I am writing in response to the article you published today in the Lambda: “Group Marks Israeli Apartheid Week at LU”. As the board president of Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue, I have paid close attention to the activities surrounding this event at Laurentian University. In previous years, your coverage of this event has included comments from the other side of the opinion spectrum to provide some semblance of balance to the proceedings. This year, unfortunately, no such balance was sought. The opinions of the prime movers behind this event were published without any counter argument and therefore appear to your readers as though they are unbiased and factual.
Given that you didn’t seek out any balance for your piece, perhaps I can provide some now. The author, Mr. Rodgrigues, states that Jewish claims to the land of Israel were based on Biblical promises, ancient kingdoms, and the Holocaust (which he refers to only indirectly as “European anti-‐Semitism”) while he states that Palestinian (a word which has been in use for less than 100 years as an adjective to describe a group of non-‐Jewish people) claims to the land are more solid, based on, as he puts it “the fact they have been residing in the country for hundreds of years and represented the demographic majority”.
Are you aware that the only functioning independent states that have ever existed in the territory that we now refer to as modern Israel are Israel of the First Temple, Israel of the Second Temple, and the modern State of Israel? Are you also aware that there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the land of Israel for thousands of years? Many Jews risked and lost their lives over the centuries as they tried to return to their ancestral homeland, a land from which they had been forcibly exiled. Are you aware that Jewish immigration to Israel was severely limited and often entirely prohibited during the years of the British Mandate? Are you aware that the Mufti of Jerusalem during the British Mandate, Haj Amin al-‐Husseini, met with Adolf Hitler in 1941 to discuss their mutual efforts to eliminate the Jews? Are you aware that the day after the state of Israel was declared, Egypt, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq declared war on the infant state, a war which Israel won? Are you aware that those same states also expelled all of their Jewish citizens in 1948, creating an enormous group of refugees for the nascent State of Israel to absorb? Are you aware that Arab Israelis are not only, as you mentioned, full citizens of Israel but that they also serve in the armed forces at all levels, sit in Knesset, and serve on the Supreme Court? Israel also has an active and vibrant LGBTQ community, legally enshrined gender equality, and a wide variety of religious groups both within and beyond the Jewish community.
Israel is not a perfect country, just as Canada is not a perfect country. There are human rights abuses in Israel just as there are human rights abuses in Canada. No one in the Jewish community would suggest that we ignore those abuses but it is important to see them within the larger global context. When human rights abuses in Israel, a tiny country representing only 0.11% of the world’s population, receive more press attention than the civil war in Syria or the appalling genocide in the Central African Republic, something is seriously wrong. When, in addition to this out-‐of-‐proportion attention, you publish only one side of the story, it’s even worse. Please provide some balance to your readers.
Emily Caruso Parnell
Board president, Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue