‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’

Photo Ted Swedenburg

I’m Jewish, I’m a Zionist and I completely support Israeli Apartheid Week.

This may seem like a bit of a contradiction. I believe that Israel, though a flawed country, is still a democracy and the best example of one in the Middle East.

I believe that a Jewish state has every right to exist, just as the Vatican can be a Catholic state and other countries in the region can be Islamic states—even though Iran is the only official Muslim theocracy. While I don’t always, or often, agree with Israeli defence policy, I do believe that a state has a fundamental obligation to defend its citizens from physical attack.

So how do I reconcile these beliefs with my support for Israeli Apartheid Week, an event that calls for “boycotts, divestment and sanctions?”

It’s simple. This isn’t an argument about Israel. This is an argument about Canada. This isn’t an article about Palestinian rights. It’s about our human rights.

Defenders of Israel often point to its freedom of expression and press. Those are rights that we enjoy in Canada, as protected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As section 2B reads, everyone can enjoy “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”

Recently, The Link office was visited by a small group of protesters. Among their complaints was that the newspaper was anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic.

As a proud member of the Jewish community, I won’t even dignify the anti-Semitic accusation with a response. All I will say is those who make such accusations do no favours to themselves or their cause. They cheapen the actual acts of anti-Semitism that occur throughout the world every day. They should be properly ashamed of themselves.

The charge of anti-Zionism seems to stem from an article published on March 8 regarding an IAW demonstration. The fact is that The Link is a newspaper and a mass demonstration of any kind is newsworthy. Reporting on that is not anti-Zionist, but even if it were, I would zealously defend the story—and here’s why.

There’s a quote, commonly attributed to the 18th century philosopher Voltaire, but actually written by author Evelyn Beatrice Hall, that goes “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I disapprove of Israeli Apartheid Week. I think it is counterproductive, in that It serves to alienate the Israelis whose support is needed to establish a lasting peace.

I think it is misguided, in that it demonizes the best functioning democracy in the Middle East, a country with over one million Arab citizens, and the only country in the region that grants equal rights to gay and lesbian citizens. However, it is the right of those who choose to take part in IAW to do so, and to publicize their beliefs before, during and after the fact.

I totally disagree with the principles behind Israeli Apartheid Week, and that’s why I think it’s so important to defend it.