February 25, 2010
In a rare show of unanimity, Ontario MPPs of all political stripes have banded together to condemn “Israeli Apartheid Week.”
Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman (Thornhill) tabled the motion Thursday to denounce the sixth annual provocative campus event that kicks off next week at universities and colleges in 35 cities around the world.
“Resolutions in the Ontario Legislature send a message. They are about moral suasion,” said Shurman, adding “it is close to hate speech” to liken democratic Israel to apartheid-era South Africa.
“I want the name changed, it’s just wrong,” he said, emphasizing that “respectful” debate about the Middle East is much more constructive than slinging slurs.
“Israeli Apartheid Week is not a dialogue, it’s a monologue and it is an imposition of a view by the name itself—the name is hateful, it is odious,” he said, adding it is also offensive to the millions of black South Africans oppressed by a racist white regime until the early 1990s.
New Democratic MPP Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale-High Park) said while the motion, which passed with a unanimous voice vote at 4 p.m., was “symbolic,” it sent a signal that parliamentarians want to promote positive debate.
“What we need to build peace … are not inflammatory words like ‘apartheid,’ particularly used inappropriately in the case of Israel,” said DiNovo, who was among the 30 MPPs in the 107-seat Legislature for the vote.
“That’s not to say there’s not a valid discussion. ‘Apartheid’ does not help the discussion. What we like to speak about is the occupation (of Palestinian territory), the wall, other issues that face us,” she said.
While Training Colleges and Universities Minister John Milloy was not in the House for the vote, he expressed concern at the use of such a loaded term.
“Campuses are places for debate and discussion – they often get into areas that can offend people, can challenge people,” said Milloy.
“I think what the goal has to be is to make sure that there’s not hatred on campus – nothing that would make a student feel threatened,” he said.
“I certainly understand the concerns about that term.”
The MPPs’ move comes as Premier Dalton McGuinty, who was not in the House on Thursday, is gearing up for a trade mission for Israel and the West Bank on May 23.
McGuinty will be the first Ontario premier to visit Israel since Mike Harris in 1998.