Public supporters of Israel should expect to be criticized

Liberal MP Ya’ara Saks is claiming to have been the victim of “hate” when young people yelled “stop supporting killing of Palestinians”. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Canada and B’nai B’rith, as well as NDP MPs, amplified her hypocritical claims on Twitter.

A self-described “unapologetic Zionist”, Saks recently tweeted about an incident that transpired during her daughter’s graduation ceremony at Canada’s Wonderland. The Toronto MP claimed: “As families were walking, a group of young people passed and yelled out ‘stop killing Palestinians.’ These parents are Canadians, living here. This wasn’t a public event nor had it anything to do with the conflict, it was a high school graduation. They’re just visibly Jewish.”

I emailed and called Saks’ office to ask for an interview. They failed to respond so I was unable to confirm which school her daughter attends. But Toronto’s main Jewish high school TanenbaumChat organizes “IDF Days”, fundraisers for Israeli military initiatives and celebrates graduates who have served in the IDF. Toronto’s Bnei Akiva high school also has IDF soldiers speak, honours alumni who serve in the IDF and celebrate the Israeli military. “Love Bnei Akiva?! Love the IDF?!”, noted its webpage.

Without video I wouldn’t trust Saks’ description of what transpired at Wonderland. Israeli nationalists have been caught distorting situations too many times to deserve the benefit of the doubt. During the upsurge of Israeli violence and ethnic cleansing last spring Saks even accused fellow Liberal MPs of antisemitism. She released a statement noting: “There is no place for antisemitism in Canada, Parliament, or the Liberal Party. Jewish Canadians, like everyone have the right to be safe, secure, free of hate, or intimidation. Recent statements and events have made Jewish Canadians feel targeted, and that is unacceptable. In particular, ill-informed language like apartheid, which doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of Israel’s existence and the daily reality of Israelis and Palestinians who live side-by-side, is wrong and damages prospects for peace.”

But even if Saks’ depicted the Wonderland event correctly her hypocrisy is stunning. In recent weeks she’s repeatedly linked Toronto Jews to Israel. A tweet about attending United Jewish Appeal of Toronto’s May 29 Walk for Israel mentioned “friends from the community in the thousands”, which was presumably a reference to the Jewish community. She also retweeted Nathan Stall noting, “it was great to join Toronto’s Jewish community and many Ontario Liberal and Liberal party colleagues at today’s 53rd annual UJA Walk with Israel.”

(At that event a group of Israel flag-waving individuals crossed the street to berate a half dozen Hasidic Jews holding a Palestinian flag. One woman is on video repeatedly telling them, “Hitler made a big mistake, you should have been in the gas chambers.”)

Four days before the Walk with Israel Saks participated in the Canadian Summit of Israeli-Jewish Affairs in Ottawa. She retweeted Israeli ambassador Ronen Hoffman describing “the challenges we face as a collective community.” According to a tweet summarizing Saks’ talk at the summit, she apparently referred to Canadian Jews as the “Israeli diaspora”.

Saks clearly sees no problem linking Canadian Jews to Israel. But when a pro-Palestinian teenager crassly applies the same logic, she labels it “collectively blaming Jews for a foreign conflict. It’s hate, it’s antisemitism, it’s dangerous, and it needs to stop.” This is a common Zionist double standard.

For Saks the incident at Wonderland was an opportunity to take a shot at Palestine solidarity. It worked. Two of the more pro-Palestinian NDP MPs, Matthew Green and Heather McPherson, quote-tweeted Saks proclaiming their solidarity.

In so doing they amplified subtle racism in Saks’ Twitter thread. The Liberal MP bemoans how “exporting the conflict damages the fabric of our society here as Canadians.” Saks seems to be implying that young Arab-Canadians (presumably) are the ones “exporting the conflict”, not those who rally on behalf of apartheid. Adopting the prism of the dominant ideology, she ignores how it may “damage the fabric of our society” from the Palestinian Canadian perspective to hear incessantly that defending their brethren’s rights is “hate” and “antisemitism”.

No one should be yelling “stop supporting killing of Palestinians” to random visibly Jewish individuals. But someone who regularly links Canadian Jewry to Israel has little standing to complain about it.

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