Saturday, August 2

An open letter to Paul Dewar of the NDP concerning Palestine

Dear Paul, 

I hope you don't mind the familiar greeting, no disrespect is intended. It's just that we've met before, first when when we were both volunteers for Ed Broadbent's 2004 campaign, and then again when I did fundraising for your 2006 campaign. I also had the privilege - as did almost everyone in Ottawa working on social justice issues - of knowing your amazing mother. 

You always struck me as a fundamentally decent human being, so it's with great sadness that I've read your recent comments regarding the Israeli assault on Gaza. I'm not writing to change your mind - I've been around politics and politicians too long to believe in that kind of magic - but I wanted to tell you how deeply disappointed I am that the NDP has taken up a position on this issue that is virtually indistinguishable from that of Stephen Harper. 

Ironically, I'm reminded of what Flora MacDonald said when she endorsed Ed Broadbent in 2004. "I didn't leave my party, my party left me." My only comfort is that parting ways with the NDP - the party to which I have donated so much time and money, the only political party I ever joined, the only political party I ever believed in - cannot possibly be as difficult as coming to terms with my own Zionist upbringing. Every word uttered by the Israel-right-or-wrong (but Israel is never wrong!) lobby is painfully familiar to my ears, they were fed to me from birth. But among the historical distortions and the implicit racism, there was one phrase which stood out. Never again. Never. Again. This was the mantra repeated over and over to every Jewish child growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust. 

I suppose I wasn't a particularly bright child because I thought it meant that such a thing should never again happen to anyone, anywhere. That a powerful nation should not rain death and destruction down on innocent people. That when people are rounded up and placed in open air prisons they have a right to defend themselves, like the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto. I thought it meant that as a Jew, I had a sacred obligation to stand up for oppressed people wherever they are, whoever they are. I had to learn the hard way that "Never again" only applied to us. 

By the time I figured it out, it was too late. I was already committed to justice for all people, not just the "chosen" people. So it hurts me to see you and the NDP ending up not just on the wrong side of history but the wrong side of morality. 

The worst part is, for what? Party unity? A few more dollars in contributions? Ah, but there I go, expecting better from politicians. Perhaps I still believe in magic after all... 


Berta Gaulke 

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