Two federal parliamentarians, John Baird and Joe Volpe, set aside their partisan difference Wednesday to denounce the promotion of “Israeli Apartheid Week” as morally, intellectually and historically incoherent.
“We know how evil apartheid was in South Africa, (and) it is wrong and outrageous to equate what happened in South Africa with Israel,” said Baird, the Conservative MP for Ottawa-West-Nepean and Government House leader.
Volpe, the Liberal MP for the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, echoed that view.
Israel, he said, was the only country in the Middle East that shared Canada’s liberal democratic values and practices, and to apply a “toxic” label such as “apartheid” to the country was an offence to those values.
The two MPs spoke at Carleton University at a meeting jointly sponsored by the Israeli Awareness Committee, the Carleton Campus Conservatives and the Carleton Liberals.
Entitled “Standing Up for Campus Dialogue,” the Wednesday evening event was intended to inform students about how the label “Israeli Apartheid Week” misrepresented the political and social reality of the Jewish state, said Emile Scheffel, spokesman for the Israel Awareness Committee.
About 90 people, mostly students, attended the gathering.
The calumny of “Israeli Apartheid Week” is a Canadian invention, according Catherine Chatterley, founding director of the Canadian Institute for the Study of antiSemitism.
In a recent article in the National Post, she pointed out that the first such event was held at the University of Toronto in July 2005. Behind the idea were 170 Palestinian organizations the issued a call for a so-called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.
The document, Chatterley wrote, “clearly stated that the call was modelled on the example of the South African struggle against apartheid.”
The following year, “Israeli Apartheid Week” included Montreal and Oxford, Chatterley said. In 2007, it expanded to eight cities; in 2008, to 24 cities; in 2009, to 38 cities; last year, to over 40 cities. This year, IAW will be held in over 55 cities worldwide.
“This is the model closed by pro-Palestinian activists to dismantle so-called ‘Zionist racism’ in the Middle East,” Chatterly wrote. “By framing Isreal as an racist apartheid state, BDS is presented at an entirely appropriate and morally correct plan of action.”
The parliamentarians made similar arguments.
“Israel’s values are Canada’s values,” Volpe said, adding that labelling Israel as an apartheid state was “offensive” to any reasonable per-son and a tactic of intimidation intended to foreclose debate.
Baird concurred. Those who denounce Israel as an apartheid society abuse the principle of free speech solely to delegitimize Israel, and that “misrepresents” the reality of Israel, he said.
The Jewish state is the only country in the Middle East where the rights of women, gays and minorities are protect, Baird said.
In that sense, the Conservative MP concluded, to attack Israel as an apartheid society “is really an attack on Canadian society and Canadian values.”