This very thoughtful article from The Toronto Star’s Thomas Walkom puts the Bev Oda uproar into perfect perspective; the aid group Kairos essentially came to grief because of its support for some groups critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Harper’s gracelessly pro-Israel stand, in defiance of Canadians’ more even-handed approach to the Middle-East, means that any mandarin or minister not showing favouritism towards Israel runs the distinct risk of a wrecked career or a political demotion.
Thus Oda’s disastrous attempt at back-peddling.
We need a Prime Minister in Ottawa who puts Canada first, not Israel or any other country.
It is totally unacceptable that the Office of the Prime Minister should be a mouthpiece for a nuclear-armed, racist and apartheid theocracy.
Bev Oda, free speech and Harper’s fixation on Israel
Thomas Walkom: February 19th, 2011
The Bev Oda affair is about two things. It is about allegations that the International Cooperation Minister lied to Parliament. That’s what the opposition parties focus on.
But it is also about the Conservative government’s insistence on being more Israeli than Israelis themselves. That’s what put this matter in motion.
Recall that this entire business began when Immigration Minister Jason Kenney bragged in Jerusalem that his government had cut off funding to the aid group Kairos for supporting a boycott of Israel.
In fact, Kenney’s allegation wasn’t true. But it was true that Kairos has supported Palestinian relief organizations deemed to be critical of Israel. It has also questioned Ottawa’s decision to cut off aid to Hamas-led Gaza.
To the paranoid minds in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s regime, all of this was sufficient reason to overrule the government’s official aid arm, the Canadian International Development Agency, and abruptly terminate Kairos funding.
Oda’s problems came later when, after realizing that the original justification wasn’t plausible, she tried to invent a new one. That’s when the fibbing occurred.
But the Conservative fixation on enemies of Israel continues, finding echoes in the oddest of places.
The latest, as reported in the Star this week, is Hamilton where Mohawk College — in a remarkably clumsy move — tried to prevent a notable Jewish critic of the Israeli government from speaking on campus.
The college did so by insisting, at the last minute, that organizers for a planned speech by political scientist Norman Finkelstein pay an extra $1,500 for security.
That, in turn, sent organizers scurrying for alternatives (on Friday, they booked a downtown Hamilton church for the Saturday event.)
A college spokesperson told the Star that Mohawk acted after getting calls from members of the Jewish community and others demanding that it cancel the event.
It’s worth noting that the Canadian Jewish Congress, which is second to none in attacking anti-Semitism, did not complain to Mohawk. Bernie Farber, the Congress’ chief executive, confirmed that to me this week.
Certainly, Finkelstein is controversial. The son of concentration camp survivors, he’s part of a revisionist school of Jewish academics, both inside and outside of Israel, which has begun to question the accepted version of the state’s 1948 founding.
In his first book, Finkelstein took to task what had been a standard argument — that Palestine was virtually empty of people before Zionist immigration began.
A few years later, in The Holocaust Industry, he charged that mainstream Jewish groups in the U.S. were using the Nazi atrocities of World War II to justify Israel’s excesses
His most recent book, Beyond Chutzpah, was an attack on those who insist that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.
This book, unfortunately for Finkelstein, was also a polemic against prominent U.S. lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a civil libertarian and passionate supporter of Israel now perhaps best known for his proposals to legalize torture.
That well-publicized feud with Dershowitz eventually resulted in Finkelstein being forced to leave his teaching job at Chicago’s DePaul University. His website now describes him as an “independent scholar.”
Finkelstein speaks in many places without causing riots — most recently at York and Queen’s universities. He is often piquant (he once lauded Hezbollah’s courage in opposing Israel’s 2006 attack against Lebanon). But he breaks no laws.
The attempt by Mohawk College to silence him is unspeakable. Given the attitude among those politicians who set the tone in this country, it is not unexpected.
Thomas Walkom’s column appears Wednesday and Saturday.
See original here.