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.
Toronto church Trinity-St. Paul’s shameful suppression of a Palestinian youth cultural event highlights anti-Palestinian rot festering in the United Church of Canada. It ought to also shine a light on a little discussed anti-Palestinian accord UCC leaders signed with Israel lobby groups five decades ago.
Under pressure from B’nai B’rith and the Jewish Defence League the Trinity-St. Paul Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts recently canceled a room booking “to celebrate the artistic and cultural contributions of Palestinians in the diaspora.” The Palestinian Youth Movement’s spoken word event was to “showcase the winners of the Ghassan Kanafani Resistance Arts Scholarship”, which the JDL and B’nai B’rith chose to target on the grounds the famous novelist was a spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the early 1970s. After Kanafani and his 17-year old niece were assassinated by the Mossad in Beirut, Lebanon’s Daily Star labeled the novelist “a commando who never fired a gun, whose weapon was a ball-point pen, and his arena the newspaper pages.”
As I detailed in this article Trinity-St. Paul’s spiritual leader is anti-Palestinian leftist Cheri DiNovo. Since publishing that piece the former NDP MPP admitted — to vicious anti-Palestinian/Islamophobe Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy, of all people — that she forwarded B’nai B’rith’s concerns to the church’s board, which then cancelled the event. Dropping her progressive standing further, DiNovo unfriended a number of individuals on Facebook who politely questioned her role in suppressing the Palestinian cultural event.
To be fair to DiNovo she isn’t the only Progressive Except for Palestine voice in the UCC. “What happened at Trinity St. Paul’s is not isolated”, wrote Karen Rodman, an ordained UCC minister and prominent Palestine solidarity activist. Last year the UCC seminary at the University of Toronto’s Victoria University withdrew from a Palestinian Liberation Theology program with Reverend Naim Ateek. According to Rodman, work had been underway on Emmanuel College’s continuous learning initiative with Ateek for a year when pressure was brought to bear by Israeli nationalist groups.
Resolutions endorsed at UCC conventions in the 2000s called on Palestinians to recognize Israel as an ethnic/religious supremacist state. The 2009 motion called for “the emergent State of Palestine” to recognize “Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state within safe and secure borders.” In an interview after the 2009 convention Palestinian Canadian journalist Hanna Kawas complained the UCC was asking the victims of a European colonial movement to endorse the supremacist ideology that dispossessed them. In 2012 the UCC “advised against the use of ‘the language of apartheid’ when applied to Israel” and called for a solution to the Palestinian refugees’ right of return so long as it “maintains the demographic integrity of Israel.”
In another sign of the church hierarchy’s encouragement of a colonial ideology, Rodman was harassed and bullied for supporting Palestinian rights. Church officials purportedly called her a “terrorist” for traveling to the West Bank. In response to attacks and biased review process, Rodman filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) against the UCC for discriminating against her anti-Zionist worldview. Last year the HRTO granted Rodman a hearing, which awaits scheduling, to show her anti-Zionist worldview/creed is not just a political view.
(The UCC has supported labelling settlement goods and condemned other aspect of Israel’s occupation. But these resolutions have not been implemented. As an example, no congregation or UCC body implemented a 2012 resolution calling for divestment from companies profiting or supporting the occupation even though a resolution was passed at the subsequent General Council requesting implementation of the 2012 resolution.)
An anti-Palestinian deal UCC leaders brokered decades ago has influenced the church’s indifference to the plight of Palestinians. In the 1950s and 60s the UCC passed a number of resolutions upholding the rights of Palestinians, including those of the refugees to return to their homes. More significantly, the UCC’s influential magazine championed the Palestinian cause. With a circulation of 350,000 in the early 1970s, The Observer criticized Israeli human rights violations. But editor Rev. A.C. Forrest’s support for Palestinians prompted vicious attacks. Emboldened by the blow Israel delivered against pan-Arabism in the 1967 war, B’nai B’rith dubbed Forrest a “Haman”, “Pharaoh” and “anti-Semitic”.
In response, Forrest threatened to sue for libel. B’nai B’rith countersued. A high-profile battle between B’nai B’rith and the UCC ensued. But, new UCC leaders didn’t care much about Palestinians and opposed Forrest, as well as a pro-Palestinian resolution passed at the 1972 UCC convention. Moderator Bruce McLeod and General Secretary George Morris soon sought a “gentleman’s agreement” in which both the UCC and B’nai B’rith would drop the lawsuits. Couched in the language of interfaith sensitivity, the 1973 “peace pact” was about deterring criticism of Israel. As then Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) President Sol Kanee wrote in a private letter, “it would appear the United Church is determined to chart a more positive course with regard to Israel and the Jewish people, which we hope will be reflected in the ‘Observer.’”
Dozens of pages detail the B’nai B’rith-UCC battle at the Canadian Jewish Archives in Montréal. In one internal file CJC officials say only part of the B’nai B’rith-UCC agreement was published (a similar agreement is thought to have been made between the UCC and CJC and/or Canadian Council of Churches). Part of the “peace pact” published noted, “we recognize and appreciate the interests of Jews everywhere and of the United Church for the events in the Middle East and in the survival of Israel.”
As part of the agreement, the UCC seems to have committed to inform B’nai B’rith/CJC about Israel related affairs or even seek their consent before implementing policy approved by the grassroots. A 2009 Globe and Mail article reported that UCC general council officer Bruce Gregersen indicated that CJC president Bernie Farber “gave his blessing to the UCC resolution” on Israel.
Rodman and others have pushed the church hierarchy to reveal whether the anti-Palestinian agreement is still respected. But UCC leaders have failed to release the full agreement or say it is no longer being followed.
The agreement with B’nai B’rith/CJC has undercut grassroots initiatives within the church that challenge Canada’s complicity in Palestinian dispossession. But, the decision to succumb to B’nai B’rith’s disingenuous attacks 45 years ago has had another equally damaging impact on Palestinians. It has emboldened the anti-Palestinian group to make evermore outrageous demands.
After a half-century more of Israeli land theft and violence, B’nai B’rith demanded a Toronto church suppress an event because it included the name of a famous novelist driven from his home as a child and then blown up by Israel (a quintessential victim of terrorism). If Kanafani’s name “glorifies terrorists and murderers”, as B’nai B’rith claims, then what should we say of a group that defends every act of Israeli violence, including the assassination of a novelist and his niece?
If the UCC won’t have anything to do with a Palestinian youth group that mentions Kanafani’s name they sure better sever all ties to groups promoting Israeli “terrorists and murderers”.
Parliament recently heard a petition criticizing the only explicitly racist registered Canadian charity. Oddly, this important event occurred without help from self-declared antiracist organizations.
Earlier this year Independent Jewish Voices launched a Parliamentary E-Petition that begins by noting that the Jewish National Fund “engages in discriminatory practices as its landholdings are chartered for exclusively Jewish ownership, lease, and benefit, as noted by the United Nations, the US State Department, a former attorney general of Israel, and the JNF itself.” NDP National Revenue Critic Pierre-Luc Dusseault agreed to sponsor the petition and it far surpassed the needed number of signatures so it was read into the official record. Within 45 days of Dusseault reading the petition in the House of Commons Justin Trudeau’s government was required to formulate an official response to this “call upon the Minister of National Revenue to revoke JNF Canada’s charitable status if found to be in violation of the Income Tax Act and CRA guidelines and policies.”
Last week National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier responded to the petition without answering the substance of the claims. She stated, “the CRA’s Charities Directorate works and makes decisions regarding a Canadian charity’s status independently from the minister of national revenue.”
Since a CBC expose on the JNF in January there has been an explosion of critical commentary about the organization and support for a campaign that has been simmering below the radar for many years. Montreal daily Le Devoir published a damning article on the JNF and former donors have published personalized critiques of the JNF in the Times of Israel, Ricochet and Socialist Project. There have been a dozen reports in other Israeli, Arab and left media and the CRA’s subsequent withdrawal of Beth Oloth’s charitable status — due to its support of the Israeli military — elicited another round of international stories mentioning the CRA’s ongoing audit of the JNF.
For its part, the Canadian Jewish News has published at least five news reports on different elements of the JNF audit. One story focused on IJV gaining support from politicians for its Stop the JNF campaign. Federal NDP MP Niki Ashton, Ottawa city councillor Shawn Menard and members of the Ontario legislature Rima Berns-McGown and Joel Harden have endorsed Stop the JNF. Numerous other high-profile individuals, such as Svend Robinson, Noam Chomsky and Libby Davies, as well as over 40 organizations, have endorsed the campaign. Most of the organizations are Palestine focused, but there’s also a number of peace, labour and religious groups. What is startling, however, is the lack of support from self-described antiracist groups.
“Hi, I wanted to ask if you are aware of Independent Jewish Voices’ StopJNFCanada Parliamentary E-Petition? To my knowledge the Jewish National Fund is the only explicitly racist institution sanctioned by the Canadian state to give tax write-offs, but, I can find no record of your organization criticizing the JNF’s explicit, structural, racism. Have I missed something? Could you direct me to a statement your organization has made critical of the JNF? If not are you willing to add your voice to their growing campaign to rescind the charitable status of this explicitly racist organization?”
Only Antiracist Canada responded by saying they knew little about the JNF and they would look into it. A week later I asked Canadian Anti-Hate Network and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation whether they “condemn anti-Palestinian racism as conceived and carried out by the Jewish National Fund.” They again failed to respond.
How could any self-respecting antiracist organization refuse to criticize the JNF? Its racism is well documented and can be discerned from its twitter tag. Furthermore, the JNF is not a marginal organization. The century-old organization has nine offices across Canada and has raised nearly $100 million over the past five years. A number of Canadian prime ministers, including the last two, have attended or spoken at JNF fundraisers.
Any self-respecting antiracist organization should oppose the JNF. As internationally recognized author and physician Gabor Maté put it, “Canadian taxpayers have no reason to subsidize an organization that makes land available only to one ethnic group, excluding and dispossessing the aboriginal population.”
One side is playing for keeps. They oust elected representatives and block members from voting on efforts to challenge a brutal occupation. On the other side, members defending a morally righteous cause twist themselves in knots to avoid directly criticizing nakedly authoritarian party leaders.
Recently, the NDP national office overturned the vote of party members in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour after they elected Rana Zaman to represent the ridding in the upcoming federal election. Party ‘leaders’ excluded the Muslim woman of Pakistani heritage from running because she defended thousands of Palestinians mowed down by Israeli snipers during last year’s “Great March of Return” in the open-air Gaza prison. A prominent local activist, Zaman represented the party provincially in 2017.
In May the leadership of the Ontario NDP blocked a resolution on Palestinian rights from being debated at their biannual convention. According to party member Moe Alqasem, the resolution “was pushed to the very bottom of its list of resolutions on block 4” despite having “as many endorsements as the top resolution on that same list … The appeals committee refused to re-prioritize it on the list, a speech was given in favor of the re-prioritization and the room erupted into cheers and chants for a few minutes. The committee’s decision was next to be challenged on the main floor of the convention, but the chair ‘conveniently’ decided that we were behind on time. There were several attempts to amend the agenda or the order-of-the-day to allow for the membership to challenge the committee’s decision again, conveniently however the chair decided that it was not possible. The chair spent 20 minutes refusing us the opportunity to speak for 1 minute on the resolution. Knowing full well that the membership was supportive of Palestine. Later on during that convention, somehow the order-of-the-day was amended in favour of another resolution and the committee’s decision was challenged in front of the general membership. Several other rules were amended, the same privileges were not afforded to the Palestinians and the Palestine-Solidarity members within the party.”
Recently, the NDP hierarchy undermined former Toronto mayoral candidate Saron Gebresellassi’s bid to represent the party in Parkdale-High Park possibly because she signed an open letter calling on the NDP to withdraw from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group. The national office took 141 days to vet her candidacy, giving her only 23 days to sign up new members to vote. Then a good number of the 400 members she registered were disenfranchised beforehand and at the riding association vote. At the centre of the sordid affair was Parkdale-High Park president Janet Solberg who was maybe the loudest anti-Palestinian at the NDP’s 2018 federal convention. According to Myles Hoenig, “Janet Solberg, sister of Stephen Lewis, leader of the Ontario NDP for most of the 70s who kicked out the leftist contingent known as The Waffle, played a leadership role in officiating this election. In a 3 way call to the candidates, she openly expressed her hostility to Saron by stating how she won’t support her.” A former Ontario NDP president, vice president and federal council member, Solberg pushed to suppress debate on the “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice”, which was endorsed by more than two dozen riding associations before the federal convention. The motion mostly restated official Canadian policy, except that it called for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”
Six months after suppressing the Palestine Resolution, NDP foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière and party leader Jagmeet Singh participated in an unprecedented smear against one of Canada’s most effective advocates for Palestinian rights. After Dimitri Lascaris called on two Liberal MPs to denounce death threats made by B’nai B’rith supporters against a number of Liberal MPs and the Prime Minister, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs called on MPs to attack him, prompting Laverdière to call Lascaris “anti-Semitic” while Singh inferred as much.
In the lead up to the 2015 federal election the NDP leadership ousted as many as eight individuals from running or contesting nominations to be candidates because they publicly defended Palestinian rights. The most high-profile individual blocked from seeking an NDP nomination was Paul Manly, a filmmaker and son of a former NDP MP. Manly recently delivered a blow to the NDP by winning the Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection as a candidate for the Green Party.
In another Palestine-related development, four NDP MPs (quietly) withdrew from the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG). They did not do so because someone politely convinced them it was immoral to participate in a group promoting “greater friendship” with a belligerent, apartheid, state, but because they were directly challenged through an open letter signed by more than 200 prominent individuals, as well as other campaigning.
NDP MP Randall Garrison remains vice-chair of CIIG and a prominent anti-Palestinian voice within the party. Any NDP activist with an internationalist bone in their body should hope Victoria-area Palestine solidarity campaigners help defeat him in the October election. There must be a price to pay for egregious anti-Palestinianism. In a similar vein, individuals such as Solberg should be confronted on their anti-Palestinianism.
At the end of May I learned Jagmeet Singh was making a major announcement in Montréal. With a hastily drawn placard in my bag, I attended thinking of interrupting the event to decry NDP participation in CIIG and suppression of the 2018 Palestine Resolution. I hesitated for a series of reasons, notably a sense that disrupting a major announcement by the social democratic party was too extreme. I now regret not walking in front of the cameras to denounce NDP anti-Palestinianism at the launch of their climate plan. Unfortunately, this is the type of action required to force party leaders to have second thoughts about blithely ousting pro-Palestinian candidates and suppressing debate on resolutions opposing Palestinian subjugation. NDP leaders fear anti-Palestinian individuals and groups’ no holds barred brand of politics. They need to know the Palestine solidarity side is also prepared to ruffle feathers.
Enough of walking on egg shells. In Alqasem’s devastating report about the Ontario NDP suppressing discussion of a resolution upholding Palestinian rights he begins by letting the perpetrators off the hook. He writes, “the following is not an attack on the membership, the party or administrators within.” But, how can one not politically “attack” the NDP “administrators” who just suppressed internal democracy in order to enable the subjugation of a long-suffering people?
After the federal convention 18 months ago I wrote: “Over the next year NDPers who support Palestinian rights and care about party democracy should hound the leadership over their suppression of the Palestine Resolution. Every single elected representative, staffer, riding association executive and party activist needs to be prodded into deciding whether they side with Palestinian rights and party democracy or suppressing the Palestine Resolution and enabling ongoing Canadian complicity in Palestinian dispossession.” These words still ring true, even if they may trouble many pro-Palestinian elements within the party (recent developments should be added to the discussion, of course).
For those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, but reluctant to openly challenge the party leadership, ask yourself these two questions:
Since polling reveals a higher percentage of Canadians support Palestinian rights than vote for the NDP federally, why won’t party officials allow a clear statement of support for Palestinian liberation?
Is there a point when explicitly antidemocratic behavior that contributes to Palestinian subjugation will no longer be tolerated in a party claiming the mantra of social justice?
It is time the NDP leadership listened to its membership.
Israeli Consulate General in Toronto Galit Baram and Trinity-St. Paul Reverend Cheri DiNovo
The Jewish Defence League and B’nai Brith are boasting that they convinced the Trinity-St. Paul Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts to cancel a room booking “to celebrate the artistic and cultural contributions of Palestinians in the diaspora.” The Toronto United Church had agreed to provide space to the Palestinian Youth Movement for “an evening of spoken word, music and food” to “showcase the winners of the Ghassan Kanafani Resistance Arts Scholarship.” Planned for July 13, the event was suppressed after the anti-Palestinian groups complained it included the name of Ghassan Kanafani, a famous novelist who was a spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the early 1970s.
The church’s move is an outrage. An analogy would be if the Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts suppressed a social put on by student climate strikers that included a “David Suzuki Arts Scholarship” in response to complaints by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Or, maybe more apt, if the church suppressed an Indigenous Youth Voices event that included the “Ellen Gabriel Arts Scholarship” because the “Western chauvinist” Proud Boys complained that the Mohawk spokesperson during the “Oka Crisis” had justified violence.
It’s shocking that an organization prominently declaring that it is “seeking justice and peace” would concede to this pressure. But, it’s equally scandalous that progressives have accepted the anti-Palestinianism of Trinity-St. Paul’s spiritual leader.
The church is run by former NDP member of the Ontario Legislature Cheri DiNovo, who “had no involvement in the original decision and unequivocally supports the cancellation of the event”, according to a church board member. On March 14 of last year DiNovo met Israeli consular official Galit Baram who posted a photo with her to the “Israel in Toronto” Facebook page and wrote, “it’s always a good time catching up with our good friend and former MPP Cheri DiNovo. Great to see you again!”
In 2017 DiNovo met the co-chairs of the Knesset’s Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group Anat Berko and Yoel Hasson. A Lieutenant-Colonel in the IDF reserves, Berko openly disparaged African refugees and Palestinians. Berko put forward a bill to jail individuals who display Palestinian flags at demonstrations and in a 2016 Knesset debate made the ridiculous claim that the absence of the letter “P” in the Arabic alphabet meant Palestine did not exist since “no people would give itself a name it couldn’t pronounce.” (In response Richard Silverstein noted, “apparently, the fact that the word is spelled and pronounced with an ‘F’ (Falastin) in Arabic seems to have escaped her. It’s worth noting, too, that according to her logic, Israeli Jews do not exist either, since there is no letter ‘J’ in Hebrew.”)
DiNovo regularly appears at events organized by the anti-Palestinian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. She attended “an FSWC presentation on the anti-Israel boycott movement” in 2015 at Queen’s Park and participated in FSWC events in May and last November. She has also supported Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee events.
In 2010 DiNovo was one of 30 MPPs who supported a resolution condemning Israeli Apartheid Week at the Ontario Legislature. Afterwards she told the Toronto Star the word apartheid is “inflammatory” and “used inappropriately in the case of Israel” and that “Apartheid does not help the discussion.” Even NDP leader Andrea Horwath later dubbed the resolution condemning IAW “divisive by nature.”
In response to criticism of her anti-Palestinian position DiNovo doubled down. She defriended and erased the comments of dozens of individuals who criticized her on Facebook, prompting the creation of a number of Facebook groups by those defriended by DiNovo, which were then shut down after someone complained. In subsequent interviews DiNovo claimed she received a death threat for her anti-Palestinian vote and was quoted by the Jewish Tribune saying, “we Christians know our roots and we know, because we read our Scripture, that Jews are the Chosen People of the Chosen Land of Israel, so mazel tov.”
During her ongoing vacation in South Africa DiNovo has repeatedly tweeted about the fight against apartheid there. On July 2 she tweeted, “the history of apartheid copied from our own reservation system.” It’s good DiNovo is drawing the historic links between Canadian colonialism and South Africa, but I wonder if she is aware that many anti-apartheid leaders have compared the Palestinians plight to white rule (generally concluding it is worse)?
As DiNovo no doubt knows, the United Church actively contributed to Canadian Apartheid. I wonder if she’s concerned that her church is contributing to apartheid in Palestine today?
If you are outraged by the Trinity-St. Paul’s suppression of the Palestinian Youth Movement’s event please email: email@example.com
Is Justin Trudeau a racist? He and his government certainly accept and promote anti-Palestinianism. Two recent moves reaffirm his government’s pattern of blaming Palestinians for their dispossession and subjugation.
Last week the government released its updated terrorist list. An eighth Palestinian organization was added and the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN) was re-designated. The first ever Canadian-based group designated a terrorist organization, IRFAN was listed by the Stephen Harper government for engaging in the ghastly act of supporting orphans and a hospital in the Gaza Strip through official (Hamas controlled) channels.
Recently, the Liberals also announced they were formally adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as part of its anti-racism strategy. The explicit aim of those pushing the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism is to silence or marginalize those who criticize Palestinian dispossession and support the Palestinian civil society led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. The PM has repeatedly equated supporting Palestinian rights with hatred towards Jews and participated in a unprecedented smear against prominent Palestinian solidarity activist Dimitri Lascaris last summer.
Alongside efforts to demonize and delegitimize those advocating for a people under occupation, the Trudeau government has repeatedly justified violence against Palestinians. Last month Global Affairs Canada tweeted, “Canada condemns the barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel by Hamas and other terrorist groups, which have killed and injured civilians. This indiscriminate targeting of civilians is not acceptable. We call for an immediate end to this violence.” The statement was a response to an Israeli killed by rockets fired from Gaza and seven Palestinians killed in the open-air prison by the Israeli military. In the year before 200 Palestinians were killed and another 5,000 injured by live fire in peaceful March of Return protests in Gaza. Not a single Israeli died during these protests.
The Trudeau government has repeatedly isolated Canada from world opinion on Palestinian rights. Canada has joined the US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Micronesia and Palau in opposing UN resolutions in favour of Palestinian rights that nearly every other country supported. In fact, the Trudeau Liberals may have the most anti-Palestinian voting record of any recent Canadian government. In August Liberal MP Anthony Housefather boasted in a Canadian Jewish News article: “We have voted against 87% of the resolutions singling out Israel for condemnation at the General Assembly versus 61% for the Harper government, 19% for the Martin and Mulroney governments and 3% for the Chrétien government. We have also supported 0% of these resolutions, compared to 23% support under Harper, 52% under Mulroney, 71% under Martin and 79% under Chretien.”
Further legitimating its illegal occupation, the Liberals “modernized” Canada’s two-decade-old Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Israel that allows West Bank settlement products to enter Canada duty-free. To promote an accord that recently received royal assent, International Trade Minister Jim Carr traveled to Israel and touted its benefits to Israel lobby organizations in Toronto and Winnipeg. “Minister Carr strengthens bilateral ties between Canada and Israel”, explained a June 20 press release.
In mid-2017 the federal government said its FTA with Israel trumps Canada’s Food and Drugs Act after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency called for accurate labelling of wines produced in the occupied West Bank. After David Kattenburg repeatedly complained about inaccurate labels on two wines sold in Ontario, the CFIA notified the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) that it “would not be acceptable and would be considered misleading” to declare Israel as the country of origin for wines produced in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Quoting from longstanding official Canadian policy, CFIA noted that “the government of Canada does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967.” In response to pressure from the Israeli embassy, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai Brith, CFIA quickly reversed its decision. “We did not fully consider the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement,” a terse CFIA statement explained. “These wines adhere to the Agreement and therefore we can confirm that the products in question can be sold as currently labelled.”
Each year Canadian taxpayers subsidize hundreds of millions of dollars in charitable donations to Israel despite that country having a GDP per capita only slightly below Canada’s. (How many Canadian charities funnel money to Sweden or Japan?) Millions of dollars are also channeled to projects supporting West Bank settlements, explicitly racist institutions and Israel’s powerful military, which may all contravene Canadian charitable law. 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. Despite the JNF openly supporting the Israeli military in explicit contravention of charitable law, the audit has been going on for a year and a half. 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 Trudeau attended a JNF gala and other Liberal cabinet ministers have participated in more recent events put on by an explicitly racist organization Liberal MP Michael Leavitt used to oversee. (In a positive step, the Beth Oloth Charitable Organization, which had $60 million in revenue in 2017, had its charitable status revoked in January for supporting the Israeli military.)
Of course, the Trudeau government would deny its racism towards Palestinians. They will point to their “aid” given to the Palestinian Authority. But, in fact much of that money is used in an explicit bid to advance Israel’s interests by building a security apparatus to protect the corrupt PA from popular disgust over its compliance in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement building. The Canadian military’s Operation Proteus, which contributes to the Office of the United States Security Coordinator, trains Palestinian security forces to suppress “popular protest” against the PA, the “subcontractor of the Occupation”.
In a recently published 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.”
At a recent meeting, BDS-Québec decided to launch a campaign targeting Justin Trudeau in the upcoming federal election campaign. The plan is to swamp his Papineau ridding with leaflets and posters highlighting the Prime Minister’s anti-Palestinianism. It’s time politicians pay a political price for their active support of Israel’s racism.
Jewish Defence League leader Meir Weinstein, Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs Vice President Noah Shack and B’nai B’rith CEO Michael Mostyn
Canadian extreme right hate groups have figured out a way to gain mainstream acceptance: Support Israel.
While most of the world voted to label Zionism a form of racism in 1975, many self-declared antiracists in Canada today refuse to challenge far right extremists if they act in service of that European colonial and Jewish supremacist movement.
At the start of the month 50 to a 100 far right activists led by the Jewish Defence League protested the Al Quds Day rally in Toronto. They were joined by supporters of Wolves of Odin (a Soldiers of Odin splinter group), PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident), Riders of the Covenant, etc. The Jewish and White supremacists were even joined by a vocal Hindu supremacist who apparently shares their hatred of Muslims. They spewed a stream of anti-Arab and Islam abuse, telling Arabs to “go home” and calling individuals “Islamic garbage”.
The hate fest was egged on by a number of hard right media commentators. Toronto Sun columnist Sue Ann Levy was on hand after writing a half dozen columns attacking the annual protest’s “venom” and “vitriol”, accusing it of promoting “extremist Islam” and “terrorism”. David Menzies of the Islamophobic Rebel Media hurled insults and patrolled the crowd seeking to confirm a Muslim takeover/extremism/sharia etc.
B’nai Brith, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also worked assiduously to demonize the rally. “Muslim children were used as pawns to promote anti-Semitism, hate and intolerance,” said Avi Benlolo, Wiesenthal Center president. “We strongly recommend that authorities, including provincial children aid organizations, investigate the usage of minors for the purpose of incitement of hate.”
The pro-Israel Jewish organizations coordinated with Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak in a bid to have the city block Al Quds Day. In this effort they worked with the racist and violent JDL as highlighted in the above photo of JDL leader Meir Weinstein with Pasternak, B’nai B’rith leader Michael Mostyn and CIJA Vice President Noah Shack. The group was together at the city’s executive committee on May 1 in a bid to supress Al Quds Day.
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 conference in Washington DC.
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 groups and individuals who claim to monitor the far right — Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Anti-Racist Canada, Evan Balgord, Bernie Farber, etc — ignored the Al Quds Day rally. Nor did they say anything about an elected official working with the JDL at city hall. (Or for that matter JDL participation at the May 20 Walk for Israel organized by United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto.)
Over the past decade JDL Toronto has built itself up by aggressively harassing Palestinian solidarity activists, which has won them active or passive support from much of the Jewish establishment, dominant media and the city’s broader power structure. While the JDL receives some pushback from liberals when they coordinate with other far-right groups to demonize Muslims, they are generally given a pass when it’s done in support of Zionism.
Perhaps a rewrite of the famous German Pastor Martin Niemöller’s quote sums it up best:
• First they came for the Palestinians, and I did not speak out—because I was a supporter of Israel.
• Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—because I was supporter of Israel.
• Then they came for the anti-fascists, and I did not speak out—because I was not an anti-fascist when it came to those supporting Israel.
• Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
• Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Jewish Home leader Michael Ben Ari (left) speaks during a ceremony honouring the late Jewish extremist leader Meir Kahane.
The anti-Palestinianism of Canada’s establishment Jewish organizations is extreme. Fortunately, a growing number of Canadian Jews appear to be rejecting their racism and support for Israeli violence.
According to a recent Canadian Jewish Newsarticle, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and United Jewish Appeal Toronto both declined to comment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alliance with the Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party. For their parts, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and American Jewish Committee both criticized Netanyahu’s push to merge Jewish Power and Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) to increase the far-right parties’ chance of garnering the minimum 3.25 per cent of the total vote needed to serve in the Knesset. Subsequently, Israel’s Supreme Court banned the leader of Jewish Power, Michael Ben-Ari, from standing in next month’s election.
Jewish Power is not operating in the Ukraine, but rather in an openly Jewish supremacist state. From the law of return to the nation state law, there are over 65 explicitly racist Israeli laws. Netanyahu recently wrote, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.”
From what I can find, CIJA and UJA Toronto have failed to criticize or distance themselves from Netanyahu’s statement. In fact, they denounce any mention of Israeli apartheid. One wonders how explicit Israeli racism needs to be before CIJA recognizes/criticizes the obvious?
More generally, how many Palestinians does Israel need to kill before the established Jewish organizations back away from their staunch support? They’ve endorsed Israeli forces weekly killing of peaceful March of Return protesters in Gaza over the past year. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed and another 6,000 injured by live fire in these demonstrations. Not a single Israeli has died.
In a particularly disturbing comment on Israel’s supporters, aggression has been good for fundraising. Following the IDF killing of 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza in the summer of 2014, UJA Toronto launched an emergency appeal for Israel, which raised over $5.6 million. Amidst the June 1967 war, leading Canadian capitalist Samuel Bronfman initiated a $25 million campaign for Israel. Similarly, during the October 1973 war Canadians purchased over $100 million in Israel Bonds. After Israel’s summer 2006 destruction of Lebanon another $42 million was raised.
Jewish Power’s ideological allies in Canada — the Jewish Defense League — remain more influential with the established Jewish organizations than the substantially larger and more humanistic/internationalist Independent Jewish Voices. In response to pressure from the JDL, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg recently canceled its sponsorship of an event by Lex Rofeberg because the 4th year rabbinical student is a member of the anti-occupation (though not anti-zionist) US Jewish group IfNotNow. Rofeberg wasn’t even going to speak about Israel. (The subject of his planned talks were “‘Winnipeg Jets or Winnipeg Jews,’ on the intersection of Judaism and sports, and ‘Your Podcast is My Synagogue,’ on the ever-growing world of digital Judaism.”) To explain their bowing to pressure from extremists, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg President Laurel Malkin said, “the values of the speaker are not in-line with ours.”
While most Canadian Jews, particularly the powerful and moneyed, seem to support Israeli racism and violence two recent polls suggest that a growing proportion of Jewish Canadians don’t. An Independent Jewish Voices and United Jewish People’s Order commissioned EKOS poll found that 37 percent of a random sample of 359 Jewish Canadians surveyed have a negative opinion of the Israeli government, 31 percent oppose the military blockade of Gaza and 30 percent think Palestinians’ call for a boycott of Israel is reasonable.
The IJV/UJPO poll is in line with a more extensive Environics Institute Survey conducted in partnership with the University of Toronto, York University and the main Jewish Federations. It found that nearly 3 times more Canadian Jews believe West Bank settlements hurt Israel’s security than the opposite. Additionally, most of the respondents doubted the Israeli government’s sincerity about making peace. Generally, notes the executive summary, “younger Jews are considerably less likely than older Jews to consider caring for Israel an essential aspect of Jewishness.”
It’s long past time to directly challenge CIJA, the Jewish Federations and the politicians who embolden them. It’s time for those who believe in peace and international justice to treat CIJA and the Federations the same way they treat Palestinians, as enemies to be overcome.
Last week the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), under pressure from Palestine solidarity activists, began an audit of the Jewish National Fund.
The audit is significant. Beyond weakening the oldest Israel-focused charity in the country, it will put other Israeli charities in Canada on notice and reflects the growth of Palestine solidarity activism.
Fulfilling the time-consuming audit will be a bureaucratic headache for a group that has eleven offices across Canada and has raised $100 million over the past five years. Already, the credibility of the second most powerful Israel-oriented charity in Canada has taken a hit with the CBC exposé headlined “Canadian charity used donations to fund projects linked to Israeli military” and related stories. If the CRA revokes the JNF’s charitable status it would be devastating for fundraising and deter politicians/celebrities from attending their events.
Similar to the JNF, other registered charities support the Israeli military in direct contravention of CRA rules. Additionally, some of these organizations — like the JNF — fund projects supporting West Bank settlements, which Global Affairs Canada considers in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
At a broader level, critical attention on the JNF could lead to questioning of why Canadian taxpayers subsidize hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to a wealthy country. Despite a GDP per capita greater than Spain or Italy (and equal to Japan), hundreds of registered Canadian charities deliver hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Israel. How many Canadian charities funnel money to Spain or Japan?
If the CRA revoked JNF’s charitable status it would boost Stop the JNF campaigns elsewhere. In England they convinced former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to withdraw as patron of the JNF (Theresa May seems to have also stayed away), and 68 members of parliament endorsed a bill to revoke the organization’s charitable status because “the JNF’s constitution is explicitly discriminatory by stating that land and property will never be rented, leased or sold to non-Jews.”
The CRA audit of a charity that’s found favour with numerous Canadian prime ministers is long in the making and reflects the growth of Palestinian solidarity consciousness. Born in a West Bank village demolished to make way for the JNF’s Canada Park, Ismail Zayid has been complaining to the CRA about its charitable status for 40 years. Lebanese Canadian Ron Saba “has been indefatigable over the years in writing to various Canadian government departments and officials, corporations, and media to rescind tax exemption status and endorsement of” what he calls the “racist JNF tax fraud”. During the Liberal party convention in 2006 Saba was widely smeared for drawing attention to leadership candidate Bob Rae’s ties to the JNF. Saba has put in multiple Access to Information requests regarding the JNF, demonstrating government spying of its critics and long-standing knowledge of the organization’s dubious practices. Under the headline “Event you may want to monitor,” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Caitlin Workman sent the CRA a communication about a 2011 Independent Jewish Voices event in Ottawa stating: “author of the Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Yves Engler, will give a talk on Canada and the Jewish National Fund.”
Former Independent Jewish Voices coordinator Tyler Levitan was smeared for working diligently on the issue. In addition to important organizing, he discovered that the Ottawa Citizen sponsored JNF galas they covered and, suggesting a formal financial relationship, ran an ad for the JNF’s 2013 Ottawa Gala the day after the event.
At the Green Party convention in 2016 Corey Levine pushed a resolution to revoke the JNF’s charitable status because it practices “institutional discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel.” The effort brought the issue into the mainstream though she, IJV and the entire Green Party were smeared as “hard core Jew haters” for even considering the resolution.
Fifteen months ago IJV and four individuals filed a detailed complaint to the CRA and Minister of National Revenue over the JNF. For a number of years IJV has run a “Stop the JNF” campaign and for more than a decade activists across the country have picketed local JNF fundraising galas. These efforts have benefited from many in Palestine/Israel, notably the work of Uri Davies and Adalah.
As I have written before, the campaign to revoke the JNF’s charitable status is important beyond winning the specific demand. It draws attention to the racism intrinsic to Zionism and highlights Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession.
The CRA is undoubtedly facing significant behind-the-scenes pressure to let the JNF off with little more than a slap on the wrists. So, it’s important that people send their MP the CBC exposé and add their name to Independent Jewish Voices’ campaign to revoke the Jewish National Fund’s charitable status.