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News brief: Rana Zaman’s human rights award rescinded after baseless accusations

Rana Zaman

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Poor Rana Zaman. I feel so bad for her. She deserves so much better.

Last week Rana, a tireless anti-poverty and peace activist, and a Muslim woman, won this year’s individual Nova Scotia Human Rights award.

Today that award was taken away from her because, as the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission states in a press release, “The committee was unaware of public statements made by Ms. Zaman that were directly contrary to the principles of the award.”

Those public statements involved tweets that, correctly, called Israel an apartheid state that shot unarmed Palestinian protesters, two allegations that have been widely reported in the international press. 

As well, she compared Israeli soldiers shooting these unarmed Palestinians to Nazis. That was wrong, she publicly acknowledged that it was wrong, and she apologized for it. “I appreciate that comments referencing the Nazis were inappropriate, hurtful and sadly may be perceived as anti-Semitic,” Rana said. 

These same tweets caused the federal NDP to unceremoniously dump her as its candidate for Cole Harbour during the last elections. 

See also: Judy Haiven: The NDP should allow Rana Zaman to run

That ousting at the time was widely reported, raising the question whether we are really to believe that the people on the award selection committee both don’t read the paper and don’t know how to google. 

What happened of course is that Rana fell once again victim to a likely orchestrated effort to silence any criticism of Israel for its abhorrent policies towards Palestinians.

A nasty letter in the Chronicle Herald of December 18, written by Rabbi Yakov Kerzner, Beth Israel Synagogue, Halifax, and Rabbi Gary Karlin, Shaar Shalom Congregation, Halifax, is presumably symptomatic of what defenders of Israel’s current policies told the Nova Scotia Human Rights Committee.

The letter again raises the spectre of antisemitism.

I know Rana, and the idea that she is antisemitic is utter nonsense. It’s just not true, it’s that simple.  

This is what she wrote for the Nova Scotia Advocate last summer.

All religions teach compassion, respect, patience, love and establish guidance  to live a beautiful and peaceful life. Sadly, it’s the people who use it for their personal gains that tarnish its image.

Does that sound like somebody who is an antisemite? Of course not. It sounds very much like the Rana I know though. 

It is true Rana is critical of certain policies of the state of Israel, but that is not the same thing as being antisemitic.

In fact, when she calls Israel an apartheid state that opinion is shared by people like former US president Jimmy Carter, and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. United Nations Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur John Dugard said that “Israel’s laws and practices in the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories] certainly resemble aspects of apartheid.”

Antisemitic all? Of course not, and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Committee is wrong to cave in to pressure and take Rana’s award from her.

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  1. The Commission has allowed itself to be pushed around by people who know NOTHING about Rana Zaman.

  2. How can it be that the Centre for Israel Jewish Affairs (CIJA) based in Toronto, and its junior partner, the Atlantic Jewish Council have so much influence they were able to get Rana Zaman’s award taken away. Imagine if any other interest group, or ethnic group, had that kind of sway over any decisions of the NS Human Rights Commission. And I say this as a Jew.

  3. And in case we are vested in the truth, while both Israelite’s and Palestinians are Semitic peoples, so it is impossible, in critiquing the behaviour of either people, to be anti-Semitic. Specifically Rana’s remark referencing Nazis went too far and was inappropriate, her facts reflected reality. The fact that others do not want to discuss this reality using tact and logic, but only want to deflect and play the blame game says a lot about the power dynamic and influence of that place and the hold it has on others, and nothing about Rana and her beliefs.

  4. Huh. Are they going to start taking away all the awards racist white men make? Oh wait, we vote them into office, make them CEOs, and put statues up in their honour.

  5. Huh. Are they going to start taking away all the awards racist white men receive? Oh wait, probably not. We vote them into office, make them CEOs, and put statues up in their honour.

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