Rebuttal to CJC attacks on Independent Jewish Voices and Diana Ralph

Since its inception, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) has worked in solidarity with the United Church of Canada to promote justice and security for Palestinian and Israeli people. We have worked with United Church congregations to help them implement the UCC resolutions for peace and justice in the Middle East which were passed in 2006 and 2009. Like the United Church, IJV has opposed the Canadian government’s decision to slash funding to KAIROS because of its stand for justice for Palestinians, and the government’s plans to eliminate desperately needed UNRWA funding for Palestinian refugees. As Jews, we challenge the claim by the Canadian Jewish Congress to speak for “the Canadian Jewish community.” IJV’s membership spans the spectrum from strongly Zionist to strongly anti-Zionist, and from Orthodox to secular. All IJV members affirm the following 5 principles, which we believe are completely consistent with United Church policy:

  • Human rights are universal and indivisible and should be upheld without exception. This is as applicable in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as it is elsewhere.

  • Palestinians and Israelis alike have the right to peaceful and secure lives.

  • Peace and stability require the willingness of all parties to the conflict to comply with international law.

  • There is no justification for any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, anti-Arab racism or Islamophobia, in any circumstance.

  • The battle against anti-Semitism is vital and is threatened whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as anti-Semitic. (IJV Basis of Unity Adopted at the Independent Canadian Jewish Conference, April 27, 2008.)

The National Post published seven prominent articles defaming me and Independent Jewish Voices, between September 17 and 30. In January, 2010 these allegations were repeated as fact by the Canadian Jewish Congress, Canadian Jewish News, and the National Post, this time to serve the CJC’s agenda of driving a wedge between IJV and the United Church of Canada, and to pressure the United Church to sideline resolutions critical of Israel which had been adopted at its 2006 and 2009 General Council.

Last September, I had found there were no good options to contest these damaging allegations. The National Post is not a member of the Ontario or Quebec Press Councils, and therefore is not subject to its discipline. The Human Rights Commission said libel issues don’t come under their mandate. Lawyers advised me that the articles were probably libellous. But they and others who had attempted legal action against the media advised me that trying to sue would likely bankrupt me, that a suit would take years, and, that the chances of success were slim because the National Post has teams of lawyers expert in tying up libel suits endlessly. Even if the National Post published a written rebuttal, I was told, it would only have given them an excuse to continue the controversy. So, aside from writing letters to the editor, we decided to keep our focus on our good work, and ignore the attacks.

However, now that these malicious allegations are resurfacing to undermine IJV’s and my own credibility, it is time to set the record straight.

Jonathan Kay’s September editorial is the only one which purported to present actual evidence. The others, by Kathryn Blaze Carlson, Barbara Kay, Paul Lungen, and Dan Verbin, were restricted to malicious name-calling (“anti-Israel,” “demented,” “tinfoil-hatted anti-Zionist, anti-American conspiracy theorist,” “fringe group that spews vile anti-Zionist rhetoric”). And so I will focus here on refuting Jonathan Kay’s allegations.

Background and context

It’s important to put this attack into context. The U.N. Goldstone report was released two days before the first article (Sept. 15). It meticulously documented Israel’s war crimes during the assault on Gaza. We believe that the National Post, the Canadian Jewish Congress, B’nai Brith etc. hoped to divert attention from (and attack) the Goldstone report. Richard Falk, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights, calls this strategy the “politics of deflection, the tendency by Israel to attack the messenger in order to avoid the message.”

In addition to attacking me, the National Post also libeled Naomi Klein (quoting from her Bat Mitzvah speech!), Judy Rebick, and other prominent Canadian Jews such as Toronto Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias. The Kay editorial focused on events that were, at best, old news. The United Church conference occurred in August and my article that he slammed was first published in 2006. These attacks were designed to de-legitimize IJV, the United Church, and me personally. It was not honest journalism. Revealingly, no other newspaper or television media has considered these allegations newsworthy enough to report.

The National Post has little credibility as an accurate source of information. It was created by Conrad Black in the late 1990’s ‘to provide a voice for Canadian conservatives and to combat what he and many Canadian conservatives considered to be a liberal bias in Canadian newspapers.’ In 2000 and 2001, Black sold the paper to CanWest Global Communications, owned by hard-line Zionist Izzy Asper (who also co-founded the Canadian Council on Israel and Jewish Advocacy). Under his leadership, it focused on attacking the CBC and others whom he considered left-wing and anti-Israel. “Since Izzy Asper’s acquisition of the National Post, the paper has become a strong voice in support of the state of Israel and its government. The Post was one of the few Canadian papers to offer unreserved support to Israel during its conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon during 2006.” As Warren Kinsella, reputable columnist said on quitting at the National Post: “I don’t mind being a minority voice - my views on human rights hopefully made that clear enough, in recent weeks - but, sometimes, you can only stomach so much. Being the father to an aboriginal child, for example, I have been appalled by the paper’s positions on First Nations issues; they were horrible. On racism, on human rights, on a lot of things. It gets to you, after a while.”

My article

Two years before IJV was formed, I published, “Islamophobia and the ‘war on terror’: The continuing pretext for imperial conquest” in an issue of Research in Political Economy, entitled The Hidden History of 9-11-01. RPE is a scholarly journal. It commissioned this publication to bring legitimate research (as opposed to the nonsensical conspiracy theories including anti-Semitic ones then on the internet) to the question of whether or not the official story about 9/11 was tenable. The book was republished by Seven Stories Press in 2008. Other chapters in this book focused on who did or didn’t carry out the 9/11 attacks or how they did it. Mine did not. I don’t have any direct information on that, and I did not claim to.

My research focused on two related themes. The first described a sequence of strategic documents between 1992 and 2000 designed to secure the U.S. as the sole superpower, which were prepared by a team of neo-conservatives in Bush Sr. and later Bush Jr’s administrations, who originally were called the Defense Policy Guidance (DPG) and later renamed themselves The Project for the New American Century. These documents argue that the U.S. needs to take military control of the Middle East and Central Asia, starting with pre-emptive wars to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan because of their geo-strategic position and their oil and natural gas resources. The Project for the New American Century study Rebuilding America’s Defences: Strategy, forces and resources for the New Century (published one year before the 9/11 attacks) laid out the core elements of the military policies which Bush Jr. implemented under the rubric of the “war on terror” within days and months of the 9/11 attacks. These documents repeatedly note concerns that the American public would not accept these imperial wars and infringements on their civil liberties unless they were experienced a sudden attack “like a new Pearl Harbor” (Donnelly, Thomas, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century, p. 51). None of them gives more than passing reference to terrorism, and instead they focus on achieving U.S. imperial ambitions.

The second theme of my article was to examine the historical roots of the concept of a “war on terror.” The concept was first proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu in 1979 at a conference attended and supported by George Bush Sr. The conference proposed terming as “international terrorism” popular liberation struggles such as the PLO and the popular resistance in El Salvador, because they received international aid (from the Soviet Union and Lebanon). It laid out proposals for a “war on terrorism” closely paralleling those which Bush Jr. implemented after the 9/11 attacks. Key elements of this policy were to demonize popular resistance movements as “terrorism,” to characterize state violence against these movements as moral and necessary for public safety, to slash civil liberties, to create a sophisticated spy network, and to promote torture and pre-emptive wars. I describe how Netanyahu, George Schultz, and George Bush Sr. conducted a successful lobbying campaign under the Reagan administration to promote what became “the Reagan doctrine” of a war against “international terrorism,” and how Israel implemented these policies independently in its1982 assault on Lebanon. Many of the U.S. neo-conservative leaders under Reagan advised the Bush Jr. administration, and there is strong evidence that the term “war on terror,” and its elements (racist vilification of Muslims, attacks on civil liberties, creation of “security states,” and pre-emptive wars in the name of attacking “terrorists”) had their roots in the 1979 Jerusalem conference. I did not, however, argue that Israel had anything to do with implementing the 9/11 attack itself.

Jonathan Kay’s National Post article claimed falsely that I alleged that “American and Israeli conservatives” or “Zionists plotting on Israeli soil” planned the attacks, that “The Jews were responsible,” and that I referred to “criminal Jews.” I have never accused Israelis (or “Jews”) of having anything directly to do with the 9/11 attacks. I have no evidence about it one way or the other. On the contrary, I have written to strenuously object to the anti-Semitic blogs and web sites. Not only do I find them offensive, but they discredit the valid research that has been done to challenge the official 9/11 narrative.

To discredit my article, Jonathan Kay focused on two (out of 133) citations in my article, claiming that they were by anti-Semites, and that therefore I must agree with the anti-Semitic views of their authors. Those two citations actually have no anti-Semitic content and were appropriate and credible. One is an article by Jerry Steinberg (likely a Jew) which was re-published in Lyndon LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review. I cited it because it offered a concise description of the plan by Dick Cheney’s DPG since 1990 to implement a strategy of world conquest after the fall of the Soviet Union. I also cited several other sources which confirm the details in this article. Contrary to Kay’s claims, the article itself had nothing in it about Jews or Israel or the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I certainly do not condone the anti-Semitic views of LaRouche.

The other citation which Kay ridiculed was a book by Eric Hufschmid, Painful questions: An analysis of the September 11 attack, which was published (and which I bought) in 2002. I cited it only once to summarize concerns raised by others about the official 9/11 story. His book is a good summary of the many inconsistencies in the official 9/11 story, which he had culled from many other sources. In my next paragraph, I explained that my focus would be elsewhere – on the roots of the “war on terror.” I recently carefully reviewed the contents of Hufschmid’s 2002 book and, as far as I can see, there is nothing about Jews or Israel in it. In the on-line version of the book, Hufschmid NOW has added an offensive anti-Semitic introduction. But when I was writing my article, I did not know he was anti-Semitic. I certainly don’t endorse his wacko, anti-Semitic views.

While credible research has exposed serious flaws in the official 9/11 narrative, I understand well that the 9/11 Truth movement is corrupted with crackpots, some of them anti-Semitic. I hope I have demonstrated that I am neither a crackpot, nor anti-Semitic. I have not done any further research on this topic since 2005, and do not consider myself a “9/11 truther.”

Independent Jewish Voices does not take any position on 9/11 and considers it irrelevant to its mandate. We do not believe that it is appropriate to engage in character assassination, or to judge an entire organization simply because a leader’s reputation has been defamed.

Jonathan Kay’s other defamatory allegations about me

My support for Hassan Almrei: In the on-line version of his article Kay invokes homophobia and Islamophobia to ridicule the support my wife and I have given to Hassan Almrei, one of the five Muslim Security Certificate detainees. Here is what he said:

“For those of you who find Ms. Ralph’s name familiar, here’s why: She and her lesbian partner attempted to adopt an alleged Islamist terrorist out of detention in 2007. (They actually wanted the guy to live in their house with them – a premise for a reality show, or bad sitcom, if I ever heard one.) I guess this is what being an “independent” Jewish voice means today: Bringing Islamists into your home, cribbing from anti-Semites, spreading blood libels against Jews, cheering on the destruction of the Jewish state. These Jews seem to have made genocidal self-destruction their greatest goal. But hey, I guess that just proves how “independent” they are.”

My wife and I did indeed offer bail surety and to allow Hassan Almrei to live in our basement apartment, if necessary, as a way to get him released from solitary confinement where he had been held in inhumane conditions for two years without ever being charged. As I explained to the Crown, my father was a Jewish lawyer who worked on the Nuremberg War Crimes trials, and he emphasized that we each have an obligation to stand up for the rights of any group of people who are being targeted for persecution. I believe that the security certificate legislation contravenes core elements of due process, and based on my research into the history of the U.S. backed mujahadeen campaign against Soviets in Afghanistan, I felt that there was little chance that Mr. Almrei could have been a member of Al Qaeda (which was barely present at the time he was in Afghanistan). My opinion was recently vindicated: Judge Mosely ruled in December 2009 that the Crown had no credible evidence against Mr. Almrei and quashed his security certificate. On January 2, 2010 he was freed after over 8 years of unjust imprisonment.

My academic credentials: Kay questioned whether I am indeed an Associate Professor of Social Work. I have been a university professor since 1980, and have been on disability leave from Carleton University since 1998. If you wish, I can give you my CV.

Allegations about IJV

Jonathan Kay characterized IJV as “an extremist group whose leaders support a total economic boycott of Israel, defend the UN’s original anti-Semitic Durban conference, support the destruction of the Jewish character of Israel through the influx of millions of Palestinians, spread conspiracy theories about the “Israeli lobby,” promote the blood libel that Israel deliberately targeted “children playing on roofs” during the Gaza conflict, and cheered on the illegal occupation of the Israeli consulate in Toronto earlier this year.” I will discuss each of these points:

  • “An extremist group” IJV is a respected national organization which is far from “extremist.” Our members include the full range of Jews from strongly Zionist to strongly anti-Zionist. All its members support human rights and international law for all people.

  • “Support a total economic boycott of Israel” At its June 14, 2009 Annual General Meeting, IJV passed a motion to support the Palestinian call for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and complies with the precepts of international law, including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. This movement has been adopted by the UN International Civil Society Conference on July 13, 2005, by the Kairos Palestine document, and on Nov. 25, 2008 by UN General Assembly President Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua. Many Israeli and Jewish peace organizations worldwide have now joined the call for BDS.

  • “Defend the UN’s original anti-Semitic Durban conference” IJV did, indeed, support the World Conference Against Racism and the WCAR Review Conference against false allegations that they were anti-Semitic. We felt ethically compelled to stand in solidarity with the racially oppressed around the world, whose concerns were betrayed by a combination of Zionist organizations determined that Palestinian rights not be recognized and by U.S. interests determined to defeat the campaign to have the Transatlantic Slave Trade declared a crime against humanity and therefore subject to reparations. We prepared position papers outlining the reality which contradicts the defamatory multi-million dollar propaganda spread by the International Jewish Caucus, World Zionist Congress, UN Watch, the Magenta Foundation, Human Rights First, and the Hudson Institute.

  • “support the destruction of the Jewish character of Israel through the influx of millions of Palestinians”: IJV does indeed support the right of Palestinian refugees, like all other refugees, to return to their homes or to receive compensation for their losses. There are many ways to do this which protect Israelis. The Israeli government and its supporters vehemently deny this right, resulting in the largest and longest lasting population of refugees in the world.

  • “spread conspiracy theories about the “Israeli lobby”: IJV has directly experienced and witnessed a well-coordinated pro-Israel lobby in Canada and world-wide. For example, while attending the 2009 Review of the World Conference Against Racism, we saw over 1,000 delegates which the International Jewish Caucus and other Zionist groups had transported to Geneva to conduct a heavy-handed lobby campaign to discredit and shut down the conference. In Canada, the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA) coordinates a well-funded lobby machine which provides free trips to Israel for politicians, police chiefs, and aboriginal leaders, and which monitors and intimidates politicians, journalists, and faculty who dare to criticize Israel. Many MPs, Foreign Affairs officials, and other policy makers have told us that they do not dare to criticize Israeli policies out of a well-justified threat that CIJA-linked organizations will kill their careers. The coordinated attack on IJV and me is just one more example of the existence of a pro-Israel lobby. This is not a “Jewish” lobby, both because it includes many non-Jews (Christian evangelist groups, arms producers, neo-conservative politicians and media, etc.) and because its makes no pretence of representing the diversity of Jewish perspectives.

  • “promote the blood libel that Israel deliberately targeted “children playing on roofs” during the Gaza conflict”: The term, “blood libel” is an emotionally charged reference to anti-Semitic libel used to stir up retribution against Jews, for example, the false claim that Jews kill Christian babies and use their blood to make matzo. The term “blood libel” has often been used by pro-Israel forces to dismiss valid reporting of Israeli war crimes. For example, Eye on the UN, (a pro-Israel lobby group) has a web page entitled, “The Goldstone Inquiry: the UN blood libel.” In an interview as an IJV spokesperson, I referred to a study by Amnesty International which documented and condemned Israeli “aerial bombardments” on “children playing on the roofs of their homes” during Operation Cast Lead (Amnesty International (2009) Israel/Gaza: Operation ‘Cast Lead’: 22 days of death and destruction. P.1) This is clearly not “blood libel.”

  • “cheered on the illegal occupation of the Israeli consulate in Toronto earlier this year”: IJV did indeed issue a press release supporting the illegal occupation of the Israeli Consulate by Jewish women during Operation Cast Lead, as an important act of non-violent resistance to draw attention to Jewish opposition to this atrocity.

I hope that this has helped to set the record straight.

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