Category Archives: Canada and Israel

Campaign to revoke Jewish National Fund charitable status important

Last week the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), under pressure from Palestine solidarity activists, began an audit of the Jewish National Fund.

The audit is significant. Beyond weakening the oldest Israel-focused charity in the country, it will put other Israeli charities in Canada on notice and reflects the growth of Palestine solidarity activism.

Fulfilling the time-consuming audit will be a bureaucratic headache for a group that has eleven offices across Canada and has raised $100 million over the past five years. Already, the credibility of the second most powerful Israel-oriented charity in Canada has taken a hit with the CBC exposé headlined “Canadian charity  used donations to fund projects linked to Israeli military” and related  stories. If the CRA revokes the JNF’s charitable status it would be devastating for fundraising and deter politicians/celebrities from attending their events.

Similar to the JNF, other registered charities support the Israeli military in direct contravention of CRA rules. Additionally, some of these organizations — like the JNF — fund projects supporting West Bank settlements, which Global Affairs Canada considers in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

At a broader level, critical attention on the JNF could lead to questioning of why Canadian taxpayers subsidize hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to a wealthy country. Despite a GDP per capita greater than Spain or Italy (and equal to Japan), hundreds of registered Canadian charities deliver hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Israel. How many Canadian charities funnel money to Spain or Japan?

If the CRA revoked JNF’s charitable status it would boost Stop the JNF campaigns elsewhere. In England they convinced former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to withdraw as patron of the JNF (Theresa May seems to have also stayed away), and 68 members of parliament endorsed a bill to revoke the organization’s charitable status because “the JNF’s constitution is explicitly discriminatory by stating that land and property will never be rented, leased or sold to non-Jews.”

The CRA audit of a charity that’s found favour with numerous Canadian prime ministers is long in the making and reflects the growth of Palestinian solidarity consciousness. Born in a West Bank village demolished to make way for the JNF’s Canada Park, Ismail Zayid has been complaining to the CRA about its charitable status for 40 years. Lebanese Canadian Ron Saba “has been indefatigable over the years in writing to various Canadian government departments and officials, corporations, and media to rescind tax exemption status and endorsement of” what he calls the “racist JNF tax fraud”. During the Liberal party convention in 2006 Saba was widely smeared for drawing attention to leadership candidate Bob Rae’s ties to the JNF. Saba has put in multiple Access to Information requests regarding the JNF, demonstrating government spying of its critics and long-standing knowledge of the organization’s dubious practices. Under the headline “Event you may want to monitor,” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Caitlin Workman sent the CRA a communication about a 2011 Independent Jewish Voices event in Ottawa stating: “author of the Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Yves Engler, will give a talk on Canada and the Jewish National Fund.”

Former Independent Jewish Voices coordinator Tyler Levitan was smeared for working diligently on the issue. In addition to important organizing, he discovered that the Ottawa Citizen sponsored JNF galas they covered and, suggesting a formal financial relationship, ran an ad for the JNF’s 2013 Ottawa Gala the day after the event.

At the Green Party convention in 2016 Corey Levine pushed a resolution to revoke the JNF’s charitable status because it practices “institutional  discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel.” The effort brought the issue into the mainstream though she, IJV and the entire Green  Party were smeared  as “hard core  Jew haters” for even considering the resolution.

Fifteen months ago IJV and four individuals filed a detailed complaint to the CRA and Minister of National Revenue over the JNF. For a number of years IJV has run a “Stop the JNF” campaign and for more than a decade activists across the country have picketed local JNF fundraising galas. These efforts have benefited from many in Palestine/Israel, notably the work of Uri Davies and Adalah.

As I have written before, the campaign to revoke the JNF’s charitable status is important beyond winning the specific demand. It draws attention to the racism intrinsic to Zionism and highlights Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

The CRA is undoubtedly facing significant behind-the-scenes pressure to let the JNF off with little more than a slap on the wrists. So, it’s important that people send their MP  the CBC exposé and add their name to Independent Jewish Voices’ campaign  to revoke the Jewish National Fund’s charitable status.

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Where do NDP MPs stand on CBC story exposing Jewish National Fund?

An explosive CBC expose Friday on the Jewish National Fund should be the beginning of the end for this powerful organization’s charitable status. But, unless the NDP differentiates itself from the Liberals and Conservatives by standing up for Canadian and international law while simultaneously opposing explicit racism, the JNF may simply ride out this short bout of bad publicity.

According to a story headlined “Canadian charity  used donations to fund projects linked to Israeli military”, the JNF has financed multiple projects for the Israeli military in direct contravention of Canada Revenue Agency rules for registered charities. The organization has also funded a number of projects supporting West Bank settlements, which Global Affairs Canada considers in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The story also revealed that the Canada Revenue Agency, under pressure from Independent Jewish Voices and other Palestine solidarity activists, began an audit of the state-subsidized charity last year.

After detailing the above, (which provoked hundreds of mostly angry comments from readers) the story notes that the “JNF has had strong relations with successive Conservative and Liberal governments.” The CBC published a picture of politicians congregated at the Prime Minister’s residence above the caption “Laureen Harper poses with JNF Gala honorees during a group visit to 24 Sussex Drive in 2015.”

But the JNF, like all good lobbyists, has hedged it political bets and the story could have noted that the social democratic opposition party was represented at this JNF gala as well and has dutifully supported the dubious “charity”. NDP MP Pat Martin spoke at the JNF event Harper organized to “recognize and thank the people that have helped to make JNF Canada what it is today.” In 2016 NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière participated in a JNF tree planting ceremony in Jerusalem with JNF World Chairman Danny Atar and a number of its other top officials. The president of the Windsor-Tecumseh Federal NDP riding association, Noah Tepperman, has been a director of JNF Windsor since 2004 and has funded the organization’s events in London, Ontario.

In 2015 Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath published an ad in a JNF Hamilton handbook and offered words of encouragement to its fundraiser while Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter planted a tree at a JNF garden in 2011. Manitoba NDP Premier Gary Doer was honoured at a 2006 JNF Negev Dinner in Winnipeg and cabinet minister Christine Melnick received the same honour in 2011. During a 2010 trip to Israel subsequent Manitoba NDP Premier Greg Selinger signed an accord with the JNF to jointly develop two bird conservation sites while water stewardship minister Melnick spoke at the opening ceremony for a park built in Jaffa by the JNF, Tel Aviv Foundation and Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable. (In 2017 Melnick won a B’nai Brith Zionist action figures prize for writing an article about a friend who helped conquer East Jerusalem and then later joined the JNF).

Besides NDP support for this dubious “charity”, the story ignored the JNF’s racist land-use policies. The JNF owns 13 per cent of Israel’s land, which was mostly taken from Palestinians forced from their homes by Zionist forces in 1947-1948. It discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up a fifth of the population. According to a UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” Echoing the UN, a 2012 US State Department report detailing “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel says JNF “statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.” Indicative of its discrimination against the 20% of Israelis who aren’t Jewish, JNF Canada’s Twitter tag says it “is the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners — Jewish people everywhere.” Its parent organization in Israel — the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael — is even more open about its racism. Its website notes that “a survey  commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.” While such exclusionary land-use policies were made illegal in Canada seven decades ago, that’s the JNF’s raison d’être.

An organization that recently raised $25 million  for a Stephen Harper Bird Sanctuary, JNF Canada has been directly complicit in at least three important instances of Palestinian dispossession. In the late 1920s JNF Canada spearheaded a highly controversial land acquisition that drove a 1,000 person Bedouin community from land it had tilled for centuries and in the 1980s JNF–Canada helped finance an Israeli government campaign to “Judaize” the Galilee, the largely Arab northern region of Israel. Additionally, as the CBC mentioned, JNF-Canada build Canada Park on the remnants of three Palestinian villages Israel conquered in 1967.

A map the JNF shows to nine and ten-year-olds at Jewish day schools in Toronto encompasses the illegally occupied West Bank and Gaza, effectively denying Palestinians the right to a state on even 22 percent of their historic homeland. Similarly, the maps  on JNF Blue Boxes, which are used by kids to raise funds, distributed in recent years include the occupied West Bank. The first map on the Blue Box, designed in 1934, depicted  an area reaching from the Mediterranean into present-day Lebanon and Jordan.

The JNF is an openly racist organization that supports illegal settlements and the Israeli military. Many NDP activists understand this. The party’s MPs now have a choice: If they stand for justice and against all forms of racism, for the rule of international law and fairness in the Canadian tax system, they will speak up in Parliament to keep this story alive. The NDP needs to set itself apart from the Liberals and Conservatives by following up on the CBC’s revelations to demand the Canada Revenue Agency rescind the JNF’s charitable status.

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Pro-Israel MPs flout NDP policy

Do New Democrat MPs who belong to the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG) have carte blanche to flout party policy?

Last week CIIG executive member Murray Rankin participated in a press conference calling for a new round of Canadian sanctions on Iran. The Victoria MP joined CIIG chair  Michael Levitt, vice-chair David Sweet and executive member Anthony Housefather for an event led by former CIIG executive Irwin Cotler.

Rankin’s role in this anti-Iranian effort runs counter to the NDP’s opposition to illegal sanctions on Iran, call for Canada to re-establish diplomatic relations with that country and support for the 2015 “p5+1 nuclear deal”. (Justin Trudeau has failed to maintain  his election promise to restart diplomatic relations with Iran.)

Rankin’s departure from NDP policy takes place amidst the Donald Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and bid to force others to adhere to its illegal sanctions, threatening to sanction any country that buys Iranian oil.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said the US would seek to starve Iranians until the country’s decision-makers accept their demands. Last month Pompeo told the BBC, “the [Iranian] leadership  has to make a decision that they want their people to eat.”

Along with punishing its economy, the US and Israel are seeking to foment unrest in Iran. According to a July Axios story, “Israel and  the United States formed a joint working group a few months ago that is focused on internal efforts to encourage protests within Iran and pressure the country’s government.”

The other NDP member on CIIG’s executive also recently departed from the party’s position by condemning the Palestinian solidarity movement. Randall Garrison tweeted, “Nick Cave: cultural boycott of Israel is ‘cowardly and shameful’” and linked to an article quoting the Australian musician who has criticized a growing list of prominent individuals – from Lorde to Natalie Portman – refusing to whitewash Israeli apartheid.

Garrison’s comment seems to run counter to the NDP’s vote against a 2016 House of Commons resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. It certainly angered many rank-and-file party members.

After the backlash to Garrison’s attack on the Palestine solidarity movement, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs put out a statement calling on people to defend the NDP MP.

It said,

“last night MP Randall Garrison tweeted an anti-BDS article, calling boycotts of Israel ‘cowardly and shameful’. Since then, the comment section of the tweet has been filled with hateful pro-BDS messages from anti-Israel trolls.”

The timing of Garrison’s tweet made it especially egregious. The day before CIIG’s vice-chair attacked Palestine solidarity activists the Israeli Knesset voted down (71 votes to 38) a bill titled the “Basic Law: Equality”, which stated, “the State of Israel  shall maintain equal political rights amongst all its citizens, without any difference between religions, race, and sex.”

The bill was partly a response to the explicitly racist Nation-State law passed in the summer. (The bulk of Garrison and Rankin’s colleagues on CIIG’s Israeli partner — the Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group — most likely  voted against equality.)

Three weeks ago Garrison spoke at an event organized by the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC). CIIG’s chair also spoke. On Twitter, Michael Levitt noted:

“Had an amazing time talking to the CJPAC Fellowship Conference last night. Over 50 Jewish and non-Jewish university students who are pro-Israel and politically engaged.”

In his hostility to Palestine solidarity activism, Garrison has taken to blocking NDP members on Twitter. After Garrison’s attack against the BDS movement, prominent lawyer and Palestinian rights advocate, Dimitri Lascaris, wrote:

“No other Canadian MP has blocked me even though I have said far harsher things about other Canadian MPs than I have ever said about Garrison.”

Last summer NDP leader Jagmeet Singh refused to heed a call by 200  well-known musicians, academics, trade unionists and party members for the NDP to withdraw from CIIG.

Perhaps if Singh had supported the open letter signed by Roger Waters, Linda McQuaig, Maher Arar, Noam Chomsky, etc. it would have sent a message and lessened the likelihood that Garrison and Rankin would flout party policy.

It is not too late for Singh to reevaluate his position on the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group.

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Canadian Jewish News reeks of hypocrisy over support for terrorism

What should we make of a media outlet that praises those who join or give money to a foreign army, which occupies territory belonging to another people, terrorizes the local population by destroying houses, restricting their movement, subjecting them to military courts and shooting unarmed protesters?

What should we call the Canadian Jewish News, an unfailing flatterer of Canadians who join or finance a military subjugating Palestinians? Would “promoter of terror tourism” be an appropriate description?

Over the past month the CJN has published at least four pieces celebrating Canadian support for the Israeli military. On November 22 it reported, “Bayli Dukes, who recently won the Israel Defence Forces’ Award of Excellence for the Southern Command of the IDF, was a biology student at York University in Toronto less than two years ago. Tired of sitting on the couch and posting on Facebook about the situation in Israel, she decided there was more she could be doing.”

A day earlier it posted an article titled “Hand-knitted  tuques – a very Canadian gift for IDF soldiers” described 80-year olds in Toronto knitting “for charitable causes, such as IDF soldiers in Israel.” Through the Hats for Israeli Soldiers initiative “more than 50,000 hats have been made for combat soldiers on Israel’s front lines”, the CJN reported. The paper quoted IDF soldier Dovid Berger’s thank you letter. “I’m currently a chayal in the 51st brigade of Golani. We are now on our way to a week-long drill in the cold and wet [occupied Syrian] Golan Heights, and last night we received our beautiful black hats you sent us. Thank you so much, some of us have been borrowing each other’s hats and now there’s enough for everyone to have at least one. It really makes a big difference to us to see how people from Canada and the U.S.A. (and everywhere in the world) are really caring about us.”

A photo in its November 14 print edition was titled “Honouring IDF veterans”. The caption read: “former Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon … makes presentation to Montrealers who served in the Israel Defence Forces…. during the Canadian Institute for Jewish research’s 30th anniversary Gala.”

An October 30 piece in the community paper reported, “former NHL player Keith Primeau was among more than 100 Canadians who cycled through Israel over five days this month, to raise funds for disabled veterans in that country. This was the 11th Courage in Motion Bike Ride, which is organized by Beit Halochem Canada.”

The CJN regularly promotes that organization. A search of its database for “Beit Halochem” found dozens of stories about fundraisers and other initiatives supporting Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel. A 2009 story titled “Israeli veterans enjoy 24th visit to Montreal” reported, “the annual visit was sponsored by the 25-year-old Beit Halochem Canada (Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel), which raises funds for Israel’s Beit Halochem, a network of centres that provide therapy and support to more than 51,000 disabled vets and victims of terror.”

Another military initiative CJN promotes is Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans, which is partly funded by the Israeli government. “I served three years in the Nahal Brigade. I was in Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”, Shlomi Nahumson, director of youth programs at Widows and Orphans, told the paper in advance of a Toronto fundraiser for the group.

Another military initiative popular with CJN is Sar-El, which was founded by Israeli general Aharon Davidi in 1982. “Toronto brothers volunteer for Sar-El at height of war”, “91-year-old volunteers on Israeli army base” and “Toronto artist’s mural unites Israeli army base” are a sampling of the headlines about a program in which about 150 Canadians serve each year as volunteers on Israeli army supply bases.

At least a dozen CJN stories have promoted the Association for the Soldiers of Israel in Canada. “IDF represents all Jews, female general says” and “Community shows support for Israeli soldiers”, noted headlines about a group established in 1971 to provide financial and moral support to active duty soldiers. The later story quoted a speaker claiming, “the IDF saves lives, and not just in Israel — all over the world.”

CJN has published a series of stories sympathetic to Tzofim Garin Tzabar, which recruits non-Israeli Jews into the IDF. A 2004 article about a program supported by the IDF, Israel Scouts, Jewish Agency and Ministry of Absorption was titled “Canadian youths serve in IDF: Motivated by zionist ideals, love of Israel.” It reported, “[Canadian Yakov] Frydman-Kohl is attending tank school at an Israeli army base somewhere near the West Bank town of Jericho. He recently completed a course in advanced training before his first deployment somewhere in the Gaza Strip.”

CJN lauded Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz’ Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers. “Philanthropists aid Israeli ‘lone soldiers’”, was the title of one story about the billionaire Toronto couple providing millions of dollars annually for these non-Israeli soldiers.

More generally, the paper has published numerous stories about Canadian ‘lone soldiers’. “Going in alone: the motivations and hardships of Israel lone soldiers”, “Parents of ‘lone soldiers’ discuss support group” and “Lone soldiers: young idealists and worried parents”, detailed Canadians fighting in the Israeli military. They’ve also publicized numerous books about Canadian and other non-Israelis joining the IDF. In one CJN quoted Abe Levine, an Ontarian who helped drive Palestinians from their homes in 1948, saying, “what I don’t understand is why Israelis don’t send 10 rockets back for every one fired from Gaza.”  The story continued, “during his time in the Machal [overseas military volunteers], Levine saw most Arabs as ‘the enemy.’ Though he said he had lines he would not cross – ‘I wouldn’t kill an Arab if I just saw him standing outside his house.’”

CJN promoted Nefesh B’Nefesh’s (Jewish Souls United) recruitment of Canadians to the IDF. “Nefesh B’Nefesh brings aspiring soldiers to Israel”, noted a headline about a group that facilitates “Aliyah” for those unsatisfied with their and their ancestors’ dispossession of First Nations and want to help colonize another indigenous people.

While CJN provides positive publicity to groups promoting the Israeli military, these groups (often registered Canadian charities) finance the paper. The previously mentioned story about Nefesh B’Nefesh ended with “the reporter’s trip was partly subsidized by Nefesh B’Nefesh.” More significantly, these organizations regularly advertise in the paper. “Express your Zionism by serving as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli army supply base”, read a Sar-El ad while another noted “the Association for the soldiers of Israel invites you to show your support for the brave youth of the IDF at our gala dinner.”

Yet, while it promotes joining and financing a military actively killing Arabs, CJN accuses Palestinian Canadians of supporting terrorism. An August headline noted, “Canadian Arabic-language newspaper criticized for pro-terrorist op-ed” while a 2017 one stated, “B’nai Brith wants a Mississauga teacher fired for backing terrorists”.

The hypocrisy is glaring. While CJN accuses others, it may be this country’s biggest promoter of “terror tourism”.

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Real hate taught inside Toronto school, not scrawled outside

Supporters of a private Toronto school that publicly promotes racism against Palestinians, flies an Israeli flag and then complains of “anti-Semitism” when pro-Palestinian graffiti is scrawled on its walls should give their heads a shake.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and B’nai Brith labeled messages scrawled on Leo Baeck Day School “hateful” and “anti-Semitic”, but fair-minded individuals should be more concerned with the hatred taught inside the school.

Recently someone wrote “Free Palestine” and“Long Live Palestine” on the school’s sign and flagpole. On a picture of a rally with Israeli flags at or near Leo Baeck (reports differ) someone wrote “Long Life [sic] to the Hamas.”

Saying it received a call to its “Anti-Hate Hotline”, B’nai Brith claimed the school was “defaced  with antisemitic epithets”. FSWC and CIJA also put out statements denouncing “hatred”. A number of city councillors and MPs repeated their message with Mayor John Tory writing, “there is no place for hate” in Toronto.

But none of these groups or politicians mentioned the hate taught inside the school itself.

Leo Baeck is a bastion indoctrination and activism that meets most of the criteria of anti-Palestinian racism, as defined by the UK’s Jewish Voice for Labour.

An Israeli flag flies in front of the school and its publicity says it “instills” a “love of Israel” and  “a deep and meaningful connection to … the State of Israel” among students. The school has an Israel Engagement Committee and in 2012 it received United Jewish Appeal Toronto’s inaugural Israel Engagement Community Award. That same year the Israeli Consul General in Toronto, DJ Schneiweiss, attended the launch of a new campus at Leo Baeck.

A 2012 Canadian Jewish News article titled “Leo Baeck adopts  more Israel-centric curriculum” quoted the head of the school saying “one of the reasons people choose our school is a commitment to the State of Israel.” But, principal Eric Petersie told the paper, graduates felt unprepared to respond to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on university campuses so the school increased its Israeli teachings.

Leo Baeck was the first school to join UJA Federation Toronto’s shinshinim (emissary) program, which began in 2007. Partly funded by the Jewish Agency for Israel, the program sends young Israelis to interact with Canadian students and staff. Last year the school hosted Idan Aharon and Roni Alkalay for three days a week. According to the Canadian Jewish News, “one of the ways Leo Baeck and the Young Emissary Program ensure that students understand the realities of Israel is by re-introducing the previous year’s shinshinim to students by way of live video chat from their Israel Defence Forces barracks dressed in their military uniforms.”

The school promotes the Israeli military in other ways. Last year’s Grade 8 class organized a school-wide fundraiser to support Beit Halochem Canada/Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel and a choir “paid tribute  to Israel’s fallen heroes.”

In another crude form of anti-Palestinianism, Leo Baeck works with the explicitly racist  Jewish National Fund, which excludes the 20-25% of non-Jewish Israelis from its vast landholdings mostly stolen from Palestinians in 1948. Some “students took  virtual walk across Israel in school thanks to JNF map and guidance”, noted a 2015 tweet.  But, the JNF map  shown to the nine and ten-year-olds encompasses the illegally occupied West Bank and Gaza, effectively denying Palestinians the right to a state on even 22 percent of their historic homeland. In all likelihood, Leo Baeck works with JNF Canada’s Education Department, which has produced puzzles and board games to convince young minds of its colonialist worldview, and organizes celebrations of JNF day  at Jewish schools.

While B’nai Brith, FSWC and CIJA’s statements on the graffiti present the school as sacrosanct, apolitical, terrain, they didn’t object when a politician used it as a backdrop to express his anti-Palestinian bonafides. During a 2012 tour of Leo Baeck then Liberal Liberal party leadership contender Justin Trudeau criticized Iran, celebrated Israel and distanced himself from his brother Alexandre’s support for Palestinians.

Over the past year the Canadian Jewish News has published at least three stories about the growing attention devoted to Israel education at Jewish schools. A 2017 cover story titled “What to teach Jewish students about Israel?” detailed the growing importance given to classes on Israel at Jewish day schools. While students have long been “taught from a young age to see Israel as the land of milk and honey”, in recent years Jewish day schools have ramped up their indoctrination in reaction to “anti-Israel student groups on campuses throughout North America.”

When a school engages in partisan political activity in support of a foreign country, when it supports racism and intolerance against an oppressed people, when it indoctrinates children in these views, surely it cannot be surprised that some would be upset, and might illustrate their displeasure.

One can debate the merits of writing political graffiti on school grounds, but what news reports described was certainly not anti-Semitic.

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Canada escalates its hypocritical attack on Venezuela

Requesting the International Criminal Court investigate Venezuela’s government is a significant escalation in Ottawa’s campaign of interference in the domestic affairs of another country.

Supported by five like-minded South American nations, it’s the first time a member state has been brought before the ICC’s chief prosecutor by other members.

In Canada the campaign to have the ICC investigate the Nicolás Maduro government began in May. “I would like to see the states from the G7 agreeing to refer the matter of crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court for a prospective investigation and prosecution,” said Irwin Cotler at an Ottawa press conference to release a report on purported Venezuelan human rights violations. The former Liberal justice minister added, “this is the arch-typical example of why a reference is needed, as to why the ICC was created.”

Cotler was one of three “international experts” responsible for a 400-page Canadian-backed  Organization of American States (OAS) report on rights violations in Venezuela. The panel recommended OAS secretary general Luis Almagro submit the report to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC and that other states refer Venezuela to the ICC. In a Real News Network interview Max Blumenthal described “the hyperbolic and propagandistic nature” of the press conference where the report was released at the OAS in Washington. Cotler said Venezuela’s “government itself was responsible for the worst ever humanitarian crisis in the region.”

Worse than the extermination of the Taíno and Arawak by the Spanish? Or the enslavement of five million Africans in Brazil? Or the 200,000 Mayans killed in Guatemala? Or the thousands of state-murdered “subversives” in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, etc.? Worse than the tens of thousands killed in Colombia, Honduras and Mexico in recent years? Worse than the countless US (and Canadian) backed military coups in the region?

Or perhaps Almagro, who appointed Cotler and the two other panelists, approves of the use of military might to enforce the will of the rich and powerful. He stated last month: “As for military intervention to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro regime, I think we should not rule out any option … diplomacy remains the first option but we can’t exclude any action.” Even before he mused about a foreign invasion, the former Uruguayan foreign minister’s campaign against Maduro prompted Almagro’s past boss, former president José Mujica, to condemn his bias against the Venezuelan government.

For his part, Cotler has been attacking Venezuela’s Bolivarian government for a decade. In a 2015 Miami Herald op-ed Cotler wrote that “sanctions” and “travel-visa bans …isn’t enough.” The US government “must increase the pressure on Maduro to respect the fundamental human rights of all Venezuela’s people.”The next year Venezuela’s obstructionist, opposition-controlled National Assembly gave Cotler an award for his efforts, notably as a lawyer for right-wing coup  leader Leopoldo Lopez. When he joined Lopez’ legal team in early 2015 the Venezuelan and international media  described Cotler as Nelson Mandela’s former lawyer (a Reuters headline noted, “Former Mandela lawyer to join defense of Venezuela’s jailed activist”). In response, South Africa’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Pandit Thaninga Shope-Linney, said,“Irwin Cotler was not  Nelson Mandela’s lawyer and does not represent the Government or the people of South Africa in any manner.”

In 2010 Cotler called on a Canadian parliamentary committee to “look at the Iranian connection to Chávez”, asking a representative of Venezuela’s tiny Jewish community: “What evidence is there of direct Iranian influence, or involvement, on Chávez and the climate of fear that has developed? Is there any concern in the [Jewish] community, with some of the Iranian penetration that we know about in Latin America with respect to terrorist penetration, that it’s also prospectively present for Venezuela?”

A year earlier “Mandela’s lawyer” accused president Hugo Chavez of anti-Semitism. Cotler co-presented a petition to the House of Commons claiming an increase in state-backed anti-Semitism in Venezuela. At the time Cotler said Venezuela had seen a “delegitimization from the president on down of the Jewish people and Israel.” These unsubstantiated accusations of anti-Semitism were designed to further demonize a government threatening North American capitalist/geopolitical interests.

As for the sincerity of his commitment to ending humanitarian crises, Cotler has devoted much of his life to defending Israeli human rights violations, including its recent killing of unarmed protesters in Gaza. His wife, Ariela Zeevi, was parliamentary secretary  of Likud when the arch anti-Palestinian party was established to counter Labour’s dominance of Israeli politics. According to the Canadian Jewish News, she was a “close  confidant of [Likud founder Menachem] Begin.”

Cotler was no doubt angered by Chavez’s criticism of Israel. In 2009 Venezuela broke off relations with Israel over its assault on Gaza that left 1,400 Palestinians  dead. Beyond Israel, Cotler has made a career out of firing rhetorical bombs at the US and Canada’s geopolitical competitors and verbal pellets at its allies.

Of course, it is not surprising to see such hypocrisy from someone leading a hypocritical Canadian campaign to destabilize and overthrow an elected government.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

NDP members must push for pro-Palestinian positions

When will NDP members push back against the party leadership’s all-too friendly relations with Canada’s leading Israel lobby group?

Recently, former NDP Premier of Nova Scotia Darrell Dexter joined the board of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) while four years ago NDP foreign critic Paul Dewar and MP Robert Chisholm attended a CIJA sponsored Young Leadership Israel Advocacy Program retreat.

A 2014 calculation found that 20 NDP MPs had been to Israel on a CIJA (or its predecessor) financed tour. Since 2016 now party leader Jagmeet Singh has participated in one of these trips as have Randall Garrison and Murray Rankin, the NDP’s two executives on the Canada Israel Inter-Parliamentary Group, which has hosted lobbying events on Parliament Hill with CIJA.

NDP MPs have also taken CIJA representatives into their offices. In 2014-15 BC MP Nathan Cullen’s office took in Daniel Gans through CIJA’s Parliamentary Internship Program, which pays pro-Israel university students $18,000 to work for parliamentarians (Gans then worked as parliamentary assistant to NDP MP Finn Donnelly). In 2014 Cullen met representatives of CIJA Pacific Region to talk about Israel, Iran and other subjects. According to CIJA’s summary of the meeting, “Mr. Cullen understood the importance of a close Canada-Israel relationship.”

CIJA takes aggressive extreme, anti-Palestinian, positions. CIJA backed moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, ripping up the Iran nuclear accord and Israeli forces killing over 120 peaceful protesters in Gaza in Spring 2018.

Before its February convention CIJA called on the NDP to “push back against marginal elements within the party” promoting Palestinian rights. The organization was likely the driving force behind a Globe and Mail article on the eve of the convention titled “Supporter of homophobic, anti-Semitic U.S. religious leader to speak at NDP convention.”

At the start of the year CIJA called on its supporters to write the government to request Canada take more Eritrean, Sudanese and other African refugees that Israel is seeking to expel. Apparently, CIJA wants an as ‘Jewish and white as possible’ state in the Middle East, but supports multiculturalism in Canada.

CIJA works with and co-sponsors events with the Jewish National Fund, which engages in discriminatory land-use policies outlawed in this country nearly seven decades ago. JNF Canada CEO Lance Davis previously worked as CIJA’s National Jewish Campus Life director and CIJA campaigned aggressively against a 2016 Green Party resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the charitable status of the JNF, which owns 13% of Israel’s land and systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Beyond defending racist land-use policies abroad, CIJA has stigmatized marginalized Canadians by hyping “Islamic terror” and targeting Arab and Muslim community representativespapers, organizations, etc. In response to a 2016 truck attack in Nice, France, CIJA declared “Canada is not immune to…Islamist terror” and in 2017 they highlighted, “those strains of Islam that pose a real and imminent threat to Jews around the world.”

In a bid to deter organizations from associating with the Palestinian cause or opposing Israeli belligerence in the region, CIJA demonizes Canadian Arabs and Muslims by constantly accusing them of supporting “terror.” Last September the group said it was “shocked” Ottawa failed to rescind the charitable status of the Islamic Society of British Columbia, which CIJA accused of supporting Hamas, a group Palestinians and most of the world consider a political/resistance organization.

CIJA pushed to proscribe as a terrorist entity Mississauga-based IRFAN (International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy) because it supported orphans and a hospital in Gaza through official (Hamas controlled) channels. Its 2014 press release about the first Canadian-based group designated a terrorist organization boasted that “current CIJA board member, the Honourable Stockwell Day…called attention to IRFAN-Canada’s disturbing activities nearly a decade ago.”

CIJA aligned itself with the xenophobic backlash against the term “Islamophobia” in bill M-103, which called for collecting data on hate crimes and studying the issue of “eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.” CEO Shimon Fogel said the “wording of M-103 is flawed. Specifically, we are concerned with the word ‘Islamophobia’ because it is misleading, ambiguous, and politically charged.” It takes chutzpah for a Jewish community leader to make this argument since, as Rick Salutin pointed out, anti-Semitism is a more ambiguous term. But, Fogel would no doubt label as anti-Jewish someone who objected to the term anti-Semitism as “misleading, ambiguous, and politically charged.”

If NDP officials are uncomfortable severing ties to the lobbying arm of Canada’s Jewish Federations at minimum they should refuse to participate in CIJA’s parliamentary internship program and lobbying trips to Israel.

This article was written for Canadian Dimension

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