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By Sid Ryan
I think I know what the messages on Jimmy Carter’s voicemail sound like. Last month, the former US president released his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. And I bet he’s getting an earful.
Last spring, 900 delegates to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario convention overwhelmingly passed a resolution expressing support for the global campaign against Israeli apartheid.
At the time, Resolution 50 was met by fierce and vitriolic opposition from the usual suspects over at the National Post and from within Jewish organizations such as B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress. Both of these organizations ran campaigns and petitions against me and my union.
I was attacked personally in some quarters as being a Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semite. At least one pro-Zionist web site was calling for my death and even went so far as to describe how this murder should be carried out by hanging Ryan from a lamp post. One sick individual posted to the web site that he was searching through the Canadian Tire catalogue looking for the apparatus by which I should be hanged.
In addition, my office staff were bombarded with more death threats and comments so vile and threatening that they could not be printed in a daily newspaper. I reported the personal threats to the police in 42nd Division but was told they could nothing about it. The silence from B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress to this hatred was deafening.
Resolution 50 supported an international boycott and divestment campaign against Israel because of its apartheid policies towards the Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank. CUPE Ontario punctured the cone of silence that had descended on the US and Canadian media reporting the atrocities in Palestine and it clearly touched a nerve.
To this day, one of the main obstacles to peace in the Middle East remains the continuing 39-year subjugation of the Palestinian people by the State of Israel.
When Israel was founded by the UN in 1948, it was granted 56 per cent of the territory the world refers to as the Holy Land. Following wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors and the resultant treaties, Israel wound up with 77 per cent of the land and Palestinians with 23 per cent, divided between the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Over the past 39 years, Israel has occupied the lands of the Palestinians and allowed settlers from Israel and around the world to set up Jewish enclaves there. So far, 205 such settlements exist in the tiny West Bank and a honeycomb of roads and highways connect these Jewish only communities to each other. Palestinians are prohibited from using the highways, forced onto winding and dangerous roads with hundreds of military checkpoints.
Despite the brouhaha from the well-funded Israeli lobby, the boycott and anti-apartheid campaign are picking up steam at home and around the world with such noteworthy supporters as Jimmy Carter. In his book, the Nobel Prize winner castigates Israel for its apartheid policies towards Palestinians. In a recent interview with Democracy Now, a radio and TV station in the US, Carter said, some Israelis believe they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land and try to justify the sustained subjugation of increasingly hopeless and aggravated Palestinians.
President Carter is just the latest world figure to openly challenge the policies of Israel in Gaza and the West Bank. He joins the Reverend Desmond Tutu, another Nobel Prize winner.
Each time a trade union or church group or world leader steps forward to break the cone of silence around this issue the more difficult it becomes for the lobby groups to spew their vitriolic propaganda.
I’m sure by now that President Carter’s emails, voicemail messages and telephone calls are filled with sick and vile allegations of Nazi, anti-Semite and Jew-hater. The truth, however, is that the more people speak out against the atrocities in Palestine, the more ridiculous the occupiers and their supporters sound.