[News] Why was PAs Canada envoy forced to resign over a tweet?
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 26 13:07:54 EDT 2011
Why was PAs Canada envoy forced to resign over a tweet?
25 October 2011
A video featuring a Palestinian girl reciting a
poem was at the center of a diplomatic storm in Canada.
On 17 October, the Canadian government subjected
Linda Sobeh Ali, the chargé daffaires of the
Authoritys delegation in Ottawa, to what The
Globe and Mail described as a high-level
envoy is asked to leave Ottawa after controversial tweet, 18 October 2011).
Alis transgression was her tweeting of a poetic
recitation by a young Palestinian girl on YouTube
poem of young Palestinian girl, YouTube).
Nationalistic in its rhetoric, the poem invites
Palestinians and Arabs to work towards freedom,
revolution and the liberation of Palestine.
Canadian government officials, under orders from
Baird, the foreign minister, have deemed this
poem offensive. They falsely claim it culminates
with a call for the death of Jews.
The officials who alerted Baird to the poem
relied on an English-subtitled version that
mistranslated the final verse from a call to
extinguish the soul of a Zionist to an
invocation to war that raze the injustice and
oppression and destroy the Jews [sic]
turf Palestinian rep, Toronto Sun, 18 October
2011). This was the version tweeted by Ali and
subsequently used as pretext for her dismissal
from her capacity as representative of the Palestinian Authority in Ottawa.
The incident was set into motion when Baird was
notified of the tweet by Shimon Fogel, chief
executive officer of the Center for Israel and
Jewish Affairs, a
organization that actively works towards
relationship. Two weeks later, with the aid of
Morris Rosenberg, Bairds deputy minister, the
Palestinian representative was brought in for a high-level sit down.
Unsatisfied with simply making his own and by
extension the federal governments opinions on
Alis conduct known to her, Baird also involved
the Canadian representative in the West Bank,
Chris Greenshields, who then notified the
Palestinian Authority in Ramallah of its dissatisfaction with Alis retweet.
Gleeful reporting in media
In an email sent by Chris Day, a spokesman for
Baird, Ali was informed in no uncertain terms
that her serious transgression has lead the
Canadian government to have taken the decision
to limit communication with this official until a
replacement is selected. While the media is
adamant to point out that Ottawa did not order
Alis removal, the email circulated by Day
amounted to a discharge, endorsed by the highest
level of the Canadian government. Or, as The
Ottawa Sun reported, The federal government is
sending the Palestinian representative to Canada packing.
Linda Sobeh Ali has since shut down her Twitter
account and, in response to pressures from the
Canadian government, she has resigned and will be
heading back to the West Bank or reassigned to a
different location. Emotional, apologetic and
regretful is how Ali is being represented to
Canadians. She is sorry to have retweeted a poem
she had not seen nor heard. She has no interest
in spreading hate and she regrets the poems
controversial and political content, she has
told the media
envoy apologizes for controversial retweet, CBC
News, 18 October 2011). The Palestinian Authority
has asked her to submit her resignation because
it has no wish to offend Ottawa.
But what exactly is Ali apologetic about? Why
doesnt the PA wish to take a stand against the
Canadian government, a government that has
repeatedly declared and acted upon its unwavering
commitment to the Israeli state even in the face
of illegal settlement expansion, continued land
expropriation and theft, and mass population removal and displacement?
What part of the poems call for Palestinian
liberation and struggle against Zionism offends
the Canadian governments sensibilities? Or does
this recent attempt merely replicate the
strategies used in the US to
the expressions of Palestinian children who live
under Israeli occupation and experience its
transgressions on a daily basis? Does the Ottawa
government take issue with the poems strong
invocations against the settler-colonial project
of Zionism? Perhaps this designation of Zionism
as a settler-colonial project is too close for
comfort for Baird, an important figurehead for
the settler colonial state of Canada?
An undignified recall
Linda Sobhi Alis apology and the PAs recall
of its representative embolden the Canadian
governments lie that the poem spreads hate. This
affair renders apparent the national and
international politics of public shaming and
deception being played out against Palestinian
representation in Canada and by extension
Palestinian Canadians and the Canadian public at large.
It lays bare how the Palestinian struggle against
Zionism is being scripted as unjust, hateful, and
deserving of state censorship and control. This
latest act of surveillance and discipline needs
to be understood as a national spectacle of
racial, national, political and gendered significations.
Through her apology, Ali is painted as a weak
female official, an inept representative of a
loathed non-state entity, whose foolishness and
recklessness cost her an important job. Relying
on the tired gendered stereotypes of the
hysterical, emotional and irrational woman,
Miranda Stephenson described Ali to CTV as very
emotional, very regretful, [and] in tears at points.
Compelled to disavow her tweet and distance
herself from the political content and message of
the poem, a humiliated Ali has said: I am
against hate. I am pro-peace. Im a person who is
advocating for the dialogue between Jews and
Palestinians because that is the only way that
will lead us to a just, lasting peace
envoy regrets anti-Israel retweet, Ottawa Citizen, 19 October 2011).
But these apologies, concessions and disavowals
are insufficient for a federal government that
has proven eager to stifle legitimate critique of
Israel, punish Palestinian representation and
demonize Palestinians and their allies in Canada.
Because, like Shimon Fogel, this government
ascribes to the politics of obfuscation and
distortion that would have Canadians believe that
there is no difference between a poem that calls
for a struggle against Zionism and one that
spreads anti-Semitism through calling for a war
destroy[s] the Jews
official in Canada apologizes for offensive
tweet, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 19 October 2011).
What does this reprimand signify in broader
political terms? It displays the Canadian
governments uncritical support for Israel and
its allies in Canada. In this political climate,
and in accordance with the new and
all-encompassing definition of anti-Semitism
provided by the federal government and signed by
Baird, speaking out against Zionism and Israel is
an act of racism
becomes the first country to sign the Ottawa
Protocol, press release, Citizen and Immigration Canada, 19 September 2011).
Meanwhile, the Canadian public is encouraged to
accept a mistranslation for a fact, showcasing,
at best, a failure of journalistic integrity, and
at worst, a willful act of public deception.
Baird has fired a shot warning the Canadian
public and the international community at large
that this government will not tolerate opposition
to Israel in any form. Expect Alis reprimand to
be one of many pro-Israel performances in the
year ahead by Canadas Conservative government.
Dana Olwan is former National Chair of Solidarity
for Palestinian Human Rights. She resides in Vancouver, British Columbia.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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