When challenging power, it’s imperative to celebrate victories. But it’s also important to understand the political dance is often two steps forward, one step back.
In a victory for thousands of party activists, Jagmeet Singh recently released a statement that sharpened the New Democratic Party’s critique of Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession. The NDP leader’s email made 13 demands of the Liberals on Palestine. The first point implies Israel is committing the crime of apartheid while the last two points call on Canada to “suspend the bilateral trade of all arms and related materials with the State of Israel until Palestinian rights are upheld” and “end all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine.”
Singh’s statement is important and should be applauded, as I did in “Supporters of Palestinian rights should praise NDP’s dramatic policy shift”. But the NDP has also been tentative with the statement. They didn’t publish it on their web site or post it to social media. It was only sent via email to a list of individuals they’ve (presumably) identified as backers of the Palestinian cause.
Still, Singh’s statement received significant attention. Canada Talks Israel/Palestine, Canadian Dimension, The Maple, The Orchard, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, Independent Jewish Voices, National Council of Canadian Muslims and many others reported on or publicized the email. After it received significant attention in left circles, including NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson defending it, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) published a press release and action alert criticizing Singh’s statement for “laying all blame at the feet of Israel”.
While the NDP must be defended from CIJA’s attacks, the apartheid lobby group shouldn’t control the agenda for progressives regarding the party’s Palestine policy. We must keep pushing from the left. That is why Just Peace Advocates and the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute released a public letter yesterday calling on the NDP to withdraw from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group. Signed by 40 groups and 200 individuals, including Noam Chomsky, Svend Robinson, Linda McQuaig and Roger Waters, the letter reads:
NDP must withdraw from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group
Over the past eighteen months Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’tselem and the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinians have all concluded that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.
In recent months NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson has repeatedly asked foreign minister Melanie Joly why the Liberal government rejects the conclusion of Amnesty’s 280-page report titled “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel system of domination and crime against humanity”. A number of NDP MPs recently signed Independent Jewish Voices’ Together Against Apartheid pledge and others have voiced criticism of Israeli apartheid.
In April of last year NDP members overwhelmingly supported a resolution that called for suspending arms sales to Israel and “ending all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine.”
While the party sharpens its critique of Israel’s subjugation of Palestinians, NDP MP Randall Garrison remains vice-chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group. NDP MPs Lisa Marie Barron, Gord Johns and Bonita Zarrillo are also listed on the website of a group which has a mandate to promote “greater friendship” and “further co-operation” between Canada and Israel.
Four years ago 200 prominent musicians, academics, trade unionists and NDP members released “A Call for the NDP to Withdraw from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group”. Since that time the Israeli military has killed prominent Palestinian journalists, repeatedly bombed Gaza and Syria, assassinated individuals in Iran and expanded illegal settlements in the West Bank.
It is incoherent for the NDP to echo human rights group’’ finding of Israeli apartheid and simultaneously participate in a group promoting “co-operation” with Israel.
It’s time for Jagmeet Singh to formally disassociate the NDP from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group.
Whether Singh disassociates the NDP from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group in two days, two months or two years from now it’s unavoidable. The party can’t suggest a country is committing the crime of apartheid and simultaneously promote greater friendship with it.
Please take a minute to call on the NDP to withdraw from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group