Subject: Ottawa Jewish Bulletin article “University of Ottawa Israel Week 2008” by Michael Regenstreif”, February 18, 2008
Michael Regenstreif’s account of Israeli ambassador Alan Baker’s February 4 encounter at the University of Ottawa implies that in drawing attention to Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians I quoted only one authority—Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, who is deeply opposed to his country’s brutal treatment of Palestinians. In fact, I also cited another Israeli historian - Benny Morris – as well as Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion. Mr. Baker was casually dismissive of both historians and he made no comment about the full endorsement of ethnic cleansing by Ben-Gurion. Nor did Mr. Baker offer any references to the university crowd to discount Israel’s ethnic cleansing history.
Morris wrote: “Of course, Ben-Gurion was a transferist. He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst…Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here.” Morris and Pappe both recognize that Israel drove Palestinians out circa 1948. The difference between them is that Morris says it was necessary while Pappe calls the ethnic cleansing on which the state of Israel rests a crime against humanity. Pappe also decries the current ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and the genocidal siege of Gaza. On February 29, 2008 Israeli Deputy Minister of ‘Defense’, Matan Vilnai, went so far as to threaten Gazans with the ultimate-- an Israeli “Shoah”. Yes, he used that word.
In 1937, future Prime Minister Ben-Gurion wrote to his son: “The Arabs will have to go.”
On December 30, 1947, Ben-Gurion told the Central Committee of the Histradut: “In the area allocated to the Jewish state there are not more than 520,000 Jews and about 350,000 non-Jews, mostly Arabs. Together with the Jews of Jerusalem, the total population of the Jewish state at the time of its establishment, will be about a million, including almost 40% non-Jews. Such a composition does not provide a stable basis for a Jewish state. This fact must be viewed in all its clarity and acuteness. With such a composition, there cannot even be absolute certainty that control will remain in the hands of the Jewish majority…There can be no stable and strong Jewish state so long as it has a Jewish majority of only 60 percent.”
Two days later, on January 1, 1948, Ben-Gurion made this diary entry about his plans for handling the Palestinians: “There is a need now for strong and brutal reaction. We need to be accurate about timing, place and those we hit. If we accuse a family – we need to harm them without mercy, women and children included. Otherwise, this is not an effective reaction…There is no need to distinguish between guilty and not guilty.”
Then Ben-Gurion-led Zionists adopted and implemented Plan Dalet to systematically
cleanse the new state of most of its Palestinian-Arab residents.
I could have gone on to cite Israeli scholars Shlomo Ben-Ami, Simha Flapan, Baruch Kimmerling, Tom Segev, Avi Shlaim and Zeev Sternhall who have overturned the Zionist narrative on Israel’s beginnings and its policies toward Palestinians and neighbouring countries.
Your article wrongly identified me as a member of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). A check with either CJPME or me would have told you I am not a CJPME member and do not speak for that organization. The Bulletin seems reluctant to hold Israel to the same standards respecting international law and human rights that Canadians expect of countries that call themselves democracies. This may account for your mischaracterization of CJPME.
Mr. Regenstreif’s account failed to note Mr. Baker’s preposterous claim that Israel’s rapidly expanding settlements are “temporary” and the implication of this extraordinary statement. In saying that the settlements are “temporary”, Mr. Baker reveals that he knows these Israeli colonies built on occupied land are illegal and should be dismantled and reveals that the drive to lay down facts on the ground represents his government’s bad faith and a major aspect of what Henry Siegman calls “the great Middle East Peace Process Scam”. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n16/sieg01_.html
While he mentioned two people who challenged the ambassador, Mr. Regenstreif neglected to mention others, including one who identified himself as Jewish. Might readers of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin not have been interested in that person’s comments which also challenged the ambassador?
The Bulletin’s account reads like a promotional piece for Israel and its ambassador. That may explain why Mr. Regenstreif’s comments about participation at the event by non-students seem to suggest that expectations about the relationship between universities and the wider society may differ between Israel and Canada. Canadian universities through their faculty and students carry on continuous discourse with their alumni, a diversity of guest speakers and the wider community. Mr. Baker cut the question and answer session short, leaving many questions unasked. Did Mr. Baker seriously think that a Canadian university audience would not pose probing questions about one of the world’s pivotal unresolved conflicts, especially in the face of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza?