By Yves Engler
The double standard is startling. A publisher whose newspaper is accused of making a questionable link to a horrific 80-year-old crime must be denounced by everyone who attended a large event, but few react to the editor of a paper that denies the existence of a people facing an ongoing injustice that many would label a genocide.
In a bid to undermine the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group, the Israel lobby complained that the editor of Arabic-language Meshwar Media attended an event marking International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Nazih Khatatba was one of 150 attendees at the November 29 commemoration on Parliament Hill organized by the representative of the Palestinian Authority in Ottawa. Israel lobby groups said the Palestinian Canadian newspaper published articles that minimized the Nazi Holocaust, which garnered widespread media coverage and led the MPs who attended the event to apologize and distance themselves from Khatatba.
The evidence presented against Khatatba is thin and someone who looked into the allegations whom I trust, told me they were overblown. For his part, Khatatba said his paper “recognizes the genocide of more than six million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust” and has “never spoken badly about Jews in Canada or other countries. Rather, we criticize the Israeli occupation policy and stand by the Palestinian people.”
In an analogous situation, Oppose Anti-Palestinian Racism recently reported on a genocidal letter in Montréal’s The Suburban. The December 14 letter called Palestinians a “pseudo-ethnicity” created by the “KGB” and declared that all Palestinian territory belonged to Israel “Period.” It noted, “there were no Arabs called Palestinians until the KGB created the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964 as a means of countering US influence in the region. They called Israel, Palestine, and the Arabs living there, Palestinians. This pseudo-ethnicity is promoted by UNRWA and pushed in our liberal schools and media, false though it is.”
The Suburban has long promulgated an anti-Palestinian outlook yet its editor-in-chief, Beryl Wajsman, regularly meets politicians and prominent individuals. After a brief search, I found pictures of Wajsman with Conservative party leader Pierre Poilievre and Liberal MP Anthony Housefather.
Two weeks ago, Wajsman was photographed with the Liberals’ Special Envoy on Anti-Semitism Irwin Cotler, who he worked for when Cotler was an MP. (In response to the Khatatba affair Cotler tweeted, “It is as ignorant as it is repugnant to have a Holocaust denier at a parliamentary gathering. This hate has no place in Canada or anywhere else-and certainly not on Parliament Hill.”)
I posted the photos below Oppose Anti-Palestinian Racism’s tweet about The Suburban’s genocidal letter and noted, “I expect them to all immediately condemn the disgusting racism.”
Unsurprisingly, there was no response. Cotler, Poilievre and Housefather haven’t distanced themselves from Wajsman and the media outlets concerned about the allegations leveled against Khatatba’s paper don’t care about The Suburban’s anti-Palestinian ravings.
But, if you consider the matter dispassionately, labeling a group living under an ongoing colonial regime a “pseudo ethnicity” is worse than what Khatatba is accused of. To publish an incorrect/malicious claim about an ongoing – if lesser – injustice is more damaging than promoting an incorrect/malicious claim about an 80-year-old horror. This seems uncontroversial, even if rarely stated.
The media/politicians double standard should anger those who believe in human equality. The first step in righting this wrong is to recognize the double standard and to avoid reinforcing it. At a minimum, demand unambiguous, fully contextualized, references from Israel lobbyists alleging a Palestine solidarity campaigner has erred. Even better, simply ignore attacks raised with the intention of reinforcing colonialism, not fighting discrimination.
Israel campaigners constantly distort and lie. They act as if they are at war while the anti-colonial movement is defensive. It’s time for the anti-apartheid movement to stop parsing words and succumbing to apartheid lobby intimidation.
Flagrant double standards add insult to injury. Imagine how Palestinians feel when a paper openly denies their existence as they are humiliated daily but purported allies panic when a Palestinian is accused of an inappropriate link to an 80-year-old crime.
If you believe in human equality, help end the double standards.
– Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and a number of other books. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit his website: yvesengler.com.