All those who have been to West Bank or Gaza raise your hands

The Mayor’s executive  committee allowed Toronto  citizens to speak on whether the city should allow Queers against Apartheid to march in the Pride parade. The usual suspects from the Jewish community spoke against the report which basically allowed this small group to carry their banners with the words Israel apartheid on them.

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What was predictable was that all the jewish groups had never visited the West Bank or Gaza to taste Palestinian life and then they  resorted to the tired canard of “antisemitism.” or “hate”. The only “facts on the ground”  is the diminished reality of Palestinian life. The Israel firsters were not interested and are not interested  in discovering these bitter herbs.

Address to the Anti-discrimination Committee  City Hall May 28, 2013

Citizen Schmidt at your service this morning.

I bring to my fellow citizens and  its representatives my plea for openness, tolerance and understanding. We all support  a No Discrimination policy on city-funding events.

I bring credentials that few of you possess.

My early life as a Shabbes Goy amid Toronto’s Jewish community gave to me,unbidden and unasked, a universal appreciation of the effects of racism. As the sole non-Jew on Harbord Collegiate playground team I was targeted as a Jew. This had a profound effect on me. It led me  as a Roman Catholic teacher  to be the first teacher in Canada  to create a Holocaust awareness program in secondary schools. Irt led me to pray besidr the crematoria in auschwitz.This began in 1968. I worked with Ruth Cohen for the Holocaust Remembrance Committee. I was honoured by B’nai Brith for my work. I spoke in many shuls about my experience as written in my memoir Shabbes Goy: A Catholic Boyhood on a Jewish Street in Protestant Toronto. .

Then i travelled to Israel and as  my friend and colleague Mary Jo Leddy warned me, “Your heart will be broken.” She was right.  I met the effects of racism and oppression again. This time it was native Palestinians who were suffering and are suffering under a brutal occupation and second-class citizenship in the country they were born in. As the Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu stated, the situation in Israel/Palestine it was worse than the apartheid in South Africa.

Yet my commitment to the state of Israel has never flagged. Now I have a double solidarity to that state but also as a Christian to the suffering of the Palestinian people… and let me state for the record, there are countries much more oppressive  than Israel but justice there  will greatly relieve Muslim grievances around the world.

I am a Marxist—of the Groucho Marx kind. When asked about evidence versus opinion, Groucho wittily replied, “Who do you believe, me or your eyes.” The brilliant israeli journalist Amira Hass whose mother survived Bergen-Belsen asked her countrymen the same question: How  can you not see what is going on.

To all who serve on this Council I say with respect: If you have not seen up close life in Gaza and the West Bank, you really have nothing to say. Tribal loyalties are not enough. What is enough are the universal values we learned from the Shoah. We must as Amira Hass’s mother told her, speak out against oppression and discrimination whenever we see it. This is what the Shoah taught us. This is what Torah teaches.This is what Gospel insists on.

The use of Israel/apartheid is a red herring. A sign in a huge parade is hardly worth discussing. At this time this city council has much bigger fish to fry. Do not be pressured by those who have not seen nor tasted the bitter fruit of marginalization. Who do you believe indeed.

Israel is a country. Countries may be criticized. Those who love her like I do will speak truth to her.Those who tolerate the unjust status quo there and say nothing are not friends. They are enablers of too much suffering.

I close with words of the former speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg:
We will vow again and again that “Never again” includes everything; it will not happen again to anyone, anywhere anytime..after the Shoah genetic Judaism must end. First and foremost we will stand together  with the civilized nations at the forefront of the worldwide struggle against hatred wherever it is..

 

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7 Comments »

  1. 1

    This letter should be addressed to the United Nations! I had no idea the girth of your profound thoughts. I bow to your superior intellect. How dare anybody question your expertise–I dare I question, as I did in the past–your experience and profound wisdom. No wonder you have not replied to my feeble bantering. You knew I simply failed to understand the nature of your superior intellect, which I only just discovered tonight. How can anybody have a perspective different from yours. You should make an appearance on CBC’s Democracy Now.

    I bow once. I bow twice. I bow three times.

    Why aren’t you published more widely? And why am I the only person in the Western World who has discovered your wisdom and who thinks to leave comments? What’s wrong with you, Canada? What’s wrong with you, America? I can’t possibly be the only one who recognizes the brilliance of this great mind! Yet I seem to be the only poor bastard who thinks to read these pearls of great wisdom and leave comments on this reservoir of social justice insight.

  2. 2

    (DSM): Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity that is characterized by a radical need for admiration, and which begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five or more of the following criteria. The narcissist:

    (1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

    Check

    (2) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

    Check

    (3) believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

    check

    (4) requires excessive admiration

    yep, check.

    (5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

    yep, check.

    (6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

    Not sure.

    (7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

    If you are a conservative.

    (8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

    Not sure.

    (9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

    Absolutely.

  3. 3

    arfus, arfus, crock

  4. 4

    Great Ted. Saw Mary Jo Leddy on Sunday when we were both presenting stuff on sanctuary. Peace from Iceland. Allan

    Sent from my iPad

  5. 5

    The Mayor’s executive committee allowed Toronto citizens to speak on whether the city should allow Queers against Apartheid to march in the Pride parade. The usual suspects from the Jewish community spoke against the report which basically allowed this small group to carry their banners with the words Israel apartheid on them.

    What was predictable was that all the jewish groups had never visited the West Bank or Gaza to taste Palestinian life and then they resorted to the tired canard of “antisemitism.” or “hate”.

    And how would you know that? Did you go around and ask each one of them? Do they advertise that they’d never been to the West Bank? I’m curious to know how you are certain that they have never visited the West Bank. Moreover, is it necessary to visit the West Bank in order to know whether or not a group called “Queers against Apartheid” should be permitted to march in the Pride parade? Why is that a necessary and sufficient condition for being able to handle that question? And have the “Queers against Apartheid” visited the West Bank? I know one spokesperson for the Christian Peacemakers Teams who has never visited the West Bank, yet she speaks regardless and employs the term “Apartheid”, which only reveals her tremendous ignorance.

    The only “facts on the ground” is the diminished reality of Palestinian life. The Israel firsters were not interested and are not interested in discovering these bitter herbs.

    I bring to my fellow citizens and its representatives my plea for openness, tolerance and understanding.

    Just not for Israel

    We all support a No Discrimination policy on city-funding events.

    Nah, we don’t really. We don’t tolerate those who choose not to attend the Gay Pride Parade

    I bring credentials that few of you possess.

    or really need to possess

    Then i travelled to Israel and as my friend and colleague Mary Jo Leddy warned me, “Your heart will be broken.” She was right. I met the effects of racism and oppression again. This time it was native Palestinians who were suffering and are suffering under a brutal occupation and second-class citizenship in the country they were born in.

    How is it that you go from: “The only “facts on the ground” is the diminished reality of Palestinian life” to “the effects of racism and oppression”? You’ve already pronounced a final judgment and final interpretation on the causes of the situation? Can you provide us with the intermediary steps that got you to that conclusion?

    Allow me to quote a local journalist:

    A few brief comments: Kurdistan is occupied by four different Islamic nations. Morocco forcibly prevents hundreds of thousands of people who have the right to live in the country from entering. Most Arab countries reject black immigration and embrace passive, if not aggressive racism. In the Gulf States, and Pakistan in particular, slavery exists in the guise of “servants” who are treated as virtual animals.

    In Lebanon, Palestinians are denied dozens of different occupations simply because of who they are. In Iran, homosexuals are publicly hanged and innocent women stoned to death. The secret police suppress freedoms in Syria and even relatively free Jordan. We have seen what Egypt and Libya are like, with other Arab countries little better and sometimes worse.

    Gay Palestinians are forced to flee to Haifa and Tel Aviv to live openly and safely as homosexuals, gender apartheid exists in massive chunks of the Arab and greater Islamic world, yet Israel is supremely open and progressive. And so on and so on.

    Yet my commitment to the state of Israel has never flagged. Now I have a double solidarity to that state but also as a Christian to the suffering of the Palestinian people… and let me state for the record, there are countries much more oppressive than Israel but justice there will greatly relieve Muslim grievances around the world.

    You simply don’t know Islam. It’s gullible fools like you that they are counting on

    I am a Marxist—of the Groucho Marx kind. When asked about evidence versus opinion, Groucho wittily replied, “Who do you believe, me or your eyes.”

    Just make sure you’re eyes also take in what is happening in other Muslim countries, and use your intellect to reason about the underlying causes of what your eyes take in. Two people can look at the same object outside the mind and come up with two radically different interpretations on the reasons for the scenario.

    The brilliant israeli journalist Amira Hass whose mother survived Bergen-Belsen asked her countrymen the same question: How can you not see what is going on.

    That’s what I’m asking myself regarding you: How can you NOT see what’s going on? You have selective “seeing”

    To all who serve on this Council I say with respect: If you have not seen up close life in Gaza and the West Bank, you really have nothing to say.

    What arrogance! It’s also a bona fide logical fallacy

    Tribal loyalties are not enough. What is enough are the universal values we learned from the Shoah. We must as Amira Hass’s mother told her, speak out against oppression and discrimination whenever we see it.

    I’ll believe you when you begin to post a blog or two that speaks out against Muslim oppression in Arab countries—specific incidences. But you won’t, because you know that your life will be in danger if you do, and you don’t put your money where your mouth is.

  6. 6

    i begin to weary of this motif, crock

  7. 7

    Dennis: I understand completely. But aren’t you getting weary of the motif of this blog? It’s an old tired Marxist motif of “oppressed/oppressor”, and the third party, the champion of justice (in this case the author of this blog) on the sidelines condemning the oppressor.

    Reality is just way more complex than that. It’s old German dialectic, a model that has its roots in German idealism. Reality is just not so neatly black and white. I mean, just consider the topic of this blog, whether a group of gay people can carry an Israeli Apartheid sign in the Gay Pride Parade. Are they, or you, or the author of this blog, not aware that such people would, in Palestine, be hung for the crime of homosexuality? And why is it that Palestine used to be 30% Christian, but is now 1% Christian? Because of the persecution of Christians. These Palestinians are not victims. They are not these poor innocent helpless folk who just want a chance at life, but big bad Israel will not allow them. I’m not saying that Israel is innocent of all sin or crime against human life. No, reality is just not that simple. Selective seeing is exactly what is taking place here, because someone is more interested in feeling like a social justice activist than he is in the actual complex truth of the situation.

    I’m tired of the motif as well. It’s the same old, on this forum, same old simple view of reality through an ideological paradigm.

    The fact of the matter is not every evil in the world is a matter of injustice. There’s all sorts of evil that is not reducible to a simple paradigm of the injustice of a rich oppressor. There are a variety of factors that explain tragic situations. Sometimes people are in the tragic situations they find themselves in by virtue of certain choices that they’ve made in the past. It’s not always about blame. And very often certain people are in the prosperous situations they are in as a direct result of the good choices they’ve made in the past. If this man was a teacher, he should know this. Some kids choose to smoke pot, skip class, pick fights, regardless of the tax payer dollars poured into the system. They throw away their education and their future. Other kids make sacrifices, attend class, study, work on the weekends, save money, despite coming from a broken home, and they make something good of their lives.

    Yeah, I hear you. I understand you are weary. So am I. Do we ever reflect critically upon the positions that, when we were young, appeared so sensible, so rational, so logical? Do we ever re-think these positions in the light of new evidence? An honest thinker does so. I’m not sure how honest this blogger is. Are you?


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