what was rashad saleh thinking? During a debate with Israeli consul-general Meir Romem on Bill Carol’s CFRB program last week, the president of Palestine House referred to the “so-called” Holocaust.Romem was immediately “shocked and angered” at the phrase. B’nai Brith has denounced it as “grossly irresponsible and inciteful. We are not calling for an apology, but it is our duty to ensure Canadians know what manner of person represents Palestinian interests,” says B’nai Brith.
Saleh, who has been facing weekly pro-Israeli demos outside Palestine House’s Mississauga headquarters, says he was not calling into question the historical validity of the massacre of 6 million Jews in Nazi Germany.
“My point was that since the Israelis are engaging in atrocities similar to the one that Hitler has made — it was to that effect — how could Israelis do a thing like that?” says Saleh.
During a commercial break, he did apologize to Carol and Romem for the comment. “He may have been trying to argue about the use of the word “holocaust’: “If that’s a holocaust then this is a holocaust,'” Carol says. “I don’t think it was the kind of Holocaust denial that you would expect to hear that statement in.”
Regardless of what he meant, the comment has only inflamed an already smouldering atmosphere in the GTA. Given the hypersensitive nature of the issues, everyone on all sides ought to pay close attention to what comes out of their own mouths.
An award-winning documentary investigating Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s role in the 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut is too controversial for the Toronto Jewish Film Festival.In a decision that split organizers, the BBC film The Accused has been dropped from the festival lineup. Although earlier reports suggested the festival had security concerns, executive director Helen Zukerman says that’s not it at all. She says their decision was based on the same sort of thinking that prompted Hollywood to withhold violent films after September 11. “We’re trying to be sensitive to this war in the Middle East,” says Zukerman.’ Zukerman maintains there was no outside pressure put on the festival organizers to pull the film.
The Accused, which is scheduled to be aired on The Passionate Eye on CBC Newsworld, caused an uproar in Israel last June when it first aired in Britain. It delves into the question of whether Sharon, who was Israeli defence minister at the time of the massacres, should have known that allowing Phalange militiamen to go into the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps would have a horrific outcome.
What to make of the latest Compass Inc. poll done for B’nai Brith that found that “Canada is broadly sympathetic to Israel’s interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”According to its findings, 80 per cent agreed that there is no difference between a suicide attack on the World Trade Center and a restaurant in Israel. It reported 74 per cent agreed that Arafat “is a terrorist who feels no sense of remorse,” and 52 per cent said terrorists are likely to commit more terrorist acts when they see countries being critical of Israel’s military action.
“The focus of this was not on what people know or what government should do, it was simply on how people interpret (Israel’s position),” says Compass president Conrad Wynn.
But an IPSOS-Reid poll published in the Globe and Mail a couple of days earlier found that 79 per cent of Canadians believe we shouldn’t be taking sides. “Canadians at the moment, based on our polling, are essentially saying, “You’re both to blame,'” says IPSOS-Reid senior VP John Wright.
How does he assess the other poll? “Well, I don’t want to comment directly — only on the methodology,’ he says carefully. “But you have to offer the other side (in poll questions). There is a view that the Israelis are being aggressive, and whether it’s for self-defence or not, it’s a debatable point,’ he says explaining that this kind of opinion was not tested in the other poll. “And what’s missing from the comparison of the World Trade Center and suicide bombing is a test of whether people think these are provoked. Canadians are saying, “You’re both to blame.’ That’s the more balanced view of public opinion.”