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Obfuscating the truth

Re: Hills slope two ways (Letters, April 19). David Matas's words about hills and slopes do nothing but obfuscate the truth of the matter, which is the brutal system of apartheid and why it does apply to Israel. South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have both acknowledged that Israel does impose an apartheid system on the Palestinians.

If we look just at the West Bank, armed Israeli checkpoints control the daily movement of Palestinians, who must present an independent permit from the Israeli Defence Force along with their regular West Bank Identity Card simply to go to work, if they are fortunate to have a regular job.

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Israel's apartheid wall (also called the separation wall) is a towering concrete structure that rises to 26-feet tall in some areas. The wall comes complete with guard towers, gun emplacements, cameras, razor wire, patrol roads and trenches.

Matas claims that "Israel Apartheid Week can lead to a poisoned atmosphere silencing and driving out Jewish students and faculty." What an egregious statement. How many Jewish students and faculty have actually left the University of Manitoba because of Israel Apartheid Week? I wonder what the Palestinian and Muslim students on campus think about this issue. Maybe we shouldn't ask them because it might make the Zionist students uncomfortable.

It seems Matas thinks it is better for everyone if we don't have an open and honest dialogue about this vital issue. Does anyone truly believe it is healthier for our democracy if the B'nai Brith of Canada, the Harper Conservatives and Israel's Netanyahu government continue to control the same tired message without formal opposition or informed dissent?




The raison d'etre of Israel Apartheid Week is not to protest against the Israeli government or even against a perceived aspect of Israeli society. Such events are merely an extension of a worldwide effort to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state, thereby making its eradication more palatable.

Despite all that is wrong in the world, it is only the Jewish state's existence that is under threat. That is why many consider events like Israel Apartheid Week anti-Semitic.




I represent an organization of secular Jews, United Jewish Peoples Order Winnipeg, which opposes the University of Manitoba Students Union's decision to ban the student group Students Against Israeli Apartheid.

We feel suppressing free speech on campus on the flimsiest of pretexts and against the advice of your own legal counsel does not serve U of M students well, no matter what their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

If a student group can be banned based on unsubstantiated allegations and the perceived potential to hurt the feelings of other students, what is stopping UMSU from in future banning gay-straight alliances at the request of groups of religious students? Or banning religious organizations whose members believe homosexuality is a sin at the request of gay students? Do you really want to go down that road?

This decision not only negatively impacts U of M students but the broader community, undermining the real discussion and debate on the Israeli-Palestinian question. Our members hold a diversity of views on the issues around resolving the conflict in the Middle East. However, we are united in our belief that open and full discussion in an environment of respect and recognition of democratic norms should not be suppressed.




Fishers caught in net

Your April 20 feature Want not, waste lot tells a great story of the perseverance our Manitoba commercial fishers have displayed in trying to make a living doing something they love, fishing.

The fishermen are seemingly in the same bureaucratic mess as our farmers were in before the Conservative government trashed the Canadian Wheat Board. Why the government would do this for the farmers and leave our fishermen hanging out to dry is a question many fishermen are asking themselves.

The inept marketing by bureaucrats at the fish board has fishermen throwing away large amounts of the fish they toil so hard to catch. Can you imagine farmers having to burn their crops because the wheat board couldn't sell their wheat? This is exactly what is happening to the fishers.




Look beyond cargo

Barry Prentice makes a good argument in favour of airships for replacing winter roads to remote communities (Ice roads, airships could work together, April 22). But why stop at simply delivering goods?

An airship designed to latch onto and lift a standard shipping container could deliver goods most efficiently, but simply dropping off a full container and picking up the empty, or, better still, one full of outgoing goods.

In addition, modules designed to latch on in the same manner could be modified as passenger cabs, ambulance units, search-and-rescue units or police surveillance units. A surveillance unit, for instance, would be much more economical to use than the helicopter. Also, it is difficult to creep up on a fleeing perp in a helicopter, but the airship could be hovering above him and he would not even know it.




Tuition cap has value

In your April 22 editorial, Lift the cap on tuition, you assume today's graduates will just keep making more money as their careers progress, when there is 30 years of evidence to the contrary.

Study after study has shown that since 1982, wages have stagnated for 90 per cent of Canadians. Universities provide an example mirrored elsewhere: established and tenured professors maintained their positions and continue to get raises, but vacancies are filled by part-time lecturers and sessional lecturers, teaching the same courses for a fraction of the cost. There is no austerity at the top; people in established positions, in both the private and public sectors, keep getting raises.

The same austerity and cost-saving measures mean that new hires will make far less for the same work performed by their co-worker two decades before. Under the guise of not saddling them with future public debt, we force them to take on greater personal debt right now, while cutting their wages so they can look forward to a lower lifetime income.

There's a term for this: kicking away the ladder. And it is a far greater long-term danger to our economy and our ability to pay off future debt than two years of deficits.




Wallets lighter still

Your April 23 story Your wallets are getting lighter misses an important item. There is no mention of the 2.5 cent per litre addition to the 2012 gas tax for infrastructure repairs. This adds millions of dollars to annual sales taxes.

In addition, it increases the cost of living because the trucking companies' increased costs are passed along to consumers.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2013 A15

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