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CUPE President: “Slurs will not silence us”

by Sid Ryan, [Canadian] Globe & Mail, July 7th

When our union recently passed a resolution critical of policies of the government of Israel, it was savagely attacked in several quarters and labelled by many as anti-Semitic.

When the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada, the largest Protestant church in the country, called for a limited boycott and divestment strategy toward Israel, it, too, faced a barrage of baseless allegations of anti-Semitism (though little was said about the two Jewish organizations, the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians and Jewish Women to End the Occupation, who joined in the church group’s action). Canadian media, with few exceptions, refuse to report on the plight of innocent Palestinians not involved in terrorist activities. They insist on focusing on the minority of Palestinians who inflict despicable violence on innocent civilians. The media refuse to address Israel’s violation of international law, the Geneva Conventions, the rulings of the International Court [of Justice] in The Hague and a number of United Nations resolutions. This lack of reporting leaves the Canadian population with a one-sided view. Israel’s recent bombing campaign and incursion in Gaza has destroyed schools and universities, demolished bridges and roads, and killed several Palestinians. The sonic-boom bombardments wreak havoc on a civilian population, smashing windows and doors and terrorizing children. More damaging, there is no electricity for more than 700,000 people — no lights, no refrigerators, and no fans in the suffocating heat. It means no clean water — the public water supply uses electricity — leading to disease, possibly cholera. It means limited services in hospitals and clinics dependant on electricity.

Were this Northern Ireland, the wrath of the international community would be swift and harsh. Yet when we criticize this behaviour, we are labelled anti-Semites — a convenient tactic used to shut down debate and silence us from any criticism of the state of Israel.

Even Switzerland, renowned for its neutrality, criticized Israel this week. “There is no doubt that Israel has not taken the precautions required of it in international law to protect the civilian population and infrastructure,” said a statement issued by the Swiss Foreign Ministry. The strongest condemnation for the irresponsible Gaza campaign came Tuesday from the editorial page of one of Israel’s most respected newspapers, Haaretz.

In an astonishing moment of frankness and brevity, the newspaper called for the permanent withdrawal of the Israeli Defence Forces from the occupied territories.

“The right always proposes the same recipe, but in ever-increasing doses: If we did not manage to deter them by using force, we need to use more force; and if that fails, then we need to use even more force. The establishment of the settlements was, and remains, a form of using force, as is construction of the fence along a route that harms Palestinian life more than necessary for security purposes,” the editorial stated. “The attempt to topple an elected government by means of tanks and to remove members of an elected parliament by arresting them also constitutes a policy of aggression.”

“At this time, it must be reiterated,” the newspaper said, “and it would be appropriate for the Prime Minister to find the time and the strength of will to do so — that Israel has no option in the long run other than withdrawing from the territories and from the occupation.” There you have it in a nutshell, the essence of CUPE Ontario’s resolution spoken from the pages of Israel’s influential newspaper. I now expect to hear B’nai Brith, the Canadian Jewish Congress and Simon Wiesenthal Centre, together with all their cronies, scream and hurl accusations of anti-Semitism at the editorial board of Haaretz. Or is that treatment is reserved for CUPE and the United Church?

Sid Ryan is president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario).

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