Fadi Ennab’s inflammatory, response-imploring article appears to attack this summer’s Israel Pavilion for not recognizing the plight of the Palestinians, apparently oblivious to Folklorama’s cardinal policy of being culture-based and apolitical. It would also be incongruous for the Israel Pavilion, produced by Winnipeg’s Jewish community, to depict anything other than Jewish Israeli culture, because that is the culture shared by Jewish communities worldwide and their brethren who have returned to Israel. The fact that there are no Arab pavilions, the logical venue to celebrate Arab or Palestinian culture, is not the fault of Israel Pavilion organizers.

Nonetheless, despite Ennab’s reference to Folklorama, it is clear Winnipeg’s multi-cultural festival is used as a cover to criticize Israel. Using disproved allegations, Ennab lambasts Israel’s actions this past January, but fails to even hint at the historic context of the current conflict, or the actions of the Palestinians themselves. No, the plight of the average Palestinian is not pleasant. However, it is irresponsible to simplify the complex Middle East conflict by singling out Israel for all problems. Though neither side is blameless, there are several factors to consider, including the many missed opportunities for the Palestinians – ranging from the 1947 UN Partition Plan to the 2000 Camp David Accords – and the rampant corruption in the Palestinian Authority, where foreign aid goes to be squandered, or Hamas, where militancy and fear rule. Before deriding Israel’s actions in Gaza, any decent observer of human rights abuses must consider the nature of Israel’s opponents, whose widespread use of child soldiers and human shields, and public buildings for the production and firing of rockets, are only the tip of Hamas’s utterly abysmal human rights record – on their own people. This is all in addition to suicide bombers in Israeli cafés – and yes, since well before 9/11. Ennab’s appeal to end “colonialism” is offensive to Jews because it completely ignores the ancient and unswerving Jewish connection to the land. Finally, to answer Ennab’s original question, one need only compare modern Israel to the swamp-filled Ottoman province it was a century ago, to see the success of Jewish pioneers on this land’s beauty.

Israel is a beautiful country, whose wonderful culture was displayed to capacity crowds throughout Folklorama. Boycotting Israeli products or its pavilion is simplistic and ineffective, because it does not address the real and complex issues in the Middle East.

Eyal Kraut

2009 Israel Pavilion Adult Ambassador

President, University of Manitoba Jewish Students’ Association

RE: Israel: Beautiful Country or Apartheid Colony?
Let me preface this letter by saying that I am by no means trying to dismiss or unfairly disregard the plight of any people. Nor am I denying any wrong doing by Israel; I also disagree with some of the ethically louche decisions made by the IDF, as well as ones made by the combatants which they are fighting. Rather, I’m going to suggest that many of the egregiously misleading or blatantly fictitious statements made in the article “Israel: Beautiful Country Or Apartheid Colony?” are not only disingenuous, but divisive.

The Gaza War was described as a ‘military offensive (which) slaughtered more than 1,300 Palestinians including many children and civilian bystanders’. This disregards that it is more often viewed as a necessary defensive attack, taken after years of rocket attacks launched from within Palestine, specifically aimed at Israeli civilians. The article vilifies Israel with accusations of war crimes, accusations based upon second hand hearsay of roughly a dozen soldiers, while omitting that the UN has made accusations of war crimes by both sides, including the specific targeting of (Israeli) civilians and civilian structures.

When Israelis are called ‘illegal paramilitary settlers’ and a call to boycott Israel and Israeli culture is made to avoid being ‘ostriches with our head in the sand’, we’re again disregarding facts. We’re disregarding the argument that the history of the Jewish State of Israel in Palestine can be traced back, along with other Palestinian sects, thousands of years. Labelling Israelis in such a way is just as false of a statement as when we say ostriches’ bury their heads in the sand.
By referring to Israel as ‘an existential colonial cancer, physically, psychologically, and socio-culturally’, we are so unjust that it trivializes the whole situation and further prevents any deeper understanding of one another’s position.

Such half-truths and biased statements serve as a call not only for critical thinking in our day to day lives, but also for a more pragmatic handling of such delicate situations. I’d argue that it’s the day to day mudslinging on both sides of the conflicts that prevents peace from progressing, not the actions of a handful of politicians. It seems plausible that the most beneficial course of action would be to admit that both sides have made mistakes and try to find an amicable way to proceed, possibly over some falafel…

Max Wolinsky,

RE: Israel: Beautiful Country or Apartheid Colony?

If historical revisionism was an art, Mr. Ennab would be considered a Picasso. In his article, “Israel: beautiful country or apartheid colony,” which all but calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, Mr. Ennab preaches to the fringe of the already converted – those who have no factual basis to their argument, but enough passion to blind them from reality.

To describe Israel, the lone progressive democratic state in the whole of the Middle East, as a “colonial cancer” is to miss the point entirely. Israel has no interest in ‘colonizing’ anything – especially ‘Palestinian land.’ For decades, Israel has shown its willingness to make difficult concessions over land when peace has been within reach. We saw this with Egypt in the late 1970s, and with Jordan in the 1990s. More recently, in 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, giving Palestinians the opportunity to establish their own state. While Mr. Ennab suggests that Israel continues to occupy Gaza, the facts speak for themselves.

Mr. Ennab also accuses Israel of committing war crimes during a 2008 military campaign in Gaza; a battle that was sparked by Hamas declaring that a ceasefire was over, and precipitated by years of rockets falling onto playgrounds and into backyards in Israel-proper. While he provides no evidence to substantiate this claim, he does make one accurate, though unintentional, point. “While there were many war crimes committed against Palestinians during this war, most notable (was) the use of civilians as human shields…” But, it wasn’t Israel who was committing this crime against the Palestinian people; it was their own leaders.

Despite the unfounded assertions put forth in this article, Israel is a beautiful country; progressive, egalitarian, diverse, democratic and cultured. Israel isn’t perfect, but it lives in a tough neighbourhood.

J. Mitchell

RE: Israel: Beautiful Country or Apartheid Colony?

Well, to my surprise when i picked up a recent copy of The Manitoba, I was interested in the op-piece titled ‘Israel: Beautiful Country or Apartheid Colony?’ and the sins of omission that were willful in the piece, of which are many. I am not quite sure where to start, but let me begin:

First and foremost, the Israel Pavilion is not an official organ of the State of Israel, rather, the expression that the jewish community of this city has in the historical birthplace of its people. Fadi – if your going to complain, at least get it factually correct – did they not teach you that in the Dept. of Sociology?

Second, Israel did not forecefully occupy any lands after the 1967 war. In truth and in fact, the Egyptians caused an act of war by closing the Straits of Tiran. Israel waited a full month before responding, hoping that the President of Egypt would remove the blockade which cut all international shipping lanes to Israel.

Third, the so-called Apartheid Wall is 95% a fence, established after a year of suicide bombers walking across grassy lands and blowing up pizza places, bus stops and, finally 22 members of a family as they celebrated passover. Any country in the world, Israel included, as the right to defend itself by erecting a barrier so that suicide bombers will not be able to kill civilians while eating dinner.

Fourth, Israel is NOT an apartheid state as the author would love all of us to think; Apartheid is a legal act that, within a country, citizens of that country are legally separated from each other based on race. this is NOT the case in Israel. Israeli citizens, Jews, Arabs, Christians and others are not legally separated in any way, shape or form. All citizens of Israel, which includes over 1 million Arabs, have full legal rights including the right to vote, speak, assemble, religious freedom and to hold office. In fact, ten Israeli Arabs are members of the Israeli parliament. Palestinians, who are not citizens of Israel (and do not want to be such anyway) do not have legal rights in Israel because they are not citizens. If you want to throw around the word ‘apartheid’, the author should at least get it right instead of using it to inflame rather than have intelligent coversation.

And finally, to his largest point about his call to boycott Israel – the truth is that Ennab is not interested in changing policies such as the barrier or, for that matter, the Israel Pavilion telling people that felafel came from Lebanon; no, you can tell it by his words when the author says that israel is an ‘existential cancer’.

Fadi – call it like it is – you do not want israel as a state to exist; you wish it to disappear, and no argument that I or anyone else can provide will change your mind, not even if you are wrong. So, on that note please do not tell anyone that you have no issue with Israeli culture, because you do, since Israeli culture is part of Israel, and Israel is a cancer, and as far as I know, no one wants to live with a cancer, they want to get rid of it.

This, my friends, is the Middle East debate: someone who claims they have specific issues with Israel but in truth, do not. their sole agenda is to get you to hate Israel through misinformation and misrepresentation, tell them that you actually like the culture of the country, and then call it an existential cancer. We should have a real debate about the Middle East – about how Islamic fanatics are terrorizing Arab populations; how Arab countries are destitute and their populations illiterate and disenfranchised, and yes, how the countries of the Middle East can come together and work towards a real peace where Arabs and Jews can live side-by-side in both peace and security so that little kids can go to school without fear. Fadi Ennab’s diatribe (for that is exactly what it is) does nothing to help illuminate the many troubles of the Middle East, nor the way forward towards peace in the Middle East. Listen to Fadi and all you get is distortions and hatred.

With thanks,

Adam Bronstone (’90)