Discrimination Is racist and wrong no matter who does it
By Dr. MOHAMED ELMASRY*
(10 November 2006) - DISCRIMINATION and reverse discrimination in all their forms must be continually resisted, condemned and exposed by people of conscience.
I believe, for example, that it is my duty to stand in solidarity with any group suffering from discrimination in Canada. One group is Canadian Muslims. From first-hand experience, I know that they suffer daily from racial profiling, that the media is negatively stereotyping them, and that our security forces are sending them abroad to be humiliated and tortured.
In the years following 9/11 Canadian Muslims have moved into the most-discriminated spot, ahead of Canadian blacks and aboriginals. It is not a welcome distinction.
But if politicians suddenly offered to address discrimination against Canadian Muslims without paying equal attention to the injustices inflicted historically and currently upon our black and aboriginal brothers and sisters, I would reject the offer.
Similarly, if Canada -- in order to appease its Muslim citizens -- were to ignore the actions of any aggressive Muslim country, whereby that country would be treated as if it were above international law, I would have to reject that type of politics as well. It would put Canada in an immoral and unsustainable position, one that would harm Canadian Muslims, sooner rather than later. And such a move would not make this world a better place.
For centuries, Europe and North America discriminated against Jews in their midst, but no longer. In Canada today, it is far less likely that a Jewish person would experience discrimination than say, a Muslim, an aboriginal, or a black.
On the other hand, for European and North American politicians to continue promoting a double standard concerning the Jewish state of Israel -- which is getting away with government-sanctioned murder and genocide against its Palestinian natives -- is as ugly a form of discrimination as anything perpetrated against Jews globally during the past century.
To appease Jews today just because they are Jews is an unhealthy behaviour in itself, but many Jews do not see it that way. Nevertheless, the West's prior and current forms of anti- and pro-Jewish discrimination are equally wrong.
Consider Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent speech to the Jewish group B'nai Brith. In reference to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, he said it has evolved because of "A thousand complicated rationalizations, but only one simple reason: because the Jews are different, because the Jews are not like them. And because Israel is different and alone in a complicated and dangerous part of the world, it is too easy to embrace the rationalizations and ignore this truth."
Sadly this speech was hailed by most Canadian Jews as a landmark in a series of recent Canadian foreign policy changes that openly support Israel's interests over those of Palestinians.
Somehow, it seems our PM has (again) forgotten that Israel is an occupying power that daily inflicts death, destruction and misery upon indigenous Palestinians and which is carrying out one of the worst and ugliest discrimination programs in recent history. This has all happened for some 60 years right under the eyes and ears of European, American and Canadian politicians.
So why is Stephen Harper -- supposedly the Prime Minister of all Canadians -- promoting such an unjust stand? Why is he not instead urging Israel to respect international law and implement the numerous UN resolutions issued to end its illegal occupation? If Harper is intentionally bypassing the humanitarian needs and political rights of Palestinians in order to appease Canadian Jews and Israel, then he has reduced Canadian foreign policy to an ugly game of double standards.
Last year, a new group called the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians was formed "to create a cross-Canada alliance of Jewish anti-occupation forces to try and contribute to a peaceful resolution to the tragic and seemingly endless Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Unfortunately, this small and praiseworthy group has been soundly rejected by the powerful Israel-can-do-no-wrong lobby and by politically influential organizations like the Canadian Jewish Congress.
In a 1938 speech Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, warned: "Let us [Jews] not ignore the truth among ourselves ... politically we are the aggressors and they [Palestinian natives] defend themselves ... The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country ... Behind the terrorism is a movement, which though primitive is not devoid of idealism and self-sacrifice."
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political one. It has nothing to do with the religion or ethnic origin of any given group. And the sooner all Canadians recognize this fact and exert genuine and sustained efforts to establish a just peace for Palestinians, the sooner there will peace with justice for all. Otherwise, no one will know peace in the foreseeable future.
Canadian Jews who cheered on PM Harper's B'nai Brith speech may be feeling good now, but the sad truth is that their elation will prove to be tragically misplaced unless they take the peace-for-all road.
That road goes through a holy city called Justice.
* Dr. Mohamed Elmasry is National President of the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC). This item was originally published in the Friday Magazine, a publication of the CIC.
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