Greens stand firm in face of Israeli bullying

In a major self-inflicted wound, Israeli nationalist groups recently turned support for a BDS motion targeting Israel’s occupation into overwhelming approval. In addition, the resolution also demanded action to address the plight of Palestinian refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

In a further bizarre twist, Elizabeth May and others within the Green Party leadership have tried to obfuscate the extent of the membership’s support for Palestinian rights.

In August, the Green Party of Canada voted to support “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted at those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the [Occupied Palestinian Territories].” While the new policy drops the BDS formulation, it supports “economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes” and encompasses the Palestinian civil-society-led BDS campaign’s three demands.

It calls for the Green Party to “respect the intent of UN Resolution 194,” on the right of Palestinian refugees to return, as well as an “accord to the Arab-Palestinian population of Israel equal political and civil rights.” It also calls to “end Israel’s illegal occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and the Golan Heights, and Israel’s siege of Gaza.”

The new resolution also details Canadian complicity in dispossessing “the indigenous people,” calling on Ottawa “to divest from any companies which are directly benefiting from activity within Israel’s illegal settlements or its occupation of the OPT” and “to ask the International Criminal Court to prioritize its investigation into charges of potential war crimes by members of the Israeli forces.”

Supported by 84.5 per cent of those at the special general meeting on Saturday, it also calls for the “renegotiation of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement” and “termination and indefinite suspension of all military and surveillance trade and cooperation.”

At the closed-door meeting, May spoke in favour of the new policy, which makes her expressed position on Palestinian rights the strongest of anyone with a seat in the House of Commons. Yet immediately after the vote passed, May sought to distort the motion. She tweeted “we just repealed BDS policy” while a press release noted, “Green Party explicitly rejects the notion of boycotting the state of Israel.”

Over the past three years May and other Green leaders have battled members over Palestine (and by extension whether the Greens will be a progressive, grassroots, party). Seeking to maintain her standing within a wildly anti-Palestinian Canadian political establishment, May has repeatedly been at odds with party activists no longer willing to accept blatant anti-Palestinian sentiment.

In November 2013 a Jewish Tribune reporter challenged May over her planned participation in a fundraiser for Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CPJME). Apparently thinking the interview wouldn’t be read outside pro-Israel circles, May told the Tribune CJPME was “anti-Israel” and noted she recently attended a recent Jewish National Fund fundraiser, even lauding “the great work that’s [the JNF] done in making the desert bloom.” (An explicitly racist institution, the JNF has helped dispossess Palestinians and Judaize historically Arab areas.)

May’s comments sparked a pro-Palestinian backlash that jolted the party’s only member of parliament and pushed the party towards a better position on the issue. A few months later, the party adopted a resolution critical of Israeli expansionism and when party President Paul Estrin published an anti-Palestinian screed in the midst of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, he was forced to resign.

In a sign of the growing power of the Palestine solidarity movement, at the August convention members ignored May’s vociferous opposition to the BDS resolution. May responded by threatening to resign if the party didn’t revisit the issue and organizing a special general membership meeting to reconsider the issue. A month after the convention she fired three members of her shadow cabinet for defending the party’s recently passed policy from attacks by the head of the British Columbia Greens.

In response to May’s authoritarian, anti-Palestinian, moves, party activists organized aggressively for this weekend’s special general meeting. The author of the resolution and ousted Green justice critic, Dmitri Lascaris, spoke at 18 townhall meetings across country. Support for the Palestine policy was overwhelming and drew many new individuals to the party. Facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat at the special meeting, which would have all but forced her to resign, May backed a “consensus resolution” that strengthened support for Palestinian rights, but eliminated explicit support for BDS.

Though she’s unable to control members’ position on this issue, May can shape what the public learns about it. In conjunction with a pro-Israel press, she has worked to downplay the depth of Green support for Palestinian liberation.

Notwithstanding the “two steps forward one step back” character of the struggle within the Green Party, their recent vote puts pressure on the NDP. Alongside Yann Martel, Rawi Hage, Bruce Cockburn, Richard Parry and numerous high profile lefties, the former head of the Ontario Federation of Labour Sid Ryan signed a recent appeal to Green Party of Canada members “not to succumb to political pressure to weaken or reverse [their] vote to support Palestinian rights.”

Sid Ryan for NDP Leader, a website encouraging him to run for the head of the party, notes: “Sid Ryan’s advocacy for the Palestinian people, starting in his days in CUPE where he endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, shows that an NDP leader could muster broad support for a process where Canada is non-aligned, expresses solidarity with Palestinians and other oppressed nations in the Global South, and champions a foreign policy based on peace, democracy, social justice and human rights.”

No matter who wins the campaign to become NDP leader in October, it’s hard to imagine they will be as hostile to Palestinians as outgoing leader Tom Mulcair  — who once said “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances.”

The Canadian Jewish News is already fretting over the new NDP leader. With a change in NDP leadership on the horizon, the Green vote will sting. Rather than forcing members to cower, Israel nationalists’ attacks focused attention on the Green campaign and helped solidify the most significant pro-Palestinian victory in Canadian political history — notwithstanding May’s effort to obscure it.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

Israeli nationalists undermine meaning of ‘remembering the Holocaust’

Is “remembering the Nazi Holocaust and where anti-Semitism can lead” a good thing? Unfortunately, thanks to people who constantly cite this horrible genocide in order to justify the illegal, immoral and anti-human behaviour of the Israeli state, one must answer, “it depends.”

Drawing attention to the Nazi Holocaust and anti-Semitism in Canada today often reinforces, rather than undermines, oppression and discrimination. This perverse reality was on display at two recent events in Toronto.

At a semi-annual Ryerson Student Union meeting, a Hillel member pushed a resolution calling on the union to promote Holocaust Education Week in conjunction with United Jewish Appeal-Toronto, which marked Israel’s 2014 slaughter in Gaza by adding $2.25 million to its annual aid to that wealthy country. The motion stated, “this week is not in dedication to anti-Zionist propaganda” and called for the week to focus “solely on the education of the Holocaust and not on other genocides.”

Objecting to this brazen attempt to use the decimation of European Jewry to protect an aggressive, apartheid state many students left the meeting. When quorum was lost before the vote, pro-Israel activists cried — wait for it — anti-Semitism.

“Tonight, I experienced true and evil anti-Semitism,” complained Tamar Lyons, vice-president of communications for Students Supporting Israel at Ryerson University, in a social media post republished by B’nai Brith. In it, the Emerson Fellow of StandWithUs, an organization that trains university students to advance Israel’s interests, bemoaned how “a Muslim student ‘goy-splained’ me.”

After the meeting, Lyons linked the purported anti-Jewish incident to the Ryerson Student Union endorsing the BDS movement two years earlier. She told the Canadian Jewish News it was “a direct result of [the] boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the anti-Israel sentiment that’s so prevalent on campus.”

Taking place on the eve of an Ontario legislature vote to condemn BDS activism, the national director of B’nai Brith jumped on the Ryerson affair. “What starts with BDS does not end with BDS,” said Amanda Hohmann. “More often than not, BDS is simply a gateway drug to more blatant forms of anti-Semitism.”

(Yup, take a toke of that leftist–internationalist “pressure Israel to follow international law” bud and soon you’re longing for some Neo-Nazi ‘get-the-Jews’ smack.)

 

As B’nai Brith hyped the Ryerson affair, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs pushed the Ontario legislature to pass a motion in support of the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” and to reject “the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

Passed 49 to 5 (with 53 absent), motion sponsor Gila Martow told the legislature: “We would not be here supporting the Ku Klux Klan on our campuses, so why are we allowing [the] BDS movement and other anti-Jewish and anti-Israel organizations to have demonstrations and use our campuses, which are taxpayer-funded?”

In an interview with the Toronto Sun after the vote the Thornhill MPP described BDS as “psychological terrorism on the campuses….The motive behind BDS is to hurt the Jewish community by attacking Israel.”

The only MPP who spoke against the motion was the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh. But, even this defender of the right to criticize Israel spent much of his speech talking about how anti-Semitism “must be denounced.”

Notwithstanding the anti-Semitism hullabaloo, the BDS vote and Ryerson affair have little to do with combating anti-Jewishness. As is obvious to anybody who thinks about it for a second, comparing internationalist and social justice minded individuals to the KKK will elicit, not lessen, anti-Jewish animus. Similarly, labeling a non-violent movement “psychological terrorism” and writing about “Muslim goy-splaining” isn’t likely to endear Jewish groups to those concerned with Palestinian dispossession and building a just world.

The major Jewish organizations and trained Israeli nationalist activists scream anti-Semitism to protect Israel from censure, of course. But they also do so because few are willing to challenge them on it. As such, the anti-Semitism smears should be seen as a simple assertion of CIJA and B’nai Brith’s political, economic and cultural clout.

Possibly the best placed of any in the world, the Toronto Jewish community faces almost no discernable economic, social or cultural discrimination. Describing it as “the envy of the UJA federation world,” Alan Dershowitz told its 2014 Toronto Major Gifts dinner: “You mustnever be ashamed to use your power and strength. Never be afraid that people will say, ‘You’re too strong and powerful.’ Jews need power and strength. Without this strength — economically, morally, militarily — we can’t have peace.”

But, UJA-Toronto, CIJA, B’nai Brith, etc. aren’t seeking “peace.” Rather, they’re working to strengthen a Sparta-like, Jewish-supremacist state in the Middle East.

The Ryerson affair and vote at the provincial legislature reflect a Toronto Jewish establishment drunk with its power. But the sober reality of constantly justifying oppression by citing the Holocaust/anti-Semitism is that it undermines the power of that memory and is an insult to all those who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Capitalism underpins Canada’s relationship with Cuba

Has Canada been a “friend” to Cuba?

While Ottawa’s position towards Fidel Castro’s Cuba was far more progressive than our southern neighbour’s, the story is more complicated than liberals are likely to suggest in their commentary over Castro’s passing.

Canada did not play a central role in U.S. efforts to squash the social reforms and independence of the island nation. Rather than participate in hundreds of CIA assassination attempts on the life of Fidel, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declared “Viva Castro” during an official trip to Cuba in 1976. But, there’s a little-known unsavory side to Canadian relations with Cuba.

Business is business seems to be Canada’s slogan for relations with Cuba from the U.S. occupation in 1898 through the dictator Batista to Castro’s revolution in 1959.  In 1900 the Canadian Journal of Commerce noted: “Canadian capital and clearer northern brains” were turning Cuba into a “modern hive of industry.” A few months after the U.S. began its 1898-1902 occupation the Royal Bank opened its first branch in Havana. According to one bank history: “[Royal Bank] General Manager, Mr. E.L. Pease, took a quick trip to Cuba at the end of the Spanish-American War and got in on the ground floor of banking there; his American friends, who put capital into the bank, helped him to expand there. (The bank was appointed agent for the payment of claims of the Army of Liberation.)” Before his trip to Havana Pease asked Henry White of New York’s Chase National to “smooth the way through the American authorities.” And once in that beautiful city Pease befriended U.S. Consul Joseph Springer, who indicated that the U.S. planned to reform Cuba’s financial sector. (It was relatively easy for the Royal to get priority of place because, until 1914, national U.S. banks were forbidden from establishing foreign branches.)

The Canadian bankers saw themselves as American and after the U.S. occupation formally ended they felt covered by the protective umbrella of the Platt amendment. (Inserted into the Cuban constitution by Washington, the Platt amendment gave the U.S. the right to intervene on the island whenever necessary). “The United States authorities have the affairs of the Island well in hand at the present time,” Pease told the Financial Post in 1907. Royal Bank branches sprouted up across the island, usually along the newly built railroad through central Cuba. “The bank consciously established its branches wherever it could facilitate the spread of foreign investment entering Cuba.” The Royal Bank’s best customer was Canadian businessman William Van Horne’s Cuba Company and its offspring, the Cuba Railroad. Famous for his role in constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway, Van Horne “took advantage of Spain’s defeat and his influence in U.S. financial circles to start building a trans-island railway before any government had the power to stop him.” Van Horne had two U.S. generals sit on the company’s board and “land for the railroad was not purchased, but seized by the [U.S. military].” Van Horne also benefited from Cuba’s postwar railway law. He and a colleague wrote it. The Cuban railway was completed in 1902 and Van Horne proceeded to purchase tramways and sugar mills on the island.

With a wave of foreign investment into Cuba, business was good for the Royal Bank. By the mid-1920s, the Royal had 65 branches in the country. Popularly known as “Banco de Canada” during this period, “the Canadian bank acted as Cuba’s de facto central banker.” A quarter century later, Canadian banks still controlled 28 percent of total deposits in commercial Cuban banks. U.S. interests controlled 36 percent and Cuban interests 35 percent. Beyond banking, Canadian insurance companies sold two-thirds of the country’s total annual premiums in the mid-1950s, while the Cuban- Canadian sugar company owned 66,000 acres and 2,720 head of cattle. Another Canadian-owned ranch covered 75,000 acres and the Canada- Cuba Land and Fruit Company ran 100 tobacco plantations.

“Since Canada’s ties with Cuba are primarily commercial,” External Affairs advised the Canadian ambassador to Cuba in March 1949 that his two “main duties” were to defend Canadian commercial interests and increase trade opportunities on the island. Ottawa’s focus on Canadian commercial interests helps explain the embassy’s attitude to the pro-capitalist dictator, General Fulgencio Batista. Twenty months before the brutal despot was overthrown, the Canadian ambassador said Batista was “still the best hope for the future” because he “has offered the stability demanded by foreign investors.” A year earlier the Canadian ambassador said “the benevolence of President Batista is not to be questioned. He may be lining his pockets at Cuba’s expense but it is traditional for Cuban Presidents to do so and it is in part made necessary by the uncertainty of political life here. But as a dictator he is a failure, if the standard is Hitler or Mussolini. Public protests against the regime are possible; an opposition is in existence and is weak only because of fundamental weaknesses in the personalities of the opposition.”

After Batista’s downfall in January 1959 the new government tried to gain greater control over the economy. Among other steps, U.S. banks were nationalized without compensation. Canadian banks were also nationalized, but more amicably — with compensation. In response to these moves by the new Cuban government, U.S. hostility rose and Uncle Sam eventually cut off trade and diplomatic relations with the country. The U.S. also supported an invasion of Cuba, which Ottawa endorsed. Just days after the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker claimed Castro was a threat to the security of the hemisphere.  On April 19, 1961, he told the House of Commons that events in Cuba were “manifestations of a dictatorship which is abhorrent to free men everywhere.”

Despite tacit support for U.S. actions against Cuba Ottawa never broke off diplomatic relations, even though most other countries in the hemisphere did. Three Nights in Havana explains why Ottawa maintained diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba: “Recently declassified State Department documents have revealed that, far from encouraging Canada to support the embargo, the United States secretly urged Diefenbaker to maintain normal relations because it was thought that Canada would be well positioned to gather intelligence on the island.” Washington was okay with Canada’s continued relations with the island. It simply wanted assurances, which were promptly given, that Canada wouldn’t take over the trade the U.S. lost.

Ottawa has not let Washington down in regards to intelligence gathering. For nearly half a century Canada has spied on Cuba. Since the start of the 1960s the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), an intelligence department of the federal government, has listened to Cuban leaders secret conversations from an interception post in the Canadian embassy in Havana. A senior Canadian official, close to Washington, “admitted that the U.S. made ‘far greater use’ of our intelligence during the [October 1962] Cuban Missile Crisis than has been revealed.” Pentagon and State Department sources cite the U.K. and Canada as the only countries that “supply any real military information on Cuba” with Canada providing “the best” military intelligence. Canada has even spied on Cuba from outside that country. The CSE wanted to establish a communications post in Kingston, Jamaica, to intercept “communications from Fidel Castro’s Cuba, which would please [the US government’s] NSA to no end.”

To paraphrase Charles de Gaulle, perhaps Canada does not have friends, only interests. But the reality of Canada’s “interests” in Cuba have always been based on what’s best for the ruling class, not those of ordinary people.

Hasta la victoria siempre!

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Liberals isolate Canada as a result of blind support for Israel

How can you identify a Canadian Liberal? They talk to the left, but walk to the right.

Under Justin Trudeau, “Canada is back” to isolating itself from world opinion on Palestinian rights.

On Monday Canada joined the US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau in opposing a UN Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee resolution in support of Palestinian self determination. Two weeks ago Ottawa joined Israel, the U.S., Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau in opposing motions titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” and “persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities.” One hundred and fifty-six countries voted in favour of the motions while seven abstained on the first and six on the second.

Two among numerous resolutions upholding Palestinian rights Canada opposed, these votes follow on the heels of foreign minister Stéphane Dion attacking UNESCO for defending Palestinian rights. Last month the UN cultural body criticised Israel for restricting Muslim access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and recognised Israel as the occupying power. “Canada strongly rejects UNESCO World Heritage singling out Israel & denying Judaism’s link to the Old City + Western Wall,” Dion tweeted.

A few months earlier Trudeau’s minister criticized another arm of the UN. In March, Dion denounced the UN Human Rights Council’s appointment of University of Western Ontario law professor Michael Lynk as “Special Rapporteur on Palestine.” Claiming the Canadian lawyer was hostile to Israel, Dion asked the UNHRC to review Lynk’s appointment.

In addition to isolating Canada internationally, the Trudeau government has pursued various pro-Israel moves. At the start of the month Governor General David Johnston visited a Jewish National Fund Forest. An owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, the JNF discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up one-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.”

While Johnston recently visited a racist Israeli institution, the PM attended the “Butcher of Qana’s” funeral at the end of September. In 1996 Shimon Peres ordered the shelling of a Lebanese village, which killed 106 civilians in Qana — half of whom were children. Through his long political career, reports Patrick Martin, Peres “was deeply implicated in many of the foulest historical crimes associated with the establishment, expansion and militarization of the state of Israel.”

Peres’ role in dispossessing Palestinians didn’t stop the Trudeau government from gushing with praise after he passed away. “The whole country of Canada is supporting the whole country of Israel and the prime minister wanted that to be very clear,” Dion told the press.

At the start of the year the Liberals condemned Canadians seeking to hold Israel accountable to international law. The Prime Minister and most Liberal MPs supported a Conservative Party call for the House of Commons to “reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel.” The February resolution also “condemned any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

The Trudeau government’s efforts to undermine Palestinians liberation strengthens Canada’s multifaceted contribution to Israeli expansionism. Each year registered Canadian charities channel tens of millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel’s powerful military, racist institutions and illegal settlements.

Over the past decade, Ottawa has delivered over 100 million dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority in an explicit bid to advance Israel’s interests by building a security apparatus to protect the corrupt Palestinian Authority from popular disgust over its compliance in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement building. Further legitimating its illegal occupation, Canada’s two-decade old free trade agreement with Israel allows settlement products to enter Canada duty-free.

The truth is, it’s hard to tell Canada’s political parties apart when it comes to enabling Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

Without a growing popular movement campaigning for Palestinian rights, this country’s political elites will continue to isolate Canada from world opinion.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

A day to remember

Remember.

Remember that today marks the culmination of a militarist, nationalist ritual organized by a reactionary state-backed group.

Every year the Royal Canadian Legion sells about 20 million red poppies in the lead-up to Remembrance Day. Remember that red poppies were inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian army officer John McCrae. The pro-war poem calls on Canadians to “take up our quarrel with the foe” and was used to promote war bonds and recruit soldiers during World War I.

Remember that today, red poppies commemorate Canadians who have died at war. Not being commemorated are the Afghans, or Libyans killed by Canadians in the 2000s, or the Iraqis and Serbians killed in the 1990s, or the Koreans killed in the 1950s, or the Russians, South Africans, Sudanese and others killed before that. By focusing exclusively on “our” side Remembrance Day poppies reinforce a sense that Canada’s cause is righteous. But, Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: World War II.

While there’s some criticism of the nationalism and militarism driving Remembrance Day, the organization sponsoring the red poppy campaign receives little critical attention. Incorporated by an act of Parliament, the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League was formed in 1926. Renamed the Royal Canadian Legion in 1960, from the get-go it was designed to counter more critical veteran organizations. In The Vimy Trap: or, How We Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Great War, Ian McKay and Jamie Swift write, “benefiting from government recognition, the Legion slowly supplanted its rivals. It was consciously designed as [a] body that would soothe the veterans temper and moderate their demands.”

In 1927 the federal government granted the Legion a monopoly over poppy distribution and the Veterans Affairs-run Vetcraft made the Legion’s poppies for 75 years. The Legion has benefited from various other forms of government support. Its branches have received public funds and the Governor General, head of the Canadian Forces, is the Legion’s Grand Patron and numerous prime ministers and defence ministers have addressed its conventions.

While its core political mandate is improving veterans’ services, the Legion has long advocated militarism and a reactionary worldview. In the early 1930s it pushed for military build-up and its 1950 convention called for “total preparedness.” In 1983 its president, Dave Capperauld, supported US cruise missiles tests in Alberta and into the early 1990s the Legion took “an uncompromising stand on the importance of maintaining a strong Canadian military presence in Europe through NATO, and by supporting the United States build-up of advanced nuclear weapons.”

The Legion has also espoused a racist, paranoid and pro-Empire worldview. In the years after World War II it called for the expulsion of Canadians of Japanese origin and ideological screening for German immigrants. A decade before WWII, reports Branching Out: the story of the Royal Canadian Legion, “Manitoba Command unanimously endorsed a resolution to ban communist activities, and provincial president Ralph Webb…warned that children were being taught to spit on the Union Jack in Manitoba schools.”

Long after the end of the Cold War the organization remains concerned about “subversives.” Today, Legion members have to sign a statement that begins: “I hereby solemnly declare that I am not a member of, nor affiliated with, any group, party or sect whose interests conflict with the avowed purposes of the Legion, and I do not, and will not, support any organization advocating the overthrow of our government by force or which advocates, encourages or participates in subversive action or propaganda.”

The veterans group has sought to suppress critical understanding of military history. In the mid-2000s the Legion battled Canadian War Museum historians over an exhibition about the World War II allied bomber offensive. After shaping its development, the Legion objected to a small part of a multifaceted exhibit, which questioned “the efficacy and the morality of the…massive bombing of Germany’s industrial and civilian targets.” With the museum refusing to give the veterans an effective veto over its exhibit, Legion Magazine called for a boycott. The Legion’s campaign led to hearings by the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs and a new display that glossed over a bombing campaign explicitly designed to destroy German cities. It also led to the director of the museum, Joe Guerts, resigning.

A decade earlier the Legion participated in a campaign to block the three-part series The Valour and the Horror from being rebroadcast or distributed to schools. The 1992 CBC series claimed Canadian soldiers committed unprosecuted war crimes during World War II and that the British-led bomber command killed 600,000 German civilians. The veterans groups’ campaign led to a Senate inquiry, CRTC hearing and lawsuit, as well as a commitment from CBC to not rebroadcast The Valour and the Horror without amendments.

Rather than supporting the militaristic, jingoistic, nationalism of the Legion, Canadians of good conscience should support peace organizations’ white poppy campaign to remember all victims of war.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel, Canada in Africa, Canada in Haiti, The Truth May Hurt, The Ugly Canadian

It is never ‘left wing’ to support imperialism

Most people who identify as left wing would agree that systems of governance that enable exploitation by the world’s most powerful corporations, governments and individuals should be changed. Most would also agree that militarism and military solutions are best avoided.

Why then do so many people ‘on the left’ support UN missions that claim to be about “peacekeeping” but often serve as little more than fig leafs to cover up imperialism?

Unfortunately, from the Cold War era on, there is a substantial record of nominally left wing organizations effectively supporting imperialism by failing to look closely at what particular UN missions actually do. Simple cheerleading of  “peacekeeping” has become a way to align with Ottawa’s “good Canadian” mythology and evade confronting military power, usually employed to shape the world in the interests of the richest 0.1%.

For example, in a recent email to its 25,000-person list Ceasefire.ca outlined, “key steps towards building sustainable peace and common security.” Its first demand is a motherhood statement about “giving top priority to war prevention, peaceful conflict resolution and building the United Nations envisaged by the UN Charter.” The second point is a call for “greater participation in UN peacekeeping missions and international peacekeeping training.”

Considered a countervailing force by many on the left, Ceasefire.ca’s position aligns with the Justin Trudeau government’s plan to dispatch 600 peacekeepers to Africa. As I’ve written elsewhere, Ceasefire.ca’s parent organization, the Rideau Institute, promotes the views of commentators who’ve backed violent, antidemocratic, UN peacekeeping missions. In February the Rideau Institute and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives co-published Unprepared for Peace?: The decline of Canadian peacekeeping training (and what to do about it) by Institute board member Walter Dorn. The Royal Military College of Canada professor worked with and publicly lauded the UN mission in Haiti.

An outgrowth of the US/France/Canada’s overthrow of Haiti’s elected government in 2004, the UN mission has undermined Haitian sovereignty and been directly responsible for many abuses. The UN’s disregard for Haitian life caused a major cholera outbreak, which has left nearly 10,000 Haitians dead and 800,000 ill. But, don’t expect the Canadians blindly calling for more peacekeeping to apologize to Haitians for the cholera epidemic.

And Haiti is only one example of supposedly left wing organizations disguising their support for Canadian imperialism with the UN flag.

The Canadian Labour Congress backed Canada’s role in the UN mission responsible for the assassination of Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba. According to its 1962 Executive Council Report, CLC President Claude Jodoin sent a telegram to External Affairs “in which he expressed support of the Secretary General of the United Nations, then under attack because of the Congo crisis.” At Washington’s behest Dag Hammarskjold worked to undermine the Congolese independence leader. When President Joseph Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba as prime minister — a move of debatable legality and opposed by the vast majority of the country’s parliament — the UN Secretary General publicly endorsed the dismissal of a politician who a short time earlier had received the most votes in the country’s election. To get a sense of Hammarskjold’s antipathy towards the Congolese leader, he privately told officials in Washington Lumumba needed to be “broken”.

In its 1962 convention report the CLC’s executive committee noted:

We support the United Nations in the belief that only through a world organization of this kind, through the common discussion of problems, through the establishment of a strong supra – national organization, can world order be established and maintained. For all the difficulties encountered by the United Nations in the Congo, we feel nonetheless that the very fact of UN intervention has been a major step forward in the development of such a supranational force. We are proud that Canadians are playing a part in this affair.

While alluding to “difficulties”, the labour federation’s executive seems to have believed Lumumba’s assassination was worth the “development of such a supranational force”. In other words, Congolese aspirations could be sacrificed in the name of the UN.

Echoing this thinking, left nationalist magazine Canadian Forum and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the NDP’s predecessor) backed the 1950–53 UN “police action” in Korea in which 27,000 Canadian troops fought.

Canadian Forum said UN actions in Korea “revived hopes that the international body would serve as a deterrent to war.” But, millions died in the fighting after US troops intervened in Korea and then Washington moved to have the UN support their action.

As UN forces unleashed horrific violence in Korea, the CCF announced its “complete support for the principle of collective security through the United Nations” and party leader M.J. Coldwell called for a permanent UN force to respond to future aggression. In discussing Coldwell’s request and support for the Korean War, Robert Teigrob writes in Warming up to the Cold War: “In sum, if it was important to Canadian national identity and autonomy that the nation’s foreign-policy be determined by an international collective and not a single hegemon, it was vital to downplay the undeniable US control over the current [Korean] operation, or to present it as a provisional state of affairs.”

But was this really a principled stand in support of an international police force and a world government that could ultimately end all war?

History suggests that the principle of supporting the UN over narrow national sovereignty only extended as far as the UN taking positions supported by the Canadian elite. For example, in 1975, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution (72 votes to 35 with 32 abstentions) calling Zionism a form of racism. In response, CLC President Joe Morris stated, “By this act, it can justifiably be argued the UN has ‘legitimized’ anti-Semitism and pogroms against Jews. Canadian labour will fight all moves to implement such a resolution and will exercise its influence to prevent further extensions of the resolution.” For similar reasons, the NDP effectively backed Canada’s withdrawal from the UN’s 2009 World Conference Against Racism (“Durban II”).

Unions, our social democratic party and other “moderate” left organizations are capable of disagreeing with particular UN activities. By what criteria should left organizations judge whether or not to support a particular UN policy or mission?

I would suggest the criteria should include such principles as international solidarity, the building of a more equal world, anti-militarism, and the UN’s own Declaration of Human Rights.

Cheerleading for Canada and capitalism may make sense as criteria for supporters of the existing economic order, but the left is supposed to want something better.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Who owns the ‘school’ that studies Canadian foreign policy?

Next week the Fraser Institute’s newly established Peter Munk Centre for Free Enterprise will offer a day long “Introduction to Economic Reasoning” seminar for Grade 10-12 students in Scarborough. Launched in June with $5 million from the founder of Barrick Gold, the Centre for Free Enterprise cements Munk’s position as leading contributor to right-wing ideas. But, the ideologue’s biggest contribution has been to a venerable public institution.

The Munk School of Global Affairs reveals much about the state of foreign-policy debate in this country. Among 35 million Canadians, the University of Toronto would be hard pressed to find a less credible source of support for the study of international affairs.

Peter Munk is a right wing ideologue and mining magnate with an important personal stake in a particular foreign policy. The Munk founded Barrick Gold has benefited from Canadian diplomatic support, export financing and development aid.

With its projects spurring ecological devastation, communal conflict and dozens of deaths on six continents, the Toronto company has led the charge against moves to withhold diplomatic and financial support to Canadian companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. After An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas Corporations in Developing Countries was narrowly defeated in 2010 Munk wrote a letter in the Toronto Star “celebrating those MPs who had the courage” to side with Canada’s massive mining industry lobby and vote against bill C 300.

Munk espouses far-right political views. In 1997 he praised dictator Augusto Pinochet for “transforming Chile from a wealth-destroying socialist state to a capital-friendly model that is being copied around the world” while two years later the Canadian Jewish News reported on a donation Munk made to an Israeli university and a speech in which he “suggested that Israel’s survival is dependent on maintaining its technological superiority over the Arabs.” In 2007 he compared Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to Hitler and later dismissed criticism of Barrick’s security force in Papua New Guinea by claiming “gang rape is a cultural habit” in that country. He responded to a 2014 Economist question about whether “Indigenous groups appear to have a lot more say and power in resource development these days” by saying “globally it’s a real problem. It’s a major, major problem.”

An initial $6.4 million contract to rename the International Studies Department the Munk Centre for International Studies stipulated the Centre would receive advice from Barrick’s international advisory board, which included US President George Bush and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. (When asked why he appointed Mulroney to Barrick’s board, Munk told Peter C. Newman: “He has great contacts. He knows every dictator in the world on a first name basis.”) The 1997 agreement empowered Munk to stop payments if dissatisfied with the Centre. Happy with its direction, Munk contributed $5 million more in 2006 and $35 million to launch the Munk School of Global Affairs in 2010. That deal committed the U of T to pony up $39 million from its endowment while the Ontario and federal governments chipped in $50 million (as well as a $16 million tax credit to Peter Munk for his $35 million donation).

Flush with resources, the School is highly influential. It co-sponsors an award for the world’s best non-fiction book on foreign affairs, Canadian Forces College workshops, annual lecture with Washington’s National Endowment for Democracy and Toronto International Film Festival speakers series. The School also co-sponsors the Munk Debates, which held the first-ever Canadian foreign policy leaders debate during the 2015 federal election.

The School’s Munk Fellowship in Global Journalism awards twenty fellowships for a year-long program run in partnership with the Globe and MailCBC NewsToronto Star, Postmedia and Thomson Reuters. The School has significant ties to the Globe and Mail with former editors-in-chief John Stackhouse and William Thorsell both senior fellows at the School.

While executive director at the Munk Centre in 2007, Marketa Evans helped spawn the Devonshire Initiative, a project for NGOs and mining companies to discuss corporate social responsibility and development issues. Named after the street where the School is located, the Devonshire Initiative undermined a government–civil society Roundtable that called for withholding government financial and political support to resource companies found responsible for major abuses abroad. Evans would later be appointed Canada’s inaugural Corporate Social Responsibility counselor, a post the Harper Conservatives set up to alleviate pressure to restrict government support for companies found responsible for international abuses.

The School supported the Harper Conservatives’ low-level war against Iran. After severing diplomatic ties and designating Iran a state sponsor of terrorism in 2012, Foreign Affairs ploughed $250,000 into the Munk School’s Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran. The aim of the initiative was to foment opposition to the regime and help connect dissidents inside and outside Iran. Expanding the Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran, Foreign Affairs gave the Munk School $9 million in 2015 to establish the Digital Public Square project to undermine online censorship within enemy states.

Canada’s most influential global studies program is the brainchild of a mining magnet with a significant personal stake in a particular foreign policy. And the school has been shaped in his hard right image.

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