Throughout the Middle East and Arab world, people are rising up against dictatorship and tyranny. They are fighting for their human rights and their human dignity, even while under the threat of violence and death.
Amidst this violence, however, Israel remains relatively calm and peaceful. One of the reasons for this is that many of the freedoms that the people of the Middle East and Arab world are fighting for already exist in Israel. The right to vote, the right to disagree with the government and protection of freedom of the press are just some of the fundamental rights that have existed in Israel since its founding.
One of the things I admire the most about Israel is that they have maintained a free and democratic society even while being surrounded by dictatorships.
Having suffered firsthand the tragic consequences of hatred and tyranny, the Jewish people created a nation built on the foundation of justice and human dignity. Upon this foundation, they built a modern, prosperous and free society. This nation embraces people of all backgrounds and all faiths, as we do in Canada.
I first learned about Israel when I had the honour of being a part of The Asper Foundation Human Rights and Holocaust Studies Program. I attended a four month program, where students learned about the Holocaust, Israel, and human rights violations around the world. We had the opportunity to hear from Holocaust survivors about their experiences, and I was amazed by the fact that they retained so much hope for the human race, despite seeing the lowest depths of hatred, aggression, and oppression. I was struck by how important it was to them that Israel exists, and how deeply they felt attached to Israel. For them, Israel is not just a country; it is something they carry in their hearts. At the same time, they were deeply grateful for Canada, and they recognized that all of us who live in free countries are truly blessed.
Here on our campus, discussions about Israel can sometimes become quite heated. Good people can be on different sides of this issue. However, if we can channel this passion and emotion towards a search for the truth and for common ground, I believe that people of all backgrounds and all viewpoints will find that there is much to admire and support when it comes to the state of Israel. There is no country on our Earth that is perfect, and Israel is no exception. However, Israel need not be perfect for us to admire what it has achieved.
Many students that I know support Israel because we recognize that their values are our values. These values of democracy, respect for individual freedom, and a willingness to hear all points of view, are essential and fundamental to our way of life. They are the values that we cherish and believe in, and they are the values that our world needs now more than ever.
Spencer Fernando is the Comment Editor for the Manitoban.
Canada is so Zionist that one of its Rocky Mountains is named after Leopold Amery.
What is Mr Fenando smoking?
“One of the things I admire the most about Israel is that they have maintained a free and democratic society ” – for the first 18 years of its existance all Palestinean Arabs living in Israel were subject to military rule. For the past 44 years Israel has ruled over approx 5 million Palestinean Arabs without giving them the vote!
“Many students that I know support Israel because we recognize that their values are our values. These values of democracy, respect for individual freedom, and a willingness to hear all points of view, are essential and fundamental to our way of life. ” – This in the week that the Israeli Knesset passed a law that makes advocating boycotts against Israel’s occupation of Palestinean territories illegal. And a month after it passed a law against its Palestinean citizens marking the Nakba that sent so many of their bretheren into exile.
@Sydney Nestel: Who actually lives in a perfectly free and democratic society? Are there not people who refuse to call themselves Canadians living in this country who don’t have the right to vote even though they live here under Canadian rule of law?
Fernando has his head screwed on correctly; he’s calling for calm and constructive discussion on a topic that produces this kind of debate. Regardless of his viewpoint, can he not be simply respected for stating his opinion openly and asking for people to see beyond the micro?
No, he doesn’t deserve respect for “stating his opinion openly.” Especially when that opinion is based on a complete whitewashing of the blood-stained history of Palestinian genocide at the hands of his beloved Israel.
Israel is an apartheid state. Just because other countries in the region and around the world (including Canada) also have horrific human rights records, doesn’t mean that Israel gets a free pass.
Just a quick note:
At *least* 13 members of my family were murdered in the concentration camps (Sobibor and Auschwitz, as well as Theriesenstadt).
My great aunt, who fled Berlin to the U.S. in 1937, and lost all of her family stated this (summarized) in our recent visit:
-Had they survived the camps, there is no chance that ANY of the Jews in our family would tolerate the explicit discrimination, segregation and violence currently being conducted by Israel against the Palestinians. The “security” walls bring back horrible memories of the security fences constructed around Jewish areas in Berlin. Treating people like caged animals is simply wrong, and to see fellow Jews behave in the same manner against another people is appalling.-
She said that these images are no secret. Forcing people into small, fenced-in communities surrounded by soldiers, military check points, extreme poverty… even the blocking of humanitarian aid is all reminiscent to the Holocaust survivors in my family of the traumatic experiences they went through.
The (few) Holocaust survivors left in my family share a different opinion of Israel that is less mired in political platitudes, and more focused on realities: If Israel uses our experiences to legitimize her actions, then Israel can never be called our home.
I can’t believe what I’m reading here.
@Rob: Go ahead call every other country in the world an apartheid state. When will the name-calling end and the constructive discussion begin?
@David: It’s pathetic and quite disgusting that you’re acquaiting the planned and executed massacre of 6 million of our people and millions of others with what should be seen as the self-preservation of a country. (I’m Jewish too and was named after one of my grandfather’s brothers who was killed- my grandfather being the sole survivor of a rather large family of about 10. And that’s just one of my grandparent’s stories. Not that it makes any difference.) Does the Great Wall of China make people living by it “caged animals” as its original intent, unlike the fence in Israel/West Bank, was to separate people rather than protect one group from the other, which the barrier in Israel has been successful in accomplishing? My grandparents, all Holocaust survivors, were proud supporters of a country that could have helped when we needed a country most.
Of course, not every action that every country takes on is perfect, but why subject Israel to greater scrutiny than, say, Mexico? When did its last piece of legislation regarding anything make news in Canada? Why isn’t its immigration policies scritinized internationally? Not that I’m picking on Mexico per se, but you could pick something about any country to complain about on this level.
Let’s cut this rhetoric and work on meaningful discussion by starting with a clean slate.
I could have gone on about innocent women and children in Sderot who have been under rocket fire from Gaza, which is Palestinian land that is overseen by Israel for its own security. People have been living there since the transfer in 2005 in constant fear, some with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, of rockets that have killed or injured several hundred people in a community of only 20,000, a number that has decreased significantly due to the number of people who have left.
Instead, while noting that this is an issue, it’s not the primary issue.
The issue is the constant cycle of violence and the disproprotionate amount of international pressure and scrutinization placed upon a part of the world ~1/6 the size of southern Ontario.
Very good observation, very basic reading of a conflict of hate, tought in Arab dictatorships.
Arab spring might bring democracy, but it will take decades to remove the hatred that was instilled in Arab schools. Egyptian born author ‘Nonie Darwish (???? ??????), speaks volumes about the exact same thing.
@David: I like your sober reflections on a complex subject. It’s great when people can get past political and cultural party lines and focus on the actual realities surrounding us.
@AF: The comments were not coming from me, they were coming from my great-aunt – a holocaust survivor herself. She is merely observing fact, and drawing the obvious parallels to her own horrible experiences.
There is no comparison between The Great Wall of China and the Security Fences. These are modern military walls built around civic communities, based on their ethnic demographics. And like you said, its rockets being fired on Israeli cities… rockets fly OVER walls. These do nothing to provide security.
“Of course, not every action that every country takes on is perfect, but why subject Israel to greater scrutiny than, say, Mexico”?
We are not talking about Mexico, and I think deflecting criticisms away from Israel to other countries doesn’t help make Israel a better place. The reason I question Israeli policies and practices and not Mexico’s (in this debate) is because I’m Jewish, and I actually care what Israel does in my name, and the name of my ancestors. And I’m sick of “anti-semitism” being used as a political tool to deflect criticism of a government’s policies. It does nothing to build peace in Israel, and creates the illusion that Israeli policies are *Jewish* policies – that leads REAL anti-semitism, and does nothing to help us.
“Palestinian land that is overseen by Israel for its own security”. <- Do you not see problems with that statement? "the disproprotionate amount of international pressure and scrutinization placed upon a part of the world ~1/6 the size of southern Ontario." Size doesn't matter: clearly a talking point from the recent campaign on campus. Rwanda is even smaller. Germany can fit in Manitoba how many times? Using size to garner sympathy is simply desperate and offensive. Human rights violations (according to the UN and Amnesty Int'l etc.) are being conducted by the State of Israel on Palestinian people, and media representation of the area (mainstream and otherwise) show graphic and shocking depictions of reality, and I don't think denial of that is going to build peace. I also don't deny that there are folks like Hamas who aren't necessarily contributing to the peace process, but if Israel is the "shining democracy" of the region, then enough with these archaic and oppressive policies, and lets see some good ol' fashioned Jewish intellectual criticism, rather than reactionary and racist militarism.
Since this is an academic community, and in defense of Rob’s comments, I’d suggest you *read* the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court’s definition of the “Crime of Apartheid”, which is “*committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.*”
The crime of “apartheid” is therefore not used exclusively in the South African context -it is an international legal term- so you can call a “thief” anything but a thief, but legally, he still remains a thief.