Contrasting the Jewish establishment’s reaction to alleged bigotry from a left-wing Toronto restaurant and unambiguous hatred from a far-right politician is a sad comment on their political priorities.
As I detailed here and here, the anti-Palestinian lobby went into overdrive after Foodbenders owner Kimberly Hawkins posted to Instagram at the start of the month: “Open Now – 8 PM for non-racist shoppers #Bloordale #Bloorstreet, #Toronto, #Open, #ftp [fuck the police] #FreePalestine and #ZionistsNotWelcome.”
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and others claimed the #ZionistsNotWelcome hashtag discriminated against Jews. CIJA tweeted no less than 25 times about a restaurant known for supporting indigenous rights, Black Lives Matter and other social justice causes. As of writing, CIJA’s pinned tweet was a press release from July 8 largely about Foodbendors. CIJA also released a long statement regarding the small left-wing Toronto restaurant and sent an action alert asking its members to complain about Foodbendors’ to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The advocacy arm of Canada’s Jewish federations also called on politicians to denounce the restaurant and pushed a campaign targeting Foodbenders’ delivery services, institutional customers, website host and social media accounts.
As the Foodbendors brouhaha was mostly dying down the head of the Canadian Nationalist Party, Travis Patron, published a flyer and video titled “Beware The Parasitic Tribe”. In the video he described Jews as “inside manipulators” who “infiltrate the media, they hijack the central bank, and they infect the body politic like a parasite.” His conclusion was of an ethnic cleansing variety. “And what we need to do,” Patron exalted, “perhaps more than anything, is remove these people once and for all from our country.”
There is little ambiguity here. Patron is spewing vile anti-Semitic hatred. Additionally, Patron has been accused of violence. He’s currently before the courts on charges of aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm for an incident in November so it’s not implausible that he could commit a violent hate crime against Jews or others he regards as targets.
While CIJA condemned Patron’s comments, they did so with considerably less vigor than Foodbenders. They only tweeted about it twice (versus 25 times for Foodbendors) and I couldn’t find a press release or action alert on the matter.
The contrast between B’nai B’rith’s reaction to Patron and to Foodbendors was similarly striking. While it tweeted about Patron twice, it put out two dozen messages about the restaurant and different ways to bankrupt it, including two tweets three weeks after the kerfuffle began. On July 24 B’nai B’rith tweeted, “Big shout out to @MrCaseDelivery to thank them for severing business ties with Foodbenders in Toronto” and then another stating, “Anti-Zionist Canadian Restaurant Owner Faces Growing Legal Woes.”
From what I can find Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy stayed silent on Patron though she published a half dozen articles on Foodbenders. Even Bernie Farber, Chair of Canadian Anti-Hate Network and former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, tweeted more times about Foodbendors (8) than Patron (2).
The ferociousness of the campaign against Foodbenders has been remarkable. Contrasting it with the Israeli nationalist Canadian establishment’s reaction to unambiguous anti-Semitic hatred from a far-right politician would seem to indicate that destroying a business owned by a left-wing owner is of greater priority than opposing neo-Nazis.
The Israel lobby has waged a remarkably successful campaign to bankrupt a small left-wing Toronto restaurant. Despite claiming to fight bigotry, it is the Israeli nationalists who have committed the surest racism and arguably taken the most anti-Jewish positions.
In response to pressure from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), B’nai B’rith, Jewish Defence League (JDL), etc. delivery services Uber, Ritual, Door Dash and others have dropped Foodbendors in recent days. A number of institutional customers also announced they would no longer buy from the restaurant. Foodbendors’ highly active Instagram account was taken down. Its money processor also held back some payments for orders and a Gofundme campaign that quickly raised $2700 to defend the restaurant was deactivated. An investigation of their business license has begun, an individual launched a $750,000 defamation suit against the owner and she is also being dragged before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
This devastating assault is being waged against a restaurant that has strongly advocated for Black Lives Matter and Indigenous rights as well as against patriarchy and Canadian imperialism. Its long Canada Day statement noted, “Canada backs every coup of elected socialist leaders led by Washington and continues to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia where they will be used to perpetuate war and famine in Yemen.”
In the fall the unabashedly left-wing restaurant painted “I love Gaza” in its window on the busy Bloor street. This prompted a backlash from the anti-Palestinian crowd and put Foodbenders on the radar of those looking to squash any sign of solidarity with the long-beleaguered Palestinians. Amidst recent Black Lives Matter protests, the restaurant had a dust-up with pro-police forces when they put up a sign in front of their shop saying, “No Justice, No Peace, F*ck the Police!” Then they faced criticism for a “Happy KKKanada day” sign on July 1. Preferring targets that are already offside with elements of the establishment (think Jeremy Corbyn), the Israel lobby groups saw a chance to deliver a blow when owner Kimberly Hawkins posted to Instagram, “Open Now – 8 PM for non-racist shoppers #Bloordale #Bloorstreet, #Toronto, #Open, #ftp [fuck the police] #FreePalestine and #ZionistsNotWelcome.” The anti-Palestinian lobby claimed the #ZionistsNotWelcome hashtag discriminated against Jews.
To her credit Hawkins didn’t back down. She clarified that Jews were indeed welcome and that she does not believe “criticism of the Zionist political ideology, Israel or the Greater Israel Project, or pointing out its racist supremacist foundations amounts to criticism of the Jewish people or even Israeli citizens.”
Whether one believes Hawkins’ restaurant has been unfairly attacked or Toronto Jewry stigmatized by the Foodbendors owner, the primary victims of any suppression of discussion of Zionism or “free Palestine” are those locked in the Gaza prison or in the occupied West Bank. In the Toronto conflict the clearest act of hate was carried out by JDL thugs scrubbing a Palestinian Lives Matter marking from the sidewalk and, similar to what Jewish supremacist settlers do to Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, a woman painting the symbol on the Israeli flag onto Foodbenders window.
The Israel lobby groups have also engaged in essentialist language that if taken to its logical conclusion basically blames all Jews for a European colonial movement that dispossessed Palestinians.
Critics of the restaurant have said that Hawkins uses the term “Zionism” or “Zionists” as a euphemism for “Jew” or “Jewish”, which she flatly denies. Writing in the Toronto Star, self-professed progressive Emma Teitel responds to those who say using the word Zionist with a disparaging adjective “isn’t anti-Semitic, because Zionism doesn’t equal Judaism. But this position is a semantic fallacy. Zionism in modern Jewish terms is synonymous with a belief that the state of Israel has a right to exist. By this definition a great many Jews today are Zionists. When an activist group or a shop owner or whoever attaches anti-Semitic tropes to an adjective, Zionist, that millions of Jews wear, they’re engaging in anti-Semitism plain and simple.”
While some genuinely anti-Semitic people do what Teitel claims, there has to be a way to distinguish between those who support the idea of a religious/ethnic state, which is at the core of the Zionist philosophy, and those who support secular states. Many people, Jews included, believe that a state shouldn’t favour one religion or ethnic group over another. Those who demand a secular state in Canada but support a Jewish state in Israel are inconsistent at best and racist at worst (against Palestinians who live under that state’s control).
In their statements about Foodbendors, CIJA, B’nai B’rith and International Legal Forum directly conflate Jewish and Zionist. CIJA notes, “a recent study of Jewish Canadians confirms that the overwhelming majority of Jewish Canadians are Zionists, and the term can be used to describe our community.”
Generally presented as a response to late 1800s European anti-Semitism, the Theodore Herzl-led Zionist movement was also spurred by the Christian, nationalist and imperialist ideologies sweeping Europe at the time. After two millennia in which Jewish restoration was viewed as a spiritual event to be brought about through divine intervention, Zionism finally took root among some Jews after two centuries of active Protestant Zionism. “Christian proto-Zionists [existed] in England 300 years before modern Jewish Zionism emerged,” notes Evangelics and Israel: The Story of American Christian Zionism. Until the mid-1800s Zionism was an almost entirely non-Jewish movement that reflected the more literal readings of the Bible that flowed out of the Protestant Reformation.
Another factor driving Jewish Zionism was the nationalism sweeping Europe in the late 1800s. Germany, Italy and a number of eastern European states were all established during this period.
Alongside nationalist and biblical literalist influences, Zionism took root at the height of European imperialism. In the lead-up to World War I the European “scramble” carved up Africa and then the Middle East. (Europeans controlled about 10 percent of Africa in 1870 but by 1914 only Ethiopia was independent of European control. Liberia was effectively a US colony.)
Similar to Europe, Zionism’s roots in Canada are Christian, not Jewish. Early Canadian support for Zionism was based on more literal readings of the Bible and tied to this country’s status as a dominion of the British Empire, which in the latter half of the nineteenth century began to see Zionism as a potential vehicle to strengthen its geostrategic position in the region. At the time of Confederation, Canada’s preeminent Christian Zionist was Henry Wentworth Monk. Monk called for the British Empire to establish a “dominion of Israel” similar to the dominion of Canada. In the 1978 book Canada and Palestine, Zachariah Kay notes, “Monk believed that Palestine was the logical center of the British Empire, and could help form a confederation of the English-speaking world.”
By CIJA, B’nai B’rith, JDL, etc… logic, Jewry in its entirety are responsible for this colonial movement and its dispossession of Palestinians. In fact, if one makes that claim they can rightly be accused of anti-Semitism because individual Jews and Canada’s Jewish community are clearly not responsible for what the Zionist movement or Israel does. Of course, individual Jews and Jewish organizations can be complicit in Israeli crimes if they support that country, but that is because of their actions, not who they are.
The Israel lobby’s racist and essentialist ideas need to be contested and their effort to bankrupt a progressive Toronto restaurant resisted.
The pro-Israel community is engaged in a remarkable effort to bankrupt a small progressive Toronto restaurant. In their attack on Foodbenders, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai B’rith have once again allied with the violent, far-right, Jewish Defence League (JDL).
Over the past week the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has tweeted no less than 25 times about a restaurant known for supporting indigenous rights, Black Lives Matter and other social justice causes. CIJA and associates have targetedFoodbenders’ delivery services, institutional customers, website host and social media accounts. They’ve also gotten the prime minister, premier of Ontario, mayor of Toronto and numerous other politicians to (directly or indirectly) denounce the small restaurant that has “I love Gaza” painted in its window. A CIJA action alert to its members states, “antisemites MUST be held accountable. We will never hesitate to take strong legal action against business owners in our city who declare Zionists are ‘not welcome’. UJA’s [United Jewish Appeal] advocacy agent the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is calling on the Ontario Human Rights Commission to hold Foodbenders accountable for its discriminatory stance against our community. But we need your support! If you feel Foodbenders’ anti-Zionist position discriminates against you, please add your name to this important statement.”
B’nai B’rith has also put out dozens of tweets about the restaurant and different ways to bankrupt it. One statement calls on its supporters to “contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request that Foodbenders have its business license investigated. Be sure to mention section 27 of By-law No. 574-2000, which prohibits the use of a licensed business to ‘discriminate against any member of the public’ on grounds of ‘race, colour, or creed.’ Attach screenshots if you can.”
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and Honest Reporting Canada have put out dozens of tweets supporting efforts to bankrupt the social justice minded business. The Israel-based International Legal Forum filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against Foodbenders’ owner Kimberly Hawkins. In what is thought to be the first time the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism has been employed in this way, they are claiming that under its stipulations the restaurant owner should be charged with discrimination.
The more liberal end of the Israeli nationalist establishment has also joined the pile on. Former Canadian Jewish Congress president and current chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Bernie Farber, has repeatedly denounced the restaurant and so has the Canadian Jewish Record, a publication he recently established. In one tweet Farber denounced “the antisemitic tropes used by Food benders.”
Hawkins has being attacked incessantly since an Instagram post of hers began circulating last week that stated, “Open Now – 8 PM for non-racist shoppers #Bloordale #Bloorstreet, #Toronto, #Open, #ftp [fuck the police] #FreePalestine and #ZionistsNotWelcome.” The anti-Palestinian lobby pounced on the #ZionistsNotWelcome hashtag.
(While “for non-racist shoppers” and “#ZionistsNotWelcome” are entirely legitimate statements, they are near impossible to enforce and it is questionable to block someone with racist views from purchasing a sandwich, as Hawkins immediately explained.)
In response to Hawkins’ refusal to back down from her support of Palestinian rights, Jewish Defence League thugs held a rally in front of Foodbenders on Sunday. During their hate fest they scrubbed a Palestinian Lives Matter marking from the sidewalk and, similar to what Jewish supremacist settlers do to Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, someone painted the symbol on the Israeli flag onto the restaurant window. Alongside painting Stars of David on her storefront, Hawkins has faced a bevy of online abuse. The Foodbenders owner has been called a “dirty Palestinian whore” and told “Palestine sucks I will burn your business down” and “I hope your family gets trapped inside the restaurant when it burns.”
In the dozens of tweets and statements they’ve put out about the restaurant B’nai B’rith, CIJA, Wiesenthal Centre, Honest Reporting Canada and Farber have all stayed mum on JDL’s acts of hate, which were carried out in broad daylight and filmed (CIJA referred to “vandalism” in one tweet). This isn’t surprising. Despite the JDL’s racism and violence, the Jewish establishment has tacitly accepted or actively supported its often-violent targeting of Palestine solidarity campaigners.
After JDL supporters attacked peaceful pro-Palestinian activists protesting a presentation by Israeli military reservists at York University in November, the establishment Jewish organizations cried “anti-Semitism”. Last year JDL, B’nai B’rith and CIJA worked with Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak in a bid to have the city block Al Quds Day. Banned in the US and Israel, JDL participates in the annual Walk for Israel organized by United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto. JDL has also been allowed to recruit in Jewish high schools and during Israel’s 2014 destruction of Gaza the JDL and B’nai B’rith co-sponsored a counter-demonstration and the group provided “security” for a Canadians for Israel rally.
JDL leader Meir Weinstein, Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak, CIJA Vice President Noah Shack and B’nai B’rith CEO Michael Mostyn
While it’s not uncommon for Israel lobby groups to mount vicious smear campaigns attempting “cancel” their opponents, the over-the-top nature of the recent effort may reflect their unease. Israel’s plan to formally jettison the two-state solution and the role Palestine played in Canada’s failure to gain a UN Security Council seat has the potential to seriously shake their grip over Canadian policy on the issue. Maybe they view the thrashing of a small left-wing food vendor as a way to reassert their grip over the politics of the issue. The Palestine solidarity community should seek to blunt CIJA, B’nai B’rith and the JDL’s effort to bankrupt Foodbenders.
Please take one minute to send an email to major Toronto media to ask them why they have not covered JDL’s outrageous attack against Foodbenders.
If you can donate here is a go fund me campaign to support the pro-Palestinian restaurant.
Why the official silence about Toronto’s most powerful extreme right group? Is it because we live in a political culture where Palestinian lives don’t matter?
Recently an individual with the Jewish Defence League (JDL) was photographed defacing a pro-Palestinian storefront with supremacist graffiti in broad daylight. Nothing has happened to them but the anti-racist victim has faced negative consequences.
On Sunday JDL thugs held a rally in front of Foodbenders, a sandwich shop that has “I Love Gaza” painted on its window. During their hate fest they scrubbed a Palestinian Lives Matter marking from the sidewalk and, similar to what Jewish supremacist settlers do to Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, someone painted the symbol on the Israeli flag onto the restaurant window. Alongside painting Stars of David on her storefront, Kimberly Hawkins has faced a bevy of online abuse. The Foodbenders owner has been called a “dirty Palestinian whore” and told “Palestine sucks I will burn your business down” and “I hope your family gets trapped inside the restaurant when it burns.”
Hawkins has faced these attacks since an Instagram post of hers began circulating last week that stated, “Open Now – 8 PM for non-racist shoppers #Bloordale #Bloorstreet, #Toronto, #Open, #ftp #FreePalestine and #ZionistsNotWelcome.” The police seem to have ignored the whole affair, perhaps because a few weeks earlier Foodbenders was embroiled in a controversy over a sign that read “No Justice, No Peace, F*ck the Police!”
The anti-Palestinian lobby pounced on the #ZionistsNotWelcome hashtag and demanded food delivery services boycott the store. Submitting to the pressure, Uber Eats, Ritual and DoorDash have cancelled their contract with the restaurant. (While “for non-racist shoppers” and “#ZionistsNotWelcome” are entirely legitimate statements, they are near impossible to enforce and it is questionable to block someone with racist views from purchasing a sandwich, as Hawkins immediately explained.)
The media has all but ignored the JDL’s hate, as have the groups and individuals who claim to monitor the far right in Canada. The double standard is stark. When individuals have covered or painted over Black Lives Matter symbols the incidents have been widely reported and interpreted as racist. A couple in Contra Costa, California, were charged with a hate crime for painting over a BLM marking on the street. The Foodbender’s case is far worse. The subjugation of Palestinians is crueller than the oppression of Black people in North America and the JDLers chose to deface the property with the symbol of Palestinians’ oppressors.
Over the past decade JDL Toronto has built itself up by aggressively harassing Palestinian solidarity activists. Facebook has banned JDL Canada’s account, classifying it a “dangerous organization”. In 2011 the RCMP launched an investigation against a number of JDL members who were thought to be plotting to bomb Palestine House in Mississauga and in 2017 JDL Toronto members organized a mob that attacked protesters at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington DC. In the worst incident, a 55-year-old Palestinian-American teacher was punched, kicked and hit with flagpoles. Bruised across his body, Kamal Nayfeh needed 18 stitches around his eye.
In November JDL supporters attacked peaceful pro-Palestinian activists protesting a presentation by Israeli military reservists at York University. One of the victims was reportedly knocked unconscious.
In the US the FBI labeled the JDL a “right-wing terrorist group” in 2001 after its members were convicted in a series of acts of terror, including the killing of the regional director of the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee and a plot to assassinate a congressman. A member of the JDL’s sister organization in Israel killed 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers in the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre 20 years ago.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, B’nai B’rith, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and a slew of other politicians have all condemned Foodbenders. Simultaneously, they have ignored the JDL’s racism, further emboldening Toronto’s most powerful far right organization. It seems, for them, Palestinian lives do not matter.
Please take one minute to send an email to major Toronto media to ask them why they have not covered this outrageous attack against a pro-Palestinian restaurant.
Canada’s defeat in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council is a major victory for Palestinian solidarity. It also puts Canada’s Israel lobby on the defensive.
Israeli politicians and commentators have begun to publicly bemoan the loss. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, told the Jerusalem Post, “we are disappointed that Canada didn’t make it, both because we have close ties with the country and because of the campaign that the Palestinians ran against Canada.” In another story in that paper headlined “With annexation looming, Canada’s UNSC upset is bad news for Israel, US” Deputy Managing Editor Tovah Lazaroff labels Canada’s loss “a sharp reminder of the type of diplomatic price tag Israel’s allies can suffer on the international stage.”
Inside Canada the Security Council defeat is a blow to the Israel lobby. While the Canadian media has generally minimized the impact Canada’s anti-Palestinian position had on the vote, the subject is being raised. In a Journal deQuébec column titled “Why did Canada suffer a humiliating defeat at the UN?” Norman Lester writes, “it is the support of the Trudeau Liberal government for Israel, like that of Harper before him, that is probably the main reason for Ottawa’s two successive setbacks. Ireland and Norway have more balanced policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than Canada.” He concludes the article by noting, “Canada has no chance of returning to the Security Council in the foreseeable future unless there is a radical change in its position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
By acquiescing almost entirely to the ‘Israel no matter what’ outlook of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai B’rith, the Trudeau government undercut its bid for a seat on the UN’s highest decision-making body. The Israel lobby’s point people in the Liberal caucus, Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt, are no doubt hoping to avoid too much blowback for their role in this embarrassment. Housefather ought to be prodded on his contribution to the Trudeau government’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN since he repeatedly boasted that it was more pro-Israel than Stephen Harper’s.
Canada’s voting record at the UN was at the heart of the grassroots No Canada on the UN Security Council campaign. An open letter launching the campaign from the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute noted, “since coming to power the Trudeau government has voted against more than fifty UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights backed by the overwhelming majority of member states.” A subsequent open letter was signed by over 100 civil society groups and dozens of prominent individuals urging countries to vote against Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat due to its anti-Palestinian positions. That letter organized by Just Peace Advocates stated, “the Canadian government for at least a decade and a half has consistently isolated itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights at the UN. … Continuing this pattern, Canada ‘sided with Israel by voting No’ on most UN votes on the Question of Palestine in December. Three of these were Canada’s votes on Palestinian Refugees, on UNRWA and on illegal settlements, each distinguishing Canada as in direct opposition to the ‘Yes’ votes of Ireland and Norway.”
Just Peace Advocates organized 1,300 individuals to email all UN ambassadors asking them to vote for Ireland and Norway instead of Canada for the Security Council. In a sign of the campaign’s impact, Canada’s permanent representative to the UN Marc André Blanchard responded with a letter to all UN ambassadors defending Canada’s policy on Palestinian rights.
Not only has Canada’s voting record on Palestinian rights undercut its standing within the General Assembly, the Canadian public doesn’t want the government pursuing anti-Palestinian positions. A recent Ekos poll found that 74% of Canadians wanted Ottawa to express opposition to Israel’s plan to formally annex a large swath of the West Bank with 42% of the public desiring some form of economic and/or diplomatic sanction against Israel if it moves forward with annexation. “The Trudeau government has not only isolated Canada from international opinion regarding Palestinian rights at the UN, but its positions contravene the wishes of most Canadians regarding the long-beleaguered Palestinians,” explained Karen Rodman of Just Peace Advocates.
While the impact of the loss shouldn’t be exaggerated, Justin Trudeau’s brand is linked to the idea that he is liked internationally. Additionally, the Liberals’ base supports the UN and the international body is closely connected with how they market their foreign policy.
Kowtowing to CIJA, B’nai B’rith and Israeli nationalists such as Housefather, Levitt, etc. on Palestinian rights at the UN helped scuttle Canada’s Security Council bid — that’s a fact Trudeau and the Liberals must face. More important, the international community’s rejection of a government enthralled to the Israel lobby weakens Israel diplomatically and is a victory for Palestine solidarity.
The Palestinian solidarity movement is unsettling Canada’s diplomatic apparatus. In the final week of their multi-year campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council they’ve been forced to respond to a strong, well-documented, campaign in defence of Palestinian rights.
Yesterday, Canada’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Marc-André Blanchard, delivered a letter to all UN ambassadors defending Canadian policy on Palestinian rights. Blanchard was responding to an Open Letter organized by Just Peace Advocates signed by more than 100 organizations and dozens of prominent individuals. Over the past week more than 1000 individuals have used that letter as a template to contact all 193 UN ambassador to ask them to vote for Ireland and Norway instead of Canada for two seats available on the Security Council.
Canada’s ambassador claims the Just Peace Advocates’ letter contains “significant inaccuracies”, but he doesn’t identify a single one of those “inaccuracies” (Blanchard probably hoped his letter wouldn’t be put online).
Here is the Palestinian solidarity letter sent to all UN ambassadors:
“As humanity reels from the Covid-19 pandemic, you will soon select the world’s representatives on the UN’s highest decision-making body. As organizations and individuals advocating in Canada and elsewhere for a just peace in Palestine/Israel, we respectfully ask you to reject Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.
As you choose seats on the Security Council between the bids of Canada, Ireland and Norway for the two Western Europe and Other States, the UN’s historic contribution to Palestinian dispossession and responsibility to protect their rights must be front of mind. In these uncertain times, Palestinians are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 due to Israel’s military occupation and violations of UN resolutions.
The Canadian government for at least a decade and a half has consistently isolated itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights at the UN. Since coming to power – after the dubious record of the Harper government – the Trudeau government has voted against more than fifty UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights that were backed by the overwhelming majority of member states. Continuing this pattern, Canada “sided with Israel by voting No” on most UN votes on the Question of Palestine in December. Three of these were Canada’s votes on Palestinian Refugees, on UNRWA and on illegal settlements, each distinguishing Canada as in direct opposition to the “Yes” votes of Ireland and Norway.
The Canadian government has refused to abide by 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2334, calling on member states to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied in 1967.” On the contrary, Ottawa extends economic and trade assistance to Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
Canada has repeatedly sided with Israel. Ottawa justified Israel’s killing of “Great March of Return” protesters in Gaza and has sought to deter the International Criminal Court from investigating Israeli war crimes. In fact, Canada’s foreign affairs minister announced that should it win a seat on the UNSC, it would act as an “asset for Israel” on the Council.
When deciding who represents the international community on the UN’s highest decision-making body, we urge you to consider the UN-established rights of the long-suffering Palestinians, and to vote for Ireland and Norway, which have better records on the matter than Canada.”
In reality, the letter only touches on the current government’s anti-Palestinian record. They’ve also celebrated Canadians who fight in the Israeli military, threatened to cut off funding to the International Criminal Court for investigating Israeli crimes, protected Israeli settlement wine producers, added Palestinian organizations to Canada’s terrorism list, adopted a definition of antisemitism explicitly designed to marginalize those who criticize Palestinian dispossession and repeatedly slandered the pro-Palestinian movement. None of this is secret. In fact, Liberal MP and former chair of the government’s Justice and Human Rights Committee, Anthony Housefather, has repeatedly boasted that the Trudeau government’s voting record at the UN was more anti-Palestinian than the Stephen Harper government!
The Trudeau government has almost entirely acquiesced to Housefather, B’nai B’rith, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the rest of the Israel lobby’s positions. But, they understand that there is sympathy for Palestinians within the UN General Assembly. And they need those individuals to vote for Canada’s Security Council bid if they don’t want to suffer an embarrassing defeat.
To be forced to respond at this late hour in their Security Council campaign represents a setback to the Liberals. But, we won’t know how significant the damage is until after next week’ vote. In the meantime please send a letter to all UN ambassadors calling on them to vote for Canada’s competitors, Norway and Ireland, for the two non-permanent Security Council spots open for Western countries.
As Just Peace Advocates’ Karen Rodman has pointed out, “the letter is seeking to pull at the heartstrings of the individuals who cast the secret ballots for the Security Council seat. We want to remind UN ambassadors that Canada has consistently isolated itself against world opinion when it comes to the long-suffering Palestinians.”
Just when you think Canadian government hypocrisy could hit no greater heights, the Liberals launch a double standards rocket to the stars.
The Trudeau government recently pressed the International Criminal Court to stop investigating Israeli war crimes. Ottawa sent a letter to the ICC saying it didn’t believe the court had jurisdiction over Palestine. “Canada’s longstanding position is that it does not recognize a Palestinian state and therefore does not recognize the accession of such a state to international treaties, including the Rome Statute. In the absence of a Palestinian state, it is Canada’s view that the Court does not have jurisdiction in this matter,” a Global Affairs official told the Jerusalem Post. But, it doesn’t matter if Canada recognizes Palestine. The vast majority of UN member states recognized Palestine and it joined the ICC in 2015.
In response to Ottawa’s letter to the ICC, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat tweeted that Canada supported “Israel’s campaign for impunity.” Erekat added, “it is not about jurisdiction: It’s about war crimes. This is an encouragement to continue the war crimes.”
Canada’s letter to the ICC implies it could sever funding if the ICC pursued an investigation of Israeli crimes. Reportedly, it reminds the court that Canada’s “financial contribution to the ICC will be $10.6 million this year.”
Ottawa’s letter was a response to ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s statement in December that “I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.” At the time Bensouda called for a full-fledged investigation into Israeli war crimes, which could lead to arrest warrants being issued for Israeli officials.
Since then Tel Aviv has unleashed a vicious campaign against the ICC. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labeled the court’s investigation “pure anti-Semitism”. Israel has pushed other countries to join their attacks. Netanyahu sent a letter to Justin Trudeau calling on Canada to condemn any ICC investigation of Israeli war crimes.
Trudeau’s willingness to bow to Israeli pressure on the issue is remarkable. Not only does it claim to support the ICC, the institution is closely linked to how it markets its foreign policy.
In his recent mandate letter to the foreign minister Trudeau told Francois-Philippe Champagne to “reinforce international institutions like the International Criminal Court.” In March Global Affairs noted, “we are proud to support the International Criminal Court and the important work that it does.” The press release boasted that Canada helped “bring the ICC into existence” and was “the first country in the world to adopt comprehensive legislation implementing the Rome Statute” that created the ICC. The statement adds that “Canada firmly supports the rules-based international order and the multilateral institutions that underpin it.”
When Trudeau addressed the UN General Assembly in September 2018, the ICC was central to his talk. The government announced Canada was taking Venezuela to the ICC and the prime minister described the court as a “useful and important way of promoting an international rules-based order.”
On dozens of occasions former foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, Trudeau and other Liberal officials have referred to the “international rules-based order”, “international order based on rules” or “international system based on rules”. The top stated “aim” laid out in Freeland’s major June 2017 foreign policy pronouncement was: “First, we will robustly support the rules-based international order, and all its institutions, and seek ways to strengthen and improve them.” The number one priority on Global Affairs website’s is “revitalizing the rules-based international order.”
By threatening the ICC on behalf of Israel the Trudeau government is not simply enabling Palestinian dispossession. The Liberals are also making a mockery of their foreign policy rhetoric.
Ambassador Deborah Lyons with Canadians fighting in IDF Yaakov Herman, Robbie Kohos and Ayala Rotenberg
Canada is celebrating the agents of Palestinian misery.
Last month the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv held an event to celebrate Canadians fighting in the Israeli military. They invited all 78 Canadians in the IDF to the ambassador’s residence to demonstrate their appreciation. Referring to non-Israelis who join the IDF, ambassador Deborah Lyons told the Jerusalem Post, “Canadian lone soldiers are a particularly special group … This is something we want to do on a yearly basis to show our support.” At the event Canada’s ambassador said, “we both share a love of Canada and a love of Israel. We at the embassy are very proud of what you’re doing.”
A top diplomat organizing an event to celebrate Canadians fighting for another country’s military ought to generate criticism. Doing so while that force humiliates Palestinians at checkpoints in the West Bank, fires on protesters in Gaza and bombs Syria in violation of international law is an outrage that must be condemned.
The government has legislation designed to deter Canadians from joining other countries’ militaries. The Foreign Enlistment Act is supposed to prohibit Canadians from recruiting for a foreign army. It notes, “any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”
Similarly, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) 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.”
Despite these rules, ambassador Lyons celebrated Canadians fighting for the IDF. The event promoting the IDF was a nod to a network of Canadian organizations backing the Israeli military. In November 1100 people attended an Association for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada and Canadian Zionist Cultural Association event in Toronto. The Canadian Jewish News reported, “the evening featured heartfelt and captivating speeches from IDF commanders, as well as a performance by the IDF Ensemble.”
Two months ago, Herut Canada brought Israeli military reservists to a number of Ontario universities. At York their event sparked a high-profile confrontation.
A number of Jewish day schools promote the Israeli military. At Toronto’s Leo Baeck an Israeli emissary spends a year at the school and when they return, notes the Canadian Jewish News, “engages with students by way of live video chat from their Israel Defence Forces barracks dressed in their military uniforms.” Students also pay “tribute to Israel’s fallen heroes” and fundraise for Beit Halochem Canada/Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel, which supports injured IDF soldiers.
At the other end of the age spectrum a group of 80-something Torontonians gather regularly to make hand-knitted tuques for IDF soldiers. They are part of the Hats for Israeli Soldiers initiative. Another organization that supports the IDF is Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans-Canada. 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.
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’s also helps non-Israelis join the IDF.
In November the Israeli consulate in Toronto announced a military recruiting effort. According to their announcement, “an IDF representative will conduct personal interviews at the Consulate on November 11-14. Young people who wish to enlist in the IDF or anyone who has not fulfilled their obligations according to the Israeli Defense Service Law are invited to meet with him.”
Sar-El, Nefesh B’Nefesh, Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers, Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans-Canada andAssociation for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada (through the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association) offer tax receipts for donations. In January of last year the Beth Oloth Charitable Organization, which had $60 million in revenue in 2017, had its charitable status revoked for supporting the Israeli military. Not particularly well known, the organization appears to have been a conduit for donations to different Israeli charities.
In response to a formal complaint submitted by four Palestine solidarity activists and Independent Jewish Voices Canada in fall 2017, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) began an audit of the Jewish National Fund for contravening Canadian charitable law. The JNF financed multiple projects for the Israeli military in direct contravention of CRA rules for registered charities. Despite the JNF openly supporting the Israeli military, the audit of its operations has gone on for two years. The CRA is undoubtedly facing significant behind-the-scenes pressure to let the JNF off with little more than a slap on the wrist. In 2013 Justin Trudeau attended a JNF gala and other Liberal cabinet ministers participated in more recent events put on by an explicitly racist organization that Liberal MP Michael Leavitt once oversaw. Ambassador Lyons attended a JNF event in Jerusalem in 2016 and another one in October.
Canadian charitable guidelines and the Foreign Enlistment Act are designed to deter Canadians from supporting other countries’ militaries. Yet Canada’s ambassador in Israel is celebrating Canadians fighting in that military.
How many Canadians consider that appropriate?
House of Mirrors — Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy will be released in March. To help organize an event for the Spring tour please email yvesengler (@) hotmail.com.
Barbara Perry at B’nai Brith/Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs event
How could a prominent opponent of racism and hate ally with B’nai Brith?
A recent Ontario Federation of Labour supplement in the Toronto Star prominently profiled Barbara Perry. The Director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology has been quoted repeatedly in Rabble, This and other leftist outlets.
While Perry has challenged some elements of the far right, she has also aligned with groups that stoke anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian and anti-left sentiment. In May Perry spoke alongside Anthony Housefather at an event dubbed “a dialogue on online hate”. The vicious anti-Palestinian MP boasted the Justin Trudeau government voted against a greater share of UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights than Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Housefather regularly attends events put on by the Jewish National Fund, which is the only explicitly racist registered Canadian charity.
The Perry/Housefather event was cosponsored by B’nai Brith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. These two groups have done as much as any organization in the country to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.
In a bid to deter organizations from associating with the Palestinian cause or opposing Israeli belligerence in the Middle East, CIJA constantly targets Arab and Muslim community representatives, papers, organizations, etc. CIJA also regularly hypes “Islamic terror” and openly aligned 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.” In a BuzzFeed article titled “Zionist Groups in Canada Are Jumping On The ‘Creeping Sharia’ Bandwagon” Steven Zhou detailed CIJA, B’nai Brith and other pro-Israel groups backlash to M-103 and “how Muslim Canadians define Islamophobia.”
B’nai Brith is a more aggressive hatemonger. Their bid to derail the Liberal party candidacy of Imam Hassan Guilet, who delivered a powerful sermon at the memorial for the Québec City mosque attack, riled up anti-Muslim commentary. Last October B’nai Brith sponsored an event in Vancouver with Ben Shapiro — a former Breitbart News editor. Shapiro has said the “Palestinian Arab population is rotten to the core”, “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage” and Islam is an “ideological representation of third worldism … and poverty.” Reportedly, the Quebec City mosque killer visited Shapiro’s Twitter account 93 times in the month before his attack.
Beyond aligning with B’nai Brith and CIJA, Perry has taken up their slur against some of the most active antiracists in the country. The Toronto Observer noted that Perry “agrees that the far-left can be just as guilty of hatred towards Jewish people” as the far right. The December story quoted her saying, “I think a lot of anti-Semitism on the far-left is rooted in anti-Zionism and hatred towards Israel.”
Labeling opposition to the most aggressive ongoing European colonial movement a form of prejudice is outrageous. It is also absurd to equate the far left with the far right.
In a Canadian Dimension interview last year Perry basically refused to answer a question about the Jewish Defence League and other Israeli nationalist groups’ role in the far right. I couldn’t find any criticism she’d leveled against the JDL or B’nai Brith so I asked Perry if she could point me to it. She failed to respond.
Leftists should tread carefully with liberals who fight some forms of hate but ignore Israeli nationalist groups’ role in the far right. People must ask themselves, “is it okay to be against racism, except when it is directed at Palestinians and Arabs.”
Unfortunately, many are blinded by colonialism and a desire to be accepted by the status quo. But the left should challenge both colonialism and the status quo.
If the ancient storyteller Aesop was correct and “a man is known by the company he keeps” what can we learn about Irwin Cotler from his friends and associates?
As I’ve written, the former Liberal justice minister has been a leading anti-Palestinian activist for decades. More recently, he has sought to unseat Venezuela’s government and stoke confrontation with Iran and Russia. Since writing two stories about Cotler earlier this year I’ve come across more about his dubious human rights credentials and links to some questionable characters, including:
The MEK. Cotler has enabled the violent, cult like, Iranian Mujahedin-e Khalq. In 2012 the Jewish Telegraphic Agency cited Cotler, alongside Alan Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel, as prominent pro-Israel activists who worked with Iranians dissidents to convince the State Department to remove the MEK from the US terrorism list, which paved the way for Ottawa to follow suit. In 2014 Cotler invited MEK leader, Maryam Rajavi, to speak at Iran Accountability Week on Parliament Hill. In “We asked Canadian politicians why they engaged with a ‘cult’-like group from Iran”, Shenaz Kermalli points out that Cotler regularly attends events organized by the MEK-aligned groups Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran and National Council of Resistance of Iran. The MEK backed Iraq in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and, according to US government sources, teamed up with Israel to assassinate Iranian scientists more recently. It is thought to be funded by Saudi Arabia.
Paul Kagame. Asked about Kagame’s human rights record on the sidelines of an event on Rwanda in April, Cotler refused to criticize Africa’s most bloodstained leader. Cotler and the Rwandan president both attended the 2017 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, DC, and the self-declared human rights champion spoke alongside the “Butcher of Africa’s Great Lakes region” later that year. Cotler has also participated in events put on by the Rwandan High Commission in Ottawa. In 2008 Cotler pushed a House of Commons motion to commemorate genocide prevention/Rwanda’s genocide on April 7. The choice of the day reflects the simplistic, one-sided, version of Rwanda’s tragedy Kagame promotes to legitimate his dictatorship and belligerence in the region. On April 6, 1994, the plane carrying Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down, unleashing the genocidal killings. So why choose April 7, rather than April 6, to commemorate genocide prevention/Rwanda’s genocide? Because Kagame’s RPF shot down the plane carrying the two Hutu presidents and most of Rwanda’s military command, which facilitated their seizing power after a multi-year war
Proponents of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. A high-minded cover for Western imperialism, R2P was cited by Paul Martin’s government, which included Cotler as justice minister, to justify overthrowing elected Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide. Thousands were killed in post-coup violence. Cotler called R2P “arguably the most significant development in the defence of human rights since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” In 2011 Cotler pushed for R2P to be invoked in Libya. He co-wrote a New York Times op-ed headlined “Libya and the Responsibility to Protect” that argued for ousting Muammar Gaddafi. They wrote, “the Security Council should adopt a new resolution to immediately extend recognition to the nascent provisional government of the country, authorize a NATO-supported no-flight zone over Libya to preclude any bombing of civilians, and permit all U.N. members to provide direct support to the provisional government.” That’s largely what transpired. But the NATO war has been a disaster. Eight years later Libya remains divided and the NATO bombing destabilized large parts of Africa’s Sahel region.
Proponents of the Magnitsky Act. Cotler led the campaign for Canada to adopt sanctions legislation modeled after the 2012 US Magnitsky Act. Designed to demonize Russia, Ottawa immediately sanctioned Russian and Venezuelan officials under legislation that allows the government to freeze individuals’ assets/visas and prohibit Canadian companies from dealing with sanctioned individuals. Cotler recently called for Canada to invoke the 2017 Magnitsky Act to “impose sanctions in the form of travel bans and asset freezes” on Iranian officials. The legislation is named after Sergey Magnitsky who proponents claim was tortured to death for exposing Russian state corruption. The source of the claim is William Browder, an American who got rich amidst the fire sale of Russian state assets in the 1990s. With billionaire banker Edmond J. Safra, Browder co-founded Hermitage Capital Management, which became the largest hedge fund in Russia. Hermitage Capital earned a staggering 2,697% return between 1996 and 2007. Those who question the western-backed story line say Magnitsky was an accountant who helped Browder claim illicit tax breaks. According to this version of the story, Browder exploited Magnitsky’s death – caused by inhumane jail conditions – to avoid being extradited to Russia on tax fraud charges. Investigative journalist Adrian duPlessis recently emailed me about Cotler being “the person who’s opened doors for Browder and his scam in Ottawa.” duPlessis has followed Browder for years, receiving a 1998 National Newspaper Award for Business Reporting about Russian mafia money in North America. As part of the campaign for Canada to adopt the Magnitsky Act, Cotler held multiple press conferences and public meetings with Browder. (While it’s hard to be confident about the truth, I find it difficult to believe that a US capitalist who got rich in Russia in the 1990s would simply turn into a human rights activist. On the other hand, the idea that a wealthy and powerful individual meshed self-preservation with growing Russophobia seems plausible.)
Organized crime. duPlessis pointed me to Le Journal de Montréalcoverage of Cotler’s business associates’ ties to the Montréal mafia. In one of two stories from 2015 the newspaper noted, “for the last decade or so, former Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler has been a shareholder in a company that has financed promoters close to organized crime.” In one of the firms, Faybess Investments, Cotler owned a third of the shares and in the other, Ace Investments, 1/6 of the company. Cotler’s main associates in these companies — Hyman Bloom and Richard Dubrovsky — invested millions of dollars with the notorious Rizzuto family. The police bugged Dubrovsky and Bloom’s offices and their names came up at the Charbonneau inquiry into corruption in Québec. Cotler claimed his role in the companies was passive even though he was vice president of Faybess, which he co-founded with Dubrovsky, for part of the period in question.
Alan Dershowitz, an important figure in the Jeffrey Epstein pedophilia/rape scandal. Dershowitz negotiated (partly through intimidation) the scandalous “non-prosecution agreement” under which Epstein served 13 months in a Florida jail, which was largely spent on “work release” in an office. A close friend of Epstein, Dershowitz is accused of raping two of Epstein’s sex slaves. In a court filing Virginia Roberts said, “Dershowitz was so comfortable with the sex that was going on that he would even come and chat with Epstein while I was giving oral sex to Epstein.” Roberts added that she had sex with Dershowitz “at least six times”. In the 2015 article “Israel defender Alan Dershowitz has long history of attacking sex abuse victims” Rania Khalek details his aggressive anti-woman positions. In 1997 Dershowitz argued that “puberty is arriving earlier, particularly among some ethnic groups.” As such, the eminent lawyer called for — a position repeated recently — the age of consent to be lowered (if a child reaches puberty at ten should they be legitimate targets for sexual predators?). A close friend and political ally, Cotler would have almost certainly been aware of Dershowitz’s position. In 2004 the Globe and Mail reported, “Dershowitz and Mr. Cotler met at Yale Law School in the early 1960s and are so close that the first person Mr. Cotler called after being appointed to cabinet last December was his friend at Harvard.” In 2014 Dershowitz called Cotler “my mirror image in Canada” and nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016. They are both currently part of the Honorary Board of the Jewish Coalition for Kurdistan and Dershowitz is a Senior Fellow at the Cotler chaired/founded Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. According to Cotler, “everyone regards Alan as not only the best defender of Israel, but the best defender of the most just of causes in the court of public opinion.” In the Acknowledgments section for The Vanishing American Jew Dershowitz lists Cotler’s name right before Epstein’s. They are both also listed in the Acknowledgments for The Case for Israel.
Leslie Wexner. Cotler has done a series of events with the Wexner Foundation, including serving as “distinguished faculty member” at the Wexner Israel Fellowship Alumni Institute in Haifa. Jeffrey Epstein was one of three trustees of the Wexner Foundation for over a decade and its namesake, Leslie Wexner, was the main source of Epstein’s wealth. Epstein had power of attorney for a significant portion of Wexner’s fortune and in May 1997 Epstein posed as a talent scout for Victoria’s Secret — owned by Wexner — to lure model Alicia Arden to his hotel room where he sexually assaulted her.
Other key figures in the Epstein sex scandal. Epstein’s decades-long sex ring coordinator/partner Ghislaine Maxwell is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, a crooked British press baron and Mossad spy. Bill Bowder worked for Robert Maxwell before he died in a mysterious boating incident in 1991. Additionally, the co-founder of Hermitage Capital with Browder was Edmond Safra whose name is cited in Epstein’s little black book. Cotler has repeatedly spoken at the Edmond J. Safra synagogue and, as mentioned previously, Cotler hosted a series of events with Browder.
Perhaps all this company that Cotler has kept means nothing, but you’d think, at a minimum, the political, corporate and media establishment that promote his ‘human rights’ credentials might be made anxious by the possibilities it suggests. You’d also think that some mainstream investigative journalist would ask questions. I emailed Cotler to ask if he had met Jeffrey Epstein, been on his private plane or private island. Of course he failed to respond to my repeated messages, but maybe Cotler would feel compelled to answer a CBC, CTV, Globe and Mail, Montreal Gazette or Toronto Star journalist.