York guest speakers tackle Middle East politics

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

All politics are local â€" even Middle East politics, Western students were told at a lecture Monday.

The lecture, “Understanding Israel Advocacy: Israel’s Apartheid Campus Supporters” was hosted by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights and King’s Centre for Social Concern. Professor David Noble and Dan Freeman-Maloy delivered it at King’s University College’s Wemple lounge.

The event tackled controversial issues regarding conflict and its local connections.

The York University guest speakers discussed the growth and influence of pro-Israel lobby groups in Canada, especially on university campuses, from both a theoretical perspective and from personal experience.

Noble and Freeman-Maloy, both Jewish-Canadians, have become controversial figures in the Jewish community after speaking out against what they see as “Israel’s apartheid policies” transferred to university campuses.

Freeman-Maloy, a York student and Palestinian rights activist, was suspended from the university for three years. He said his suspension was for organizing demonstrations protesting the Israeli occupation at a university with a long history of connections to pro-Israel groups.

Noble was critical of the university’s actions in a flyer entitled, “The Tail that Wags the Dog,” noting, among other things, connections between the pro-Israel lobby and York University administration. Noble aided Freeman-Maloy by appointing him as his research assistant to circumvent the university’s decision.

Noble said he was defamed by the university for doing so, as well as by Jewish advocacy groups like the Canadian Jewish Congress and Hillel. He said they condemned him as a “bigot, a racist and an anti-Semite.”

Noble also discussed the rise of pro-Israel advocacy on North American campuses.

“The campaigns on the campuses began in the United States as far back as the 1970s,” Noble said. “The American Israeli Political Action Committee undertook to train student activists in how to increase pro-Israel influence on campus by any and all means.”

Noble said those U.S. tactics came north of the border in 2000. He said shortly thereafter the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy was formed by wealthy and powerful elites in the Canadian business establishment, with the goal of funding advocacy and making it more proactive.

Noble claimed the Canadian government’s increasing support for Israel internationally through United Nations resolutions â€" the rapid response to cut off funding for the Palestinian Authority after the election of Hamas and unqualified support for Israel during the recent war against Lebanon â€" is evidence of this.

Noble said Jewish lobby groups have become strong and powerful by exploiting the fear of being labelled anti-Semitic.

“Pro-Israel advocacy, in short, consists of a campaign not of persuasion but of fear,” he said. “At its core is the threat that those who dare to raise questions about Israel or about Israel advocacy will be labelled anti-Semitic.”

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