This week Jagmeet Singh attended a reception to promote a state Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN Special Rapporteur have all recently accused of committing the crime of apartheid. Even worse, the event was designed to celebrate an odious accord Donald Trump signed to recognize Moroccan colonialism in exchange for Rabat establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.
In partnership with the Israeli and Moroccan embassies and Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) organized “A Taste of Morocco and a Sip of Israel” lobbying session on Parliament Hill Tuesday. The event was “to celebrate the historic positive developments in Arab-Israeli friendship since the Abraham Accords by highlighting the growing ties between Israel and Morocco.”
In return for Morocco agreeing to full diplomatic relations with Israel, Washington “signed a proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara”, tweeted Donald Trump 21 months ago. Western Sahara is a sparsely populated territory in north-western Africa that Morocco has occupied for nearly five decades. Ruled by Spain until 1975, Moroccan troops moved in when the Spanish departed and a bloody 15-year war drove tens of thousands of Sahrawi into neighbouring Algeria, where they still live in camps. Until Trump’s move, no country officially recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. The UN calls it “occupied”.
The NDP leader attended the event put on by Canada’s preeminent apartheid lobby group and was photographed talking with CIJA Vice President Richard Marceau. In their tweet CIJA noted, “We had a frank and productive discussion with Jagmeet Singh. We hope it will lead to changes in the NDP ’s Middle Eastern policy. The Arab world is changing, the NDP ’s stance shouldn’t be stuck in the past.”
CIJA’s statement was a reference to an email Singh sent to some supporters last month that sharpened the NDP’s critique of Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession. In response to the attention garnered by Singh’s 13 demands on Palestine, CIJA launched an email campaign titled “Tell Jagmeet Singh: This Letter Doesn’t Promote Peace”. It called for supporters to “Tell the NDP to stop using this divisive rhetoric that infantilizes Palestinians, demonizes Israelis, and ignores the reality on the ground.”
Framing their criticism of the NDP as being “stuck in the past” is laughable. While it fit the Morocco/Abraham Accords theme of CIJA’s lobbying session, it has little to do with Singh or NDP policy on Palestine. In fact, antiracists and internationalists have been pressing the NDP to modernize its Palestine policy.
Eighteen months ago, Singh refused to utter the word “Palestine” In the lead-up to the NDP’s April 2021 convention Singh was asked by the CBC’s Chris Hall about a number of widely-supported resolutions regarding “Canada’s relationship to Israel and the Palestinian territory.” Instead of responding to Hall’s question directly, the NDP leader mentioned “antisemitism” four times. Asked again about “resolutions that in a sense condemn Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians,” Singh again failed to mention Palestine or Palestinians. Instead, he talked about “increased hate crimes [against] people of the Jewish faith.” Singh’s complete erasure of the long-oppressed Palestinians was stunning.
But, not altogether unique in NDP history. Singh’s predecessor as party leader, Tom Mulcair, once said “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances” while his foreign affairs critic, Hélène Laverdière, attended an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington and participated in ceremony put on by the racist Jewish National Fund in Jerusalem. In the 1989 book The Domestic Battleground: Canada and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Irving Abella and John Sigler write, “historically, the New Democratic Party (NDP) has been the most supportive of the Israeli cause.” The NDP labelled the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which was created in 1964, a danger and vociferously opposed the UN granting it observer status in 1974. Federal party leader Ed Broadbent called the PLO “terrorists and murderers whose aim is the destruction of the state of Israel.” In the late 1970s, the NDP called on the federal government to intervene to block Canadian companies from adhering to Arab countries’ boycott of Israel, which was designed to pressure that country to return land captured in the 1967 war.
Despite general misgivings towards arms sales, the CCF backed Canada selling 24 F-86 Sabre jets to Israel in the lead-up to its 1956 invasion of Egypt. The party also justified Israel’s invasion alongside declining Middle East colonial powers Britain and France.
Ties to various Israel lobby groups from Israel’s Labour party to Histadrut union federation, CIJA to Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group, have influenced NDP Palestine policy over the years. Two weeks ago Just Peace Advocates and the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute launched a public letter to press the NDP to finally withdraw from theCanada-Israel Interparliamentary Group. Signed by 40 groups and 200 individuals, including Noam Chomsky, Svend Robinson, Linda McQuaig and Roger Waters, the letter notes, “it is incoherent for the NDP to echo human rights groups’ finding of Israeli apartheid and simultaneously participate in a group promoting ‘co-operation’ with Israel.” About 1,200 individuals have recently emailed the letter to the NDP leader calling on “Singh to formally disassociate the NDP from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group.”
It appears Singh doesn’t really care about Palestinian rights. He takes positions on the issue entirely based upon political calculations and pressure campaigns. As such, we must keep the pressure on him and demand the NDP withdraw from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group.
Please take a minute to call on the NDP to withdraw from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group