of us, in the situation in Uganda right now. But I wouldnâ€™t want to hold up any other placeâ€”I mean, itâ€™s a little freer in Israel than it is some of the places that surround Israel in that regard. This is problematic.
But one thing I will say, and Iâ€™ll say it to my friend from Thornhill, is that one of the best things we can do in this House, dealing with a motion like this, is to reiterate what we all share, to reiterate the binds that bind us. I have to say, having been a studier of theology, having my doctorate in theology and having read all of the scriptural precedents, that there is nothing in any of our scriptureâ€”Muslim, Jew or Christianâ€”that does not call on us all to treat our brothers and sisters…
â€”having read all of the spiritual precedence that there is nothing in any of our scriptureâ€”Muslim, Jew or Christianâ€”that does not call on us all to treat our brothers and sisters independent of their religious background, independent of where they come from, as just that, brothers and sisters with love, to extend a handshake and avoid anything that would cause us to learn to hate each other, to propagate hatred or to propagate anything that would add to the deaths of children, for example.
Thatâ€™s why, when I stand here, I do so with some trepidation. Iâ€™ve also heard the discussion, and I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s validity to it, that sort of motion does not belong here. I think, in a sense, it does. We are a place that is symbolic in part at least. I know myself, I have orders of the motion paper that talk of the rights of Tibetans. We, as provincial representatives, really donâ€™t have a lot to say about the rights of Tibetans, but we should say something about the rights of Tibetans, just as we should say something about the rights of all people who have legitimate grievances in the world. We should say something about it as human beings, never mind as political representatives.
Some have talked about peace but, yes, peace with justiceâ€”absolutely. Thereâ€™s no true peace without justice for everyone.
Certainly our federal New Democrats have a policy. Itâ€™s a pretty widely supported policy, and that is that ??two-state solution. I donâ€™t differ from that policy as a member of provincial Parliament. I think a two-state solution is the way to go but more importantly than talking about the politics in this place, what we really need to do is to talk about how to move from here as brothers and sisters, particularly at this time.
So, hereâ€™s the thing. Israel Apartheid Weekâ€”does this help advance any cause? Even some friends that I have, and I have many on the far left who have experienced real life in their home countries in the Middle East and, again, mainly and mostly Muslim friends in the organization Iâ€™m thinking of, are very sceptical about such a term as â€œapartheidâ€ when applying it to Israel.
First of all, as the member from Thornhill has pointed out, itâ€™s not historically accurate any more than it would be to call Canada an apartheid nation because of our history with our First Nations people, although people have. Right? It doesnâ€™t help further the conversation. It doesnâ€™t help First Nations people. It doesnâ€™t help Muslims or Palestinians to talk about Israel as an apartheid nation. It doesnâ€™t help Jews. It certainly doesnâ€™t help Christians to use that term, and they support that.
The movement, though, is what Iâ€™m concerned about. I almost thought as I stood here that we should really start in prayer because when you talk about such divisive issues, what Iâ€™m used to doing, coming from my background, is you start with prayer even if itâ€™s in a multi-faith context because you start where you share, and thatâ€™s with prayer. Just like in the seder supper, you always pray for your enemies first. You pray for the Egyptians in seder supper. You pray for those that you have a contention with.
What I would suggest to all those on campuses is that instead of engaging in inflammatory language, instead of using terms that divide, that we perhaps begin the discussion somewhere else. Perhaps we talk about what we do agree on and how we can move forward so that peopleâ€™s lives could be saved. That is what we all want. What we all want to reiterate, and to go back where I started, is peaceâ€”peace with justice but peace. What we all want is safety.
What we all want is what the member from Thornhill has in his riding which, if I remember correctly, is a synagogue next to a mosque next to a Tibetan temple next to a Christian church. We want what we model in Canada. We want this for our neighbours around the world in partâ€”not that weâ€™re perfectâ€”far from itâ€”but we want what is so graphically shown in our city.
We want all faiths to work together. We want all peoples to work together. We want to take the level of rhetoric down at least a notch or two and start seeing each other the way we see ourselves. That is what the Torah calls us to do. That is what the Christian Bible calls us to do. That is what the Koran calls us to do. That is what my Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu neighbours call us to do. That is what we are called to doâ€”dare I say itâ€”by God. That is what we are called to do.
â€¦ calls us to do, that is what my Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu neighbours call us to do, that is what we are called to doâ€”dare I say itâ€”by God. That is what we are called to do.
I thank the member for standing and raising this. I also think, as I thank him, of all those Muslim friends of mine who are also concerned and have legitimate concerns. I suggest that perhaps rather than calling names at each other, that they sit down the way we did at my church, around a common table, share a common mealâ€”itâ€™s a meal we all share in some sensesâ€”and speak. What we suggest as a political party, the New Democratic Party, is that again we look towards a lasting peace, a peace with justice.
I have to say in closing that some of my favourite dissenting films come if the state of Israel, films against the draft in Israel, films that question the wall in Israel by Israelis themselves. In Israel there is fervid and ardent debate, as there should be here and everywhere; thatâ€™s absolutely a given. But at the end of the day, letâ€™s drop the rhetoric, not just for now or this week but for all time, and letâ€™s go back to our scriptural roots, all of us, and letâ€™s speak as humans, the humans, as they say, our God meant us to be.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?
Mr. David Zimmer: I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Eglintonâ€“Lawrence.
I too, like the previous speaker, am going to vote in support of the member from Thornhillâ€™s motion. Israeli Apartheid Week raises many, many troublesome questions. I have been thinking about it since the resolution was introduced. Some of the questions Iâ€™ve asked myself: Whatâ€™s the purpose of Israeli Apartheid Week? Secondly, what is the effect of Israeli Apartheid Week? What is it trying to achieve? Iâ€™ve asked myself in that regard, what is the endgame? What is the ultimate goal for everyone whoâ€™s concerned about peace in the Middle East, particularly peace among the Israelis and the Palestinians? Does the concept of Israeli Apartheid Week serve that ultimate goal that all well-meaning people have, that is, peace?
With regard to its effect, I say my view is that Israeli Apartheid Week is, in effect, a block on that road to peace. Itâ€™s block on that road to peace because words have meaning. Words have effect. Words can be destructive. Apartheid: The word â€œapartheid,â€ in my view, is a destructive word. Itâ€™s particularly destructive in the context of trying to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace. To compare the situation in Israel, the tensions in Israel between Israelis and Palestinians, to apartheid in South Africa, is just wrong, itâ€™s false and itâ€™s disingenuous. Apartheid week must surely serve another purpose, a not good purpose.
In the Israeli-Palestinian context, the word â€œapartheid,â€ the suggestion that apartheid exists, is just factually wrong. Thatâ€™s the first problem with the word â€œapartheidâ€ as it relates to the Middle East; itâ€™s factually wrong. In Israel, thereâ€™s freedom of religion. All races, all ethnicities are free to come and go as they please. Arab Israelis serve in the Knesset. Arab Israelis vote. Itâ€™s a fully functioning democracy; the Knesset is a fully functioning democracy, unlike a lot of other countries in the world.
The question then becomes, when I reflect further on it, what can possibly be the motive or the intent of Israeli Apartheid Week? Now, assuming everyone wants peaceâ€”and they say they want peace, the organizers of Israeli Apartheid Weekâ€”I ask these questions of myself: Why …
[Mr. David Zimmer]
… assuming everyone wants peaceâ€”and they say they want peace, the organizers of Israel Apartheid Weekâ€”I ask these questions of myself. Why do the organizers of Arab Apartheid Week want to inflame the situation? Why do they want to inflame the situation between Jews and Palestinians? Why do they want to further divide Jews and Palestinians? Why do they want to aggravate an already fragile situation? Why not bring the parties together? Why not calm the fears and anxieties? Why not promote dialogue and reconciliation? In my view, Israel Apartheid Week is destructive of any constructive Israeli-Palestinian relationship. It does nothing to promote the relationship.
Hereâ€™s an idea, and I offer this to you organizers of Israel Apartheid Week, why not have an Israeli Palestinian Peace Week? Now that would be a novel and constructive step. You see, the real victim of Israel Apartheid Week and that concept is peace itself. Peace in Israel. Peace in the Middle East. Itâ€™s peace for Palestinians. Itâ€™s peace for Arabs. Itâ€™s peace for Israelis. Itâ€™s peace for the Christians that live there. Itâ€™s peace for everybody that lives there.
Why do the organizers, I ask myself, want to exasperate an already difficult situation? Why not lower the temperature? Why not work towards dialogue, reconciliation and peace? What are they afraid of? What is their motive? Why wonâ€™t they have an Israeli Palestinian Peace Week? That would be truly something constructive.
Apartheid is a destructive concept. To accuse one side of practising apartheid does absolutely nothing to promote peace. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m supporting the member for Thornhillâ€™s motion.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?
Mr. Ted Arnott: Iâ€™m pleased to have the opportunity to participate briefly in this debate this afternoon. As you know, our caucus has afforded 12 minutes to speak to the motion and there are two other speakers from our caucus who are interestedâ€”I understand maybe now one other speaker who is interested in making some remarks on the record with respect to this important private memberâ€™s motion that has been brought forward this afternoon by my colleague and friend, the member for Thornhill. He asked the House to consider that, in the opinion of this House, the term Israel Apartheid Week is condemned as it serves to incite hatred against Israel, a democratic state that respects the rule of law and human rights, and the use of the word ‘apartheid’ in this context diminishes the suffering of those who were victims of a true apartheid regime in South Africa.
From the outset, I want to indicate to the House my intention to support this resolution, to vote for it. I think the member is well-intentioned in his efforts to bring forward this issue this afternoon for consideration. It is timely, as he indicated. Campuses around Ontario, in some cases, are organizing these kinds of events right now, and I think itâ€™s helpful and hopefully informative if the Ontario Legislature makes a statement and sends a strong message that this sort of event is not acceptable nor is it appropriate.
I agree with what has been said in the House this afternoon. Iâ€™ve always believed the state of Israel to be a free and democratic state with individual freedoms, free elections and a commitment to human rights. This kind of event that has been held, I guess, in campuses around Ontario, would appear to be not helpful in terms of advancing towards a solution.
I want to associate myself with some of the remarks made by other members so far. The member for Parkdaleâ€“High Park, I thought, gave an excellent speech, as did the member forâ€”
Mr. Ted Arnott: Unionville? David Zimmer.
Mr. Ted Arnott: Willowdale. And I appreciated his positive and constructive discussion suggestion whereby he challenged the students who might be participating in these kinds of events to have Israel Palestine Peace Week instead of this, and that would serve to create a foundation for reasoned dialogue, as opposed to potentially inciting hatred.
The member for Thornhill has been an outstanding addition to our caucus since he was first elected in 2007. And heâ€™s really given us a new agree of enthusiasm that I hope that people will …
The member for Thornhill has been an outstanding addition to our caucus since he was first elected in 2007. And heâ€™s really given us a new agree of enthusiasm that I hope that people will see in this House day to day. Heâ€™s a strong voice for fairness and for a logical, reasoned decision-making approach in government, and he adds a great deal to our discussions in this House. I want to commend him for bringing this forward today and again encourage all members of this House to express support for it when it comes time to vote.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?
Mr. Mike Colle: Generally, I donâ€™t agree with many of the positions of the member from Thornhill, and Iâ€™m proud to say I donâ€™t, but in this case here, I unequivocally support this resolution, because he has clearly demonstrated a horrific example of what is really hate speech that has been put into a systematic attack on the only democracy in the Middle East. Itâ€™s called Israel Apartheid Week. Itâ€™s just ludicrous.
Here is a small democracy surrounded by all these dictatorships. The organizers of this week never look at what is happening in Yemen or maybe Saudi Arabia or that regime in Iran. They donâ€™t bother with those regimes and the incredible amount of torture and systemic abuse of people, their populations, but they pick on Israel. Why do they pick on Israel? Itâ€™s got nothing to do about Muslims, nothing to do about Palestine; it has to do with this long-time systemic hate against anything to do with the Jewish religion. Thatâ€™s what it is.
And so these hate-mongers have co-opted people into organizing this; basically, itâ€™s a worldwide campaign to demonize Israel, and this is what this is part of. Israel Apartheid Week is anti-academic and it is not a debate, but a prejudged diatribe against Israel that prides itself in creating hostility towards Israel. Thatâ€™s what they want to do. It stifles debate, as evidenced by the title alone. Labelling Israel as an apartheid state is a deliberate and calculated attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the state of Israel. Thatâ€™s what it is. Anything to do with Israel, anything to do with the Jewish state, is under attack by these propagators of hate.
And itâ€™s not just the universities where this hate is organized. It has spread even to our churches. Earlier this summer, the United Church of Canadaâ€™s 40th general council had a resolution basically call for the divestment of Israel, entitled â€œSeeking Peace in the Middle East Using South African Actions for Justice as a Model.â€ So even our churches are engaged in this. Luckily, the resolution did not pass. Iâ€™m proud to say that I sent a letter to David Giuliano, moderator of the United Church, and said that it is appalling that this resolution is even before the church. And it was just disgusting that Canadaâ€™s largest church is discussing this anti-Israel apartheid type of motion.
Then we have Canadaâ€™s largest union engaged in the same activity. CUPE has been doing this systemically for years: trying to boycott Israeli products and trying to condemn Israel.
We, as citizens of Ontario, should stand up to this type of hate-mongering, whether itâ€™s CUPE, the United Church or this group that organizes this Israel Apartheid Week. Itâ€™s couched with all kinds of different things about protecting and trying to help people, but itâ€™s basically a pointed, focused attack on the only democracy in the Middle East, which is having an incredibly difficult time in coping with the enemies that surround it. And the enemies are not only Iran and Yemen and all these pseudo states, but this worldwide hatred of anything to do with Israel.
So if we donâ€™t condemn this type of utter nonsense here in our universities, in our churches and in our unions, it is basically, with our silence, no different than what happened in Germany. Remember there was a famous quote in pre-War …
… unions, we are basically, in our silence, no different than what happened in Germany.
Remember that there was a famous quote in pre-war Germany that said something like, â€œFirst they came for the Jews, and I said nothing; then they came for the Catholics, and I said nothing; then they came for the Protestants, and I said nothing.â€ At least by standing up and supporting such a resolution, weâ€™re able to say that this is wrong, that you donâ€™t arbitrarily malign, denigrate and attack one group of people and say itâ€™s to the benefit of some other group. This type of pointed hate is not acceptable. This Apartheid Week unequivocally is based on systemic hate of Israel and anything Jewish, and thereâ€™s no way around it. This type of thing is liable to spread, as it has spread beyond our colleges, and we should try to put an end to it as fast as we can. Itâ€™s not about free speech at all; itâ€™s about hate-mongering for unsubstantiated reasons. To equate Israel to apartheid is absurd, considering what the state of Israel has accomplished in democracy and what it has accomplished in terms of treating people from all walks of life. Yes, Israel is not a perfect state, but democracy is not perfect. So I urge you to support this resolution.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate.
Mr. John Oâ€™Toole: Itâ€™s a real privilege to have been asked by my good friend and colleague the member from Thornhill, Mr. Shurman, to speak and make remarks with respect to his resolution against Apartheid Week. I think it is striking, as well, to each member here to recognize the many points made by all three parties in support of the intent of this resolution. Each of us can reflect on why we would like to make remarks. I have two particular reasons that are personal, bringing some reference to why Iâ€™m speaking not only in support of the resolution but to, as has been said, the term and the wordsmithing around itâ€”whoever crafted this sort of statement, Israel Apartheid Week. The two reference points are, first of all, my beloved sister, Jane, who married a wonderful man, Dr. Paul Goodman, who is unfortunately deceased; he died way too young. He was a very kind and generous man, a very intelligent man. I shared many feasts and celebrations with him in his Jewish faith, as well as he in my Christian faith. Itâ€™s quite interesting that he taught me more about tolerance than anyone I had met, and that includes my sister, who does continue in the pursuit of studying theology, which is part of her life.
But more importantly, I had a chance some years ago to participate as a peace observer in Northern Ireland. It was during the time of the Good Friday accord. There is quite an interesting parallel between these struggles, most of them based on differences of faith and most of them based on intoleranceâ€”often intolerance based on ignorance of one another. In that respect, I was drawn to reflecting on the comments made by Mr. Shurman and the resolution itself.
I think itâ€™s absolutely true that it creates an artificial atmosphere and diminishes the struggles of peoples, really. The resolution uses the termâ€”and the member from Willowdale pointed this out, the inappropriate use of the word â€œapartheidâ€ in relation to Israel. Itâ€™s not only false but also it diminishes, and in fact is offensive to, the millions of people who suffered under the actual apartheid of South Africa.
I know that Nelson Mandelaâ€”there was a movie just recently portraying his life and what a wonderful, inspiring person and individual he was, despite the suffering he endured during apartheid, the real apartheid. He in fact appeared here in the Ontario Legislature as a guest of then-Premier David Peterson. This was sometime before 1990. Nelson Mandela made the remark that he could not conceive of Israelâ€™s withdrawal from the occupied territories â€œif Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders.â€
Thatâ€™s really the politics of intolerance, and the crucialÂ …
… â€œif the Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders.â€ Thatâ€™s really the politics of intolerance, and the crucial part of this whole debate.
But if you look at the comparison to apartheid, itâ€™s actually false and spurious, and provokes the toxic atmosphere that my good friend mentioned. It bears no resemblance to the realities of contemporary Israel and plays down the uniqueness of South Africa and the experience of apartheid, as Iâ€™ve mentioned.
The resolution reminds us that the use of the word â€œapartheidâ€ in this context diminishes the suffering of those who were victims of the true apartheid regimeâ€”in fact, the values of Judaism itself.
Prior to 1994, apartheid in the state of South Africa was extraordinarily repressive. Through legalized racism, it regulated every detail of the lives of 90% of the citizens on the basis of the colour of their skin. The concept of apartheid, or separateness, was actually enshrined in South African law in 1948 and only came to an end in 1994.
By contrast, the state of Israel was founded in 1948, on the very principles of democracy. The Israeli declaration of independence says that the nation will uphold the full social and political equality of all citizens, guaranteeing full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture. The declaration affirms that the state of Israel will promote the development of the country for the benefits of all inhabitants. It is based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew prophets themselves. Israelâ€™s declaration of independence states that it will safeguard the sanctity of shrines and holy places of all religions and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
The declaration stands in sharp contrast to the dozens of laws enacted by the South African regime to enforce the racism and segregation of apartheid. Israelâ€™s declaration of independence is honoured not only in principle but indeed in practice throughout the world.
As a democratic state, Israel upholds the rule of law for all citizens who fully participate in Israelâ€™s political life. Arab students and professors study, research, teach and debate at all Israeli university campuses, including at Haifa, a university where 20% of the student body is Arab. Those who might consider boycotting Israelâ€™s universities and other institutions should remember that, in doing so, they would indeed be boycotting both Jews as well as Arabs.
As a member of the Legislature, we have a duty to protect these very values that are being debated today. If a democratic country that supports the rule of law, human rights and personal freedom is described as an apartheid state, that claim should not go unchallenged.
I can tell you that I also have concerns that this terminology may indeed incite hatred and provoke conflict against the state and the people, as well as our own freedom and perception of it.
I will be voting, I hope with many othersâ€”or all others; I hope unanimouslyâ€”in support and in favour of the resolution from my good friend, partner and colleague the member from Thornhill. I would call on the House to support this resolution unanimously.
With the final remaining seconds, I would only state that in the debate that Iâ€™ve listened to today, there has been no recognition for this hate speech of Israeli Apartheid Week. Thatâ€™s what this is about: tolerance, to the fullest extent of the democracy that we all share.
In that spirit, I will leave the rest of the time for my colleagues to make remarks.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate? The honourable member for Thornhill.
Mr. Peter Shurman: Thank you to all of the members who participated in the debate, as well to members who approached me on a one-to-one basis and offered their support. Itâ€™s a nice thing to stand in the Legislature, which is so often filled with acrimony and rancour, and hear members from all three parties talk in positive terms about something that should be a positive experience, which is the opportunity for people who live in Ontario to engage in informed debate, and very particularly on the campuses of Ontario to be able to put forward ideas that, ultimately, are not meant to demonstrate that Israel is anymore perfect as a country than Canada or any other …
(Mr. Peter Shurman)
… to be able to put forward ideas that, ultimately, are not meant to demonstrate that Israel is any more perfect as a country than Canada or any other but, rather, to look for solutions to the problems that each country has. Very particularly, thank you to the member from Parkdaleâ€“High Park, who I listen to often in debate, who brings her take on the world with a very wide-ranging and open-armed approach to questions that concern religion and background; to the member from Willowdale, for his recognition that this is about an end- game that has nothing to do with apartheid, but existence; to the members and my colleagues from Wellingtonâ€“Halton Hills and Durham for their added comments, and to my friend from Eglintonâ€“Lawrence who, while he may not agree with me most times, thank goodness agrees with me on this one.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): I should have explained, since the Conservatives hadnâ€™t used all their time, you had the minute 30 plus two minutes.
Mr. Peter Shurman: (??)Well, I have a couple more things to say, Speaker, if you like.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Okay. That ending the time for this ballot item, we will vote on this, Mr. Shurmanâ€™s item, in about 100 minutes. Orders of the day?