Letters to the Editor – September 15, 2010

In the last issue of the Manitoban, two letters to the editor appeared which contained false and defamatory statements against me. For space considerations, I will only address the parts of these letters which contain these personal accusations.

The first, by Rev. Rudy Fidel, claimed that I “would like to make Israel Free of Jews (Judenrein).” First, that is not my wish and at no point in that article or in any public statements I have made have I said anything approaching this. Secondly, the use of the term “Judenrein” is a despicable attempt to evoke Nazi imagery in order to plant a fabricated connection in people’s minds between myself and Naziism. These characterizations are absurd and defamatory because not only am I not a Nazi, but I and most decent people despise fascism in all its forms, and especially offensive given the unimaginable cruelty of the Nazis.

The second, by Mr. Paul Meyerson, the Israel Affairs Chair at the Hillel/JSA at the University of Winnipeg, also says that I would like to see Israel’s “existence exterminated.” Again, at no point in that article have I said this. This kind of rhetoric furthermore relies on some implicit intellectual sleight of hand. It is intentionally vague as to whether Mr. Meyerson is referring to the Israeli state or those residing within its borders. This rhetoric is used to delegitimize positions critical of the notion of an explicitly Jewish state on 78 per cent of the land of historical Palestine by associating alternative solutions with advocating genocide. What exactly would be genocidal of a single state encompassing all of historical Palestine with equal rights for all its people?

Mr. Meyerson then goes on to call me a racist and an “extremist,” again, a pathetic smear tactic. If I were such a racist, I would have much difficulty working within the incredibly diverse Palestinian solidarity movement, a movement which includes a large Jewish presence. Meyerson says my article was “hateful.” Well, I do suppose I hate oppression, but that hardly qualifies one as hateful, does it?

I chuckled a bit at Meyerson’s questioning as to my actions on other issues such as Sudan and Iran, as if the Palestinian solidarity movement is the totality of my political views and activism. While I do not wish to accede to his ridiculous demand that I explain everything I have done to work on other issues, I have been to rallies for Darfur and have signed petitions regarding various situations in Iran. I have also written on other international issues, such as the war in Afghanistan and self-determination for Tamils. Beyond that, I have been active in various movements such as the peace movement, the labour movement and the student movement, and have participated in various feminist, environmental, anti-racist and queer marches. I do not even know Mr. Meyerson, so I fail to see on what basis he can comment on my entire political history, when he so clearly doesn’t know any of it.

Of course, Mr. Meyerson’s whine that I am talking about issue X instead of issue Y is a fallacious argument to begin with. If I were to write about Sudan, would Mr. Meyerson whine that I’m not writing about Tibet?

Furthermore, Mr. Meyerson clearly did not read my entire article if he thinks it is “anti-peace” and accuses me of “trying to divide Arabs and Jews.” The seventh paragraph, which unfortunately had to be shortened from the original draft, discusses Israelis and Palestinians marching together against oppression. These initiatives to work together against oppression are a much better hope for peace than pretending that the apartheid system, which is oppressing the Palestinian population, doesn’t exist and hoping that people can get together, as long as they don’t dare resist that oppression.

I would like to invite students reading this to look in the Manitoban archives and read both my article in the Aug 17th issue, as well as the letters containing the offending material in the most recent issue. Take a look at them with a critical eye and ask yourselves if my writing sounds like that of a racist or Nazi, or if it sounds like that of someone concerned about basic human rights in Palestine and Israel. Then ask yourselves if these responses seem even remotely rational. Surely, anyone who applies the slightest bit of critical thought and inquiry must come to a conclusion that I am not a racist or a Nazi, and that these two letters are little more than a politically motivated smear.

It is clear from these two letters that defenders of Israeli apartheid don’t have an intellectual leg to stand on. That is why they lie and smear, and try to obfuscate the issue instead of trying to defend the indefensible. These two letters are an example of tactic employed as of late by supporters of Israeli apartheid, which has been to create a threatening environment for Palestinian solidarity activists through the use of smear tactics. Fortunately, they are vastly underestimating the resolve of dedicated Palestinian solidarity activists, who have time and again overcome the smears and the attempts to infringe on their freedom of speech on and off campus.

Yours for Peace and Justice,
Brian Latour
Students Against Israeli Apartheid (University of Manitoba)