Friday, November 19, 2010

Jerusalem: Time To Clear The Air

From Canada's Globe and Mail, former Canadian Ambassador to Israel Norman Spector challenges former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. Spector's trenchant little piece proves, as if we needed more evidence, that Jewish leaders in the Diaspora can no longer hope to finesse the critical question of Jerusalem's status, and cannot avoid public differences, even at the cost of long-standing personal relations. (Spector's column caught my eye and touches me for personal reasons, too; Spector was my college buddy and Cotler my camp counselor. We were all so callow, back in 1967, when Teddy Kolleck seemed heroic, and one could barely imagine a contradiction between a "united" Jerusalem and the peace of Jerusalem. Alas.)        

Globe and Mail
Posted on Wednesday, November 10, 2010
by Norman Spector

I see in my morning read that The Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (ICCA), which has been meeting in the nation’s capital this week, ratified the Ottawa Protocol yesterday. And, from the closing press conference, the National Post reports:

Irwin Cotler, chairman of the international coalition and a noted human rights activist, told a news conference the protocol breaks new ground. For the first time, it provides detailed definitions of what constitutes anti-Semitism and puts in writing what the group sees as the distinction between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of the state of Israel, the Liberal MP said.

“Let it be clear: Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is wrong,” the protocol says. “But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium -- let alone denying its right to exist or seeking is destruction -- is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest.”

Also this morning, I see that The New York Times reports a heated U.S.-Israeli exchange at the highest levels concerning Israel’s plans to construct an additional 1,000 housing units in East Jerusalem:

Mr. Obama said, “This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations.” “I’m concerned that we’re not seeing each side make the extra effort involved to get a breakthrough,” the president added during his visit to Indonesia. “Each of these incremental steps can end up breaking trust.”

A few hours later, Mr. Netanyahu’s office responded with a statement, saying that “Jerusalem is not a settlement; Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel.”

So here’s the question I would have asked Mr. Cotler at the press conference in Ottawa yesterday: Is it anti-Semitic to criticize Israeli construction in East Jerusalem?

And here’s the follow-up question I would have asked: “What’s your position on that construction?”

I would have asked Mr. Cotler these two questions because of an incident that occurred when I was ambassador to Israel and he was a McGill University law professor who periodically brought justices of the Supreme Court of Canada to Israel to meet with their judicial counterparts.

The program had the backing of the Government of Canada. And the incident involved Antonio Lamer who, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, stood No. 3 in Canada’s Table of Precedence.

When I learned that Mr. Lamer was to be escorted on a visit to East Jerusalem by Israeli officials, I sought direction from Ottawa. I was advised by officials at the foreign ministry that this was not the first time the Israelis had tried such a manoeuvre in order to buttress their claim to that part of the city. And I was directed to discourage Mr. Lamer from carrying through with the visit under these arrangements, which he readily agreed to. Mr. Cotler was furious, and he severely upbraided me in the local press. Which I thought at the time, and still do, was entirely inappropriate.


pabelmont said...

It would all be so comical if it were not so serious. Many governments do not "recognize" as legitimate Israel's claim to have annexed a huge territory near old Jerusalem. The UNSC too, or pre-eminently. So well-behaved governments endeavor to take steps not to suggest otherwise, which visits by their own officials to occupied "East Jerusalem" would suggest.

Now the anti-anti-Semites come forward, as so often, suggesting (fraudulently) that criticism of Israel may be anti-semitic, even when it is merely insistence that Israel conform to international law.

Apparently the argument is that as so many nations violate international law, to "single Israel out" for enforcement is to be anti-Semitic. (So that, apparently, international law, or perhaps law in general, should be ignored?

Do Israeli or Canadian police refuse to enforce the law against murder, for example, on the grounds that too many murders go unsolved? Or that a Jew is the alleged murderer?)

Comic. Night at the Opera. Bugsy Siegel, tho, would have appreciated the thought.

Y. Ben-David said...

For those of you who mistakenly think that the Arabs will allow Jews to pray at the Western Wall and other Jewish holy sites in the event that Olmert's plan to hand them over to the Palestinians under the guise of a "neutral international body's guarantees" is carried out, read this.............

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