Volume 41, Number 5: September/October 2007

B’nai Brith Uses Human Rights Complaint to Squelch Critcism of Israel

Harry Abrams, B.C. representative for B’nai Brith, has filed a human-rights complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against Peace, Earth and Justice, alleging that the Victoria-based website, its editors, manager and director “contrive to promote ongoing hatred affecting persons identifiable as Jews and/or as citizens of Israel.”

On the basis of the complaint, the website’s publisher has removed eighteen articles allegedly containing anti-Semitic material pending the outcome of an inquiry.

According to Abrams, a Victoria businessman, the complaint was filed because the website ran articles putting forth, “The idea that Israel has no right to exist or that Israel is an apartheid state.” He says other Canadian websites are being examined for possible complaints before the commission. “We have to show that Canadian law extends to the Internet as well as the conventional printed word,” he explains.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission says it is required to address any complaint alleging a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Articles on the website, www.pej.org, discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and last summer’s war in Lebanon. Some question Israel’s right to exist – as a Jewish state. Others compare Israeli treatment of Palestinians with the Nazi persecution of Jews. One article, entitled “We Should Nuke Israel,” spoofs a column that ran in the Toronto Star, which argued for a tactical strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The director of the legal department of B’nai Brith Canada, which is a party to Abrams’ complaint, said the articles “are virulently anti-Israel to the point that they meet the criteria of crossing the line of legitimate criticism of the state straight into anti-Semitism.”

PEJ News, which has been going since 1996, provides articles and on-line discussions of peace, environment and justice issues written by its own and other writers. The site claims a monthly readership of 500,000.

Until January, 2007, Chris Cook was the site’s senior editor. At that time, he left to set up www.pacificfreepress.com, where he is managing editor. Cook is outraged at the role played by the mainstream media in dealing with Israel and Palestine.

“The situation in Palestine worsens by the hour,” he says, “while the corporate and state media in Canada do nothing. In fact, they do less than nothing. If they were to refrain from coverage, at least Canadians wouldn’t be subject to the distortion

of facts and outright lies fed to the hotel-based journalists in Jerusalem by the Israel Defense Forces and relayed verbatim into their homes,” Cook insists.

He is outraged by what has happened in Victoria. “B’nai Brith, through their representative Harry Abrams, has smeared me and those responsible for running www.pej.org, charging that our attempts to inform both Canada and the broader world of the reality of the situation facing Palestinian and Lebanese civilians at the hands of the Israeli regime are tantamount to anti-Semitism. In a tactic that has worked for them before, they are conflating criticism of the State of Israel with the proliferation of racist material – something that is legally actionable in Canada. Clearly their goal is to stifle honest debate.”

In Cook’s view, “the most insidious aspect to this stratagem is the claim made by B’nai Brith and other, similar organizations to speak on behalf of all Canadian Jews when it comes to the subject of Israel. I know this to be patently false. There is a growing chorus among Jews in Canada and abroad against both the policies of the state of Israel, and the neocons and Zionists who would cast themselves in the role of official Jewish spokespersons.”

The Canadian Jewish Congress recently refused membership to the dissident Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians, a coalition of Canadian Jews who are critical of the policies of the Israeli government toward the Palestinians, and who support the demand to end the occupation. This move, together with the filing of this suit by B’nai Brith, indicate that Canada’s Zionist organizations are circling the wagons in unquestioning support of Israel.

As the crisis in the region deepens, it is becoming increasingly important for progressives in Canada to raise their voices in defiance of attempts to suppress freedom of speech – and on behalf of a just settlement that addresses the issues of occupation, the discrimination experienced by Palestinian citizens of Israel, resettlement of Palestinian refugees who were displaced from their homes, and compensation for those who are unwilling or unable to relocate.

Samples from the 18 Offending Articles

Kurt Nimmo, “Sacking Livingstone: The Mayor, the Reporter, the Nazi Concentration Camp Guard, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews,” February 28, 2006

Nimmo does not hold back in attacking Zionism. He writes, “Nothing will be allowed to stand in the way of the Holocaust Orthodoxy, in effect an immensely profitable shake down operation for Israel … and the Zionist master plan to decimate Muslim society and culture.”

James Petras, “Condemnation’s Necessity,” December 25, 2006

Petras writes, “Jewish agencies … see defense of Israel as their number-one goal, trumping all other items on the agenda.” He acknowledges, “Many Jewish writers, including those who are somewhat critical of Israel, have raised pointed questions about our critique of the Zionist power configuration in the United States and what they wrongly claim are our singular harsh critique of the state of Israel.”

Virginia Tilley, “Apartheid Israel,” December 6, 2006

“The Palestinians’ original sin – the ‘failing’ has consigned them collectively to expulsion, dispossession, exile, and a cruel and humiliating occupation – is … that they are not Jewish.”

Virginia Tilley, “Boycott Now!”, August 5, 2006

Tilley points to “specific crimes: Israel’s continual attacks on Palestinian civilians; its casual disdain for the Palestinian civilian lives ‘accidentally’ destroyed in its assassinations and bombings; its deliberate ruin of the Palestinians’ economic and social conditions; its continuing annexation and dismemberment of Palestinian land; its torture of prisoners; its contempt for UN resolutions and international law; and especially, its refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.” She adds, “[O]pen official racism and its attendant violence casts Israel into the ranks of pariah states.”

Kathleen Christison, “Atrocities in the Promised Land,” July 17, 2006

“A nation that mandates the primacy of one ethnicity or religion over all others will eventually become psychologically dysfunctional. Narcissistically obsessed with its own image, it must strive to maintain its racial superiority at all costs and will inevitably come to view any resistance to this imagined superiority as an existential threat.”

Chris Hedges, “Worse than Apartheid,” December 23, 2006

Hedges reports, “Israel has rounded up hundreds of Palestinians, destroyed Gaza’s infrastructure, including its electrical power system and key roads and bridges, carried out huge land confiscations, demolished homes and plunged families into a crisis that has caused widespread poverty and malnutrition.” Hedges, however, is no ideologue of the elected Palestinian party Hamas, calling its politics “repugnant.” He asks, though, how Israeli terrorism can “curb suicide attacks and foster peace? Do [Israeli Jews] not see that the rest of the Middle East watches the slaughter in horror and rage?”.

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