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An open letter to Mr. Sid Ryan,
President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario

From Maurice Ostroff
June 14, 2006

Dear Mr. Ryan,

Your article, "Protesting against Israeli apartheid" (Toronto Sun June 2)

It may surprise you, that as an Israeli who grew up in apartheid South Africa, I commend every word in the last sentence of your article, in which you state:
"For the record, our members have also decided at a previous national convention to "call for and actively work towards an end to all acts of violence that take the lives of innocent people, whether they be Palestinian or Israeli. "We continue to support a negotiated peace process based on equality -- and that means the wall must come down"

Your even-handed approach comes as a breath of fresh air by comparison with the many strident one-sided attacks on Israel which have become commonplace.

It may surprise you even more to learn that I believe the great majority of Israelis would join me in this commendation. We too, look forward to the day when the "wall" can come down because it will no longer be needed to protect us from suicide bombers. And acting in accordance with your call to work towards an end to all acts of violence, we need your support, not your enmity, to assist us in achieving this by negotiation with our neighbors.

I trust that, as the leader of a great trade union, which has achieved much for its members you, will accept this invitation to a civil discussion about the thrust of your article and the CUPE resolution in which you protest what you understand to be Israeli Apartheid.

The popular "rage" against Israel's alleged apartheid would be perfectly justifiable if the basic premises on which it is based were true and I ask you to please consider some little-known factual information which I hope will cause you, as the fair-minded person, you have shown yourself to be, to re-evaluate some of your opinions.

Unlike South Africa where apartheid was entrenched in the law and strictly enforced, in Israel, discrimination is forbidden by law. In South Africa, the law not only denied the vote to Black citizens, it legislated to force discrimination in almost every aspect of daily life, resembling to a degree Israel's Arab neighbors which legislate to strictly enforce gender and religious apartheid. By contrast, Israel's Declaration of Independence specifically ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or gender. Israeli Muslims, Christians, Druse and other minority groups enjoy exactly the same civil and political rights as Jews. They serve in the Knesset and speak freely against the government. If you examine Israeli high court decisions you will observe how they have consistently upheld and continue to uphold equal rights.

The accusation of apartheid in Israel has become a popular catchphrase used as a whip without any relevance to reality. If one looks at the facts objectively, the inevitable conclusion is that there is no more validity to applying apartheid to Israel than to many other countries including for example, your country, Canada.

A report, by the Canadian Federal Government, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Report 2002), expressed concern that the federal government has been unable to compel provincial and territorial governments to align laws relating to discrimination and about failure to implement completely, the recommendations adopted in 1996 by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. It cites difficulties encountered by Aboriginal peoples before the courts in establishment of Aboriginal title over land; the ongoing dispossession of Aboriginal people from their land and some aspects of the Indian Act that may not be in conformity with rights protected under the Convention, in particular the right to marry and to choose one's spouse, the right to own property and to inherit, the high rate of incarceration of, violence against, and deaths in custody of Aboriginals and people of African and Asian descent. Concerns were also noted about the high number of incidents of discrimination targeting Aboriginals and other minorities in employment.

Although this report smacks very much of apartheid, I would be the last person to accuse Canada, with its laudable history of racial tolerance, universal justice and strenuous efforts to ensure racial equality, of apartheid. I quoted the above data merely to illustrate the type of generalized accusations regularly made against Israel using bits of information out of context. Any informed logical person realizes that the examples I quoted reflect a completely unrealistic picture of Canada..

Bearing in mind the lesson in Mathew 7, "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.", it would not be out of place for the Palestinians and Arab states who accuse Israel of apartheid to examine their own records. I am sure you are familiar with discriminatory laws in Saudi Arabia. In Lebanon too, discrimination continues to be enforced by law. According to an Amnesty International report, Palestinian refugees are barred from certain jobs, a Palestinian cook; accountant; medical doctor; hairdresser; pharmacist; engineer; concierge or lawyer is unable to practice legally and the law bars Palestinians from owning real estate and from inheriting property or even registering property that they had already bought.

Unfortunately, as in other countries, injustices do occur in Israel, but we Israelis are proud of the fact that by contrast with our neighbors, human rights groups frequently win arguments even against the state.

Referring again to your union's "support for a negotiated peace process", I hope you will agree that it would be fair and reasonable for CUPE to demonstrate its evenhandedness by adding a call to remove all barriers to such negotiations. I refer for example to article 9 of the PLO Charter which declares bluntly that the armed struggle is not merely tactical, it is the overall strategy, Article 19 which rejects the 1947 UN partition of Palestine, implying that liberating Palestine means destruction of the entire Jewish state and article 20 which unashamedly deems null and void the Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them.

As Hamas is now in government it would be in order for CUPE to call for amendment its charter, which makes it even clearer that there is absolutely no room for the peaceful negotiation CUPE calls for. Article 13 unambiguously states, "Initiatives, peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to its principles and that there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad."

For rational negotiation to take place it would also be necessary to remove from the Hamas charter concepts which Westerners have difficulty in grasping such as the obsessive phobia about freemasons, rotary clubs, Lions and similar organizations, promising that the day Islam is in control, these organizations, will be obliterated. They are accused of everything from control of the world media, stirring the French Revolution, the Communist revolution, World War I and even of forming the League of Nations. They are alleged to have been behind World War II, and instigating replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council.

Not least among the barriers to negations which need to be removed is the continuing incitement to violence against uninvolved civilians, (women, children and invalids alike), which has been emanating for years from the mosques and PA controlled media and taught in schools from the earliest age.

I would very much appreciate a considered response, which will be publicized as is being done with this open letter.


Maurice Ostroff

On the CUPE Ontario Israel boycott resolution see also previous entries:
06/10/2006: Good news along with the boycotts?
06/04/2006: CUPE Boycott Worse than NATFHE [with Text of CUPE Decision]
06/03/2006: Boycotts again: the good, the bad, and the judges
05/30/2006: Worse than we thought - another and worse anti-Israel Boycott - CUPE - and boycott resources

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