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Elliot Leven


By Elliot Leven, August 12, 2010

In his August 3, 2010 article in this publication, Marty Morantz castigates Manitoba premier Greg Selinger for using the word “Palestine” in a public speech.  Selinger referred to peace between Israel and Palestine.  Morantz calls this “inappropriate”. Morantz correctly points out that a state of Palestine does not yet officially exist.

Mr. Morantz is not a disinterested observer. He is the Progressive Conservative candidate in Manitoba’s River Heights constituency.  As such, he is a political opponent of Greg Selinger’s. He will square off against Selinger and his party in the next Manitoba election.

More to the point, there is nothing unusual about the word “Palestine”.  Apart from its legitimate historic usage (e.g. “the British Mandate of Palestine”), it is now used frequently to refer to the Palestinian state which has not yet been created but will almost certainly be created at some future date.

American presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have both used the word “Palestine”. Many Israeli Jews have also done so.

To say that there should be a Palestinian state is not particularly controversial. David Ben-Gurion accepted the concept in 1947.  Ehud Barak might have gone down in history as the de facto father of a Palestinian state, had Yasser Arafat had the courage and good sense to accept his proposals about how to create the state and what borders it would have.

In fact, many Israeli Jews hope that Israeli and Palestinian leaders will eventually agree to create a state of Palestine based on something fairly similar to what Barak offered to Arafat. Sadly, it may be years or decades before this happens.

Meanwhile, there is nothing inappropriate about praying for peace between Israel and Palestine. Saying “Palestine” instead of the “the Palestinian people” is hardly anti-Israel. It is no more than verbal shorthand for a desirable concept that has partly but not yet fully come to fruition.

Elliot Leven,  a  Winnipeg lawyer has voted  for the Manitoba NDP in the last provincial election, and will probably do so in the next election, but I have never been an NDP candidate or campaign manager at any level.

Editor's note : In 2006, George Bush said: "I am committed to two democratice states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. I am committed to a Palestine that has territorial contiguity and will live peacefully with the Jewish state of Israel."


By Marty Morantz, August 3, 2010

During the Negev Gala, honoring Larry and Tova Vickar, Premier Selinger spoke of wanting there to be peace between Israel and “Palestine”  He used the term “Palestine” on three occasions, as opposed to saying “the Palestinian territories,’ or the ‘West Bank and Gaza,” as other speakers did.

The problem with using the term “Palestine” is that as of now there is no state of Palestine. Palestine is not recognized as a member state of the  United Nations,  as Israel is. While there may eventually be a State of Palestine that is created, it has not yet happened and will only happen as a result of  a negotiated peace agreement. This will involve the Palestinians, among other things, clearly recognizing Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state within secure borders.

In using the term “Palestine”, Premier Selinger   (either unwittingly or  intentionally, I am not sure which) emboldens those who believe it is acceptable to unilaterally declare  a state of “ Palestine,” without going through a process of  peace negotiations.  The term “Palestine” is particularly problematic now as Hamas controls Gaza and the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas controls the West Bank. All efforts of reconciliation between these two rivals, who have used violence against each other, have failed. (remember that Hamas  is  considered to  be a terrorist group in Canada). When Mr. Selinger was referring to “Palestine”, which territory was he referring to Gaza or  the West Bank?

Mr. Selinger’s poor choice of words raises questions about the extent of the current NDP Government’s commitment towards Israel and its depth of knowledge as it pertains to the Arab/Israeli conflict.  Anyone who uses the term “Palestine” without making it clear that he expects a Palestinian state to arise only as a result of a negotiated peace process with Israel, is doing a disservice to the cause of peace. To the best of my knowledge, former Premier, and current Ambassador to the United States Gary Doer, never used the term ‘Palestine” at a Negev Gala, or anywhere else.

I would also note as a matter of interest that during the recent debate in our legislature over Heather Stefansons bold resolution to denounce the ill conceived Israel Apartheid Week, Steve Ashton the NDP MLA from Thompson, Manitoba (and former NDP leadership candidate) also used the term “Palestine” with reckless abandon.

I point this out only to show that Mr. Selingers use of the term is not unique within the NDP Caucus.

Federal New Democrat Libby Davis, who  got in some hot water for anti-Israel remarks she made recently, said in her written apology on  her website that “ New Democrats have long called for a peaceful, negotiated end to the conflict where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side with secure borders.”  It is thus clear that NDP policy at the federal level is to support a peaceful, negotiated end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Premier Selinger supports that , then it would behoove him to  use the term “Palestine” only  after an entity with that name comes into being,  and not before  there is a  negotiated agreement between  Israelis and Palestinians, leading to  the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side Israel.

Premier Selinger understands that words are a politicians toolbox when it comes to sending a message. His comments did not ruin the Negev Gala. It was a wonderful evening honoring the amazing contributions of Larry and Tova Vickar to our community. In some ways, it would be easy to say that this is not a big deal, and that we should just let it go. But there are times when even a few words, and even a few moments are important, and must be remembered.  Premier Selinger’s inappropriate reference to “Palestine”, as if it was already recognized as a state, was one unfortunate moment to be remembered.

Marty Morantz is the Progressive Conservative candidate for the River Heights constituency in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


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