Israel lobby continues to stoke anti-Iran animus

In recent years Israel has assassinated Iranian scientists, sabotaged its cyber facilities and backed opposition groups. The nuclear armed state has also repeatedly bombed Iranian targets in Syria.

Yet the mainstream media and our government never criticizes Israel’s effort to destabilize a regime that offers some resistance to its domination of the region. Instead, Canada seems to follow whatever the Israel lobby wants, which is mostly to stoke conflict with Iran.

Before being elected in 2015 Justin Trudeau promised to restart diplomatic relations with Iran that the Stephen Harper government severed in 2012. Five months after the election new Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said, “Canada’s severing of ties with Iran had no positive consequences for anyone: not for Canadians, not for the people of Iran, not for Israel, and not for global security.”

But Israeli nationalist forces scuttled the Liberals’ bid to restart diplomatic relations. In “A story of failed re-engagement: Canada and Iran, 2015–2018” University of Ottawa professor Thomas Juneau, a former Department of National Defence strategic analyst, highlighted the Israel lobby’s role in deterring the government from re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran: “Initially, Cabinet and most caucus supported re-engagement. Dion, who was actively lobbied by Bombardier (whose headquarters were in his riding) and the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, was especially keen. Other senior ministers such as [Christya] Freeland (International Trade) and Harjit Sajjan (Defence) also supported. With time, however, opposition within caucus grew. It was led by Michael Levitt, the influential MP for York-Center and chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group, and also included Anthony Housefather (MP for Mount-Royal). These MPs had support from former minister Irwin Cotler, who had long argued for harsher policies towards Iran.”

Juneau continued, “other interviewees also highlighted the differences in organization among pressure groups. Between the tabling of the motion [to oppose reengaging with Iran] and the vote four days later, groups opposing reengagement, such as the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, rapidly launched an effective campaign to pressure MPs. Groups favoring reengagement, however, such as the Iranian Canadian Congress, were unable to match these lobbying efforts.”

After the Donald Trump administration in the US withdrew from the “p5+1 nuclear deal” with Iran in May 2018 and re-imposed tough new sanctions, the Conservatives and Israel lobby pushed to echo the warmongers in Washington and Tel Aviv. In June 2018 Liberal parliamentarians supported a Conservative MP’s private member’s motion that “strongly condemns the current regime in Iran for its ongoing sponsorship of terrorism around the world, including instigating violent attacks on the Gaza border.” In effect, the resolution made Iran responsible for Israel killing Palestinians peacefully protesting the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem, siege of Gaza and historic theft of their land. The motion also called on Canada to “immediately cease any and all negotiations or discussions with the Islamic Republic of Iran to restore diplomatic relations” and to make the highly provocative move of listing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity.

Despite this resolution, there was still significant political support for restarting diplomatic relations with Iran through 2019. In June of that year NDP foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere presented an Iranian Canadian Congress parliamentary petition signed by over 15,000 Canadians calling on the government to re-establish relations with Iran.

Months later anti-Iranian sentiment grew sharply. On January 3, 2020 the US assassinated top Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp General, Qassem Suleimani, at the Baghdad airport. Considered the second most powerful person in Iran, Suleimani was murdered with nine others in flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

In retaliation to Washington’s brazen violation of international law, Iran launched a dozen ballistic missiles at US-bases in Iraq. On heightened alert for a US response, hours later the Iranian military mistakenly downed Ukraine Airlines flight PS752. Fifty-seven Canadian citizens were killed in the downing of a plane that took off from the Tehran airport.

The Israel lobby has used the tragedy — at least partly Washington’s responsibility for assassinating Suleimani — to attack Iran. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), B’nai B’rith and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre Canada (FSWC) have blanketed the media with op-eds and campaigns marking the incident and calling for increased sanctions on Iran, specifically listing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity. Irwin Cotler’s Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights has also campaigned for the victims of PS752, organizing webinars and publishing reports on the downing of Flight PS752. Raoul Wallenberg Centre lawyer Yonah Diamond is representing families of PS752 victims and Cotler has done multiple webinars and interviews on subject. (Cotler is chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran, set up Iran Accountability Week in Parliament and helped remove the Iranian MEK, which backed Iraq in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and teamed up with Israel to assassinate Iranian scientists from the US terrorist list.)

In recent weeks hardline Israeli nationalists such as Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather and former MP Michael Leavitt have all spoken at or attended Iran demonstrations. CIJA, B’nai B’rith, FSWC and other Israel lobby groups have promoted those protests.

While there is much to dislike about the theocracy in Tehran, the Israel lobby isn’t motivated by Iranian women’s rights. They target Iran to ensure a nation of nine million continues to militarily dominate a region of 450 million.

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