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Cheryl-Anne Carr (drumming) at IAW at U of M. Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


By Rhonda Spivak

At an event entitled “Canadian Apartheid & Indigenous Solidarity” on March 12 at the University of Manitoba before an audience of about 50 people, Cheryl –Anne Carr, a Metis Canadian, affiliated with the Communist Party of Canada mocked Irwin Cotler, Liberal Member of Parliament, former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada.

Why? What is Cotler’s great sin?

Cotler, a renowned human rights lawyer, has dared to suggest that when it comes to viewing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Jewish people can not be looked at as only having had a connection to the land of Israel for the last 120 years of Zionism, but indeed for much much longer.

In fact, Cotler has dared to suggest that Jews ought properly be viewed as “a First Nation”, an “ aboriginal people” when it comes to Israel.

He has not said that Jews are the only aboriginal people, but has used this logic to outline a vision for a two state solution to the conflict—two states for two peoples—Israel and Palestine, living peacefully side by side.

According to Carr, however, Jews can not be defined as any “aboriginal people” who have claims to an ancestral homeland.  In her talk she painted Jews as a people who had no longstanding attachment to Israel and suddenly showed up at Israel’s door as colonizers,  with a  purpose of simply oppressing another people, the Palestinians.

Cotler’s thinking on  why  the Jewish people  properly ought to be characterized as “a First Nation”  in Israel  is cogently outlined in an article he wrote  on  May 14, 2008,  in the Jerusalem Post:

Israel is not simply a snapshot at age 60, nor a fragment frozen in time; nor is it anchored only in 60 years of Israeli statehood, or 120 years of Zionism.

“For Israel, rooted in the Jewish people, as an Abrahamic people, is a prototypical First Nation or aboriginal people, just as the Jewish religion is a prototypical aboriginal religion, the first of the Abrahamic religions.
M.P. Irwin Cotler
M.P. Irwin Cotler. Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

“In a word, the Jewish people is the only people that still inhabits the same land, embraces the same religion, studies the same Torah, hearkens to the same prophets, speaks the same aboriginal language - Hebrew - and bears the same aboriginal name, Israel, as it did 3,500 years ago.

‘Israel, then, is the aboriginal homeland of the Jewish people across space and time. It is not just a homeland for the Jewish people, a place of refuge, asylum and protection. It is the homeland of the Jewish people, wherever and whenever it may be; and its birth certificate originates in its inception as a First Nation, and not simply, however important, in its United Nations international birth certificate.

“The State of Israel, then, as a political and juridical entity, overlaps with the "aboriginal Jewish homeland"; it is, in international legal terms, a successor state to the biblical, or aboriginal, Jewish kingdoms. But that aboriginal homeland is also claimed by another people, the Palestinian/Arab people, who see it as their place and patrimony.

‘The existence  of a parallel claim does not vitiate that of the Jewish people or cause it to resonate any less as memory and memoir of homeland - where homeland represents history, roots, religion, language, culture, literature, law, custom, family, myth and values. Rather, the equities of the claim mandate the logic of Israeli-Palestinian partition - a logic which in moral and juridical terms requires that a just solution be organized around the "principle of least injustice," and that includes mutual recognition of the legitimacy of two states for two peoples.

“Nor should the internal divides besetting Israel mask the existential raison d'etre, and moral imperative, of Israel itself. Nazism, and the gathering storm of the Thirties, almost succeeded not only because of its pathology of hate and industry of death, but because of the powerlessness of the stateless Jew and the vulnerability of the powerless without a state. Israel, then, is an antidote to Jewish vulnerability, the raison d'etre in the most profound existential sense for Jewish self-determination.

It is not the case, as it sometimes said, that if there had been no Holocaust, there would not have been a State of Israel, as if a state could somehow even compensate for the murder of six million Jews. It is the other way around: If there had been an Israel, there would not have been a Holocaust, or others horrors of Jewish history.”

In mocking Cotler  in her talk at  University of Manitoba ,  Carr  appears to have taken the rather  extreme view that the Jewish people have no  legitimate claim whatsoever to a  national homeland,  whatever size--- in other words, Jews ought not have the right to self-determination, ought not to have any state of their own at all.

Carr was not calling for any two state solution.  She was in effect recognizing only the claim of one people, the Palestinians, in this conflict. According to her warped view, their claim is to be recognized in its entirety, while any Jewish claim to the land of Israel is to be entirely negated.

And that to her is justice?

A response to Carr can be quite brief.

Irwin Cotler tries to do justice wherever he goes, and because of that he has garnered a tremendous amount of respect as a human rights advocate internationally.   His is a far more balanced and fair approach than yours will ever be.

This article can also be read at 

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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