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Letter to the Editorial Board: January 20, 2020

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It is distressing as an Associate Fellow at the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism to see that in your recent commentary on Israel and Zionism you ignore international law and international human rights law, relying on your own and other subjective and highly tendentious and incomplete interpretations of historical texts that informed the movement for Israel’s creation to determine — in your mind — Israel’s legitimacy.

International law and international human rights law both affirm Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign democracy, as it is currently constituted. That does not, however, make Israel immune to human rights critique — much like every UN member state — including all its democracies — merit such critique.

Your commentary speaks of Zionism in a very essentialized way. This is inaccurate. Like most movements for national liberation — including anti-colonial ones — there were and are many streams of Zionism. These include socialist, social democrat, nationalist, national-religious, secular, humanistic, liberal, liberal-nationalist, and liberal religious. Your depiction of Zionism is not merely reductionist, it is profoundly pejorative.

Your characterization of Zionism reflects that of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, equating Zionism with racism. Although not legally binding — and contradicting the legally binding UN Charter which guarantees respect for the sovereign rights of UN member states under international law — it reflected the same virulent animosity your newspaper shows to respecting the fundamental human rights of Jewish people, specifically their right to collective self-determination. That resolution also contradicted the legally binding International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which explicitly respect a universal right to self-determination as a cornerstone of the international human rights system.

UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, which sought to deny Jews equal protection of international law and international human rights law and as such was intrinsically discriminatory, bigoted, and hateful was rescinded by the United Nations in 1991. The Daily ought to study why it was rescinded and reflect upon it, and educate itself more deeply as to how beliefs and attitudes that you have regarding Zionism which you feel to be anchored in principles of justice and equality are in fact hostile and discriminatory and constitute bigotry against Jews and denial of their human rights.

The Daily can engage with Israel, Zionism, and any and all countries’ movements for national self-determination critically. But it should do so without malice and prejudice, with a commitment to diversity of perspectives and accurate history that is not reductive and essentializing, and without ignoring the place of international law and international human rights law in making judgments that can just as easily harm the prospects for justice and peace and undermine human rights as they can advance them.

The letters that appear in our letters section do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Daily’s editorial board. The Daily’s Letters Policy can also be found on our website. Our letters section’s goal is to provide McGill students with a critical and constructive forum for the exchange of ideas relevant to the McGill community in accordance with article 10.2 of our MoA with McGill University.