NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s call for an arms embargo on Israel is a positive development. But, with tens of thousands taking to the streets across the country on Saturday we should expect more forthright efforts to stop Israeli violence, which has killed well over 220 Palestinians, including 64 children, in the past ten days.
Below are 10 demands the NDP and progressive activists could promote to end Canadian complicity with Israeli violence and Palestinian dispossession:
- Singh and NDP MPs should state publicly that any recruitment for the Israeli military in Canada is not only immoral but should also be investigated by the justice minister and police as a contravention of the Foreign Enlistment Act. A recent parliamentary petition sponsored by NDP MP Matthew Green that calls for an investigation into illegal IDF recruitment in Canada has been signed by more than twelve times the number required to be read in the House of Commons. There is clearly significant support for a position rooted in simply upholding Canadian law.
- The same can be said of the call for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to investigate whether registered charities are contravening CRA regulations by supporting the Israeli military, racist organizations and West Bank settlements. In a sign of support for this call, 2,400 individuals have emailed foreign minister Marc Garneau, justice minister David Lametti and revenue minister Diane Lebouthillier in recent days to pressure government officials to apply Canadian law regarding charities supporting the Israeli military and recruitment for the IDF in Canada.
- The NDP should call for the cancellation of the Canada Israel free-trade agreement. When the Liberals “modernized” the accord two years ago the NDP voted against the motion because the Liberals refused an NDP amendment to the deal requiring distinct labelling on products originating from “illegal Israeli settlements”. Last summer a coalition of groups, including a number of major unions, came out in opposition to the trade agreement.
- Singh should echo NDP members overwhelming support for a recent resolution calling for “ending all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine.” The party motion aligns with the 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which has the force of international law, that calls on “all states… to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
- Singh and all NDP MPs should clearly express their opposition to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism. In the lead-up to the party’s recent convention, more than 40 riding associations and numerous NDP affiliated groups supported a resolution opposing the IHRA definition.
- The NDP should push to eliminate a recently created “special envoy” position primarily designed to deflect criticism from Israeli apartheid. Speaking from his apartment in Jerusalem, Irwin Cotler, Canada’s “special envoy” to protect Israel from criticism, was the keynote speaker at a recent online rally in support of Israeli violence in which the moderator boasted that Montrealers’ were fighting in the Israeli military.
- The NDP should call on the government to support all UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights. A year ago Canada lost its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council in large part because it consistently isolated itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights at the UN.
- Progressives should initiate a campaign to challenge all taxpayer subsidized donations to apartheid Israel. In 2018 registered Canadian charities raised over a quarter billion dollars for Israel-focused projects. Is it right for all Canadians to pay a share of some individuals’ donations to a country with a GDP equal to Canada’s? How many Canadian charities funnel money to Sweden or Japan?
- Progressives should campaign against Canada’s criminalization of Palestinian political life. The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Canadian-based International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN), which was listed because it supported orphans and a hospital in Gaza through official (Hamas controlled) channels, both need to be immediately removed from Canada’s terrorist list. Whatever some may say about Hamas tactics, the IDF has killed nearly 30 times more children over the past week and they are not on Canada’s terrorist list.
- Finally, progressives should push for a formal apology to Palestinians over Canada’s sizable contribution to the unjust UN Partition Plan, which called for ethnically segregated states and gave most of the land to the newly arrived minority. As external affairs officials warned privately in 1947, the Canadian-shaped roadmap would lead to the decades of conflict we are seeing
These are issues that confront the role of this country in enabling the oppression of Palestinians. It’s time progressive Canadians take off their rose-coloured glasses and criticize the bad things our country does in the world.
While some may consider it unrealistic to expect Singh and others to take up these proposals, this ignores how quickly the NDP leader has shifted his position in recent weeks. A few days before the April 9-11 NDP convention Singh refused to mention Palestinians when asked repeatedly by a CBC interviewer and instead referred to anti-Semitism five times. But a little over a month later Singh was organizing a press conference to call for an arms embargo on Israel and raising the issue during question period in the House of Commons. Since then, he has promoted a party petition calling for an arms embargo on Israel and used the campaign to fundraise for the NDP!
A mix of outside pressure, NDP members passing a resolution, and a flare up of violence in the Middle East shifted Singh’s position dramatically within weeks. So why couldn’t he be pressed into supporting proposals rooted in applying Canadian and international law and which have widespread NDP backing?
Support for a more forthright policy on Palestinian rights exists within and beyond the NDP as seen with the recent outpouring of pro-Palestinian energy across Canadian streets. It is also likely a vote-getter in many communities. But, to have a chance of this happening the organized pro-Palestinian movement needs to channel righteous outrage towards Canada’s substantial complicity in Palestinian dispossession.
On Friday, May 21 at 7pm Yves Engler will be speaking at a Canadian Foreign Policy Institute event on “The Innumerable Ways Canada Supports Israeli Apartheid”