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PACBI-The embattled Sid Ryan makes his case

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Toronto Sun | January 19, 2009

The embattled Sid Ryan makes his case

There‘s a clear chill in the air. And it‘s not just coming from the deep freeze of winter that‘s descended on us.

It's coming from the targeted silencing of many people world-wide concerned about human rights violations -- myself included -- who have dared to speak out against the Israeli state's military offensive against the people of Gaza.
Opposing and targeting the policies of the Israeli state is not opposing and targeting Jews. Neither is criticizing Israel synonymous with challenging Israel's existence.
Yet, criticize the State of Israel and face individually targeted and unprecedented criticism, threats and personal attacks -- tantamount to a new form of McCarthyism.
Based on reported figures, 20 Israelis have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza since 2000. The firing of these rockets is a completely unacceptable violation of human rights. During the same period the United Nations reports that Israel, which has one of the best equipped militaries in the world, killed 2,677 Palestinians in Gaza.
There is no denying Israelis, too, are dying. But the reality is this is not a fight between equals.
Civilians in Gaza with nowhere to flee face death daily. More than 1,000 people have been killed -- a quarter of them children. Thousands more have been injured, and even more made homeless under bomb attacks. Shortages of food, heat, electricity, and medical supplies massively compound the dangers of air and ground assaults.
To say nothing about this injustice is morally bankrupt. This humanitarian crisis demands that people speak out in the strongest possible way.
Here's how the organization I'm elected to lead -- CUPE Ontario -- joined the ranks of those around the world who have called on civil society to hold the state of Israel morally responsible for its nationalistic militarism.
In May 2006, delegates in Ontario voted to support an international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel because of its refusal to comply with international law.
This month, CUPE Ontario is examining a motion, at the request of Palestinian professors, university workers, and labour, that supports a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, not individuals.
Boycotts have traditionally been used as a non-violent way to protest what is unfair and to affect governments to change. In the campaign to end colonial rule in India, Gandhi called for a boycott of British universities and colleges as well as all British-made goods. The U.S. began a boycott of the Moscow 1980 summer Olympics after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
There has been a furor in the media during last two weeks over CUPE Ontario's human rights stand. It is as though Israel is beyond reproach despite the human rights violations being perpetrated in Gaza.
CUPE Ontario has stood up against human rights abuses all over the world and in our own country and we will continue to do so.
Some have claimed targeting Israel for a boycott rather than other countries that commit human rights abuses is anti-Semitic. In the 1960s, Canada played a major role in an international boycott of South Africa. That highly successful effort included academic, political, economic, cultural and sports boycotts. The goal was to end apartheid.
When Canada boycotted South Africa, no one suggested at the time it couldn't be done because we weren't boycotting other countries perpetrating human rights violations, like Chile where the military dictator, Augusto Pinochet, ruled his country with violent human rights abuse and corruption.
CUPE Ontario has a long and proud history of being at the forefront of protecting human rights at home and abroad. We have spoken out on human rights violations in Ireland, Columbia, Guatemala, Iran and Egypt.
CUPE Ontario pressured our municipal pension plan to divest from Talisman, a Canadian oil company, when it came to light that the revenues were being used to finance a civil war in Sudan.
It's not comfortable being a target of such vehement personal attacks, but complicit silence would be worse.
-- Ryan is president of CUPE Ontario



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