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Double standard blatant on Israel and China ‘foreign influence’ in Canada

Foreign influence in Canada is bad if it comes from China, but not even worth mentioning if it comes from Israel. That seems to be the position of the Globe and Mail.

Canada’s ‘paper of record’ is so gripped with anti-Chinese fervor that it is blind to a blatant double standard. Contrasting the Globe and Mail’s reporting on Canadian groups close to China and Israel highlights the xenophobic nature of their coverage.

Alongside Washington’s bid to build international opposition to China, the Globe has sought to expose Chinese influence in Canada. The paper has recently criticized Chinese government funded Confucius Institutes, which sponsor Mandarin programs and other cultural endeavors. In an October 15 story titled “Beijing used influence over B.C. schools to push its agenda and keep tabs on Canadian politics, documents show” the Globe reported on a Vancouver area Confucius-Institute-promoted school program where children read a poem that included the line “I am proud! I am Chinese!”

In a follow-up column citing the poem reading titled “It’s time to kick the Confucius Institute out of Canada” Gary Mason complained, “we have no laws or protections to force organizations acting in the interest of foreign powers to be registered and accountable.”

In a column on Thursday titled “Canada’s laws about foreign agents haven’t caught up to the modern world” Campbell Clark also called for legislation to blunt Chinese influence in Canada. “The first [to do] is to establish much greater transparency about the people in Canada working on behalf of foreign interests. The second is a law that signals it is not acceptable to secretly do the bidding of a foreign government in Canada.”

On October 28 the Globe published a story headlined “Chinese-Canadian groups laud China’s fight against U.S., allies in Korean War”. The story quoted former Canadian diplomat and senior fellow at the right-wing Macdonald Laurier Institute, Charles Burton, saying “it is so wrong to get Canadians to identify with the interests of a foreign state. That goes against the principle of citizenship.”

(The Chinese-Canadian groups’ statement on the 1950-53 Korean War was historically accurate. As many as 4 million mostly Koreans and Chinese died in a war that was partly a response to the success of China’s communist/nationalist revolution. Before China entered the war US aircraft bombed that country and Beijing only sent forces into Korea after hundreds of thousands of hostile US-led troops approached its border.)

A follow up Globe commentary partly based on the Korean war story was titled “China’s Xi Jinping is mobilizing his propaganda machinery against the west”. It noted, “these groups are revealing themselves as being plugged in and susceptible to the Chinese propaganda media; they seem to identify with China rather than with Canada.”

Since August the Globe has published a series of other stories critical of Chinese influence, including “Ontario legislature criticized for plans to fly China’s flag on Wednesday”, “CSIS warns China’s Operation Fox Hunt is targeting Canada’s Chinese community”, “Trudeau says Beijing’s targeting of Canadian Chinese community has ‘intensified’”, “CSIS warns about China’s efforts to recruit Canadian scientists” and “Universities, school boards across Canada defend ties with China’s Confucius Institute”. Another story headlined “Canada failing to address rising complaints about foreign intimidation of rights activists, Amnesty International says”, claimed that “Chinese government officials and supporters of the Communist Party of China are increasingly resorting to ‘threats, bullying and harassment’ to intimidate and silence activists in Canada.”

As the Globe has campaigned against Chinese influence and those who “identify with the interests of a foreign state”, they’ve ignored far more flagrant examples of Israeli nationalists doing the same thing. The Globe failed to report on the Israel lobby’s recent “threats, bullying and harassment” of Foodbendors due to the Toronto restaurant’s support of the Palestinian cause. Last month an open letter signed by Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, filmmaker Ken Loach, author Yann Martel, former MP Jim Manly, poet El Jones and more than 150 others was delivered to Justice Minister David Lametti calling on the federal government to apply charges under the Foreign Enlistment Act against those recruiting Canadians for the Israeli military. The Globe ignored the letter and associated legal complaint as well as a campaign that saw more than 1,400 individuals email every MP calling for an investigation into IDF recruitment. More broadly, the paper has ignored Israeli military recruitment in Canada.

As I recently detailed, a number of Toronto schools openly promote the Israeli military. Canada’s largest private high school, Toronto’s TanenbaumCHAT, organizes fundraisers for Israeli military initiatives and holds regular “IDF days.” Former and current Israeli soldiers also talk to the students about the IDF, which sometimes appears part of the Israeli consulate’s recruitment drives. Additionally, students sing the Israeli national anthem and fly the Israeli flag.

A school enticing young people to join another country’s military is a far clearer example of “acting in the interest of foreign powers” then reciting a nationalist Chinese poem or echoing Beijing’s perspective on the Korean War. But, if the above-mentioned comments directed at Chinese-Canadian organizations were leveled against groups promoting Israel there would be a flurry of accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ just as there were when two Liberal MPs were accused of promoting the interests of a foreign country.

But, the ‘allied with another country’ discourse is a red herring. Rather than a nationalist lens, progressives everywhere should judge these matters based on whether a position is emancipatory or oppressive. A statement critical of the US-led Korean War is progressive. A poem recital noting “I am proud! I am Chinese!” is progressive when made in reference to overcoming a century of foreign domination, but not if it supports Han supremacy against ethnic minorities in China.

Defending China is somewhat complicated. While there’s lots to object to about the Chinese government, it has succeeded in mostly breaking from foreign domination over the past 70 years. But, the country’s GDP per person is still only $10,261– equal to Mexico – and its global influence has yet to reflect its share of the world’s population.

Promoting Israel — let alone recruiting for its military — is unquestionably oppressive. With a $43,641 per person GDP, nuclear arms and staunch support from the world’s hegemon, Israel has spent its entire history taking ever more of the indigenous population’s land. The Israeli military is currently imprisoning Gaza and occupying land in Syria and the West Bank in contravention of international law. Israel has bombed most Middle Eastern countries and in recent years has been bombing Syria on a near weekly basis.

Understanding what is truly going on in the realm of foreign affairs is complicated. But when double standards appear as blatant as the Globe and Mail’s coverage of groups close to China and Israel every thinking person must question what they are being told.

One must at least consider the possibility that rather than defending Canadian interests perhaps people attacking China are motivated by racism and Trumpian nationalist ‘keep America on top of the world’ sentiments.

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Filed under Asia, Campbell Clark, Gary Mason