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Did I Grow Up in an Apartheid State?

With the passing of the “nation state” law, Israel’s critics again took the stage for the opportunity to accuse Israel of crimes reserved and at other times made up for the Jewish State.

Accusations of apartheid are not new, yet remain particularly troubling because they invoke a particularly heinous chapter in human history. Those accusations continue to come in because the new law, among other things, defines Hebrew as the official language of Israel while ascribing Arabic with “special status.” The BBC itself described this point of the law as “controversial” and at the same time allowing allegations of Israel practicing apartheid to go unchallenged.

Is this so controversial and deserving of the world’s hysterical reaction?

Canada’s Shame

What do these accusations against Israel say about Canada? Yes, Canada with its pristine lakes, universal healthcare, envied Prime Minister and open immigration. Well, turns out that despite having two official languages, one of them, English, is illegal to use in Quebec, its second most populous province.

After the passing several laws meant to promote the French language, Quebec’s nationalist Parti Québécois passed the Charter of the French Language in 1977 that has since forced everyone in Quebec to use French in almost all aspect of public life while limiting and, at times, even forbidding the use of English.

Quebec’s Charter of the French Language or Bill 101 mandates that products and services must always be made available in French but also stipulates, amongst other things, the following:

  • Restricts which students are permitted to attend English-language school (French and immigrant children must go to French school)
  • Public signs and posters and commercial advertising must be in French only, including shop and highway signs
  • French must be the usual language in businesses with 50 or more employees
  • Store clerks must greet customers with a French “Bonjour” only

These aren’t just guidelines: A government agency ensures adherence to the charter with hefty fines handed out to those who do not abide.

This is in complete contrast to Arabic in the state of Israel. The new law does not remove or restrict Arabic from daily life in Israel. Granting it special status ensures that its importance is recognized by the state and encourages its use to maximize the integration of Arabic speaking citizens into Israeli society.

As a native and longtime resident of Quebec, I can tell you that my rights have been  infringed upon my whole life.  The federal government gave up on my community 13 years ago and only once did the UN look at the matter half-heartedly. The EU, who lavishly supports pro-Palestinian NGOs, is ignorant of this matter (and also on the ongoing discrimination of indigenous peoples in Canada while we’re at it).

When I see activists and foreign officials expressing concern of the perceived demotion of Arabic and pointing the finger at Israel, I wonder where they have been for the past 40 years to protect my rights as an anglophone in Quebec? Would they dare accuse Quebec, who has enshrined in law that I must communicate in French, of practicing Apartheid in its treatment of its minorities? Would they at least accuse their government of being right wing and nationalist? Well, if you’re finding out about Quebec’s discrimination only now, you know the answer. The hypocrisy can’t be clearer.

English speaking Quebecer can only dream that their language had been granted “special status” and encouraged rather than banned.  Many of us (over 600,000) would otherwise not have emigrated from La Belle Province to the point of risking the survivability of Quebec’s English-speaking minority.

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