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Re: Peter Svidler’s “Students Against Israel”

Being as much an Israeli/Canadian as Svidler (except probably quite a bit older) forces me to respond to some of his more bizarre contentions about local Haligonians reactions to his pride and loyalty to Israel. Having been a loyal citizen, a full-fledged academic, as well as a soldier in several wars, I nevertheless found Svidler’s whining tirade more than a bit hard to take.

During my 20 years of living on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, I heard and expressed many critical opinions and contentions about Israel, but characterizing “a proud Israeli” as a monster seems fetched out of thin air. But then, Svidler changes course and switches into an attack on “Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA)” and how full of bottled up hatred against Israelis they are. They apparently hate everybody and everything Israeli: soldiers, settlers, products and academic institutions and on and on.

Svidler than focuses on a talk given last year by Dr. Norman Finkelstein (I was there and it wasn’t very good) who had the unmitigated gall to claim that “Israelis are lunatics” when it comes to their positions about peace.

Finally, the absolute worst. The Waterloo University Student Federation held a referendum (quite democratic) to decide about their relationship with Israel’s major universities. From there, according to Svidler, there is only a short step to a ban on Israeli students in Canadian universities, including probably Svidler himself.

As is usual in articles of this type, they tend to miss some basic things. Even a thorough and careful reading of this letter will not reveal one single critical word about Israel. Only pride, loyalty and such characteristics. Not a word about Israel’s brutal military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for the nearly half a century. Not a word about the checkpoints and the humiliation Palestinians undergo on a daily basis when they try to go to work or to engage in other daily routines. While reading the letter a thought kept nagging me: did Svidler ever visit the occupied territories? Did he see the tens of thousands of Palestinian houses that were and still are being demolished – the hundreds of thousands of olive trees that were uprooted and on and on? Most importantly, is he aware of the number of Palestinian children who were killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers during the past few years? I guess not.

Just about the entire world has been lately critical of Israeli oppressive moves throughout the occupied territories, including celebrities such as the American Ambassador to Israel, who was then called by a senior Israeli politician “a Jew boy.” The European Union, as well as the government of France and the UN, the Swedish Foreign Minister and more also criticized Israel. I guess all these hateful people are just that: hateful.

Whether Svidler likes it or not, during the past 49 years Israel committed numerous violations of International Law, acts of oppression against civilian population and many other such unacceptable acts. It is actually uplifting to see, of late, some rising criticism and objection to these oppressive acts against millions of Palestinians. Those who rise up and voice their objections to all this should be commended, not criticized.

And yes, If Svidler will ever face an attempt by any student body or simply “A major Canadian university” to kick him out because of his “nationality” he should let me know and I, despite my criticism of Israel, will come and do everything I can to help him.


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