Campaign to revoke Jewish National Fund charitable status important

Last week the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), under pressure from Palestine solidarity activists, began an audit of the Jewish National Fund.

The audit is significant. Beyond weakening the oldest Israel-focused charity in the country, it will put other Israeli charities in Canada on notice and reflects the growth of Palestine solidarity activism.

Fulfilling the time-consuming audit will be a bureaucratic headache for a group that has eleven offices across Canada and has raised $100 million over the past five years. Already, the credibility of the second most powerful Israel-oriented charity in Canada has taken a hit with the CBC exposé headlined “Canadian charity  used donations to fund projects linked to Israeli military” and related  stories. If the CRA revokes the JNF’s charitable status it would be devastating for fundraising and deter politicians/celebrities from attending their events.

Similar to the JNF, other registered charities support the Israeli military in direct contravention of CRA rules. Additionally, some of these organizations — like the JNF — fund projects supporting West Bank settlements, which Global Affairs Canada considers in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

At a broader level, critical attention on the JNF could lead to questioning of why Canadian taxpayers subsidize hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to a wealthy country. Despite a GDP per capita greater than Spain or Italy (and equal to Japan), hundreds of registered Canadian charities deliver hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Israel. How many Canadian charities funnel money to Spain or Japan?

If the CRA revoked JNF’s charitable status it would boost Stop the JNF campaigns elsewhere. In England they convinced former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to withdraw as patron of the JNF (Theresa May seems to have also stayed away), and 68 members of parliament endorsed a bill to revoke the organization’s charitable status because “the JNF’s constitution is explicitly discriminatory by stating that land and property will never be rented, leased or sold to non-Jews.”

The CRA audit of a charity that’s found favour with numerous Canadian prime ministers is long in the making and reflects the growth of Palestinian solidarity consciousness. Born in a West Bank village demolished to make way for the JNF’s Canada Park, Ismail Zayid has been complaining to the CRA about its charitable status for 40 years. Lebanese Canadian Ron Saba “has been indefatigable over the years in writing to various Canadian government departments and officials, corporations, and media to rescind tax exemption status and endorsement of” what he calls the “racist JNF tax fraud”. During the Liberal party convention in 2006 Saba was widely smeared for drawing attention to leadership candidate Bob Rae’s ties to the JNF. Saba has put in multiple Access to Information requests regarding the JNF, demonstrating government spying of its critics and long-standing knowledge of the organization’s dubious practices. Under the headline “Event you may want to monitor,” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Caitlin Workman sent the CRA a communication about a 2011 Independent Jewish Voices event in Ottawa stating: “author of the Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Yves Engler, will give a talk on Canada and the Jewish National Fund.”

Former Independent Jewish Voices coordinator Tyler Levitan was smeared for working diligently on the issue. In addition to important organizing, he discovered that the Ottawa Citizen sponsored JNF galas they covered and, suggesting a formal financial relationship, ran an ad for the JNF’s 2013 Ottawa Gala the day after the event.

At the Green Party convention in 2016 Corey Levine pushed a resolution to revoke the JNF’s charitable status because it practices “institutional  discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel.” The effort brought the issue into the mainstream though she, IJV and the entire Green  Party were smeared  as “hard core  Jew haters” for even considering the resolution.

Fifteen months ago IJV and four individuals filed a detailed complaint to the CRA and Minister of National Revenue over the JNF. For a number of years IJV has run a “Stop the JNF” campaign and for more than a decade activists across the country have picketed local JNF fundraising galas. These efforts have benefited from many in Palestine/Israel, notably the work of Uri Davies and Adalah.

As I have written before, the campaign to revoke the JNF’s charitable status is important beyond winning the specific demand. It draws attention to the racism intrinsic to Zionism and highlights Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

The CRA is undoubtedly facing significant behind-the-scenes pressure to let the JNF off with little more than a slap on the wrists. So, it’s important that people send their MP  the CBC exposé and add their name to Independent Jewish Voices’ campaign  to revoke the Jewish National Fund’s charitable status.

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Filed under Canada and Israel

Trudeau’s vacuous Haiti declaration ignores revolution, slavery

Justin Trudeau likes making high-minded sounding statements that make him seem progressive but change little. The Prime Minister’s declaration marking “Haiti’s Independence Day” was an attempt of the sort, which actually demonstrates incredible ignorance, even antipathy, towards the struggle against slavery.

In his statement commemorating 215 years of Haitian Independence, the Prime Minister failed to mention slavery, Haiti’s revolution and how that country was born of maybe the greatest example of liberation in the history of humanity. From the grips of the most barbaric form of plantation economy, the largely African-born slaves delivered a massive blow to slavery, colonialism and white supremacy.

Before the 1791 revolt the French colony of Saint Domingue was home to 450,000 people in bondage. At its peak in the 1750s the ‘Pearl of the Antilles’ provided as much as 50 per cent  of France’s GNP. Super profits were made from using African slaves to produce sugar, cocoa, coffee, cotton, tobacco, indigo and other commodities.

The slaves put a stop to that with a merciless struggle that took advantage of divisions between ‘big white’ land/slave owners, racially empowered though poorer ‘small whites’ and a substantial ‘mulatto’ land/slave owning class. The revolt rippled through the region and compelled the post-French Revolution government in Paris to abolish slavery in its Caribbean colonies. Between 1791 and 1804 ‘Haitians’ would defeat tens of thousands of French, British and Spanish troops (Washington backed France financially), leading to the world’s first and only successful large-scale slave revolution. The first nation of free people in the Americas, Haiti established a slave-free state 60 years before the USA’s emancipation proclamation. (It wasn’t until after this proclamation ending slavery that the US recognized Haiti’s independence.)

The Haitian Revolution’s geopolitical effects were immense. It stimulated the Louisiana Purchase and London’s 1807 Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. The revolutionary state also provided important support to South American independence movements.

Canada’s rulers at the time opposed the slave revolt. In a bid to crush the ex-slaves before their example spread to the English colonies, British forces invaded Haiti in 1793. Halifax, which housed Britain’s primary naval base in North America, played its part in London’s efforts to capture one of the world’s richest colonies (for the slave owners). Much of the Halifax-based squadron arrived on the shores of the West Indies in 1793, and many of the ships that set sail to the Caribbean at this time were assembled in the town’s naval yard. Additionally, a dozen Nova Scotia privateers captured at least 57 enemy vessels in the West Indies between 1793 and 1805. “Essential tools of war until the rise of large steam navies”, the privateers also wanted to protect the British Atlantic colonies’ lucrative Caribbean market decimated by French privateers. For a half-century Nova Scotia and Newfoundland generated great wealth selling cheap, high-protein cod to keep millions of “enslaved people working 16 hours a day”.

A number of prominent Canadian-born (or based) individuals fought to capture and re-establish slavery in the French colonies. Dubbed the “Father of the Canadian Crown”, Prince Edward Duke of Kent departed for the West Indies aboard a Halifax gunboat in 1793. As a Major General, he led forces that captured Guadalupe, St. Lucia and Martinique. Today, many streets and monuments across the country honour a man understood to have first applied the term “Canadian” to both the English and French inhabitants of Upper and Lower Canada.

Other “Canadians” played a part in Britain’s effort to corner the lucrative Caribbean slave plantations. Born into a prominent Québec military family, Charles Michel Salaberry “was part  of successful invasions of Saint-Dominique [Haiti], Guadeloupe and Martinique.” A number of monuments commemorate Salaberry, including the city in Québec named Salaberry-de-Valleyfield.

To commemorate Haitian independence the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community, Irwin LaRocque, also released a statement. Unlike Trudeau, LaRocque “congratulated” Haiti and described the day as “a timely reminderof the historic importance of the Haitian Revolution and its continued significance as a symbol of triumph over adversity in the quest for liberty, equality and control of national destiny.”

Trudeau should have said something similar and acknowledged Canadians’ role in the slave trade and crimes against the free people of Haiti.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada in Haiti, Uncategorized

Where do NDP MPs stand on CBC story exposing Jewish National Fund?

An explosive CBC expose Friday on the Jewish National Fund should be the beginning of the end for this powerful organization’s charitable status. But, unless the NDP differentiates itself from the Liberals and Conservatives by standing up for Canadian and international law while simultaneously opposing explicit racism, the JNF may simply ride out this short bout of bad publicity.

According to a story headlined “Canadian charity  used donations to fund projects linked to Israeli military”, the JNF has financed multiple projects for the Israeli military in direct contravention of Canada Revenue Agency rules for registered charities. The organization has also funded a number of projects supporting West Bank settlements, which Global Affairs Canada considers in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The story also revealed that the Canada Revenue Agency, under pressure from Independent Jewish Voices and other Palestine solidarity activists, began an audit of the state-subsidized charity last year.

After detailing the above, (which provoked hundreds of mostly angry comments from readers) the story notes that the “JNF has had strong relations with successive Conservative and Liberal governments.” The CBC published a picture of politicians congregated at the Prime Minister’s residence above the caption “Laureen Harper poses with JNF Gala honorees during a group visit to 24 Sussex Drive in 2015.”

But the JNF, like all good lobbyists, has hedged it political bets and the story could have noted that the social democratic opposition party was represented at this JNF gala as well and has dutifully supported the dubious “charity”. NDP MP Pat Martin spoke at the JNF event Harper organized to “recognize and thank the people that have helped to make JNF Canada what it is today.” In 2016 NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière participated in a JNF tree planting ceremony in Jerusalem with JNF World Chairman Danny Atar and a number of its other top officials. The president of the Windsor-Tecumseh Federal NDP riding association, Noah Tepperman, has been a director of JNF Windsor since 2004 and has funded the organization’s events in London, Ontario.

In 2015 Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath published an ad in a JNF Hamilton handbook and offered words of encouragement to its fundraiser while Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter planted a tree at a JNF garden in 2011. Manitoba NDP Premier Gary Doer was honoured at a 2006 JNF Negev Dinner in Winnipeg and cabinet minister Christine Melnick received the same honour in 2011. During a 2010 trip to Israel subsequent Manitoba NDP Premier Greg Selinger signed an accord with the JNF to jointly develop two bird conservation sites while water stewardship minister Melnick spoke at the opening ceremony for a park built in Jaffa by the JNF, Tel Aviv Foundation and Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable. (In 2017 Melnick won a B’nai Brith Zionist action figures prize for writing an article about a friend who helped conquer East Jerusalem and then later joined the JNF).

Besides NDP support for this dubious “charity”, the story ignored the JNF’s racist land-use policies. The JNF owns 13 per cent of Israel’s land, which was mostly taken from Palestinians forced from their homes by Zionist forces in 1947-1948. It discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up a fifth of the population. According to a UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” Echoing the UN, a 2012 US State Department report detailing “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel says JNF “statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.” Indicative of its discrimination against the 20% of Israelis who aren’t Jewish, JNF Canada’s Twitter tag says it “is the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners — Jewish people everywhere.” Its parent organization in Israel — the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael — is even more open about its racism. Its website notes that “a survey  commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.” While such exclusionary land-use policies were made illegal in Canada seven decades ago, that’s the JNF’s raison d’être.

An organization that recently raised $25 million  for a Stephen Harper Bird Sanctuary, JNF Canada has been directly complicit in at least three important instances of Palestinian dispossession. In the late 1920s JNF Canada spearheaded a highly controversial land acquisition that drove a 1,000 person Bedouin community from land it had tilled for centuries and in the 1980s JNF–Canada helped finance an Israeli government campaign to “Judaize” the Galilee, the largely Arab northern region of Israel. Additionally, as the CBC mentioned, JNF-Canada build Canada Park on the remnants of three Palestinian villages Israel conquered in 1967.

A map the JNF shows to nine and ten-year-olds at Jewish day schools in Toronto encompasses the illegally occupied West Bank and Gaza, effectively denying Palestinians the right to a state on even 22 percent of their historic homeland. Similarly, the maps  on JNF Blue Boxes, which are used by kids to raise funds, distributed in recent years include the occupied West Bank. The first map on the Blue Box, designed in 1934, depicted  an area reaching from the Mediterranean into present-day Lebanon and Jordan.

The JNF is an openly racist organization that supports illegal settlements and the Israeli military. Many NDP activists understand this. The party’s MPs now have a choice: If they stand for justice and against all forms of racism, for the rule of international law and fairness in the Canadian tax system, they will speak up in Parliament to keep this story alive. The NDP needs to set itself apart from the Liberals and Conservatives by following up on the CBC’s revelations to demand the Canada Revenue Agency rescind the JNF’s charitable status.

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Canada tries to use international law to support imperialism

Like the shopkeeper in the Monty Python dead parrot sketch who insists a deceased bird is actually alive, imperialist aggression against Venezuela is turned into promotion of the “international rules-based order”.

At the opening of the UN assembly in September Justin Trudeau said the International Criminal Court is a “useful and important way of promoting an international rules-based order.” Simultaneously, Canada announced it (with five South American nations) would ask the ICC to investigate the Venezuelan government, which is the first time a government has been formally brought before the tribunal by another member.

Liberal officials and the sycophantic media portrayed Canada’s move to bring Caracas before the ICC as a challenge to the US. Evan Dyer reported, “Government sources told CBC that Canada’s decision to refer Venezuela is also meant as a show of support for the ICC, an institution this country believes in that is under attack” from the Trump administration. In other words, Ottawa will challenge Washington by showing Trump how the “international rules-based” ICC can undermine a government the US and Canada are seeking to overthrow through unilateral sanctions, support for the opposition and threatening an invasion, which all contravene the UN Charter.

Unfortunately, some people are willing to buy a dead bird for a pet, the proof of which is that the “international rules-based” ICC Trudeau is promoting has previously been employed to enable violations of international law. In 2011 ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo helped set the stage for NATO’s war on Libya, which contravened UN resolutions 1970 and 1973. (Ottawa defied the UN Security Council resolutions authorizing a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians by dispatching ground forces, delivering weaponry to the opposition and bombing in service of regime change.) Moreno-Ocampo’s immediate condemnation of Gaddafi helped justify NATO violence. Amidst NATO’s violation of UN Security Council resolution 1973, Ocampo issued arrest warrants  for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi. These charges for crimes against humanity were used to justify  regime change efforts. At the time Moreno-Ocampo echoed the outlandish claim that Gaddafi distributed Viagra to his troops “to enhance  the possibility to rape”. Three months into the bombing campaign, Moreno-Ocampo told a press conference: “we have information that there was a policy to rape in Libya those who were against the government. Apparently he [Gaddafi] used it to punish people.”(Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera, who was in Libya for three months after the start of the uprising and Liesel Gerntholtz, head of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, were unable to find any basis for the mass rape claims.)

A 2017 Der Spiegel English investigation titled “The Ocampo Affair A Former ICC Chief’s Dubious Links” notes, “Ocampo’s correspondence shows that he made agreements with the French and the British, and behaved as part of the anti-Gadhafi coalition.”

A forerunner to the ICC, the Canadian-backed International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) helped justify NATO’s illegal 78-day bombing of Serbia. While the worst atrocities of the Yugoslav wars took place in the early 1990s, ICTY Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour hastily prepared to prosecute Serb President Slobodan Milosevic for rights violations at the start of 1999. Just prior to the NATO bombing Arbour brought along the international media for a stunt where she claimed Milosevic was blocking her from investigating a massacre in the Kosovar village of Racak. Subsequent investigations into what happened at Racak were inconclusive despite widespread reporting of a Serbian massacre, which was used to justify NATO’s illegal bombing.

Amidst NATO’s military intervention without UN approval — the “supreme international crime”— the future Canadian Supreme Court Justice indicted Milosevic and four associates for war crimes. In a 2000 article titled “Louise Arbour: Unindicted War Criminal” Christopher Black and Edward Herman write, “Arbour and the Tribunal thus present us with the amazing spectacle of an institution supposedly organized to contain, prevent, and prosecute for war crimes actually knowingly facilitating them.”

The idea that bringing Venezuela to the ICC will strengthen the “international rules-based order” would be funny if it wasn’t an escalation in a dangerous campaign to oust an elected government.

This article was first published in Canadian Dimension.

 

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Why do Raptors associate with blood-stained dictator?

It is time to call a technical foul on Toronto Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri for his ties to one of the world’s most ruthless dictators. Through his Giants of Africa charity Ujiri has bestowed legitimacy on Paul Kagame even as local newspapers document the Rwandan president’s violence.

Before their December 5 game against the Philadelphia 76ers the Raptors celebrated Nelson Mandela as the Giant of Africa. A report produced for the two-day charity fundraiser noted, “since Giants of Africa’s first Mandela Tribute event held in 2014, we are grateful to have had many influential guests participate in our initiative.” Kagame and Barack Obama were the only two politicians listed.

At an NBA meeting in New York in September Kagame thanked Ujiri and Raptors governor Larry Tanenbaum, lauding the Giants of Africa initiative as “another step for Africa in our development.” In August Kagame opened a training camp in Kigali with Ujiri and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver while two months earlier the Raptors GMmet the Rwandan leader at the G7 Summit in Quebec City.

Last year Ujiri travelled to Kigali to unveil a new basketball court with Kagame. In 2015 the president’s son, Ian Kagame, attended the inaugural Giants of Africa camp in the Rwandan capital. During that visit the president hosted the Raptors GM for dinner. According to a Globe and Mail story, the one-time head of Ugandan military intelligence told “Ujiri that he’d woken in the middle of the night to watch Raptors’ playoff games.”

As this mutual love affair developed there were questions about the team’s association with a ruthless dictator. During the NBA All-Star weekend in February 2016 the Toronto Star contacted Ujiri about Kagame speaking at numerous events, including a documentary screening about Giants of Africa camps at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The Raptors GM told the paper “there is no controversy.”

A month before Kagame’s visit to the NBA All-Star weekend the Globe and Mail reported: “Village informers. Re-education camps. Networks of spies on the streets. Routine surveillance of the entire population. The crushing of the independent media and all political opposition. A ruler who changes the constitution to extend his power after ruling for two decades. It sounds like North Korea, or the totalitarian days of China under Mao. But this is the African nation of Rwanda — a long-time favourite of Western governments and a major beneficiary of millions of dollars in Canadian government support.”

Previously Toronto Star Board Chair John Honderich published a commentary in his paper headlined “No freedom for press in Rwanda.” The 2007 story noted that the government “ordered the summary firing of the Sunday editor of the country’s only daily for publishing an unflattering photo of the president … the president’s office only wants their man shown in command and in the middle of the photo … All this happened days after a fledgling new newspaper, called The Weekly Post, was shut down by the government after its first issue.”

Ujiri’s public “friendship” with Kagame has been taking place amidst growing recognition of Kagame’s violence. A 2015 National Post headline noted: “Rwandan intelligence agents harassing opponents in Canada, border service says” while the Star published stories that year titled: “Toronto lawyer claims he’s target of death threat from Rwandan government” and “Four other Canadians believe they’re being targeted by Rwanda.” Since 2014 the Globe and Mail has published at least eight front-page reports about Kagame’s international assassination program and responsibility for blowing up the plane carrying Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, which triggered mass killings in April 1994. Two months ago the Globe added important details to the abundance of evidence suggesting Kagame is the individual most responsible for unleashing the hundred days of genocidal violence by downing a plane carrying two presidents and much of the Rwandan military high command.

For that incident alone Kagame has as much African blood on his hands as any other individual alive. But, the undisputed “military genius” also played an important role in toppling governments in Kampala in 1986 and Kinshasa in 1997. After the latter effort Rwandan forces reinvaded the Congo, which sparked an eight-country war that left millions dead between 1998 and 2003. In October 2010, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on the Congo spanning 1993 to 2003 that charged Rwandan troops with engaging in mass killings “that might be classified as crimes of genocide.”

Since then Rwandan proxies have repeatedly re-invaded the mineral rich eastern Congo. In 2012 The Globe and Mail described how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence” there.

Kagame is not a Giant of Africa. He’s a ruthless dictator with the blood of millions on his hands. The Raptors disgrace themselves and the memory of Nelson Mandela by associating with him.

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Big oil, auto industries conspire to destroy liveability of planet

Is it simply business as usual or a corporate conspiracy to destroy the planet? However one characterizes it our planet is being cooked so already wealthy people can make even more profit.

Last Friday the New York Times published a front-page story titled “The Oil Industry’s Covert Campaign to Rewrite American Car Emissions Rules.” The article pointed out that Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Marathon Oil, Koch Industries and other oil/refining interests won “rollbacks” to vehicle fuel mileage rules that “have gone further than the more modest changes automakers originally lobbied for.” The legislative changes are expected to “increase greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by more than the amount many midsize countries put out in a year.”

With internal combustion engines consuming nearly two-thirds of US petroleum, industry profits are threatened by measures that cut gasoline consumption (be it better fuel mileage, diverting funds from roadway, eliminating auto infrastructure, etc.). About 150,000 gas stations do hundreds of billions of dollars in sales every year. In The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World Paul Roberts explains that the oil industry’s business model is planned around the gasoline pump, “from the kind of crude oil it sought to the kind of refineries it built, to its intense focus on retail marketing.”

The oil industry’s recent opposition to regulating automakers is consistent with its history of promoting automobility, as I and Bianca Mugyenyi detail in Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay. As far back as 1925, oil representatives packed a committee organized by the US surgeon-general concerning the health effects of leaded gas. They successfully argued that lead was harmless despite the fact that companies such as Standard Oil of New Jersey knew leaded gasoline  was a health threat. Over the next 60 years lead levels increased a hundred-fold until it was finally banned in 1986.

In the 1930s and 40s Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum were part of the corporate conspiracy against trolleys  that changed the face of urban landscapes across North America. With General Motors and other companies they set up a network of front organizations that ripped up, converted and resold a hundred electric transit systems in 45 cities.

Amidst increasing smog in California in the 1950s, oil interests engaged in a fight against anti-pollution legislation. They financed  the Stanford Research Institute to contest the findings of Professor Arie J. Haagen-Smit who demonstrated that automobiles  and oil refineries were the major sources of smog.

In 1970 oil companies helped defeat  California’s Proposition 18, an initiative to divert a small portion of the state gas tax to public transit.

Oil companies were part of the National Highway Users Conference (NHUC) that was set up during the Depression to lobby for roadway funding. When the Chicago Transit Authority proposed using $30 million in state fuel tax to finance improvements to mass transit in the mid-1950s, the NHUC sent in two full-time workers to successfully coordinate opposition (with the Illinois Highway Users Conference) against the proposal.

In 1951, the NHUC launched Project  Adequate Roads, which called for a national highway system. Project Adequate Roads helped win the massive Interstate Highway System.

Oil interests were part of another group that lobbied for the Interstate. Beginning in 1942 the “Road Gang”, a secret society of men representing, automobile, truck and tire makers as well highway engineers, top highway bureaucrats, etc. met regularly in a private Washington, DC, restaurant to push for more roadway.

The private automobile has risen to dominance in large part because of its ability to draw together a wide array of powerful corporate interests from steel makers to real estate developers, rubber companies to big box retailers. During the automobile’s embryonic phase, the oil industry was already big business. At that time, oil was mainly used to fuel the kerosene lamp, a business destroyed by the emergence of gas and electrical illumination. The powerful oil interests of the day, led by the Rockefeller family, were bailed out of this crisis and set up for life with the advent of the automobile. And as barrel upon barrel was drained from the earth and pumped into gas tanks, big oil swam in its profits.

So, in many respects, oil interests lobbying against restrictions on automakers is simply business as usual, given their history of promoting automobility. But, given the dangers of climate disturbances ‘business as usual’ takes on the appearance of a criminal corporate conspiracy to destroy civilization.

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Pro-Israel MPs flout NDP policy

Do New Democrat MPs who belong to the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG) have carte blanche to flout party policy?

Last week CIIG executive member Murray Rankin participated in a press conference calling for a new round of Canadian sanctions on Iran. The Victoria MP joined CIIG chair  Michael Levitt, vice-chair David Sweet and executive member Anthony Housefather for an event led by former CIIG executive Irwin Cotler.

Rankin’s role in this anti-Iranian effort runs counter to the NDP’s opposition to illegal sanctions on Iran, call for Canada to re-establish diplomatic relations with that country and support for the 2015 “p5+1 nuclear deal”. (Justin Trudeau has failed to maintain  his election promise to restart diplomatic relations with Iran.)

Rankin’s departure from NDP policy takes place amidst the Donald Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and bid to force others to adhere to its illegal sanctions, threatening to sanction any country that buys Iranian oil.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said the US would seek to starve Iranians until the country’s decision-makers accept their demands. Last month Pompeo told the BBC, “the [Iranian] leadership  has to make a decision that they want their people to eat.”

Along with punishing its economy, the US and Israel are seeking to foment unrest in Iran. According to a July Axios story, “Israel and  the United States formed a joint working group a few months ago that is focused on internal efforts to encourage protests within Iran and pressure the country’s government.”

The other NDP member on CIIG’s executive also recently departed from the party’s position by condemning the Palestinian solidarity movement. Randall Garrison tweeted, “Nick Cave: cultural boycott of Israel is ‘cowardly and shameful’” and linked to an article quoting the Australian musician who has criticized a growing list of prominent individuals – from Lorde to Natalie Portman – refusing to whitewash Israeli apartheid.

Garrison’s comment seems to run counter to the NDP’s vote against a 2016 House of Commons resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. It certainly angered many rank-and-file party members.

After the backlash to Garrison’s attack on the Palestine solidarity movement, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs put out a statement calling on people to defend the NDP MP.

It said,

“last night MP Randall Garrison tweeted an anti-BDS article, calling boycotts of Israel ‘cowardly and shameful’. Since then, the comment section of the tweet has been filled with hateful pro-BDS messages from anti-Israel trolls.”

The timing of Garrison’s tweet made it especially egregious. The day before CIIG’s vice-chair attacked Palestine solidarity activists the Israeli Knesset voted down (71 votes to 38) a bill titled the “Basic Law: Equality”, which stated, “the State of Israel  shall maintain equal political rights amongst all its citizens, without any difference between religions, race, and sex.”

The bill was partly a response to the explicitly racist Nation-State law passed in the summer. (The bulk of Garrison and Rankin’s colleagues on CIIG’s Israeli partner — the Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group — most likely  voted against equality.)

Three weeks ago Garrison spoke at an event organized by the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC). CIIG’s chair also spoke. On Twitter, Michael Levitt noted:

“Had an amazing time talking to the CJPAC Fellowship Conference last night. Over 50 Jewish and non-Jewish university students who are pro-Israel and politically engaged.”

In his hostility to Palestine solidarity activism, Garrison has taken to blocking NDP members on Twitter. After Garrison’s attack against the BDS movement, prominent lawyer and Palestinian rights advocate, Dimitri Lascaris, wrote:

“No other Canadian MP has blocked me even though I have said far harsher things about other Canadian MPs than I have ever said about Garrison.”

Last summer NDP leader Jagmeet Singh refused to heed a call by 200  well-known musicians, academics, trade unionists and party members for the NDP to withdraw from CIIG.

Perhaps if Singh had supported the open letter signed by Roger Waters, Linda McQuaig, Maher Arar, Noam Chomsky, etc. it would have sent a message and lessened the likelihood that Garrison and Rankin would flout party policy.

It is not too late for Singh to reevaluate his position on the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group.

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