Throughout our history, Canadians have strived to understand each other across the solitudes that have broken other countries to pieces. Our common national purpose has been built on our diversity.
We respect differences — of opinion, nationality, race and creed. We abandon that respect at our peril.
"Israel Apartheid Week" (IAW), now underway on university campuses across Canada, betrays the values of mutual respect that Canada has always promoted.
International law defines "apartheid" as a crime against humanity. Labelling Israel as an "apartheid" state is a deliberate attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state itself.
Criticism of Israel is legitimate. Attempting to describe its very existence as a crime against humanity is not.
IAW is part of a global campaign of proclamations, boycotts and calls for divestment, which originated in the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. Like "Durban I," IAW singles out one state, its citizens and its supporters for condemnation and exclusion, and it targets institutions and individuals because of what and who they are — Israeli and Jewish.
IAW goes beyond reasonable criticism into demonization. It leaves Jewish and Israeli students wary of expressing their opinions, for fear of intimidation.
No Canadian should ever have to fear for their safety in a public space because of who they are or what they believe. All Canadians should condemn any attempt to intimidate anyone in the legitimate affirmation of their beliefs and identity.
The Ontario wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees has joined the chorus of denunciations of Israel on our campuses. The CUPE Ontario resolution passed last week to boycott Israeli academics is an unacceptable violation of academic freedom.
Canada enjoys strong academic, economic and cultural ties with Israel and Israeli institutions, and
The Liberal party condemns the CUPE resolution in the strongest possible terms
these relationships benefit both our countries. Collaborative research between Canadian and Israeli academics is mutually rewarding, and should be encouraged. The CUPE resolution is an attack on the free exchange that is at the heart of our university system.
The Liberal Party of Canada condemns the CUPE resolution in the strongest possible terms. I salute the others who have spoken out against the resolution, including my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the House of Commons, and CUPE’s national president, Paul Moist, who has refused to support the resolution. I encourage all CUPE members, and all Canadians, to follow their example.
Israel Apartheid Week and CUPE Ontario’s anti-Israel posturing exploit academic freedom, and they should be condemned by all who value civil and respectful debate about the tragic conflict in the Middle East.
Political leaders should also take care not to deepen the distrust between Canadian communities over the Middle East. Politicians who use the ongoing conflict in the Middle East as a wedge to divide Canadians for their own political gain can succeed only in accentuating acrimony and deepening tensions.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict evokes passionate disagreement. It should not damage academic freedom and it should not divide Canadian communities. We can move forward if we work together to promote the common objective of Canadian policy
ever since 1948–a secure Israel living side-by-side in peace with
an independent Palestine.