Niki Ashton promotes anti-Palestinian activist

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If she had called Palestinians “towel heads” would that be too much? How about physically removing a Palestinian activist from a meeting? What’s the threshold at which left NDPers would stop promoting Cheri DiNovo?

A few days ago, Niki Ashton’s team sent an email to her list that included a prominent photo of the NDP MP with former Ontario MPP DiNovo. After I posted about it someone who attended the recent Ashton organized event in Toronto told me the ex NDP member of the Ontario Legislature was also given a prominent place in person.

But, DiNovo is decidedly anti-Palestinian. In July DiNovo boasted to vicious anti-Palestinian/Islamophobe Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy that she aided B’nai B’rith and the Jewish Defence’s successful bid to cancel an event by the Palestinian Youth Movement “to celebrate the artistic and cultural contributions of Palestinians in the diaspora.” Dropping her progressive standing further, DiNovo unfriended a number of individuals on Facebook who politely questioned her role in suppressing the Palestinian cultural event at the Toronto United Church in where she is the spiritual leader.
As I detailed after the suppression of the Palestinian Youth Movement event, DiNovo met Israeli consular official Galit Baram who posted a photo with her to the “Israel in Toronto” Facebook page and wrote in March 2018, “it’s always a good time catching up with our good friend and former MPP Cheri DiNovo. Great to see you again!”

In 2017 DiNovo met the co-chairs of the Knesset’s Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group Anat Berko and Yoel Hasson. A Lieutenant-Colonel in the IDF reserves, Berko openly disparaged African refugees and Palestinians. Berko put forward a bill to jail individuals who display Palestinian flags at demonstrations and in a 2016 Knesset debate made the ridiculous claim that the absence of the letter “P” in the Arabic alphabet meant Palestine did not exist since “no people would give itself a name it couldn’t pronounce.”

DiNovo regularly appears at events organized by the anti-Palestinian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. She attended “an FSWC presentation on the anti-Israel boycott movement” in 2015 at Queen’s Park and participated in FSWC events last May and November.

In 2010 DiNovo was the only NDP MPP who promoted a resolution condemning Israeli Apartheid Week at the Ontario Legislature. In response to criticism of her anti-Palestinian vote DiNovo defriended and erased the comments of dozens of individuals who criticized her on Facebook, prompting the creation of a number of Facebook groups by those defriended by DiNovo, which were then shut down after someone complained. In subsequent interviews DiNovo claimed she received a death threat for her anti-Palestinian vote and was quoted by the Jewish Tribune saying, “we Christians know our roots and we know, because we read our Scripture, that Jews are the Chosen People of the Chosen Land of Israel, so mazel tov.”

Three days after I emailed and private messaged Ashton – just after I posted about it publicly on Facebook – she responded to say, “I have always been clear on my position on Palestine. In fact our [upcoming] event in Montréal is Palestinian inclusive as Zahia El-Masri is one of the presenters.” Ashton is undoubtedly among the best NDP MPs on Palestine. Partly because of her position on the issue, I paid $5 to become an NDP member and asked some friends to vote for Ashton during the NDP leadership race.

That doesn’t change the fact that Ashton’s promotion of DiNovo is odious. I’m not saying Ashton should have kicked DiNovo out of her recent Toronto event or rejected her endorsement for leader of the NDP. But, she should not promote DiNovo in light of her anti-Palestinian activism.

This isn’t personal. Does anyone believe we can end Canadian support for Palestinian dispossession while pro-Palestinian factions of the NDP promote an individual who shuts down Palestinian youth cultural events?

While Ashton would be loath to publicly criticize DiNovo, at a minimum she should write her a private email saying something to the effect of: “I have been made aware of your anti-Palestinian activism. In the future I wouldn’t feel comfortable collaborating publicly until you changed your position on the subject.”

 

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