Canadian Arab News
May 12, 2005
Reputations, like résumés, need updating from time to time lest they grow stale and misleading. This fact is especially true regarding Jews who are perceived to be “human rights” activists.
We have already seen how Irwin Cotler’s history as a human rights lawyer is regularly trotted out to give him the appearance of objectivity and credibility. Yet as we saw in my Feb. 5, 2004, column, Cotler’s understanding of “human rights” does not extend to the victims of zionist state terrorism.
Now, one of Cotler’s causes célèbres is in the news, and the pro-Israel media, including the Globe and Mail, prefer to churn out stale boilerplate than do a proper job of reporting.
In the subhead to the May 3 story “Sharansky quits cabinet post,” we are introduced to him as a noted writer, and ex-dissident who resigned over Sharon’s plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip.
The image set in the reader’s mind is a long-suffering man of conscience who resigned over a matter of principle. This image is enhanced by repeated references to Sharansky’s writings on democracy, especially his 1986 book The Case for Democracy—The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, which inspired George W. Bush.
To any alert reporter or editor this should have been a red flag, because Bush is a Christian Zionist warmonger who thinks nothing of murdering Muslims for the sake of Israel or Big Oil. Instead, the positive democratic ascription was allowed to stand and Sharansky was allowed free rein to dissemble about Israeli “democracy” and Palestinian “tyranny”:
“[Sharansky] said the planned unilateral withdrawal of 8,000 settlers and soldiers from Gaza should have been made contingent on democratic reform taking place within the Palestine Authority. ‘The depth of our concessions should match the depth of democratic reforms,’ he said in an interview. ‘All these concessions we are making now will not benefit Palestinians, but will strengthen dictatorship and create terror.’”
The Globe should have had better sense than to let Sharansky get away with such outrageous fabrications. At minimum it should have added a paragraph to explain that the Occupation is illegal and that Israel has no right to demand a quid pro quo from the Palestinians.
More to the point, though, the Globe should have reconciled Sharansky’s demands for increased Palestinian reform with his political record.
He thought nothing of making peace with monarchical Jordan in 1990 or of forging closer ties with a still autocratic Russia. Why then, the singling out of Palestinians for not living up to his standard of democracy? Well, the answer is obvious to anyone who has bothered to do research.
Sharansky is a fervent zionist for whom abstract notions of human rights mean nothing. He founded the now-defunct immigrants’ rights party Yisrael B’Aliyah, which included in its principles the denial of the right of Palestinians to have their own state.
Let’s see—anyone who denies the right of Israel to exist is demonized as an “anti-Semite” but a Jew who denies the right of Palestinians to self-determination is still a champion of human rights, at least as far as the media are concerned.
In a 2003 Jerusalem Post commentary, Sharansky made explicit his subordination of human rights to zionist colonization: “It was not for the sake of peace that the State of Israel was established, and it was not because of peace that millions of Jews gathered here. Nor was it peace for which the Jewish people prayed for thousands of years. The Jewish people prayed for Jerusalem.”*
To make Jerusalem as Jewish as possible Sharansky was one of two cabinet ministers in June 2004 who unilaterally expropriated thousands of dunums of land in Arab East Jerusalem. The excuse used was that the land had been “abandoned,” as if that were just cause for theft, but the truth is the Palestinian owners were caught on the other side of the Apartheid Wall and so could not assert their claim to their property.†
Sharansky’s land grab was so egregious, even by Israeli standards, that it was denounced as theft in the Knesset and declared illegal by the attorney general.
To all of this the public at large is blissfully unaware because the media doesn’t mention it. The most the Globe said about Sharansky is that he is a dissident who became a member of Ariel Sharon’s right-wing Likud government. He almost comes off looking like a statesman.
The one aspect of Sharansky’s political career that needs to be brought out is his power base among Jewish Russian immigrants. Sharansky himself is Russian, which means he relies on the illegal colonies for political support. As interior minister in 1999, he refused to extradite two Jewish Russians charged with massacring dozens of civilians in Lithuania before the outbreak of World War II.
Meanwhile, the world is supposed to comb every inch of earth to bring to justice Germans who committed massacres against Jews.
Sharansky’s hypocrisy is palpable and a matter of public record, but our lazy pro-Israel media cannot or will not look past his now irrelevant human rights résumé to see that Sharansky is a hateful little bigot.
Ironically, the most damning indictment of Sharansky came from former America-Israel Public Affairs Committee official M.J. Rosenberg, who in commenting on Sharansky’s book wrote:
“The test of whether one is a human rights activist or one who simply uses the issue for political ends is that person’s willingness to apply the human rights measuring stick to his own people. It is pretty easy to limit your calls for human rights to nations other than your own. For Sharansky, concern for Palestinians is the test of whether or not his claim to the mantle of human rights activist is genuine. As this book demonstrates, he fails—big time.”*
The Globe fails big time, too.
* Cited in Michael C. Desch, “Sharansky’s Double Standard,” The American Conservative, March 28, 2005.
† “Like thieves in the night,” Ha’aretz, Feb. 2, 2005.