Hate Speech or Free Speech?

Why is Shoppers Drug Mart pulling 3,500 copies of Adbusters magazine off its shelves?

Nazi soldier burn blocks of houses in the Warsaw Ghetto to flush out Jewish resistance fighters. Photo by National Archives and Records

Here is the story of why Adbusters has been blacklisted:

A walled off ghetto, an occupying military that controls the entry of food and daily necessities, desperate attempts by hungry civilians to smuggle commodities through tunnels, and punitive collective punishment against all those who resist … there are never-to-be-forgotten differences, of course, but also some striking similarities between the Warsaw ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II and the open air prison of Gaza in Israeli-occupied Palestine today. And yet the Canadian Jewish Congress is accusing Adbusters of anti-Semitism for making this historical comparison, and it has successfully lobbied one of Canada's biggest pharmacy chains to remove Adbusters magazine from its shelves.

Now there's a meme war brewing in one of Canada's national newspapers:

Canadian Jewish Congress attacks Adbusters on October 22
Adbusters fights back on November 2

As any pro-peace activist knows, the pro-Israel lobby has a sordid history of using the charge of anti-Semitism to silence criticism of Israeli policies. Even President Carter was smeared because he dared speak of the "abominable oppression and persecution in the occupied Palestinian territories, with a rigid system of required passes and strict segregation between Palestine's citizens and Jewish settlers in the West Bank".

But the use of cluster bombs on civilians in Lebanon in the closing days of the last Israeli incursion there, the wholesale deaths of noncombatants in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, the extrajudicial assassination in Dubai last January, the killing of protesters aboard the Mavi Marmara this summer, the ongoing construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and the hate speech of Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, have changed the way the world now looks at Israel. This is fast morphing into a meme war that the Israeli PR machine can no longer win and this more than anything may finally bring Israel to the peace negotiation table in good faith.

Check out the Canadian Journalism Project's article "Adbusters, ghettoes and Shoppers: Anti-semitism or free speech?" and The Canadian Charger's "Canada's Adbusters Magazine and the Israeli Lobby".

If you think that publishing side-by-side images of the Gaza and Warsaw ghettos is a valid expression of free speech, send an email to Shoppers Drug Mart’s CEO Jürgen Schreiber – [email protected] and [email protected] – and tell him that you are boycotting his store until Adbusters is back on the shelves. Be polite but clear. Then send a note to the Canadian Jewish Congresswww.cjc.ca/about-cjc/staff/ – reminding them that in a free country we debate rather than censor.