April 8, 2012
Dear Ms. Murray,
On March 28 an article in the Vancouver Sun by Mike De Souza and Jason Fekete, “B.C. MPs top list for expense-paid trips,” reported that you took a sponsored trip to Israel last year. The most recent Sponsored Travel List issued by the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner indicates that you visited Israel with your husband from July 4-11, 2011, as part of a Parliamentary Mission paid for by the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy.
We would certainly agree that, as you state in the article, Members of Parliament shouldn’t “just sit in their constituencies or in our country because part of our responsibility has to do with Canada’s role in the world.” However, you were visiting Israel as our Member of Parliament under the auspices of an advocacy group, one that has an unambiguous anti-Palestinian bent. They have sponsored visits of many MPs over the years, and it clearly has not been to broaden their perspectives.
The government of Israel is in gross violation of international law, discriminates blatantly against those who are not Jewish, and denies Palestinians their most basic human rights. We are therefore troubled that you, as our Member of Parliament, have visited a country as the guest of a one-sided advocacy organization that definitely does not address these troubling issues.
As a South African-born Canadian, we would have hoped that you would have more empathy for the aspirations of an oppressed people such as the Palestinians, as well as a desire to appear fair-minded on issues pertaining to the State of Israel. In the 1970s, a number of Progressive Conservative MPs visited South Africa on similarly-sponsored tours, and not surprisingly they defended the apartheid system once back in Canada. Robert Coates had an article in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald endorsing the White minority government and praising the South African “Black homeland” program, while Dan MacKenzie argued that Blacks in that country were still too primitive and uneducated to be given the vote. John Crosbie, when challenged on his pro-apartheid position by another MP in the House of Commons, shouted “I have gone there and seen… You keep your mouth shut till you go and learn for yourself, you professional bleeding heart.”
On March 7, 2012, you posted the following on your website, in opposition to Israeli Apartheid Week on university campuses: “Liberals expect students to engage with issues of injustice, equality, and respect for international law, and encourage respectful dialogue on these topics on university campuses.” Ms. Murray, if that’s what Liberals expect from students, do you not also expect it from yourselves? We would therefore like to know whether, in order to encourage “respectful dialogue” and “to engage with issues of injustice, equality, and respect for international law” with regard to current policies of the State of Israel, you might be prepared to revisit the region again this year to meet with those who could offer you a different perspective from the narrow one received last summer.
We look forward to your response.
Members of Independent Jewish Voices Vancouver Chapter and constituents in the riding of Vancouver Quadra
To see the pieces referred to in this Open Letter, check:
Article from Vanc Sun: