Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Al-Qaeda but a Pimple, Hezbollah a Cancer, Says
Vancouver Rabbi

How the Canadian prime minister can attend a pro-Israel rally in Vancouver, during which event a rabbi not only claims, nonsensically, that Hezbollah is “about death” (what does that mean anyway?) but also that what Israel is doing in Lebanon “is a form of chemotherapy [which] you cannot stop until the cancer is eliminated” defies the imagination (how that statement is any less “about death” eludes me). Are the 37 children who were murdered by Israel over the weekend, the nearly 700 Lebanese citizens killed, thousands injured, and 750,000 displaced part of that cancer, too? Or will the Lebanese who refuse to stand by idly while Israel destroys their country or kills the people they love, be subjected to the same unconscionable characterization? This, sadly, isn’t the first time that dehumanizing language has been used by Israel and its representatives to describe Palestinians in particular, and Arabs in general. Almost every Israeli leader, from 1948 on, has used it in one form or another.

That a Canadian leader would stand by while such a statement of hatred is made on Canadian soil, however, and do nothing to correct such blatant malice or even paint a more balanced picture is sickening and makes me ashamed as a Canadian to have him as our elected leader.

Rabbi Philip Bregman not only managed to display his racist view of Arabs by comparing them to a cancer that needs to be eliminated, but also showcased his total ignorance by adding that in comparison to Hezbollah, al-Qaeda is “but a pimple.” The only reason why he felt he could make such a declaration is because Hezbollah presents a more proximate and immediate challenge to Israel than does al-Qaeda. But to claim that Hezbollah, a group whose stated objective is the defense of a territory—Lebanon—represents a threat to international security is pure hallucination. Perhaps the rabbi should drop his religious texts and read up a little on history and political science.

Can anyone imagine what would happen in Canada if a Sheikh or an Imam were to state, in public, that Jews are a cancer that needs to be eliminated? Not only would he be (rightly) accused of anti-Semitism, but he would also be attacked in the media, by the Israeli lobby, the Canadian government, and immediately targeted by CSIS and the RCMP. The rabbi, who most assuredly will not come under the scrutiny of the subservient Canadian security intelligence apparatus, fails to recognize that the hatred in his language speaks volumes about his quality as a religious authority.

To add insult to injury, Bregman also had the gall to compare Canada’s and Israel’s great democratic and liberal systems and applauded their shared respect for human rights and equality. This would be risibly absurd if it didn’t mask decades of human rights violations against an entire people and the illegal Apartheid-like military occupation of more than 3 million Palestinians, with its attendant disappearances, assassinations, rape of state institutions, repression, mass humiliation and punishment, and so on. There is nothing in these actions that can even remotely be equated with democracy and equality. Moreover, within the Israeli state itself, democracy is for Jews alone; Arabs are treated as second-rate citizens. Hardly the signs of a liberal democracy on the scale of and as refined as that of Canada.

There is a thing in Canada called freedom of expression. When it doesn’t fall into incitation to hatred, it is perfectly acceptable. Moreover, rabbi Bregman, even if his comments reveal him to be a second-rate mind with a third-rate heart, has a right to his own political opinions, however delusional and distanced from reality they are. But when a respected member of the community spreads hatred for a group and fails even to mention the terrible injustice that has been visited upon the Lebanese, and furthermore uses language to represent the other that is as evil as that used by the Nazis to justify exterminating the Jews during World War II, the Canadian government has a moral responsibility and an imperative to censure him. By failing to do so, Harper, who doesn’t even seem to have it in him to share in the suffering of the Montreal family that was murdered by Israel, condoned and underwrote the rabbi’s language of hate and betrayed what the country he supposedly leads stands for.

This is shameful, unpardonable, and a very sad period for Canada.

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