Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Support Libby Davies

The Israel right or wrong crowd are in full gotcha mode, screaming for Libby Davies' head on a platter.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called on NDP MP Libby Davies to resign as her party's deputy leader after she suggested Israel has been occupying territory since the country came into existence.

"Mr. Speaker, this is a fundamental denial of Israel's right to exist," Harper said in the House of Commons on Tuesday. "It repeats the kind of comments that were made by Helen Thomas on which she was forced to resign and the member of the NDP who said those should be forced to resign as well."

Thomas was the veteran White House correspondent who resigned after saying Jews in Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go back to Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else."

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae also denounced Davies' comments.

"To deny the state of Israel's right to exist and to propose an international campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against a legitimate member of the world community for over 60 years is to reveal a level of hostility and ignorance that is truly breathtaking," Rae said in a written statement.

In a media scrum later, Rae argued that Davies' comments were not simply a slip of the tongue and called for her to step down as deputy leader.

Earlier this month, Davies was interviewed at a rally in Vancouver and asked if she believes the occupation in Israel began in 1948 or 1967. After hesitating, she answered:

"Forty-eight. I mean, it's the longest occupation in the world. But I mean, I'm not going to argue numbers. It's too long, right?" She went on to say, "I mean, this is the longest occupation in the world. People are suffering. I've been to the West Bank in Gaza twice so I've seen for myself what's going on."

The state of Israel was established in 1948.

In the video, Davies is also asked if she supports the international campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel (known as the BDS movement).

"I haven't even actually gone that far. You gotta understand, I'm probably the strongest supporter in Parliament. There is virtually no information in the political arena or understanding about the BDS movement. People are actually afraid to speak out on this issue.… Elected people who are sympathetic are actually afraid to speak out," Davies answers.

Later in the video, Davies says she personally supports the BDS movement, adding, however, that she's not "someone who's there" but is instead a Canadian politician demanding the Canadian government speak out more on the issues.

The interview was posted on YouTube.

Since her comments were made public, Davies has posted on her website a letter she sent to the editor of The Ottawa Citizen.

"My reference to the year 1948 as the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory was a serious and completely inadvertent error," she wrote. "I apologize for this and regret any confusion it has caused. I have always supported a two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have never questioned Israel's right to exist and the Palestinians' right to a viable state."

Sorry for the length of the quoted material - I just thought it was worth demonstrating that its only finally at paragraph 15 that the story mentions that Libby Davies apologized for saying 1948 when she meant 1967, that she doesn't question Israel's right to exist and that she supports a two state solution.

For that matter, as Murray Dobbin writes, ask an Arab villager driven out of his home in 1948 if he thinks his land is occupied. Ask an Arab Israeli whose family have lived in the same house in Jerusalem for decades...until they were forcibly evicted last summer to give their home to a Jewish family.

Many historians in and out of Israel consider it a settled issue that Israel engaged in large scale ethnic cleansing in 1948, complete with massacres - there's actually a whole academic movement based around it in Israel scholarship.

All or nothing, black or white, support Israel unreservedly and uncritically and condemn anyone who criticizes her or you hate Israel and deny it's right to exist. These are false choices. Libby Davies should not be sacrificed to these deliberate, simplistic Manichean distortions.


Dave said...


No. I won't support her. She's over the line.

MJ Green said...

I think you have it backwards. Ethnic cleansing happened in all the Arab lands which killed Jews and forced over 700,000 Jews to flee and become refugees. Israel, on the other hand, has a large Arab population and Arab parliament members. I don't see any Jewish members of parliament in any Arab or Muslim country.

Fillibluster said...

In a free country, we must be able to speak.

Cliff said...

MJ, you have fallen into the false duality trap I wrote about here: acknowledging that Israel committed ethnic cleansing in no way denies that so have Arab nations. I agree, it took place. Is your argument that two wrongs make a right? Most of us out grow that one in pre-school.

As to your statement: 'I don't see any Jewish members of parliament in any Arab or Muslim country.' apparently you just didn't look that hard. Iran has the largest Jewish population in the middle east outside of Israel. They face some discrimination but less than you might think, they run what most Iranians agree are the best hospital in Tehran, there are synagogues all over the country and yes, they have a member of parliament.

In fact a seat is reserved specifically to represent the Jewish population in Iran. Their MP Maurice Motamed has regularly criticized the antisemitic comments of President Ahmadinejad. and he's still there.

In Israel in the meantime, members of the far right governing coalition argue for the expulsion of Arab members from the Knesset, and increasingly and openly for the expulsion of Israeli Arabs from the country altogether.

Kirbycairo said...

Well Said Cliff - I am so tired of this attitude of attempting to marginalize anyone who criticizes Israel by playing the Anti-Semite card. According to UN resolutions a people must have a "consistent claim" to a place which the Jewish people do not have in Palestine. Many of the founders of Zionism and even Theodor Herzl mused about founding a Jewish state elsewhere from the middle east. And when they established the Jewish state they did so through violence - a simple fact that many people entirely deny like an act of historical revisionism. (Doesn't the Stern Gang ring a bell to anyone?) It is similar to when I have met ultra-rightists in the US who actually deny that any violence was committed to the Natives in the theft of the lands of North America.

And even if we accept the existence of Israel as a practical or even just solution to the historical problems created by anti-semitism, let us not deny the fact that Israel has been slowly taking the land of the Palestinians through pure military might and they continue to build illegal settlements in occupied land. And many of the Israelis believe that they have a religious right to do this and to kill anyone in the land that they claim "God" has promised them. It is a simple fact and you can see these people regularly interviewed by newsmedia making this claim.

There are religious on all sides and people who justify their use of violence on all sides. And one of these religious nuts is our own PM who blindly supports Israel because of a perverse Christian belief about the so-called "End Time." It is called "premillennial dispensationalism." We cannot have peace because even if every Palestinian renounced violence the building in the occupied territories and the destruction of Palestine would continue because there are enough Israelis and enough of their Western Evangelical supporters who will do anything to take all of Palestine for themselves. Even if there was no Palestine opposition it wouldn't make a difference to Israeli policy or Harper policy. Premillennial Dispensationalism will move forward the effort to take all of Palestine regardless. And they will continue to portray Israel as the victim etc. . .

Unknown said...

First, yeah, right. Iran is a true pluralistic democracy. This is what you are claiming here? You forget that only few years ago, Iranian authorities arrested large group of Jewish leaders and blamed them of treason. No wonder they are so "supportive".
Second, according to what you are writing, Canada is just as bad. We also did the same (and far worst) when we came from Europe, didn't we?
Lastly, you are not very accurate, describing the 1948 events as a "settled issue". Not at all. In Israel, FYI, it is only Benny Morris, which btw, also argues that TODAY, israel should perform ethnic cleansing. So this is the guy you rely on. Great. And again, it is not as if we were any better here in Canada. No one have the right to claim this is not our home though.

Cliff said...

And there's the binary thinking again. Either you think one side is all good and the other all evil or a side is picked for you whether you want it or not.

No, I don't think Iran is some kind of utopia. My sympathies there were and are with the Green movement and I'd like to see Ahmadinejad gone as much as anybody, but the existence of the Green movement itself demonstrates that while Iran has an opressive theocratic government sliding into gangster control by the Revolutionary Guard faction, the population itself is one of the most secular, progressive and cosmopoliton in the Middle East.

It would be no more accurate to judge all Iranians by the views of their leadership than it would be to judge all Canadians by the far right pack of mean spirited religious fanatics currently running Canada.

Benny Morris is hardly the only scholar in or out of Israel who says Israel engaged in ethnic cleansing - and the fact that he thinks it happened but doesn't particularly object to it if anything lends credence to his position; He doesn't have an anti-ethnic cleansing axe to grind and he still thinks it happened.

Libby Davies, and let's be crystal clear on this, DID NOT challenge the existence of Israel. Pointing out that the creation of Israel caused the dispossesion of the Palestinians is simply a historical fact. Like Libby Davies I support the two state solution and I do not question the right of Israel to Exist - unlike Many figures in and out of Israel who seem to be able to question Palestine's right to exist with impunity.

Generally speaking, when somebody tries to put their own interpretation on somebody else's words (libby Davies said 1948, therefore she is ipso facto an antisemite who doesn't believe Israel has a right to exist) they are being deliberately disingenuous.

Thanks for dropping by Kent, feel free to come back.

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