Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Cotler calls on Israel 'to take back the narrative'

As reported in Friday's Jerusalem Post, Professor Irwin Cotler, international human rights lawyer and former Canadian justice minister, called for Israel to "take back the narrative" in the Middle East conflict. (With thanks: Lily)

Professor Cotler, who spoke at the annual general meeting of the Israeli branch of the Lions of Judah - the international Jewish women's organization that raises money from women for Israel projects run by women for women - rejected as untrue the widely held idea that the root of the conflict is occupation, with Israel perceived as an apartheid state.

The conflict was not about borders, said Cotler, but about the refusal of the Hamas-led Palestinians and most Arab states to accept a Jewish state in the Middle East.

"It's double rejection" said Cotler. Not only did the Arabs reject Israel's right to exist at the dawn of Israel's statehood, they were prepared to forgo Palestinian independence if it meant accepting a Jewish state, he said.

"Now they're willing to destroy the Jewish state, even if it means not having a Palestinian state," he said.

In taking back the narrative, said Cotler, Israel must make it clear that radical transnational Islam is as much a danger to Muslims as it is to the rest of the world; and that the canards of dual loyalty is contrary to the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

Focusing on the "escalating, virulent, global and even lethal new anti-Jewishness," Cotler said it went beyond equating Zionism with racism and denied Israel the right to live as an equal member of the family of nations.

This new anti-Semitism, he said, was expressed politically, ideologically, theologically and economically."

It is no coincidence that Professor Cotler should have made his speech at the home of Evelyn Douek, whose late father Leon Taman and Cotler were in 1975 among the founders of the World Organization of Jews of Arab Countries (WOJAC), a non-government organization recognized by the United Nations as representing the interests of Jews from Arab countries with regard to population exchanges and compensation for communal and personal property left behind when they were forced to flee their countries of origin.

Cotler has made the point in the past that 'taking back the narrative' includes restoring the narrative of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries. As a honorary chairman of JJAC (Justice for Jews from Arab Countries), Cotler has stated:

"The time has come to restore the plight and the truth and the justice of Jewish refugees from Arab lands to the Middle East narrative from which they have been expunged and eclipsed.

"Arab regimes were guilty of "a pattern of ethnic cleansing" and "criminal conspiracy in dealing with their native Jewish populations.

"Any narrative of the Middle East including the Roadmap that does not include justice for Jewish refugees from Arab lands, is a case study in Middle East revisionism. It's an assault on truth and memory and justice. The United Nations has singled out Israel for differential and discriminatory treatment in the international arena.

"Since 1947, there have been some 687 resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, which have dealt with the Arab-Israeli conflict. 101 of those resolutions dealt with the question of refugees. All 101 dealt with Palestinian refugees only. Not one resolution dealt with the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands.

"There would not be an Arab refugee problem if the Arabs had not rejected the UN partition plan."

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