6.16.2010

are you now or have you ever been: the new mccarthyism turns on libby davies

What kind of a country are we living in when Members of Parliament attack one of their own colleagues and demand her resignation for expressing a point of view different from their own?

This insane attempt to censure and stigmatize any discussion about the Palestinian people that isn't simply "Israel good, Palestine bad" is completely out of control. It is a mass hysteria. We cannot make it go away but we cannot allow it stand unchallenged.

British MP George Galloway, a peace activist, is called a terrorist, because he gave money to Hamas.

Organizers of Israel Apartheid Week are condemned and harassed and vilified.

The words "Israeli apartheid" have been banned from Canada's largest Pride week. They're banning words, people! Doesn't that make you sit up and take notice?!

Now Libby Davies, as fine an MP as this country has, a woman as committed to justice and equality as any public figure you'll meet, is being attacked in the House of Commons because she dared to utter words that some people don't agree with.

Davies was asked, "When do you believe that the occupation in Israel started — '48 or 67?" She answered 1948.

And for this, her colleagues are calling for her resignation?!

Yet these same MPs - so outraged, so incensed, in such a state of hysteria over Libby Davies' words - were silent about the brutal murder of nine activists and the illegal detention of hundreds by Israeli forces.

What is happening when words are more widely condemned than murder??

What's more, the whole Davies flap was a set-up - an ambush. The question was asked by a pro-Zionist blogger, posing as either neutral or pro-Palestinian, in an attempt to "prove" that Davies denies Israel's right to exist. Libby Davies, are you now or have you ever been a member of the pro-Palestinian community?

Naturally, the Liberals and the Tories side together on this. We expect that, as they are indistinguishable on foreign policy. But we might have once expected more form the NDP. Murray Dobbin, writing in Straight.com, explains how this all came about. It was, as Dobbin says, a leadership test for Layton. And Layton flat-out failed.
Today, Tuesday June 15, is a day the NDP‘s Jack Layton will face a leadership test. He is poised to make a decision to punish one of his MPs and it could stain his leadership for a long time to come.

The party is in a state of near hysteria over what should have been a minor flap. But when the question of Israel and the Palestinians is involved, nothing is simple. The pro-Israel lobby and its friends are masters of taking advantage of any situation to promote their cause and vilify Israel’s critics. And it doesn’t matter if the victim is an icon of progressive politics.

In this case Vancouver East MP Libby Davies got bushwacked by a pro-Israel activist posing as a neutral – if not pro-Palestinian – blogger. After a rally for the Palestinians criticizing Israel’s deadly assault on the aid flotilla, a man approached Libby asking for an interview. As she always does, because she never hides her views, she complied. He immediately set her up with what he called a “background question.” He asked when the occupation began, 1948 or 1967.

Libby hesitated then said 1948. She made the point that the date was not important – that whatever the date the occupation was the longest in the world – and far too long.

The next day the interview appeared on YouTube. But in 24 hours it had gone nowhere – just 28 views. Then the most vociferous supporter of Israel in the NDP caucus, Thomas Mulcair, got wind of it and it escalated out of control. He went on a relentless campaign to punish Libby. The spin he helped create was that if Libby believed the occupation began in 1948 then she, ipso facto, believes that Israel has no right to exist. Libby has always gone to great lengths to make it clear that she supports Israel’s right to exist and the two-state solution endorsed by the NDP. But suddenly Jack Layton was in full-panic mode. He apologized to the Israeli ambassador. He hung Libby out to dry. He forced her to issue a public apology.

Apology? For what?

Some have criticized Libby’s statement as evidence that she does not know the history of the occupation which most mainstream commentators date from 1967 – when Israel militarily occupied the West bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights. But Libby’s problem was not that she didn’t know enough. She knew too much.

On Davies' website, she writes:
My reference to the year 1948 as the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory was a serious and completely inadvertent error; I apologize for this and regret any confusion it has caused.

I have always supported a two-state solution to the on-going Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have never questioned Israel's right to exist and the Palestinian’s right to a viable state.

New Democrats have long called for a peaceful, negotiated end to the conflict where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side with secure borders. This is a policy I fully support.

I reject the allegation that I hate Israel, and I reject the assertion that I said that Israel is illegitimate or an abomination. Neither are true.

Libby Davies has always supported women and working people, and has stood up for the weakest among us - the unemployed, homeless people, people battling substance abuse. Now she needs our visible and vocal support.

If this New McCarthyism bothers you, I urge you to take action to make your views known. Here are a few ideas.

  • Write a letter to your local newspaper supporting Libby Davies. Keep it short and very focused, no more than a few sentences, and it will stand a better chance of being published.

  • Email the NDP. Activist Rick Telfer very kindly provides us with the addresses. Tell Layton and the NDP caucus that you support Libby Davies and you want the party to support her, too.

  • Call Davies' office to express your thanks for her statement and your support for her: 613.992.6030. In Vancouver, you can also call her constituency office: 604.775.5800.

  • Call Jack Layton's Parliament office to say you support Davies and are very disappointed in his criticism of Libby: 613.947.0867.

  • Call NDP MP Thomas Mulcair's Parliament office to say that you are disappointed and disgusted by his attack his colleague Davies, and by his decision to side with the Israel Lobby, the Liberals, and the Conservatives. As Rick said in his recent message to a Facebook group, Mulcair's actions are absolutely shameful and an embarrassment to New Democrats: 613.995.7691.

  • "Like" Davies' page on Facebook and post a supportive message there.

  • Forward this post to anyone you know who will support Davies against this shameful McCarthyism.

    I again repeat what I always say. We should never be afraid of words. We should never be afraid of ideas. When those who oppose our ideas attempt to ban our words, they show their weakness. You can ban a word but you cannot suppress the truth.
  • 13 comments:

    L-girl said...

    It also can't hurt to vote in the poll at the end of this story.

    L-girl said...

    Dr Dawg on Libby Davies' comment and fallout

    L-girl said...

    Judy Rebick: " No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices." Edward R. Murrow

    redsock said...

    Completely and utterly shameful behaviour by so many MPs.

    Is anyone going to stand up and re-teach the majority of the House of Commons the fairly basic concepts of "free speech" and "democracy"?

    L-girl said...

    Pogge on same

    redsock said...

    Davies's apology should have been more like:

    "I am sorry for thinking that Canada still honoured the concept of free speech. One of the most basic freedoms in a democracy is the right to express your opinions even if someone else disagrees with them. Being able to tolerate something different, or something you might not like, is necessary when living in a society. It is also a sign of having become an adult. I thought Canada was still a place where those freedoms were cherished. I did not realize the country had changed -- and for that I am truly sorry."

    ***

    The citizenship guide we received states very clearly (on page 8) that Canada secures the right of all its citizens to "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of speech ..."

    These MPs need to be reminded of that.

    L-girl said...

    A, that's great, you should send it to Davies, Layton, Mulcair and others!

    redsock said...

    I worked it into an email to the people on Telfer's list:

    ***

    I became a Canadian citizen last week -- June 10, be exact.

    The citizenship guide I received in preparation for my exam very clearly states on page 8 that Canadian citizens have the right to "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression".

    Please note there is no "except when talking about Israel" exemption.

    I support Libby Davies's right to utter her opinion -- to say words!! -- and it is shameful that the leaders of this country have failed to understand a basic component of democracy.

    The only thing Ms. Davies should be apologizing for is thinking that Canada still honoured the concept of free speech.

    Being able to tolerate something different, or something you might not like, is necessary when living in a society. It is also a sign of having become an adult.

    When I moved to Canada five years ago and made it it my home, I assumed Canada was still a place where those freedoms were cherished.

    Please use this opportunity to educate your fellow MPs about "freedom of speech".

    Allan Wood
    Mississauga, Ontario

    Stephanie said...

    Allan,

    I LOVE the mention of the guide your letter.

    Thanks for sharing it.

    A Conformer said...

    That is shameful. The funny thing is that that comment would probably be seen as acceptable and even expected by an Israeli MK (pretty obviously from one of the Arab parties...). There's actually been much 'worse' things said by some. Of course, one of Lieberman's party's greatest achievement to date has been making it acceptable in public discourse to cry "revoke his/her citizenship" about anything. So far it's been mostly wingnuts (including some wingnut MKs), but it's a slippery slope.
    Sometimes it seems to me like Israel's "supporters" abroad are much more extreme that most people in Israel itself. That US congressman that wanted to arrest every single activist on the flotilla for terrorism comes to mind. For a minute I felt ashamed that such a person is counted as "my" supporter, then had to remind myself that I don't support a lot of the current (and past...) government's policies.

    I know that's not the crux of the issue in your post at all, and I don't want to seem like I want to start a contentious debate (in fact, I don't intend to follow up after the answers, if there's any), but I'm curious: do you (L, A, and any readers...) agree with her original comments?

    L-girl said...

    Sometimes it seems to me like Israel's "supporters" abroad are much more extreme that most people in Israel itself. That US congressman that wanted to arrest every single activist on the flotilla for terrorism comes to mind. For a minute I felt ashamed that such a person is counted as "my" supporter, then had to remind myself that I don't support a lot of the current (and past...) government's policies.

    I can certainly relate to that! In the past, I often felt deeply ashamed of the US and US policy, as you can imagine. I don't anymore, because I've divorced myself from the country and (like you) never supported those views in the first place.

    do you (L, A, and any readers...) agree with her original comments?

    I think many readers do, and a few do not. Those who do not may not leave comments, but we'll see.

    The fact is, there were people already living on that land in 1948, and the state of Israel was established by removing them and nullifying their claim to the land - just as the US, Canada, South Africa, every modern country in modern Latin America, etc. was founded.

    For me 1948 vs 1967 is not as important. The larger point is that the idea of a "Jewish state" is racist, oppressive and insupportable - just as the US and South Africa couldn't be whites-only countries without oppression.

    DavidHeap said...

    Brilliant letter Allan! Putting that citizenship guide to good use, I love it.

    Here is part of what Vancouver rabbi David Mivasair wrote to Layton and the rest of the caucus:

    Libby said that she thinks the Israeli occupation began in 1948. Well, it did. I can introduce you to Palestinians living here in Vancouver who were forced out of their homes at gunpoint by Jews in 1948 and their villages destroyed. That’s occupation. It happened. Denying it doesn’t change a thing.

    There is also a 1956 quote from Israel's founding P.M. Ben Gurion which deserves to be better know: "we have come here and stolen their country." Sounds like an occupation to me (and he was in a position to know what he was talking about, referring to 1948).

    Rabbi David Mivasair goes on:

    To imply that Libby doesn’t support the existence of the State of Israel is nothing but disingenuous manipulation. You know that’s not true; Libby does support the existence of the State of Israel. It is Israel’s behaviour that Libby condemns – and rightfully so.

    Big thanks to Rick Telfer for all his work in mobilizing support for Libby (and to Laura, for yours here). Send the messages folks, make the calls. Freedom of expression is under serious attack in this country, and we need to stand up for it NOW!

    L-girl said...

    David's comment reminded me that I have another response to my friend A Conformer's question. (He is an Israeli who uses the word "occupation" and who opposes the Gaza blockade.)

    This was very helpfully supplied by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War.

    Libby Davies, the Member of Parliament for Vancouver East (New Democratic Party), has been the target of a concerted smear campaign in the last week because she stated in an interview that the occupation of Palestine began in 1948.

    Although the term "occupation" usually refers to Israel's illegal occupation in 1967 of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, it sometimes refers to the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians who were driven from their land and homes in 1948, and from which they have been forbidden to return.

    Regardless of the terms you prefer, the suffering of Palestinians since 1948 is undeniable, and must end now.


    That sums it up for me.