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Scholar’s Israel-Palestine solution sparks controversy

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Martin Sherman

Ethnic cleansing, or economic enhancement? Crime against humanity, or offering people a better life? One couldn’t find two perspectives on a proposal to address the Israel-Gaza conflict that are more at odds.

The disagreement arose over a Dec. 6 event at the offices of Gardiner Roberts LLP, at which Martin Sherman, the founder and CEO of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, was speaking.

The event was sponsored by Speakers Action Group, along with Mozuud.org, Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights and the Canadian Jewish Civil Rights Association.

The material promoting the event was highlighted by the provocative phrase, “Israel’s Stark option: Arabs in Gaza or Jews in the Negev.”

That catch line was also part of the last paragraph in an article written by Sherman in November, in which he pointed out that Hamas sees itself as “implacable enemies” of Israel intent on waging “enduring Judeocidal war.”

The article ends by saying that, “The solution to the problem of Gaza is its deconstruction – not its reconstruction. For, at the end of the day, it must face a regrettable but unavoidable dilemma: Eventually, there will either be Arabs in Gaza or Jews in the Negev. In the long run, there will not be both!”

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The talk attracted the attention of Ottawa lawyer Richard Warman, a member of the board of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN). Warman, along with Bernie Farber, the group’s chair, and Amira Elghawaby, a board member, wrote to the law firm, suggesting it had crossed a line in allowing a presentation from someone advocating “ethnic cleansing.”

“We note that the International Criminal Court cites ethnic cleansing – the deportation or forcible transfer of population as a crime against humanity.

“Whether this individual’s presentation at your firm included such material or not, it is difficult for us to understand how Gardiner Roberts can reconcile providing a platform to someone who only weeks earlier publicly called for a crime against humanity when as lawyers in Ontario you have sworn to ‘champion the rule of law and safeguard the rights and freedoms of all persons,’ ” the letter states.

Warman, who did not attend the lecture, said that Sherman “closes the article with a call for the ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Gaza.… You’d expect (Gardiner Roberts) to be able to look into who it is they’re bringing in to speak.”

Warman said he had received a brief response to CAHN’s letter from the law firm, which said that no discussion of ethnic cleansing took place during Sherman’s address.

Unsatisfied with Gardiner Roberts’ response, CAHN published the letter it had sent the law firm, hoping it would prompt it to be more discerning over who it invites to speak, Warman said.

You’d expect (Gardiner Roberts) to be able to look into who it is they’re bringing in to speak.
– Richard Warman

Andria Spindel, the newly installed executive director of the Canadian Anti-Semitism Education Foundation (CAEF), the parent organization of Speakers Action Group, rejected suggestions that Sherman was advocating war crimes.

She noted that Sherman has previously proposed a “humanitarian option” to solve the Gaza situation – an “incentivized migration” that amounts to providing financial inducements to leave the area.

“My concern is that we have potentially alienated a law firm.… I don’t know if they’ll want us back,” said Spindel. What’s more, “Sherman has been presented in a ghastly light. I think it’s inappropriate and untrue.”

Warman, however, said the article Sherman wrote in November contains no call for financial incentives for Gaza residents.

“I took the opportunity to reread it for the fifth time just to be sure that I hadn’t missed something. I hadn’t. There is no mention of any kind of ‘funded resettlement’ and the entire article is complaining that Israel hasn’t ‘let loose the dogs of war’ on Gaza and closes by saying the place needs to be taken apart.”

Contacted in Israel, Sherman said, “What I support is economic enhancement for non-belligerent Palestinians, not ethnic cleansing.”

Why would offering people a better, more secure life elsewhere be a bad policy?
– Martin Sherman

He rejected suggestions that “two-staters” – advocates of a two-state solution – hold the moral high ground.

“Are they suggesting we leave Gaza the way things are today? Is that their idea of a humane outcome?

“Why would offering people a better, more secure life elsewhere be a bad policy? It’s not a forcible military evacuation,” he said.

Sherman said his most recent article on the conflict, which has yet to be published, addresses the “imperative for incentivized Arab migration.” It was inspired, in part, by the recent complaint over his presentation, he said.

In the article, he argues that, “My detractors conveniently ignore that, time and time again, I have called for providing generous relocation grants to help the hapless non-belligerent Gazans find more prosperous and secure lives for themselves elsewhere, in third-party countries.

“Confusing an unequivocal call for economic enhancement with one for ‘ethnic cleansing,’ they apparently believe – in their ‘infinite benevolence and wisdom’ – that compelling the Gazans to languish in their current conditions is somehow more humane.”