By Marion Kawas
Vancouver Canada, like many places around the world, saw large pro-Palestinian protests over the weekend. There were two, one in the evening of December 8th and another the following day, Saturday afternoon.
The Friday one was diverse, included many community and social justice organizations and filled Vancouver streets with positive energy in support of Palestine. Zionist supporters at one point unsuccessfully tried to sabotage the rally and provoke violence, but activists carried on without incident and the event concluded peacefully.
However, not to be deterred, the same Zionists (by their own admission) came back to harass the second and smaller event on Saturday, and provoked the partial burning of a rather humble homemade cardboard Israeli flag. And then the Zionist lobby went into action.
B’nai Brith Canada issued its now customary denunciations claiming this burning of a cutout paper flag was “anti-Semitic” and calling for government officials to intervene. One Israeli supporter who allegedly made the official complaint, acknowledged he had spent the previous evening chasing after the Palestinian protesters in downtown Vancouver; however, pro-Israel advocates now saw fit to cry foul and claim they felt “threatened” and “physically intimidated” even though no-one was hurt in any way, and claimed that they had only come to “peacefully share our viewpoint”.
Really? We have to ask who is threatening who here? Who is intentionally trying to provoke violence for the sake of scoring political mileage to divert attention from Israel’s indefensible actions against the Palestinians?
And then the corporate media had to jump into the fray. The same corporate media that had been invited to the large Friday rally but chose not to come, nor cover it in any way at the time. But here they were, mesmerized by the burning of this homemade cardboard sign, looking for folks to interview and people to comment. It became clear that they certainly know how to find Palestinian activists when they want to, so their lack of coverage is not based on lack of information. Activists were left feeling that perhaps they should have suggested a flag would have been burnt at the Friday rally and then the media would have been more interested in what hundreds of Vancouverites from many different backgrounds had gathered to say about U.S. President Trump’s latest debacle regarding Jerusalem.
Canada Palestine Association in Vancouver, who had co-organized the Friday rally but was not part of the Saturday event, was one of the people the media came to looking for comment. Here is part of the statement they issued about what happened:
“As for the general issue of burning the Israeli flag, we in the Canada Palestine Association-Vancouver would not consider this an anti-Semitic gesture. We do not equate Judaism with Zionism, not do we equate all Jews with Israel. The Israeli flag represents the Israeli government, not all the Jewish people, and is being burned in many places around the world along with the U.S. flag. Is burning the U.S. flag anti-Christian or burning the Saudi or Iranian flag anti-Muslim? In fact, there is an Orthodox Jewish group, the Neturei Karta, that regularly burns the Israeli flag as a form of protest. Here they are in New York, Canada and Jerusalem. Is this also anti-Semitic?
“Additionally, it should be noted that for Palestinian youth in the occupied West Bank, for example, the Israeli flag on the military jeeps that come screeching into their villages and homes represents only one thing – brutal oppression.
“We feel the complaint you received is without basis, and is simply being used to obscure this latest infamy by both the U.S. and Israel against the legitimate and national rights of the Palestinian people.”
Not only is this behavior of the Zionist lobby becoming predictable and ridiculous, it also damages the struggle against all racism. By claiming that any protest against Israeli government policies is automatically “anti-Semitic”, the Israel advocacy movement ends up minimalizing the horrors of real anti-Semitic behaviors.
Many have pointed out the recent links between Israel’s ruling officials and Western far-right supremacists; one has to question the motive behind all of this and if it is being done intentionally. Do they think fanning the flames of “anti-Semtism” will help cement the image of Israel as a safe haven for Jews? If so, this is a dangerous game.
As for the pro-Palestinian movement here in Canada, we are frankly tired of this endless and baseless parade of attacks on legitimate protest by well-funded, well-staffed and obviously well-connected Israel advocacy groups. It is past time for Canadian officials to be clear that protest against the Israeli government is not only protected freedom of expression, but also should not be subject to such constant harassment.
– Marion Kawas is Chairperson of the Canada Palestine Association and co-host of Voice of Palestine. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.cpavancouver.org.