Category Archives: Canada and Israel

Legal complaint launched against Israeli-Canadian charity

A request to revoke the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association’s charitable status is an important step towards lessening Canadian complicity in Palestinian dispossession. Registered Canadian charities provide significant support to Israel and drawing attention to the massive taxpayer subsidy undercuts the Israel lobby.

Today Palestinian-Canadian refugee Khaled Mouammar and Rabbi David Mivasair submitted a formal legal complaint to the Canada Revenue Agency concerning the charitable status of the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association (CZCA). The complaint asks the CRA to investigate whether the CZCA’s operations comply with its regulations for registered charities and if not revoke the group’s charitable status. NDP Critic for National Revenue Matthew Green is echoing the call for the CRA to investigate the CZCA.

CRA rules state clearly that “supporting the armed forces of another country is not” charitable yet the Israel Defense Forces website explicitly named the CZCA as an organization “authorized to raise donations for the IDF”. (When Global News reporter Stewart Bell began asking CZCA questions about its ties to the IDF, the Israeli military quickly removed CZCA from its list of international organizations.) In 2019 the CZCA allocated over $1.7 million to YAHAD, which says its “aim is raising funds for IDF soldiers.” CZCA appears to act as a conduit for funds to the Association for the Soldiers of Israel – Canada, which isn’t a registered charity.

CZCA is an egregious example of an organization defying CRA rules, but it is only one of many. In 2018 the HESEG Foundation, which was established “to recognize and honor the contribution of Lone Soldiers to Israel,” spent more than $9 million in Israel. Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel, the Jewish National Fund of Canada and Beit Halochem Canada (Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel) have also supported the IDF. A slew of other charities have more indirect ties to the IDF such as Canadian friends of Technion, which is a university with many ties to the Israeli military, and TanenbaumCHAT, a Toronto high school that organizes fundraisers for Israeli military initiatives and holds regular “IDF days”.

Charities that support West Bank settlements also contravene CRA rules since Ottawa officially considers them a violation of international law. A number of registered charities support settlement projects directly or indirectly. Located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Canadian Friends of Ariel University is also a registered charity. So is Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, which says it “provides financial” support to “the Jews currently living in Biblical Israel —the communities of Judea and Samaria” (occupied West Bank).

Similarly, the CRA has a policy of promoting racial equality. Yet the JNF promotes explicitly racist land use policies in Israel.

A thorough investigation into Israel focused charities would likely uncover tens of millions of dollars of subsidized donations going to projects that contravene CRA guidelines. In 2018 registered charities raised more than a quarter billion dollars for projects in Israel with taxpayers on the hook for as much as $100 million of that sum. By my calculation, about $5 billion has been raised for Israel focused projects over the past half century with taxpayers covering about $1.5 billion of the total.

This is an enormous subsidy that Palestine solidarity activists and progressive researchers must disrupt. Looking through the list of foreign focused Canadian charities, Israel is the only country with dozens of organizations raising funds almost entirely for it. It’s also probably the single biggest recipient of subsidized private donations, receiving more than Kenya, Haiti, Afghanistan or 100 other poorer or more populous states.

Even if Israel wasn’t an apartheid state that regularly bombs its neighbours why should Canadian taxpayers subsidize the symphony, guide dog society, universities, etc. of a country with a GDP equivalent to Canada’s?

Drawing attention to subsidized charitable donations has an important political/ideological component. It puts the Israel lobby in an uncomfortable position since it is about Canadian law and can be framed as saving taxpayers money. The charities issue undercuts the lobby’s claim that Israel is being ‘singled out’ unfairly, demonstrating that they are in fact ‘singling Israel out’ on the taxpayers’ dime and sometimes in contravention of Canadian law.

There’s another political upside to challenging registered charities. Funds are often raised at public gatherings that function as pro-colonization or pro-IDF rallies. These events often include public figures sensitive to controversy. Challenging CZCA or other charities operations can drive away more perception conscious individuals, which is probably what happened with Independent Jewish Voices complaint and campaign targeting the Jewish National Fund’s charitable status.

A significant share of the funds the CZCA raises come from an annual event they do with the Association for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada. A few months before the pandemic began, 1,000 people attended an event that “featured heartfelt and captivating speeches from IDF commanders, as well as a performance by the IDF Ensemble”, reported the Canadian Jewish News. Some public figures likely attended this Israeli military rally.

The CRA needs to investigate Mouammar and Mivasair’s complaint concerning CZCA. If it finds the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association is defying its regulations the group’s charitable status must be revoked.

 

 

Please take a minute to email the Canada Revenue Agency to investigate whether the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association is complying with its regulations.

Comments Off on Legal complaint launched against Israeli-Canadian charity

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel

Trudeau Actively Aids Israeli Occupation

The Trudeau government presents itself as both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian. In fact, Ottawa pursues policies that enable Israel’s expansionism while its relations with the Palestinians also serve the colonial authority.

At the start of last week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had successive calls with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali “I have killed lots of Arabs” Bennett and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. Foreign Minister Marc Garneau then met his Israeli and PA counterparts. The outreach is designed to offer diplomatic support to the new Israeli government and the PA, which recently canceled elections it has postponed for over a decade.

According to polls 84% of Palestinians consider the PA corrupt and many are critical of the Palestinian Authority for yielding in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement expansion. In recent days there have been major demonstrations in Hebron, Ramallah and elsewhere in the West Bank calling for the fall of the PA due to its role in repressing the Palestinian liberation struggle. In response the PA has asked Israel if it could buy gas canisters, stun grenades and “non-lethal” munitions to replenish its stocks.

The protests are a response to Palestinian security forces killing Nizar Banat, a 43-year-old media activist who documented alleged PA corruption. “Now the Dayton authority is arresting political activist Nizar Banat and confiscating all his possessions, including computers and phones, and brutally assaulting him,” his family posted toBanat’s Facebook account minutes before he was killed.

Palestinians regularly denounce the “Dayton Authority” and “Dayton forces”, which is a reference to former US Security Coordinator Keith Dayton. In the late 2000s the US lieutenant general oversaw organizing a 10,000-member Palestinian security force. “We don’t provide anything to the Palestinians,” Dayton told the Associated Press in 2009, “unless it has been thoroughly coordinated with the State of Israel and they agree to it.” For instance, Israel’s internal intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, vets all of the Palestinian recruits.

Like colonial authorities throughout history, Israel has looked to compliant locals to take up the occupation’s security burden. What is unique about the PA security forces’ operations are their international ties. In a 2011 story detailing how PA security “undermine efforts by Palestinians to challenge the occupation”, Adam Shatz wrote: “It is an extraordinary arrangement: the security forces of a country under occupation are being subcontracted by third parties outside the region to prevent resistance to the occupying power, even as that power continues to grab more land.”

Canada was/is the second-biggest contributor to the Dayton/Office of the United States Security Coordinator. A fifth of Dayton’s initial staff were Canadians, including a counterpart Canadian Brigadier-General. During the Stephen Harper government ministers repeatedly praised Dayton and Canadians trained the Palestinian security force in Jordan at the U.S.-built International Police Training Center (established to train Iraqi security after the 2003 invasion). While the number has varied slightly, 23 Canadian troops and 3 RCMP officers are currently part of Operation Proteus, Canada’s contribution to the Office of the United States Security Coordinator.

“The Canadian contribution is invaluable,” explained Dayton to The Maple Leaf, a publication of the Canadian army. Canadians are particularly useful because, Dayton said, “US personnel have travel restrictions when operating in the West Bank. But, our British and Canadian members do not.” Calling them his “eyes and ears” Dayton added: “The Canadians … are organized in teams we call road warriors, and they move around the West Bank daily visiting Palestinian security leaders, gauging local conditions.”

Canada has plowed more than $100 million into the PA security services over the past 15 years. In 2021 the military is allocating $8.8 million to Operation Proteus and millions of dollars more in “aid” supports Palestinian security forces. In 2018 the Trudeau government initiated the $1.25 million “Empowering the Palestinian Security Sector” and the $3.5 million “Security Sector Capacity Building in the West Bank” projects. According to Global Affairs’ description of the latter initiative, “these activities complement the ongoing institutional capacity-building efforts by Operation PROTEUS, Canada’s contribution to the United States Security Coordinator.”

At the height of Canada’s involvement in Palestinian security sector reform tens of millions of dollars a year supported the Dayton led mission. According to former Minister Peter Kent “most” of a five-year $300 million Canadian “aid” package to the Palestinians that began at the end of 2007 was for the Palestinian security forces.

When Harper’s Conservatives threatened to sever aid to the PA for pursuing recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN, the Israelis pressured Canada not to cut off assistance. “There have been increasing references in the past months during high-level bilateral meetings with the Israelis about the importance and value they place on Canada’s assistance to the Palestinian Authority, most notably in security/justice reform”, explained Canadian International Development Agency president Margaret Biggs. In the heavily censored 2012 note released through an access to information request Biggs also suggests the goal of Canadian “aid” was to protect the corrupt PA from popular backlash. She explained that “the emergence of popular protests on the Palestinian street against the Palestinian Authority is worrying and the Israelis have been imploring the international donor community to continue to support the Palestinian Authority.”

Canadian military trainers and aid money have supported a Palestinian security force explicitly designed to enforce Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. An associated objective of Canadian support for the PA security forces was/is to bolster Abbas’ Fatah against Hamas. In 2007 Canadian ambassador to Israel Jon Allen was quoted by the Canadian Jewish News saying Ottawa supported the Palestinian police “to ensure that the PA maintains control of the West Bank against Hamas.” Dayton all but admitted that he was strengthening Fatah against Hamas, telling a US audience in 2009 his force was “working against illegal Hamas activities.” Between 2007 and 2011 PA security forces arrested 10,000 suspected Hamas supporters in the West Bank as part of the Israel–US–Canada stoked Palestinian civil war.

After Hamas won Canadian-monitored and facilitated legislative elections in 2006 Canada was the first country after Israel to cut its assistance to the PA. The aid cut-off was designed to isolate Hamas, which has long been a Canadian objective.

A principal way this has been accomplished over the past two decades is by criminalizing Palestinian political life. Eight of the oppressed nation’s organizations are listed as terrorist groups by Ottawa, which means Canadians cannot support those groups in any way. According to the terrorist legislation the federal government has to review listed organizations’ status every five years and last week the Trudeau government relisted HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, which were all listed in the early 2000s by Liberal governments.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a left secular organization that barely engages in armed struggle. Hamas won the last Palestinian election in 2006 and despite its obvious ideological problems appears peaceful when compared to the Israeli military, which recently killed 67 children in Gaza.

In 2018 the Trudeau government relisted the first ever Canadian-based group designated a terrorist organization. The International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN) was listed a terrorist organization in 2014 for engaging in the ghastly act of supporting orphans and a hospital in Gaza through official (Hamas-controlled) channels.

The Trudeau government has proffered innumerable forms of customary diplomatic/economic/security support to Israel, ranging from selling it arms to an enhanced free-trade agreement, security forces’ collaboration to diplomatic visits. It has also provided numerous forms of unconventional backing, including celebrating Canadians fighting in the Israeli military, withdrawing from a major UN conference on racism to placate Israel’s supporters, saying Canada would act as an “asset” for Israel if it gained a UN Security Council seat, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to stop consumers from knowing where wines are produced to obscure Israeli land theft, etc.

Despite professions of support for both Israelis and Palestinians, the Trudeau government’s relations with Palestinians largely serve Israel. Ottawa has a pro-Israel Israel policy and a pro-Israel Palestinian policy.

Comments Off on Trudeau Actively Aids Israeli Occupation

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel, Justin Trudeau

Media Hides Canadian Support for Israeli Apartheid

 

The dominant media permit only a narrow spectrum of opinion regarding Canadian foreign policy. Their refusal to report critical information about this country’s foreign policy can be startling. Even journalists who uncover illuminating internal government files put the information down the memory hole.

Recently Canadian Press journalist Lee Berthiaume reported on Canada’s military mission in the occupied West Bank in “Canadian troops, Mounties get front row seats to Israeli-Palestinian clashes”. The story reports that there are 23 Canadian troops and 3 RCMP members currently part of Operation Proteus, which trains Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces as part of a mission led by the Office of the United States Security Coordinator.

Strangely, the puff piece ignored how Canadian military trainers and aid have supported the creation of a Palestinian security force explicitly to enforce Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, a fact that Berthiaume previously reported.

In a 2013 story Berthiaume quoted an internal 2012 note signed by then Canadian International Development Agency president Margaret Biggs that read:  “There have been increasing references in the past months during high-level bilateral meetings with the Israelis about the importance and value they place on Canada’s assistance to the Palestinian Authority, most notably in security/justice reform.” He further quotes Biggs stating, “the Israelis have noted the importance of Canada’s contribution to the relative stability achieved through extensive security co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.” The heavily censored note suggests the goal of Canadian “aid” was to protect a corrupt Mahmoud Abbas led PA, whose electoral mandate expired in 2009, from popular backlash. Biggs explained that “the emergence of popular protests on the Palestinian street against the Palestinian Authority is worrying and the Israelis have been imploring the international donor community to continue to support the Palestinian Authority.”

Surely this is important background information for a story about the recent work of Canadian troops and police in the West Bank.

In my 2016 book A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and exploitation I cite Berthiaume’s 2013 revelation as an example of how critical information is reported on and then ignored. “Even when dissidents’ claims are proven by leading reporters through access to information requests,” I wrote, “the result is often sent down the memory hole. Internal government documents unearthed by foreign policy journalist Lee Berthiaume about Canada’s $300 million, five-year aid program to the Palestinians is a prime example…. Berthiaume effectively confirmed that Canadian aid money was used to train a Palestinian security force to serve as an arm of Israel’s occupation. While Berthiaume’s article was reported in a number of Postmedia papers, there was no commentary in a major paper or follow-up stories about Biggs’ internal note or Operation PROTEUS, Canada’s effort to build a Palestinian security force under the US military’s direction (with the exception of stories in small town papers covering individual police or soldiers leaving for the mission).”

At the time of writing this I was unaware of the depth of the suppression. Apparently, the information was so efficiently sent down the memory hole that the journalist who uncovered the internal documents won’t even mention it when reporting on the subject!

And this is not simply a matter of historical interest. Canada continues to plow significant resources into PA security forces. In 2019-20 the military allocated $5 million to Operation Proteus and millions of dollars more in Canadian “aid” supports Palestinian security forces. In 2018 the Trudeau government initiated the $1.25 million “Empowering the Palestinian Security Sector” and the $1.365 million “Security Sector Capacity Building in the West Bank” projects. According to Global Affairs’ description of the latter initiative, “these activities complement the ongoing institutional capacity-building efforts by Operation PROTEUS, Canada’s contribution to the United States Security Coordinator.”

More recent research continues to demonstrate who this this “aid” is designed to help.

Drawing on previously classified materials, Carleton criminology professor Jeffrey Monaghan details Canada’s role in turning Palestinian security forces in the West Bank into an effective arm of Israel’s occupation. In Security Aid: Canada and the Development Regime of Security, Monaghan describes a $1.5 million Canadian contribution to Joint Operating Centers whose “main focus … is to integrate elements of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces into Israeli command.” He writes about Canada’s “many funding initiatives to the PCP [Palestinian Civilian Police]” which “has increasingly been tasked by the Israeli Defence Forces as a lead agency to deal with public order policing, most recently during IDF bombings in Gaza and during Arab Spring demonstrations.”

In a 2019 assessment of 80 donor reports from nine countries/institutions titled “Donor Perceptions of Palestine: Limits to Aid Effectiveness” Jeremy Wildeman concludes that Canada, the US and International Monetary Fund employed the most anti-Palestinian language. “Canada and the US,” the academic writes, “were preoccupied with providing security for Israel from Palestinian violence, but not Palestinians from Israeli violence, effectively inverting the relationship of occupier and occupied.”

A great deal of Canada’s supposed “assistance” to the Palestinians — who have less than one-twentieth their occupier’s per capita GDP — is, in fact, explicitly designed to aid Israel. This is information Canadians need to know to judge what the government does with their taxes. But the dominant media largely ignores this and the other innumerable ways Canada supports Israeli apartheid.

Comments Off on Media Hides Canadian Support for Israeli Apartheid

Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel, Media

Why is Israel a charity case for Canada?

 

 

Over the past two weeks Canada has seen its most significant ever outpouring of support for Palestinian rights. More than 150,000 letters have been sent to Canadian officials calling on Ottawa to criticize Israel human rights violations or to sanction Israel.

Tens of thousands have also taken to the streets to denounce Israel’s violence. In the largest mobilization, upwards of 1,000 vehicles were part of a multi-hour caravan in Montréal and more than 5,000 rallied/marched in the city on May 14. Around 5,000 rallied on two consecutive weekends in Toronto. Many thousands also participated in car caravans, rallies or marches in Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, Halifax, Saskatoon, Guelph, Victoria, Charlottetown, Lethbridge, Winnipeg, Oakville, Kitchener, Sudbury, Red Deer, Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna, Saint John, Calgary, Québec City and elsewhere. In most cases they were among the largest pro-Palestinian demonstrations ever held in those communities.

The outpouring of pro-Palestinian sympathy is uplifting. But if we want to ‘turn the tide against Israeli apartheid’ we need to focus on ending Canada’s immense complicity in Palestinian dispossession.

Though little discussed, the most important support Canada has offered Israel in recent decades is tax deductible charitable donations. In 2018 registered Canadian charities raised over a quarter billion dollars in tax-deductible charitable donations for Israel-focused projects.

Since the federal government introduced deductions for charities in 1967 billions of dollars in subsidized donations have gone to Israel. In 1991 the Ottawa Citizen estimated that more than $100 million a year was raised for Israel and possibly as much as $200 million. Assuming $100 million has been sent to Israel yearly since 1967 and with approximately 30% of the $5.4 billion total subsidized by the taxpayer that’s around $1.7 billion in Canadian public support.

But there’s little discussion of the public funds that have gone to Israel through charitable donations. With the exception of the campaign to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund of Canada, which won a partial victory recently, there’s been almost no activism targeting Canadian charitable support for Israel. This despite some of these donations violating Canadian charity law. Funds supporting West Bank settlements, explicitly racist institutions and the Israeli military probably contravene Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regulations.

The Canadian government restricts registered charities from supporting other countries’ militaries. CRA guidelines note, “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”

But numerous registered charities support the Israeli military. The Jewish National Fund of Canada has openly financed numerous projects supporting the Israeli military while Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel and Beit Halochem Canada (Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel) have directly or indirectly supported the IDF. In 2018 the Toronto-based HESEG Foundation, which was established “to recognize and honor the contribution of Lone Soldiers to Israel,” spent more than $9 million in Israel.

Without any direct pressure from the Palestine solidarity movement, Beth Oloth Charitable Organization lost its charitable status two years ago for “increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Israeli armed forces”. With $61 million raised in 2017, it was also cited for funding projects in the occupied West Bank. (As much as the political questions, Beth Oloth appears to have lost its charitable status due to a small number of staff, huge spike in donations, and its role as a “conduit” for funding from other groups.)

A number of registered charities support settlement projects directly or indirectly. The Jewish National Fund of Canada built Canada Park on the remnants of three Palestinian villages Israel occupied after the June 1967 War. Christian Friends of Israeli Communities has said it “provides financial” support to “the Jews currently living in Biblical Israel —the communities of Judea and Samaria” (occupied West Bank). Located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Canadian Friends of Ariel University is also a registered charity.

Racist organization should also be excluded from receiving taxpayer subsidies. According to a 2003 CRA directive, the organization is supposed to promote racial equality. Yet the Jewish National Fund, which raised $7.7 million for Israeli projects in 2018, practices a form of legalistic discrimination outlawed by the Canadian Supreme Court seven-decades ago. A serious investigation of registered Canadian charities operating in Israel would likely uncover support for other racist organizations in Israel.

In fact, the entire thrust of Israel-focused charity funding is racist. Often framed as poverty alleviation, very little of the Canadian donations actually reach the poorest individuals living under Israel’s control. Basically none of the Canadian taxpayers subsidized money supports Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank. Even within “Israel proper” little of the Canadian charity money likely goes to the Arab Israelis — as much as 50% of the poorest in Israel — communities.

While not against current CRA regulations, there’s a strong argument to be made against Canadian taxpayers subsidizing donations to hospitals, universities, etc. in “Israel proper”. Is it right for all Canadians to pay a share of some individuals’ donations to a country with a GDP equal to Canada’s? How many Canadian charities funnel money to Sweden or Japan? Is the Israeli government subsidizing Canadian orchestras, museums, guide dog centres, nature conservatory, universities, hospitals, etc? (Canadian Friends of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, Canadian Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Canadian Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Canadian Association For Labour Israel and Canadian Friends of the Israel Museum are among the many registered charities that raised over a quarter billion dollars for Israel-focused projects in 2018.)

Irrespective of CRA regulations, activists who promote the aims of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement should push to outlaw donations to Israel until that country complies with international law. As they’ve done with other countries, federal government sanctions on Israel should seek to cut off the flow of money from Canada (in compliance with international law).

It’s important for the Palestine solidarity movement to challenge subsidized charitable donations to Israel. The demand is partly about pressing the Canada Revenue Agency to apply its own rules and the campaign can be framed as a way to save taxpayers money.

 

Comments Off on Why is Israel a charity case for Canada?

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel

10 ways to end Canadian complicity with Israeli violence

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s call for an arms embargo on Israel is a positive development. But, with tens of thousands taking to the streets across the country on Saturday we should expect more forthright efforts to stop Israeli violence, which has killed well over 220 Palestinians, including 64 children, in the past ten days.

Below are 10 demands the NDP and progressive activists could promote to end Canadian complicity with Israeli violence and Palestinian dispossession:

  • Singh and NDP MPs should state publicly that any recruitment for the Israeli military in Canada is not only immoral but should also be investigated by the justice minister and police as a contravention of the Foreign Enlistment Act. A recent parliamentary petition sponsored by NDP MP Matthew Green that calls for an investigation into illegal IDF recruitment in Canada has been signed by more than twelve times the number required to be read in the House of Commons. There is clearly significant support for a position rooted in simply upholding Canadian law.
  • The same can be said of the call for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to investigate whether registered charities are contravening CRA regulations by supporting the Israeli military, racist organizations and West Bank settlements. In a sign of support for this call, 2,400 individuals have emailed foreign minister Marc Garneau, justice minister David Lametti and revenue minister Diane Lebouthillier in recent days to pressure government officials to apply Canadian law regarding charities supporting the Israeli military and recruitment for the IDF in Canada.
  • The NDP should call for the cancellation of the Canada Israel free-trade agreement. When the Liberals “modernized” the accord two years ago the NDP voted against the motion because the Liberals refused an NDP amendment to the deal requiring distinct labelling on products originating from “illegal Israeli settlements”. Last summer a coalition of groups, including a number of major unions, came out in opposition to the trade agreement.
  • Singh should echo NDP members overwhelming support for a recent resolution calling for “ending all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine.” The party motion aligns with the 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which has the force of international law, that calls on “all states… to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
  • Singh and all NDP MPs should clearly express their opposition to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism. In the lead-up to the party’s recent convention, more than 40 riding associations and numerous NDP affiliated groups supported a resolution opposing the IHRA definition.
  • The NDP should push to eliminate a recently created “special envoy” position primarily designed to deflect criticism from Israeli apartheid. Speaking from his apartment in Jerusalem, Irwin Cotler, Canada’s “special envoy” to protect Israel from criticism, was the keynote speaker at a recent online rally in support of Israeli violence in which the moderator boasted that Montrealers’ were fighting in the Israeli military.
  • The NDP should call on the government to support all UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights. A year ago Canada lost its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council in large part because it consistently isolated itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights at the UN.
  • Progressives should initiate a campaign to challenge all taxpayer subsidized donations to apartheid Israel. In 2018 registered Canadian charities raised over a quarter billion dollars for Israel-focused projects. Is it right for all Canadians to pay a share of some individuals’ donations to a country with a GDP equal to Canada’s? How many Canadian charities funnel money to Sweden or Japan?
  • Progressives should campaign against Canada’s criminalization of Palestinian political life. The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Canadian-based International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN), which was listed because it supported orphans and a hospital in Gaza through official (Hamas controlled) channels, both need to be immediately removed from Canada’s terrorist list. Whatever some may say about Hamas tactics, the IDF has killed nearly 30 times more children over the past week and they are not on Canada’s terrorist list.
  • Finally, progressives should push for a formal apology to Palestinians over Canada’s sizable contribution to the unjust UN Partition Plan, which called for ethnically segregated states and gave most of the land to the newly arrived minority. As external affairs officials warned privately in 1947, the Canadian-shaped roadmap would lead to the decades of conflict we are seeing

These are issues that confront the role of this country in enabling the oppression of Palestinians. It’s time progressive Canadians take off their rose-coloured glasses and criticize the bad things our country does in the world.

While some may consider it unrealistic to expect Singh and others to take up these proposals, this ignores how quickly the NDP leader has shifted his position in recent weeks. A few days before the April 9-11 NDP convention Singh refused to mention Palestinians when asked repeatedly by a CBC interviewer and instead referred to anti-Semitism five times. But a little over a month later Singh was organizing a press conference to call for an arms embargo on Israel and raising the issue during question period in the House of Commons. Since then, he has promoted a party petition calling for an arms embargo on Israel and used the campaign to fundraise for the NDP!

A mix of outside pressure, NDP members passing a resolution, and a flare up of violence in the Middle East shifted Singh’s position dramatically within weeks. So why couldn’t he be pressed into supporting proposals rooted in applying Canadian and international law and which have widespread NDP backing?

Support for a more forthright policy on Palestinian rights exists within and beyond the NDP as seen with the recent outpouring of pro-Palestinian energy across Canadian streets. It is also likely a vote-getter in many communities. But, to have a chance of this happening the organized pro-Palestinian movement needs to channel righteous outrage towards Canada’s substantial complicity in Palestinian dispossession.

 

On Friday, May 21 at 7pm Yves Engler will be speaking at a Canadian Foreign Policy Institute event on “The Innumerable Ways Canada Supports Israeli Apartheid”

Comments Off on 10 ways to end Canadian complicity with Israeli violence

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel, NDP

Why Canada owes apology to Palestinians for the Nakba

 

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). This body was tasked with determining Palestine’s fate. Few are aware of the extent to which Canada shaped UNSCOP and its role in promoting the unjust Partition Plan. This, despite warnings that going down this path would lead to decades of conflict as we are seeing today.

Under growing Zionist military pressure after the Second World War, Britain prepared to hand its mandate over Palestine to the newly created UN. In response, the U.S.-dominated international body formed the First Committee on Palestine, which was charged with developing the terms of reference for a committee that would find a solution for the British mandate.

Canada’s Undersecretary of External Affairs Lester Pearson, who had previously made his sympathy for Zionism clear, chaired the First Committee that established UNSCOP. At the First Committee, Pearson rejected Arab calls for an immediate end to the British mandate and the establishment of an independent democratic country. He also backed Washington’s push to admit a Jewish Agency representative to First Committee discussions (ultimately both a Jewish Agency and Palestinian representative were admitted).

Pearson tried to define UNSCOP largely to facilitate Zionist aspirations. The Arab Higher Committee wanted the issue of World War II European Jewish refugees excluded from UNSCOP but the Canadian diplomat worked to give the body a mandate “to investigate all questions and issues relevant to the problem of Palestine.”

A U.S. State Department memo noted that Pearson “proved to be an outstanding chairman for [the First] Committee.” The Canadian Arab Friendship League, on the other hand, complained that the First Committee plan for UNSCOP was “practically irresponsible and an invitation to…acts of terror on the part of Zionism.” Arabs, the League continued, would “never refrain from demanding for…Palestine the same freedom presently enjoyed by other Arab states,” newly independent from colonial rule. Opposed to the idea that representatives from Canada, Guatemala, Yugoslavia and other countries should decide their future, Palestinians boycotted UNSCOP.

Canada’s delegate on the UNSCOP mission to Palestine pushed for the largest possible Zionist state and is considered the lead author of the majority report in support of partitioning Palestine into ethnically segregated states. Supreme Court justice Ivan C. Rand opposed proposals for a Jewish-Arab unitary state and made key interventions in the decision-making process in support of partition. “Rand worked hard,” notes his biographer, “to ensure the maximum geographical area possible for the new Jewish state.” At one point, Rand and another UNSCOP member, supported giving the Zionists a larger piece of land than they officially asked for.

At the end of their mission, the UNSCOP majority and minority reports were sent to the special UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question. At the Ad Hoc Committee Pearson rejected the Arab countries push to have the International Court of Justice decide whether the UN was allowed to partition Palestine. (Under U.S. pressure, the Ad Hoc Committee voted 21 to 20 — with 16 abstentions – against allowing the International Court to adjudicate the matter.)

The Ad Hoc Committee was split into two subcommittees with one focusing on the partition plan and the other on a bi-national state. At the Ad Hoc Committee’s Special Committee 1, Pearson worked feverishly to broker a partition agreement acceptable to Washington and Moscow. Preoccupied with the great powers, the indigenous inhabitants’ concerns did not trouble Pearson. He dismissed solutions that didn’t involve partition, which effectively meant supporting a Jewish state on Palestinian land.

Pearson played a central role in Special Committee 1’s partition plan. Both the New York Times and Manchester Guardian ran articles about his role in the final stage of negotiations. Dubbed the “Canadian plan” the final Special Committee 1 agreement between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. on how to implement partition was “a result of the tireless efforts of Lester B. Pearson,” according to a front-page New York Times article. Some Zionist groups called him “Lord Balfour” of Canada and “rabbi Pearson.”

By supporting partition Canada opposed the indigenous population’s moral and political claims to sovereignty over their territory. Down from 90 per cent at the start of the British mandate, by the end of 1947 Arabs still made up two-thirds of Palestine’s population. Despite making up only a third of the population, under the UN partition plan Jews received most of the territory. Canada pushed a plan that gave the Zionist state 55 per cent of Palestine despite the Jewish population owning less than seven per cent of the land.

Privately Canadian Justice Minister J.L. Isley said he was “gravely concerned” the push for partition did not meet the Arabs “very strong moral and political claims.” The only Middle East expert at External Affairs, Elizabeth MacCallum, claimed Ottawa supported partition “because we didn’t give two hoots for democracy.” At the time of the partition vote, notes The Rise and Fall of a Middle Power, “MacCallum scribbled a note and passed it to Mike (Pearson) saying the Middle East was now in for ’40 years’ of war, due to the lack of consultation with the Arab countries.” She was prescient, even if she underestimated the duration of the conflict.

A huge boost to the Zionist movements’ desire for an ethnically-based state, the UN partition of British Mandate Palestine contributed to the displacement of at least 700,000 Palestinians, which is also commemorated May 15 with Nakba (catastrophe) Day. Scholar Walid Khalidi complained that UN (partition) Resolution 181 was “a hasty act of granting half of Palestine to an ideological movement that declared openly already in the 1930s its wish to de-Arabize Palestine.” Most residents of Gaza are descendants of people driven from their homes in 1947/48.

The violence playing out today is rooted in the unjust Partition Plan and the people of Palestine deserve a formal apology from Canada for its role in helping lay the foundations of their dispossession.

On Friday, May 21 at 7pm Yves Engler will be speaking at a Canadian Foreign Policy Institute event on “The Innumerable Ways Canada Supports Israeli Apartheid”

Comments Off on Why Canada owes apology to Palestinians for the Nakba

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel, Middle East

The innumerable ways Canada supports Israeli apartheid

 

At the start of the year Israel’s leading human rights group B’Tselem released “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid”. Two weeks ago Human Rights Watch published a long report saying Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “amounted to the crimes of apartheid”. Since then, Israel has ramped up its efforts to ethnically cleanse East Jerusalem, attacked the Al-Aqsa mosque, targeted its Arab citizens, killed 11 Palestinians in the West Bank and begun once again to “mow the lawn” in Gaza, which has left 126, including 31 children, dead.

No matter what government officials say, Canada has enthusiastically supported Israel’s dispossession. Canadian backing of Israel includes arms sales, a free-trade agreement, security forces’ collaboration, diplomatic visits and comments as well as various other forms of common diplomatic/economic/security relations. It also includes numerous unconventional forms of backing for the apartheid regime.

To placate Israel and its supporters the “anti-racist” Trudeau government withdrew Canada from a major United Nations forum on combating racism last week. In November it appointed a vicious anti-Palestinian to a newly created “special envoy” position largely set up to justify Israeli apartheid and two years ago it adopted a description of a form of xenophobia created to shield Israel from criticism. To protect Israel’s regime of Jewish supremacy, Justin Trudeau has repeatedly condemned social justice activists on university campuses.

The current government expanded a trade agreement that applies Israel’s customs laws in the occupied West Bank and Ottawa has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to stop Canadian consumers from knowing where two wines are produced to obscure illegal Israeli land theft. Isolating itself against the vast majority of the world, the Trudeau government has defended Israel against criticism at the UN more than 50 times.

In a deepening of the criminalization of Palestinian political life, Trudeau added an eighth Palestinian organization to Canada’s terrorist list. It also maintained the listing of the first ever Canadian-based group designated a terrorist organization, which was anointed as such because it engaged in the ghastly act of supporting orphans and a hospital in Gaza through official (Hamas controlled) channels.

Even the “aid” Canada has given to Palestinians is designed to advance Israel’s control. In a unique historical dynamic, Canadian aid and military trainers have supported the creation of a Palestinian security force explicitly to enforce Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

In what could be considered an act of treason, Canada’s top diplomat in Israel organized a pizza party in January 2020 for Canadians fighting in that country’s military. Government officials have also ignored illegal recruitment for the Israeli military in Canada.

But, these examples are less important than another form of Canadian support for Israel. Though it receives little attention, tax deductible charitable donations are the most consequential and politically unjustifiable Canadian contribution to a state/movement seeking to eliminate Palestinians.

In 2018 registered Canadian charities raised over a quarter billion dollars for Israel-focused projects. Since the federal government introduced deductions for charities in 1967 billions of dollars in subsidized donations have gone to Israel. In 1991 the Ottawa Citizen estimated that Canadian Jews sent more than $100 million a year to Israel and possibly as much as $200 million. Assuming $100 million has been sent to Israel yearly since 1967 and with approximately 30% of the $5.4 billion total subsidized by the taxpayer that’s around $1.7 billion in Canadian public support.

But there’s little discussion of the public funds that have gone to Israel through charitable donations. With the exception of the campaign to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund of Canada, which won a partial victory recently, there’s been almost no activism targeting Canadian charitable support for Israel. This despite some of these donations violating Canadian charity law. Funds supporting West Bank settlements, explicitly racist institutions and the Israeli military probably contravene Canada Revenue Agency regulations.

While not against current Canada Revenue Agency regulations, there’s a strong argument to be made against Canadian taxpayers subsidizing donations to hospitals, universities, etc. in “Israel proper”. Is it right for all Canadians to pay a share of some individuals’ donations to a country with a GDP equal to Canada’s? How many Canadian charities funnel money to Sweden or Japan? Is the Israeli government subsidizing Canadian orchestras, museums, guide dog centres, nature conservatory, universities, hospitals, etc? (Canadian Friends of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, Canadian Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Canadian Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Canadian Association For Labour Israel and Canadian Friends of the Israel Museum are among the many registered charities that raised over a quarter billion dollars for Israel-focused projects in 2018.)

The Canadian government offers innumerable forms of support to the racist, violent, regime. Canadians of conscience must register their opposition and work to end this country’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

On Friday, May 21 at 7pm Yves Engler will be speaking at a Canadian Foreign Policy Institute event on “The Innumerable Ways Canada Supports Israeli Apartheid”

Comments Off on The innumerable ways Canada supports Israeli apartheid

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel, Israel Lobby, Justin Trudeau

Time to disrupt IDF promotion network

Once again a human rights group has determined that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to apartheid. Human Rights Watch is calling for governments around the world “to impose sanctions and reconsider trade deals,” according to Tuesday’s Globe and Mail.

Once again supporters of Israel claim “bias” and “anti-Semitism” instead of acknowledging the obvious crime against humanity and promising to change. These apartheid deniers also complain it is unfair to compare Israel to South Africa. And maybe it is, just not in the way Israeli nationalists mean.

As Noam Chomsky has noted, that country’s oppression of Palestinians is “much worse” than the racism of the South African regime. Similarly, Canadian support for Israeli apartheid is far greater than it was for the South African variant.

For example, can anyone imagine major Canadian institutions flouting the law to recruit young whites to join apartheid South Africa’s brutal military in the 1980s? But that’s exactly what’s happening today with the recruitment of Canadians for the military that enforces Israeli apartheid.

More than a few taxpayer-subsidized groups flout Canadian law to induce young people to move 10,000 kilometers to add their boots to the many already choking Palestinians. Fortunately, a new parliamentary petition is calling for an investigation into illegal Israeli military recruitment in Canada. Submitted by Rabbi David Mivasair and sponsored by NDP MP Matthew Green, the petition calls “upon the Minister of Justice to undertake a thorough investigation of those who have recruited or facilitated recruiting for the Israel Defense Forces, and, if warranted, lay charges against those involved in recruiting and encouraging recruiting for the IDF.”

The petition is part of a campaign backed by Chomsky, Roger Waters, Yann Martel and numerous other prominent individuals that delivered evidence of Israeli military recruitment to the justice minister and RCMP commissioner. While aiming to end formal recruitment, the goal is also to disrupt a vast IDF promotion network in Canada.

The reality is many Canadian institutions celebrate Israel’s occupation force and some of them do so with taxpayer support. Receiving nearly half of its funds from the public purse, Montréal’s largest Jewish school, Hebrew Academy, shows movies that celebrate the Israeli military; students send gifts to IDF bases; Israeli emissaries lead kindergarten classes in “fun IDF programs”. Toronto schools Heschel, Bialik Hebrew, Netivot HaTorah, Bnei Akiva and Leo Baeck also promote the IDF in different ways. These schools feed students to TanenbaumCHAT, Canada’s largest private high school, which organizes fundraisers for Israeli military initiatives and holds regular “IDF days.”

At the other end of the age spectrum a group of 80-something Torontonians gathered regularly before the pandemic to make hand-knitted tuques for IDF soldiers. They are part of the Hats for Israeli Soldiers initiative. Another organization that supports the occupation force is Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans-Canada, which is a registered charity and partly funded by the Israeli government.

Sar-El offers more concrete support to the IDF. Some 150 Canadians volunteer on Israeli army supply bases each year with an organization founded by an IDF general. A regular ad in the Canadian Jewish News for Sar-El noted: “Express your Zionism by serving as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli army supply base.”

For its part, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (Canada) has sponsored “fun activities” for “lone soldiers”. Established by billionaire power couple Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers also supports non-Israelis in the IDF.

At its Toronto office, the Friends of Israeli Scouts’ Garin Tzabar program provides Hebrew lessons and support services, as well as help with transport and accommodation in Israel, for Canadian “lone soldiers”. Nefesh B’Nefesh also helps non-Israelis join the IDF. In probable contravention of the Foreign Enlistment Act, registered charities United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto and Federation Combined Jewish Appeal Montréal publicized a webinar by Nefesh-B’Nefesh last June titled “Joining the IDF”, which claimed to offer participants “everything you need and want to know about joining the IDF.”

A few months before the pandemic began 1,100 people attended an Association for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada and Canadian Zionist Cultural Association event in Toronto. “The evening featured heartfelt and captivating speeches from IDF commanders, as well as a performance by the IDF Ensemble”, reported the Canadian Jewish News.

Association for the Soldiers of Israel in Canada, Sar-El, Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans, Beit Halochem Canada (Disabled Veterans of Israel), Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers, Hats for Israeli Soldiers, etc. have all received sympathetic coverage in the Canadian Jewish News. The news site has published dozens of articles promoting these organizations and repeatedly celebrated Canadians who join or promote the Israeli military.

While it is immoral to promote and join the occupation force, it’s logical from an Israeli nationalist perspective. The military is at the heart of Israeli society. “Israel is an army with a state”, goes the saying. Considering its small size, Israel is among be the most warlike nation in the history of humanity. Born of months of ethnic cleansing, the country has almost always been at war. In addition to suffocating Gaza, occupying the West Bank, regularly invading Lebanese airspace and annexing Syria’s Golan Heights, Israel has recently attacked Iranian ships and bombed Syria dozens of times. Over the years it’s also bombed Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Iraq and unleashed violence in many other places.

Every time one sees an IDF soldier put their boot on a Palestinian’s neck in the West Bank, shoot a protester in Gaza or bomb Syria, it’s important to recognize the Canadian groups actively promoting Israel’s military. Anger with these groups is the first step towards disrupting promotion of the IDF in Canada.

Those of us who oppose all forms of apartheid must challenge IDF recruitment in Canada, which contravenes the law and is obviously immoral. Complaints must also be made against registered charities supporting the IDF in breach of Canada Revenue Agency restrictions on non-Canadian military support. Schools and other groups that promote the IDF should be publicly shamed.

Finally, please sign the parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into illegal Israeli military recruitment. We need to disrupt Canadian support for the agents of Palestinian misery.

Comments Off on Time to disrupt IDF promotion network

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel Lobby

NDP votes for Palestine

 

On Saturday New Democratic Party members delivered a victory for Palestinian rights and a blow to the Israel lobby in Canada.

Over 80% of convention delegates voted for a resolution calling for “Ending all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine” and “Suspending the bilateral trade of all arms and related materials with the State of Israel until Palestinian rights are upheld.”

A few hours after the vote CBC News Network’s ticker said NDP members “voted to sanction Israel over settlements” and a subsequent clip on their site was titled “Would Singh make delegate resolution on sanctioning Israel an NDP position?”. Numerous outlets also picked up The Canadian Press’ report that “a resolution that demands Canada suspend arms dealing with Israel and halt trade with Israeli settlements passed with 80 per cent support.”

In response, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) put out a churlish release titled “NDP resolution highlights an ongoing toxic obsession with Israel”. If anyone missed the point in the headline, the release condemned the party’s “toxic obsession with Israel”, “pathological preoccupation with Israel” and “obsessive concern with Israel”, which they labeled “shameful”. On Twitter Rabbi David Mivasair derided CIJA’s release as the “definition of hypocrisy”, adding that the “Israel lobby in Canada, whose entire raison d’etre is to push Israel on us, says NDP is ‘obsessed with Israel’.”

CIJA’s post-resolution release and reaction to the NDP convention more broadly highlights how Israel has lost progressives and its lobby is ever more reliant on intimidating those who support Palestinian rights by calling them anti-Semitic. More than a month before the NDP convention CIJA began publicly pressuring the party leadership to suppress a resolution critical of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism. The ferocious campaign to suppress NDP members’ ability to debate a document designed to suppress discussion of Palestinian rights succeeded in scaring the NDP leader into erasing the long-oppressed Palestinians (theIHRA resolution never made it to the debate stage). A week ago Jagmeet Singh was asked on CBC’s The House about resolutions submitted to the NDP convention regarding “Canada’s relationship to Israel and the Palestinian territory”. Instead of responding to the question, he mentioned “anti-Semitism” 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 also against people of the Jewish faith”.

The disastrous interview generated a burst of criticism regarding the party leadership’s anti-Palestinianism and gave momentum to pro-Palestinian forces within the party prior to the convention. In a significant reversal, the morning after the convention vote Singh defended the resolution that CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton described as “your party voted overwhelmingly to slap sanctions on settlements and to ban arms sales to Israel.” Marshaling the legitimacy of “human rights groups”, Singh said it was important to “apply pressure on Israel to respect the rights of Palestinians.” While he equivocated somewhat in fully endorsing the Palestine Resolution, Singh repeated the importance of applying “pressure” on Israel three times.

An empty vessel on this issue, Singh goes wherever pushed. That’s the case for most of the NDP caucus. Two days ago MP Charlie Angus tweeted, “I keep getting mentioned by some who want the NDP to oppose the international definition of anti-semitism. This is not the way to go. I support motions calling for justice for the Palestinian people. But I also remain deeply concerned about the growing threat of anti-semitism.”

As far as I can tell no one said Angus backed the anti-IHRA definition resolution. Rather they pointed out that in January a Conservative member of the Ontario Legislature and a top Israeli diplomat both used the IHRA definition to attack Angus for sharing a Guardian article critical of Israel’s failure to vaccinate Palestinians for Covid 19. Angus’ name was raised as a concrete example of how the IHRA definition tramples on Palestinian rights. But, Anguscowardly threw those who defended him from smears under the Israel lobby bus.

Still, Angus’ formulation is worth reflecting on. With most of the backlash focused against the anti-IHRA definition resolution the Palestine Resolution seemed reasonable. Multi-pronged campaigns can be effective.

It took immense effort by a broad array of activists to get more than 30 (Palestine Resolution) and 40 (IHRA resolution) riding associations, as well as numerous other groups, to endorse these resolutions but it was worth it. The NDP convention confirms there is significant popular support for Palestinian rights. Polls have shown that Canadians are widely sympathetic to bringing pressure to bear on Israel for its colonization. My bet is that most of the 15% of NDP delegates who voted against the Palestine Resolution did so out of concern for the backlash, not the substance of the resolution.

While the Palestine resolution was a win for Palestinian rights and blow to the Israel lobby, it was also a small victory for grassroots democracy and proof that people can be mobilized by calls for justice in international affairs.

Comments Off on NDP votes for Palestine

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel Lobby, NDP

Why couldn’t Jagmeet Singh say “Palestine”?

On CBC’s The House on Saturday Jagmeet Singh was asked about resolutions submitted to next week’s NDP convention regarding “Canada’s relationship to Israel and the Palestinian territory”. Instead of responding to the question, he mentioned “anti-Semitism” 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 also against people of the Jewish faith”.

Singh’s complete erasure of the long-oppressed Palestinians is hard to listen to. After an outpouring of criticism, he took to Twitter to calm an enraged party base with a clarification that included some customary Israel/Palestine talking points.

While the House interview was appalling, Singh’s anti-Palestinian record is long-standing. In the summer he refused to endorse a pledge, supported by 70 MPs, to oppose Israel’s plan to annex the Palestinian West Bank. During the 2019 election the party leadership blocked a half-dozen candidates from running partly or entirely because of their support for Palestinian rights. A year earlier Singh explicitly rejected a call from 200 prominent individuals, labour leaders and party members — including Roger Waters, Noam Chomsky, Linda McQuaig and Maher Arar — for the NDP to withdraw from the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG). At the 2018 convention Singh mobilized his family and dozens of members of his community to vote against allowing debate on the modest “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice”, which was unanimously endorsed by the NDP youth convention, many affiliated groups and two dozen riding associations.

Singh has been decidedly deferential to leading anti-Palestinian lobby group the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). Last month he stoked a CIJA attack against leftist NDP MP Niki Ashton and Singh previously participated in a CIJA “antisemitism” smear against Dimitri Lascaris, one of Canada’s most effective advocates for Palestinian rights. At a December 2019 event with CIJA Singh said he considered the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian working definition of anti-Semitism a useful “guiding educational lens”. In an article breaking down that CIJA meeting Sheryl Nestel explained, “the overwhelming takeaway from the CIJA podcast is that Singh is intent on demonstrating the degree to which he identifies with Israel. The NDP leader’s aim, it seems, was to quell any concerns that CIJA and its supporters might have about the possibility of his extending solidarity to the Palestinians.”Prior to becoming leader of the party, Singh went on a CIJA-sponsored trip to Israel.

Singh’s response to the CBC represents an over-the-top bid to appease CIJA, which has been running an aggressive campaign to pressure the NDP leadership to suppress debate regarding a convention resolution critical of the IHRA’s anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism. But, his clarification on Twitter suggests Singh and his handlers know he went too far in appeasing those promoting what Israel’s leading human rights group B’Tselem recently dubbed “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid”.

Most delegates to NDP conventions are not anti-Palestinian bigots. So, it is a bad idea to generate a burst of criticism regarding the party leadership’s anti-Palestinianism days before you are angling to suppress debate of pro-Palestinian resolutions. To succeed in suppressing debate at the convention requires delegates to be naïve/trusting in the leadership. If it wasn’t already clear to anyone mildly engaged in NDP affairs, the leadership prefers to align with right wing anti Palestinian groups that smear progressives than a membership increasingly supportive of Palestinian rights.

It will be interesting to see what the NDP leadership is prepared to do to block members from debating widely supported pro-Palestinian resolutions at the convention. Hopefully, Singh’s House interview riles up delegates to aggressively challenge the NDP leadership and do what’s right.

 

 

Join more than 900 individuals who have emailed the NDP leadership asking them to resist efforts to suppress debate on Palestinian rights at the convention. On April 5 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is hosting an online event on “Palestine Solidarity: Why the NDP Convention Matters.”

 

Comments Off on Why couldn’t Jagmeet Singh say “Palestine”?

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel Lobby, NDP