Chris Cook is the Managing Editor of www.pacificfreepress.com, host of Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada, and former editor to www.pej.org
As the bombs continue to fall over Palestine, the bodies piling higher by the hour, I'm spending my weekend (thanks to Queen Victoria, a mercifully long one) reading over 18 "offending" articles published at my former home Peace, Earth, and Justice (www.PEJ.org). I'm doing this because, Canada has Hate Speech laws, and me and PEJ have apparently fallen afoul of them. Or, so says the British Columbia branch of the B'nai Brith organization.
Considering the hundreds of articles chronicling the crimes against humanity committed by the Israeli regime in Palestine, Lebanon, and elsewhere published during my time as an editor at PEJ, I can only remark at my shock B'nai Brith could only come up with 18 they find offensive. Perhaps it's a softening of vigilance, or maybe a tacit recognition: Israeli government policy is becoming increasingly difficult to defend, even among its most staunch proponents? Nevertheless, the charges are serious for the PEJ.org board members, the editors (of which yours truly is one), and the authors of the articles in question, some of the most noted authorities on the six decades-long Palestine-Israel debacle.
For American readers who value and feel protected by the 1st Amendment (right to free speech), it may seem strange that a country would enshrine in law the opposite condition; but Hate Crime legislation in this country is widely supported. Canada is an ethnically, and politically diverse country, consisting of minority populations from the world over, and it was deemed fair-minded to ensure all are protected from the "tyranny of the majority." But it's a double-edged sword, making possible an abuse of the statutes, allowing an equally odious tyranny, the stifling of dissent and criticism by a dedicated minority.
Such is, I believe, the case here.
To understand the nature of the B'nai Brith complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, it's instructive to visit the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) website; there is explained the goals of the CJC, and their marching orders to regional branches of B'nai Brith in defending Israeli interests. The CJC's 'General Expectations of Canada,' and presumably of Canadian Jews and Christian Zionists loyal to Israel, right or wrong, are to take "constructive interventions against resolutions or motions" made in Canada that:
i) blame only Israel and its policies for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
ii) indict Israel's legitimate counter-terrorism measures with no reference to or condemnation of Palestinian terrorism.
iii) deny or undermine Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state in the Middle East.
iv) employ existentially threatening language such as referring to Israel as a "racist" or "apartheid" state and apply terms such as ["genocide"(?)], or "ethnic cleansing" to the conflict.
v) are based upon inaccurate media information or Palestinian Authority propaganda.
vi) predetermine the outcome of direct, bilateral negotiations in keeping with UN Resolution 242 and 338 or circumvent such a process. At the same time, Canada's delegates must support and encourage efforts at the UNCHR that:
i) will ensure a comprehensive accounting of international human rights situations such that grievous international human rights issues are not ignored or soft-pedalled as a result of a politicized, anti-Israel agenda.
ii) highlight the crippling impact of continuing Palestinian terrorism - which has been explicitly legitimized in the CHR resolutions - on the peace process and on attempts to establish a true human rights regime in the Middle East.
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iii) draw attention to the deficiencies within the Palestinian Authority regarding human rights and the building of a viable civil society for the Palestinian people. Thankfully, these tenets are neither chiseled in stone, nor enshrined in Canadian jurisprudence; for if they were, PEJ.org would indeed be found guilty of the charges brought. But then, who criticizing Israel's brutal, racist, and remorseless genocide, as practiced against the people of Palestine, would be innocent?
As it stands, the "representative of The League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith" contends, PEJ.org is: "...discriminating against persons or groups of persons by communicating messages on the Internet that are likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt on the basis of national or ethnic origin, contrary to section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act ("CHRA")." The complaint says, PEJ.org is "contriving to promote ongoing hatred affecting persons identifiable as Jews, and/or as citizens of Israel." Thus, the B'nai Brith is arguing it is likely to be hated and despised due to criticism of the Israeli state, and demands criticism of that state cease and desist.
Reviewing the 18 articles in question, it's easy to see where PEJ.org transgresses the above stated goals of the Canadian Jewish Congress; many of them blame Israel chiefly in the conflict in Palestine. As the stronger party, it can be argued Israel has the primary responsibility to sue for a just solution. That solution cannot be arrived at through violence, whether the "terrorism" of Palestinian suicide bombers and Kassam rockets, or Israeli Defense Force tanks, F-16's, or the snipers atop the "security fence" surrounding much of Gaza and East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. Some of the articles too do mention Israel is a "racist" state, judging by the words quoted of its leadership, past and present.
Some too declare, as did former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Israel is an "apartheid" state, likening the physical separation of non-Jews to the so-called Bantustans of apartheid-era South Africa (incidentally, a regime stoutly defended and aided by Israel at the time of its most egregious behaviour). True, these articles document a hateful regime, following a hateful policy that includes murder, torture, unilateral invasion of neighbouring countries, the mass and indiscriminate killing of civilians using prohibited weapons, and internationally allowed weaponry used in illegal fashion, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, counter to international law, mass detentions without due process, and a litany of other, ongoing outrages, nowhere in any of the articles is contempt for Jews, or Israeli citizens, whether identifiable, or otherwise expressed. In fact, more than a few of the articles in question implore Jews in America, Europe, and Israel to use what influence they have to rein in the Israeli government if not in the name of humanity, then to preserve Israel following a disastrous course.
Section 13 of Canada's Human Rights Act was originally designed to address hate campaigns conducted by far-right white supremacists, who had taken to sending recorded messages promoting hatred against minorities over the telephone. It has since morphed into an all-encompassing censor, every amendment to it adding further restrictions to what is considered acceptable opinion and expression of those opinions. The authors of the 18 articles found objectionable by the B'nai Brith were not penned by frothing at the mouth racists, determined to isolate and make subject to ridicule, contempt, or hatred any group. They comprise a wide spectrum of journalists, social commentators, educators, and concerned citizens from several countries and faiths, all expressing genuine outrage at the current state of affairs in Palestine, and the role of the State of Israel in those events.
If this then is to be considered criminal, then what can we consider the actions creating so much death and misery there, and the disgraceful inaction of Canada's government (currently aiding and abetting the horrors through its support of food, aid, and medicines sanctions against the duly elected Hamas government of Palestine), but a crime of an infinitely greater magnitude?
PEJ.org has until early next month to respond to the Canadian Human Rights Commission's Anti-Hate investigators, and face any number of legal and quasi-legal devices that could include fines of thousands of dollars, pulling the plug of the organization, or worse. It would be ironic indeed, if an organization of volunteers dedicated to peace, earth, and justice were to be shot down for criticism of an entity that regards those tenets worthy only for its own, identifiable citizens.
sources of interest:
Two of the 18 authored by yours truly
Does Evil Have the Right to Exist?
Warsaw on the Mediterranean
Canadian Human Rights Commission
Kurt Nimmo's article and comments
Canadian Jewish Congress
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