Commentary | Nasr’s “bullets” miss their mark

A response on behalf of McGill Students for Israel

“64 bullets from McGill to Tel Aviv” (Moe Nasr, Commentary, September 24, Page 6) is so full of misconceptions and empty rhetoric that it begs the question why this newspaper would see it fit to print. We are disappointed and surprised that The Daily published it and the photo alongside that perpetuates malicious stereotypes about Jews and Israel. McGill Students for Israel is proud of McGill’s decision to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding with three Israeli universities and would like to rebut a few of the author’s false accusations.

Mr. Nasr claims that Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay “lies” regarding “economic growth in Palestine” and that the “illegal occupation [is] the root cause of the West Bank’s depressed economic situation.” The truth is that from 2007 to 2010 under Palestinian Authority (PA) PM Salam Fayyad, the West Bank experienced rapid GDP growth – 50 per cent higher in 2010 than in 2000, and 124 per cent higher than in 1994.

Israel contributes significantly to the PA’s economic development. In 2011, Israel helped alleviate the PA’s budget crisis by advancing $45 million USD at the beginning of Ramadan to help the PA pay salaries in time for workers to celebrate the holiday. Israel also asked the United States to lift the ban on U.S. aid to the PA. In Gaza, the economy grew 27 per cent in 2011, contributing to a rise of 23 per cent in GDP. Every month Israel delivers thousands of truckloads of goods to Gaza. The amount and variety of goods entering Gaza has increased steadily since 2010, to a daily average of over 250 truckloads – this despite the fact that over 10,000 rockets from Gaza have been launched at Israeli communities.

In 2011, approximately 115,000 Palestinian patients were treated in Israel (a 13 per cent increase from 2010); over 100 Palestinian doctors were interning at Israeli hospitals and five organ donations were performed in Israel for Palestinian patients.  Is this the face of oppression?

Nasr attacks a TAU professor for taking part in producing the IDF’s code of ethics. Not weapons development, but ethics! Unlike Palestinian terrorists who deliberately target civilians,  Israel makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties contrary to Nasr’s claim. During the 2006 Israel-Hamas conflict, Israel dropped more than two million leaflets and sent text messages urging the population to evacuate likely fighting zones and military targets. Nasr’s false 20 to 1 “kill count” fails to mention that it includes Hamas terrorists and some of their human shields – civilians Hamas deliberately placed in harm’s way. The casual Sabra and Shatila reference in the same context as Israeli universities not only perpetuates the lie that the Israeli army was the perpetrator, but the innuendo seeks to tar Israel’s academic institutions with guilt for a crime that is not only not theirs, but in truth, is not Israel’s!

Nasr’s assertion that Arab-Israelis “are forced to either integrate and become secular, anti-radical, pro-Israeli” or else face deportation is complete fabrication. The truth is that no Israeli Arab citizens are being deported and that Arab-Israelis enjoy the same rights as all other Israelis (but without the obligation to serve in the army). Numerous affirmative action programs seek to ensure equality of opportunity for Arab Israelis. Furthermore, there are a number of Arab members of the Israeli parliament, the most famous being Haneen Zoabi, who is vocally anti-Israel.

Israeli universities are centres of learning and coexistence that mirror Israel’s ethnic (Jewish and Arab), political, and religious character. According to Ha’aretz, more East Jerusalem Palestinians are seeking Israeli academic degrees than ever. Clearly Nasr’s suggestion to cut ties would be destructive for Palestinians who benefit from these universities as well.

Far from exacerbating conflict, Israeli universities are replete with institutes devoted exclusively to the pursuit of peace. The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for Peace at Hebrew University, the Jewish-Arab Center at University of Haifa, and studies in Conflict Resolution and Mediation at Bar-Ilan and Tel Aviv universities promote peace. Israeli universities not only contribute to peace and coexistence between Arabs and Jews – they engage with and for the benefit of humanity.  Israelis develop innovative medical technologies, including a treatment that destroys HIV-infected human cells, a breast cancer scanner that does not require radiation, and a nanobiology computer that attacks disease on the molecular level. These innovations improve lives across the globe. In contrast, Mr. Nasr seems to campaign on the side of denial, boycott, and delegitimization. How does that help foster dialogue, knowledge, understanding, and peace?

Ilana Donohue and Eliana Schwartz are president and past president of McGill Friends of Israel. Reach  them at eliana.schwartz@mail.mcgill.ca.


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