The following is an open letter that was sent by Hanna Kawas, President of
the Canada Palestine Association, on Nov. 7, 2011 to John Baird, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister regarding the incident that resulted in the departure of Linda Sobeh Ali, the representative of the “Palestinian Authority” to Ottawa.
We emailed you on Oct. 22, 2011 enquiring about the version of the Palestinian poem read in Arabic by a young Palestinian girl “Palestinian, my name is Palestinian”, that was tweeted by Linda Sobeh Ali representative of the “Palestinian Authority” and allegedly stated “destroy the Jews”. We informed you that if this was the case, we will “take a stand against anti-Jewish racism.” So far we have not received any response from you nor from your Parliamentary Secretary. Does your lack of response to us mean that you are interested only in people who support Israel, rather than those who take a stand against anti-Jewish racism?
We do acknowledge the prompt response of the Globe and Mail Associate Editor, the only media that responded to our enquiries and supplied us with the link to the version that the Palestinian envoy was supposed to have tweeted.
We would like to note that the original version of this poem with the correct translation (link included above) has both a Turkish and English translation under the video. This version was uploaded to YouTube on 11 Dec 2006 and was seen by 1,264,274 people so far. Both the Turkish and English subtitles correctly translate the Arabic word “Sahyoon” as Zionism and not Jews (Yahood). The one and only inaccurate version (with just 3,550 viewers) was posted and produced by Bokra Lena (Tomorrow Is Ours), and used the correct Turkish version with the Turkish subtitles but superimposed on it different English subtitles, substituting “To a war that will destroy oppression and kill the soul of Zionism” with the words “…& destroy the Jews”. We unequivocally denounce this forgery as well as the anti-Jewish hatred it promotes; we believe that equating Zionism with Judaism serves only the anti-Semites, the Zionist lobby and their stooges and objectively hurts the Palestinian people and their struggle. In our statement “Jason Kenney Is Promoting Racism” we noted that “Zionism and anti-Semitism are two faces of the same coin”, citing documentation to back up our argument.
It is ironic that you and the Canadian government target a representative of this “Palestinian Authority” which praised you (we don’t understand why), worked closely with the Zionist organizations here, and served your government and Israeli policies rather than the interests of the Palestinian people. It seems you do not tolerate even their pretence of serving their own people.
We also would like to express our profound disappointment at the so-called “Palestinian Authority” that no longer speaks for nor represents the vast majority of the Palestinian people and their legitimate aspirations. The Palestinians have thousands of capable, eloquent, knowledgeable and committed people all over the world who are daily defending Palestinian human and national rights and who can effectively challenge the Zionists and their narrative. But the PA makes its decisions without consultation with the Palestinian communities in diaspora, thereby hurting the struggle of the Palestinian people and betraying the tens of thousands of martyrs who fell over the past century, fighting first British colonialism and then Zionist settler colonialism. This PA envoy has moved on, as has her predecessor; however, it is the Palestinian Canadian community and its supporters that are left to deal with the misconceptions created and exploited with this incident.
Canada was the first country to sign the so-called “The Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism”. Both you and the Canadian Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney signed this document on September 19th of this year.
This protocol offers the following as one example of anti-Semitism: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.” And although the document does make token mention that criticism of Israel is not always anti-Semitic, it then immediately goes on to state…“But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium – let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction – is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest.”
The Globe and Mail reported, when noting that there was an incorrect English translation in the subtitles for the poem: “Shimon Fogel, chief executive officer of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), which first sent Ms. Sobeh Ali’s video tweet to Mr. Baird’s office, said both versions are unfit to be circulated by a Palestinian envoy. ‘You’re speaking to someone who doesn’t see a difference,’ Mr. Fogel said”.
It is clear to us that Mr. Fogel’s main concern and yours is not anti-Jewish hatred (anti-Semitism) but rather the defence of Israel. That is why you and your government do not differentiate between Zionism and Judaism; this is why Mr. Fogel insists that he is “someone who doesn’t see a difference”. This policy of equating Judaism with Zionism does in fact promote anti-Semitism and this is why we ask people of good will especially our Jewish brothers and sisters to challenge those who equate them.
We know about your unconditional support for Israeli war crimes, ethnic cleansing and apartheid and we and hundreds of thinking Canadians have no doubt about your biased policies (see online petition). Frankly, we no longer expect you to treat the Palestinians as human beings. But we believe your policy is (hopefully not intentionally) promoting anti-Semitism in many ways, especially by putting on the shoulders of all Jews every crime Zionism, and its manifestation Israel, is committing against humanity.
For your information, Jews were the first to oppose and fight against Zionism. In 1897 on the occasion of the first Zionist Congress, the Executive Committee of the Association of Rabbis in Germany stated in its anti-Zionist manifesto: “Judaism obligates its adherents to serve with all devotion the Fatherland to which they belong, and to further its national interests with all their heart and strength.” (Unease in Zion, Ehud Ben Ezer, Page 22)
Equating all Jews with Zionism is a very dangerous policy and we are concerned that your government is creating an atmosphere of racism against both Jewish Canadians and Palestinians. We are concerned because we care for the dignity and humanity of the Jews and because we and our homeland, Palestine, ended up as the sacrificial lamb for the European Holocaust.
So please Mr. Baird:- don’t blame the Jews for the evils of Zionism.
Hanna Kawas, Chairperson, Canada Palestine Association