One foreign government openly interferes in Canadian politics

Amidst widespread anxiety over foreign interference in this country’s politics, Israel’s embassy recently mobilized its domestic lobby to strategize on shaping Canadian policy. The absence of media outrage, or even a little embarrassment, speaks loudly about which foreign governments are allowed to ‘interfere’ in Canadian politics.

A couple of attendees highlight the remarkable cynicism of the apartheid lobby.

Last week the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa hosted its second “Canadian Summit for Israel-Jewish Affairs: the Next 75 Years.” Israeli ambassador Ronen Hoffman, Toronto Consul General Idit Shamir and Montréal Consul General Paul Hirschson participated in an event cosponsored with the apartheid state’s principal domestic lobby group, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). B’nai B’rith, Canadian Jewish Public Affairs Committee and other organizations also participated.

Federal cabinet minister Karina Gould, Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus, Liberal party President Sachit Mehra and Supreme Court justice Mahmud Jamal were among the participants. One panel included Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lantsman, NDP MP Randall Garrison and Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Ya’ara Saks (CIJA quoted Garrison saying, “There are members of my caucus that are anti-Israel and antisemitic…I have tried to counter those,” which prompted a denial from Garrison.)

The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa Bureau Chief, Robert Fife, moderated a panel. As much as any journalist in the country, Fife has been responsible for the recent fear mongering about foreign interference. Imagine Fife moderating a panel at a conference organized by the Chinese embassy to mobilize domestic lobby groups on its behalf? (Any comparison between Israel and China is unfair of course. Israel was born in ethnic cleansing, commits the crime of apartheid and has repeatedly waged war against its neighbours.)

Part of the US imperial system, Israel openly mobilizing its Canadian lobby isn’t labeled foreign interference. Some of the speakers further highlighted Israeli impunity.

Former senior adviser to the Green party leader Noah Zatzman spoke. During an intense bout of Israeli ethnic cleansing and violence in May 2021, Zatzman called the Green caucus antisemitic for opposing apartheid. It spurred one of its three MPs to change parties, the defeat of another and the eventual demise of the Green leader. Subsequently, Zatzman doubled down and even boasted about his actions.

The anti-Palestinian movement began taking significant interest in the Green party when it became the first party with representation in parliament to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement seven years ago. Was Zatzman’s speaking invitation a way for the Israeli government to thank him for torpedoing the Greens?

Another speaker’s presence was also remarkable. At the end of last year there were more than a dozen articles about purported antisemitism at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine (TFOM). They were prompted by an article published by TFOM’s outgoing senior advisor on antisemitism. The author of that reportAyelet Kuper, spoke on a panel headlined “Anti-Zionism as the new Antisemitism: Defining a unified strategy in combatting modern antisemitism.” That Kuper spoke on a panel claiming anti-Zionism was anti-Jewish adds to the evidence of the anti-Palestinian nature of her article, which I wrote about when it was released.

Kuper and Zatzman speaking at the conference highlights the crassness and impunity of the Israel lobby. So does the Israeli embassy mobilizing its domestic groups to promote its agenda amidst a brouhaha about foreign interference.

The fact that this is all considered politics as ‘normal’ in Canada makes one wonder how the word “foreign” in the proposed foreign agents registry will be defined.

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