SFSC letter: To UBC Alma Mater Society, re: Social Justice Centre and Canadian Boat to Gaza
News Update: Gaza controversy a result of lackluster leadership
News Update: The AMS: spending your money to investigate terrorism
News Update: UBC student government checking Gaza donation for terror ties
News Update: Standing morality on its head
SFSC letter Dec 1, 2010
Letter to Mr. Bijan Ahmadian, UBC AMS President and AMS Councilors, re: Social Justice Centre and the Canadian Boat to Gaza
I am writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee. We have recently become aware of the attacks and defamatory comments made by students associated with the Hillel Centre, and the Hillel Centre itself, about the Social Justice Centre and the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights Committee regarding their donation to the Canadian Boat to Gaza as part of the next freedom flotilla.
The Seriously Free Speech Committee was formed 2 ½ years ago to defend three individuals who published a parody of the Vancouver Sun and its uncritical support for Israel’s illegal siege of Gaza. We have since been forced to recognize that individuals who support justice in the Middle East or who engage in critical debate on Israel/Palestine are subject to the most horrendous personal slanders and organizational attacks. We have therefor expanded our mandate to support and defend those individuals and organizations.
What the AMS is experiencing has happened on many campuses across Canada and the US. In some cases it has cost principled academics their teaching positions and students their academic year. The attacks slander the individuals but in no instance do they actually deal with the actual living circumstances of Israel’s siege. Every opponent is labelled “antisemitic”, “a self-hating Jew” or “delegitimizer of Israel”. The intention of these slanders is to force critics to defend themselves rather than to force the supporters of Israel to answer legitimate questions about Israel’s actual actions. The Hillel Centre letter and other actions consist of so many mendacious comments and fabrications that it would take an extended letter to fully deal with them.
Briefly the siege of Gaza is illegal, the freedom flotilla boats are acting within international law and a war against a small country under siege and without weapons is not a war but a massacre. Justice Goldstone has written a balanced report on the Gaza massacre which has earned him the vindictive slander of ”evil, evil man” by Israeli supporters.
On George Galloway, Justice Mosely of the Canadian Federal Court in a September decision completely vindicated George Galloway and allowed him to enter Canada. Part of his decision is relevant to your decision:”To suggest, however, that contributions to Hamas for such purposes [food, medical care] makes the donor a party to any terrorist crimes committed by the organization goes beyond the parliamentary intent and the legislative language. The purpose to which the funds are donated must be to enhance the ability of the organization to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity. Absent such a purpose, the mere assertion that material support was provided to such an organization is not sufficient. To hold otherwise could ensnare innocent Canadians who make donations to organizations they believe, in good faith, to be engaged in humanitarian works.” Clearly the Canadian Boat to Gaza is carrying humanitarian relief for besieged Gazans, and not to Hamas, and cannot be tarred with the accusation of providing aid to the elected government of Gaza, Hamas.
Finally reference has been made to the Ottawa Protocol emerging from the Ottawa Conference of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition Combating Antisemitism. There is a significant literature criticizing this conference and its predecessors (including the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism) for attempting to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism. There is demonstrable evidence that traditional antisemitism, hostility to Jews as Jews, is a marginal phenomenon in Canada and on Canadian campuses. What is increasing is criticism of Israel’s actions. However, these conferences choose to examine antisemitism instead of the more prevailing racism directed against First Nations, Muslims, blacks and many others.
Speaking of transparency, no one knows who attended the conference and how the $450,000 government grant was spent. We do know the participants were not representing their governments, were volunteers and many of them were part of a small group of academics and parliamentarians who go from one conference and workshop to the next trying to make criticism of Israel or support for the besieged Gazans illegal.
In summary, the attacks on SJC and SPHR are part of broad campaign to undermine those opposed to Israel’s actions. If the AMS wants to more fully understand the issues raised by the supporters of Israel, it could organize an forum to allow all sides to be heard. The SFSC would be happy to participate or support such a venture.
Co-Chair, Seriously Free Speech Committee