On Wednesday the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs attacked the left wing of the NDP. In a release titled “Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) appalled that disgraced former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn invited to spread toxicity in Canada”, CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel noted: “Jeremy Corbyn is toxic. The invitation to the disgraced leader is more evidence that Svend Robinson, Niki Ashton, Libby Davies and a few others want to take the NDP in a direction that is antithetical to basic Canadian values. This small group is actively undermining NDP leadership which is working hard to keep the NDP focused on the very important issues that Canadians care about.”
What prompted this release is an upcoming webinar NDP MP Ashton has organized with Corbyn to raise funds for the Progressive International, which came out of a 2018 meeting organized by Bernie Sanders’ movement. “Progressives of the world unite”, is a slogan of an initiative that includes Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Naomi Klein and Yanis Varoufakis.
CIJA’s release is an explicit effort to marginalize the left within the NDP in the lead-up to the party’s April convention, which will deal with widely backed resolutions in favour of Palestinian rights and against the IHRA’s anti-Palestinian definition of anti-Semitism.
CIJA’s release could also be read as a call on the NDP leadership to purge the left of the party. Perhaps the official advocacy arm of Canada’s Jewish federations feels emboldened to interfere in internal NDP affairs by recent actions of the party leadership. Ashton was recently demoted from her critic duties and a number of leftists, including former head of the Ontario Federation of Labour Sid Ryan, were blocked from running for the party during the last federal election. The initial reaction to the Ashton–Corbyn webinar from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and the party-aligned Broadbent Institute suggests CIJA may have willing allies inside the party in demonizing the left, just as happened in Britain. Working alongside the right wing of the Labour Party, the Israel lobby in the UK played a pivotal role in destroying the progressive movement Corbyn galvanized.
While this brazen interference in a left political party by supposedly non-political lobby groups may be shocking to some, it follows on efforts to destroy student unions. B’nai B’rith has been campaigning aggressively to defund student unions and associated organizations. In 2019 B’nai B’rith created a coalition of anti-Palestinian groups that called on Ontario students to take up “a unique opportunity to deny funding to” student associations. They are currently pressing the University of Toronto’s administration to withhold its graduate students’ union funding. B’nai Brith has also been granted intervener status on the side of the Doug Ford Conservatives in a court case between the Canadian Federation of Students/York Federation of Students and Ontario regarding the government’s move to force universities to grant opt outs for various student fees. To get a sense of the scope of their intervention into student life, B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn declared, “non-essential campus services have every right to function and provide the services they wish to, but they do not have the right to force their hands into anyone’s pockets…. CFS claims to represent all students, but we are here to give voice to the thousands of students who do not feel represented by them and have made it clear that they want no part in funding what this organization is financing. The court must also take their perspective into account, and we will do our part to ensure that it does.”
Of course these are the same tired old arguments right wing employers’ organizations have long used against worker’s attempts to organize effective unions.
But pro-Israel lobby groups’ chutzpah in attacking the left and union solidarity goes even further. During the remarkable student strike in Québec in 2012 B’nai B’rith “condemned” protesters purported “hate …that has outraged the Jewish community.” In 2016, the Canadian Jewish News reacted strongly after delegates at the NDP convention supported the leftish Leap Manifesto. They published an editorial and front-page story expressing concern at the growth of the left within the party.
It seems these pro-Israel lobby groups fear progressive challenges to the status quo. Perhaps they understand that these movements/politicians empower “internationalist” forces. Perhaps they fear solidarity — what we want for ourselves we wish for all — in political movements and unions inevitably leads to solidarity with all oppressed people, including Palestinians.
Whatever the reason, these groups have chosen to become overt enemies of people who are trying to build a better, fairer world where social justice for all reigns supreme. They have declared war on everyone who believes the world needs radical change — socialists, environmentalists, anti-racism activists, union organizers and more. They have chosen to be part of the problem, not the solution. Sad, but true.