McGill University Should Withdraw Its Honorary Doctorate To Hillel Neuer
Following his recent appearance on the far-right Rebel Media, during which he vilified Justin Trudeau’s government for showing a modicum of compassion to Palestinian refugees, Hillel Neuer of UN Watch has launched a mendacious attack on me and Professor Michael Lynk.
Professor Lynk is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). He has meticulously documented Israel’s severe human rights abuses in the OPT, and has therefore drawn the ire of the relentlessly pro-Israel UN Watch.
Apparently, Neuer’s prodigious ego remains bruised after this past summer’s convocation at McGill University. For reasons that no one in the Palestinian solidarity movement can fathom, McGill University decided earlier this year to confer an honorary doctorate on this shameless apologist for Israeli apartheid. In protest, I and two other Palestinian solidarity activists, Yves Engler and Paul Tetrault, disrupted Neuer’s acceptance speech during McGill’s convocation:
Now, Neuer and UN Watch, the pro-Israel propaganda organ that Neuer leads, are calling for Professor Lynk to denounce me after Professor Lynk and I shared a stage at a recent Symposium on Israel/Palestinein Winnipeg.
According to Neuer and UN Watch:
During the presentation, Lascaris claimed that Hamas is not a terrorist group, and that Hamas rockets fired into Israel amount to “little more than glorified fireworks.”
When Lascaris added that “the Palestinian people have the right to use force to resist,” UN official Lynk took the microphone and said, “I agree with what Dimitri said with respect to the right to resist.”
In support of these claims, UN Watch has compiled a video montage of various statements I made during my presentation with Professor Lynk.
In fact, I made three separate presentations at the Winnipeg symposium, one of which was done in concert with Professor Lynk. With the knowledge and consent of all the presenters at the Symposium, complete videos of our presentations were made publicly available weeks ago.
As one would expect from a propaganda organ like UN Watch, the video montage it has released in support of its attack on me and Professor Lynk is highly misleading. Neuer and UN Watch have omitted to include in their video various statements that I made which undermine their narrative.
Starting at 57:19 of our presentation, which can be viewed here in its entirety, I state the following in answer to a question from an audience member about whether Hamas should continue to be designated as a terrorist organization:
I want to state at the outset — because I know from long and painful experience how easy it is for those who support the state of Israel to manipulate your words – so I am going to state it unequivocally: I am not a supporter of Hamas. Whether or not it can be persuasively argued that Hamas should be designated as a terrorist organization today… there are other reasons why I don’t support Hamas. I don’t support Hamas because it is a theocratic political party and I believe very strongly in the complete separation of religion and state. I don’t support them because – although there are signs this may be changing – they seem to believe, and I think it’s deluded to do so, that violence is a solution to their dilemma. As a general matter, I strongly prefer peaceful resolution of conflict, but especially where your opponent has overwhelming military force. And thirdly, and as Al Haq and others have documented, Hamas has committed human rights violations against its own people. And quite apart from all that, before 2006, Hamas, it appears very clearly, was engaged in terrorist operations. It had involvement in suicide bombings. Those were atrocious crimes that were committed by these people. And every single one of the persons from Hamas and any other organization that was involved in them should be held accountable in accordance with due process of law. But Hamas changed. There is strong evidence that it changed and that it continues to evolve.
Predictably, UN Watch has excluded the above comments from its attack on me and Professor Lynk.
Moreover, in our presentation, I went on to explain that Hamas appears to have abandoned suicide bombings as a tactic after 2006, and that, since then, the principal basis on which Hamas has been characterized as a terrorist organization is its use of rockets to target Israeli civilians and civilian infrastructure. In that regard, I pointed out that those rockets are notoriously inaccurate, that Israel/Palestine scholar Norman Finkelstein (who is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors) has described those rockets as ‘little more than glorified fireworks’, and that those rockets have caused vastly fewer civilian casualties and destruction than Israel’s munitions have caused in Gaza. On that basis, I concluded that the evidence as to whether Hamas continues to target civilians and civilian infrastructure is “equivocal” and the question of whether Hamas should continue to be designated as a terrorist organization is “debatable”.
This hardly amounts to a “claim that Hamas is not a terrorist group.”
UN Watch is also outraged by my assertion that the Palestinian people have a right to use force to defend themselves. Again, however, UN Watch has omitted from its attack critical commentary on this issue. Beginning at 1:02:12 of the video of our presentation, I state:
Yes, I think it’s quite clear that… the Palestinian people have the right to use force to resist. You know, when Israel talks about its right to defend itself – of course it has a right to defend itself and to use force if necessary– but when you deprive the Palestinian people of that right, you are treating them as less meritorious, less deserving of the benefits of international law than people of Jewish origin in Israel, or Europeans, for example, or Canadians. In Canada, would we take the position, would anyone in this room take the position, that Canadians don’t have the right to use force if we are being subjected to the oppression and the atrocities of a regime such as that that the Palestinians confront on a daily basis? Of course we’d have the right to use force. But the right to use force is not unlimited. That doesn’t mean you can target civilians. That doesn’t mean that you can kill soldiers who are surrendering, for example. It has to be done within the bounds of international law. But Palestinians, like any other people, have the right, within the bounds of international law, to use force to resist oppression.
Again, UN Watch elected to ignore my statements that the right to use force to resist oppression is subject to important legal limits, and that all states, including Israel, enjoy that same right, subject to those same legal limits.
The balance of UN Watch’s attack is its scurrilous claim that I am an anti-Semite. I have previously responded to that smear, as have Independent Jewish Voices Canada and hundreds of academics, journalists and activists, including Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters and Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire.
This latest episode is but one more nail in the coffin of McGill University’s rationale – whatever it may have been – for awarding an honorary doctorate to this charlatan. No one who shills for a ruthless apartheid regime, and who smears those who demand that that regime be held accountable, should be the recipient of such a distinction.