Defend Free Speech on Palestine

Defend free speech on Palestine
Tell your MPs: Oppose Conservative motion that attacks Israeli Apartheid Week!

Conservative Member of Parliament Tim Uppal (Edmonton – Sherwood Park) has announced that he will introduce a motion in the House of Commons next week that condemns Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), a series of campus-based educational events that takes place at universities and colleges all over the world. Uppal’s motion also condemns the use of the term “apartheid” in any discussion or debate about Israel. Uppal’s tentative motion reads as follows:

“That this House considers itself to be a friend of the State of Israel; that this House is concerned about expressions of anti-Semitism under the guise of “Israeli Apartheid Week”; and that this House explicitly condemns any action in Canada as well as internationally that would equate the State of Israel with the rejected and racist policy of apartheid.”

If Uppal’s motion passes, it will represent an unprecedented attack on free speech in Canada. That it has even been proposed, however, is also a clear sign of the strength and exponential growth of the Palestinian-led solidarity campaign grounded in the 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel.

What is unfortunate about this motion, in addition to its blatant attack on freedom of expression, is that it shows a lack of understanding of the concept of Apartheid and of the realities of life in Israel/Palestine. No one knows better what Apartheid looks like than the people of South Africa. In South Africa this month, Israeli Apartheid Week is taking place in at least three cities, under the banner of “Apartheid for One is Apartheid for All.” It is being co-organized by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), one of the main bodies that significantly contributed to the demise of Apartheid in South Africa.

A similar motion in the Ontario Legislature on February 25 prompted immediate widespread public protest aimed at MPPs’ offices. In response, the leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party (ONDP) Andrea Horwath rightly acknowledged the motion as “divisive” and noted that “shutting down debate, on this or any other matter, is not constructive and is entirely unhelpful”. The federal NDP, and all other federal parties, should be urged to follow Horwath’s leadership on this issue.

Please follow the steps below to let your MPs know that you oppose this attack on free speech and on the Palestine solidarity movement.

E-mailing is the fastest and easiest way to contact MPs. Just follow these steps:

Step 1:
Cut and paste the e-mail addresses of your local Members of Parliament into the “To” line of your e-mail. Include e-mail addresses for both your MPs’ Parliament Hill and constituency offices.

You can find e-mail addresses for Members of Parliament here: http://bit.ly/MPsEmail

You can search for your MP by entering your postal code here: http://bit.ly/findmp

Step 2:
Cut and paste the e-mail addresses of key government and opposition leaders (from all parties) into your “CC” line. If your e-mail account can’t e-mail this many addresses at once, try sending your e-mail to a smaller block of addresses one at a time. You may have to send several e-mails in order to reach everyone.

Uppal.T@parl.gc.ca; Harper.S@parl.gc.ca; HarpeS@parl.gc.ca; HillJ@parl.gc.ca; HillJ1@parl.gc.ca; lebrem@sen.parl.gc.ca; Reid.S@parl.gc.ca; mp@scottreid.ca; KenneJ@parl.gc.ca; KenneJ7@parl.gc.ca; Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca; ignatm@parl.gc.ca; Goodale.R@parl.gc.ca; GoodaR@parl.gc.ca; cowanj@sen.parl.gc.ca; Silva.M@parl.gc.ca; SilvaM@parl.gc.ca; Cotler.I@parl.gc.ca; CotleI@parl.gc.ca; layton.j@parl.gc.ca; laytoj@parl.gc.ca; Davies.L@parl.gc.ca; Daviel@parl.gc.ca; Mulcair.T@parl.gc.ca; Mulcat@parl.gc.ca; Wasylycia-Leis.J@parl.gc.ca; wasylj@parl.gc.ca; martin.pat@parl.gc.ca; MartiPD@parl.gc.ca; Duceppe.G@parl.gc.ca; ducepg1@parl.gc.ca; Paquette.P@parl.gc.ca; joliette@pierrepaquette.qc.ca; Gagnon.C@parl.gc.ca; gagnoc1@parl.gc.ca; Desnoyers.L@parl.gc.ca; ThilaE1@parl.gc.ca; info@cpcca.ca;

NOTE: In addition to e-mail messages, it is important for MPs to receive phone calls and office visits in the coming days; please voice your opposition in all possible ways.

Step 3:
Don’t forget to fill out your subject line:

I support free speech. Oppose the Conservative motion attacking free speech on Israel/Palestine.

Step 4:
Cut and paste the message below. Feel free to personalize it with your own words. And don’t forget to include your name (and address) at the bottom. If you know the name of your Members of Parliament, please make sure you address your message to them.

Dear Members of Parliament:

I am writing to urge you to oppose the Conservative motion attacking free speech on Israel/Palestine. Conservative Member of Parliament Tim Uppal (Edmonton – Sherwood Park) has announced that he will introduce a motion in the House of Commons next week that condemns Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), a series of campus-based educational events that takes place at universities and colleges all over the world. Uppal’s motion also condemns the use of the term “apartheid” in any discussion or debate about Israel.

This motion, if passed, will represent an unprecedented attack on free speech in Canada. I urge you to defend free speech in Canada, and to oppose Uppal’s motion.

IAW has grown in size and scope since it was first launched on campuses in Toronto in 2005, and now includes dozens of events in over 50 cities worldwide, including three cities in South Africa. IAW is marked by its inclusive and diverse nature, its respect for discussion and debate, and its call for peaceful solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict. IAW has been endorsed and supported by dozens of organizations including student unions, trade unions, faith groups, and Jewish solidarity organizations.

The term “apartheid” is not a hateful one, nor is it on the “margins” of mainstream debate. South African anti-apartheid campaigners, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Willie Madisha, regularly use the term “apartheid” to describe the conditions in which Palestinians live, both inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter uses the term in his best-selling book Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid. The term is also used widely inside Israel itself: former Israeli Prime Minister and current Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently used the term in a speech about the consequences of stalled peace talks.

The conditions in which Palestinians live clearly meet the definition of “apartheid” as described by the United Nations. The increasingly differential system of roads, housing, laws, access to resources, basic rights, living conditions, and quality of life between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians all point to a system of apartheid. Palestinians have the right to describe these conditions in the way they experience them – without being condemned by the Parliament of Canada.

You may disagree with such an analysis, but you have no right to limit or restrict Palestinians and their supporters from expressing a completely legitimate perspective. Uppal’s motion to condemn IAW represents a serious threat to free speech in Canada, and should be opposed. The House of Commons should not be in the business of censorship.

Once again, I strongly urge you to oppose the Conservative motion and to demonstrate support for free speech in Canada – including for those political perspectives with which you might disagree.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Step 5:
Press send!

Please BCC emails to freespeechiaw2010@gmail.com so we can keep track of how many emails are going out.

Step 6:
Please forward this message widely!

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