Category Archives: Canada and Israel

NDP could break elite consensus against Palestinian rights

The anti-Palestinian consensus among Canada’s three main political parties is crumbling and NDP members could bury it this weekend.

After taking an all-expense paid trip to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s conference in Washington and participating in a Jewish National Fund event in Israel 14 months ago, the NDP’s foreign critic has begun challenging Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession. Hélène Laverdière has repeatedly criticized the Trudeau government’s silence on Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. In response she tweeted, “a devastating day for those who believe in peace, justice and security in the Middle East. Where is Canada’s voice in protest of Trump’s decision on #Jerusalem? I urge Canada to condemn this decision in the strongest of terms.”

The party’s foreign critic also asked the federal government to condemn Israel’s detention of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi and hundreds of other Palestinian children who are usually tortured by Israeli forces. Similarly, Laverdière has pressed Ottawa to properly label products from illegal Israeli settlements and submitted a petition to Parliament calling “upon the Government of Canada to demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

Two weeks ago I received an email on behalf of party leader Jagmeet Singh titled “all people deserve the same human rights”, which listed the party’s recent support for Palestinian rights. It noted, “the NDP shares your concerns about Palestine. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his team of New Democrats have a consistent record of defending Palestinian rights as well as raising concerns over Islamophobia.”

A series of factors are likely driving Laverdière’s shift. She probably never backed former NDP leader Tom – “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances” – Mulcair’s position. Additionally, last year’s NDP leadership race unleashed ever bolder expressions of support for the Palestinian cause.

Amidst the campaign, Laverdière was criticized for speaking at AIPAC’s 2016 conference in Washington and participating in an event put on by the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund. In August the NDP Socialist Caucus called for her resignation as foreign critic and it has submitted a motion to this weekend’s convention calling for her to be removed from that position.

Ottawa’s high-profile abstention at the UN General Assembly after Donald Trump announced that he would move the US Embassy to Jerusalem has given the NDP an opportunity to distinguish itself from the Trudeau government. And media coverage of subsequent Palestinian resistance, most notably Ahed Tamimi’s courageous slaps, has provided additional opportunities to highlight the Liberal’s extreme anti-Palestinianism.

The NDP leadership is also trying to head off members’ calls to boycott Israel (according to a 2017 Ekos poll, 84% of NDP members were open to sanctioning Israel). At least five resolutions (among more than ten concerning Palestine/Israel) submitted to the convention call for some type of boycott of Israel. The NDP Socialist Caucus has called on the party to “actively campaign” in support of the (just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize) Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions‘ movement’s demands.

With probably more backing than any of the 100+ resolutions submitted, 30 riding associations and youth committees endorsed “Palestine Resolution”, which calls for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.” Of course, party leaders fear the media response to any type of boycott resolution being adopted.

Whatever the reason for Laverdière’s shift away from anti-Palestinianism, it remains insufficient. As I’ve detailed, the NDP continues to provide various forms of support to Israel and the party has an odious anti-Palestinian history. In the mid-1970s the party opposed Palestinian Liberation Organization participation in two UN conferences in Toronto and Vancouver and party leader Ed Broadbent called the PLO “terrorists and murderers whose aim is the destruction of the state of Israel.”

That year NDP icon Tommy Douglas also told the Histadrut labour federation: “The main enmity against Israel is that she has been an affront to those nations who do not treat their people and their workers as well as Israel has treated hers.” (Douglas’ 1975 speech was made while Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Sinai, after it repeatedly invaded its neighbours and ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland.)

A progressive party worth its salt campaigns on an international issue in equal measure to its government/society’s contribution to that injustice.

Over the past century Canada has played no small part in Palestinians’ dispossession. Hundreds of Canadians provided military force to realize the crassly anti-Palestinian Balfour Declaration and this country’s diplomats played a central role in the UN’s decision to give the Zionist movement most of Palestine in 1947.

Today, Ottawa regularly votes against Palestinian rights at the UN and subsidizes dozens of charities that channel tens of millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel’s powerful military, racist institutions and illegal settlements. Additionally, Canada’s two-decade-old free trade agreement with Israel allows settlement products to enter Canada duty-free and over the past decade Ottawa has delivered over $100 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority in an explicit bid to advance Israel’s interests by building a security apparatus to protect the corrupt Palestinian Authority from popular disgust over its compliance in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement building.

Hopefully, in the years to come the NDP can help Canada make up for its sad anti-Palestinian history. Perhaps this weekend the party will finally bury official Canada’s anti-Palestinian consensus.

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Be it resolved that the NDP support Palestinian rights

At next week’s New Democratic Party convention in Ottawa Palestinian rights are set to be a major flashpoint.

The NDP Socialist Caucus has submitted a resolution calling on the party to “actively campaign in support of the demand of Palestinian unions, civil society and unions across Canada and around the world which call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state until it dismantles the apartheid wall, allows refugees to return home, ends its demolition of Palestinian homes and olive groves, lifts the siege of Gaza, ends its occupation of Palestinian lands, and terminates its apartheid practices.”

A more moderate “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice” has been endorsed by two dozen riding associations. The motion mostly restates official Canadian policy, except that it calls for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”

Already the Canadian Jewish News, Electronic Intifada, National Post, Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, Toronto Star, Le Devoir, Mondoweiss, Canada Talks Israel Palestine and Rabble have published stories regarding the resolutions. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has called on the party leader to “push backagainst marginal elements within the party” promoting Palestinian rights while the more explicitly antidemocratic Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal has “Urged NDP to Disallow Anti-Israel Resolution at Upcoming Convention”.

Unfortunately, corporate-media-focused party operatives may heed the CIJA/Wiesenthal call. Party insiders will no doubt do everything in their power to avoid discussing the Socialist Caucus BDS resolution and will probably seek to block the Palestine Resolution from being debated publicly on the convention floor. If their backroom procedural shenanigans fail to stop the resolutions from a public airing expect a great deal of concern about associating with the international BDS movement.

For NDPers scared of BDS here is an alternative resolution that places no demands on Israel:

1. The NDP will refrain from excluding electoral candidates who speak up for Palestinian rights.

(During the 2015 federal election the NDP responded to Conservative party pressure by ousting as many as eight individuals from running or contesting nominations to be candidates because they defended Palestinian rights on social media.)

2. NDP MPs will refrain from participating in any Israel parliamentary group until the party is represented on a Nigerian, Algerian or Spanish parliamentary group.

(Vancouver Island MPs Randall Garrison and Murray Rankin are currently members of the Canada Israel Inter-parliamentary Group.)

3. The NDP foreign critic will refuse requests to participate in all expense paid trips to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference.

(Hélène Laverdière spoke at the 2016 AIPAC conference in Washington DC.)

4. NDP MPs will participate in all expense paid lobbying trips to Israel at no greater rate than Paraguay, which is of similar size and distance from Ottawa.

(A 2014 calculation found that 20 NDP MPs had been to Israel with a Zionist lobby organization and 13 months ago recently elected party leader Jagmeet Singh went on an organized trip to the country.)

5. NDP officials will abstain from attending events put on by explicitly racist organizations.

(In 2016 Hélène Laverdière participated in an event in Jerusalem organized by the openly racist Jewish National Fund while NDP MP Pat Martin spoke at a JNF event in Ottawa to “recognize and thank the people that have helped to make JNF Canada what it is today.” Owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land – which was mostly taken from Palestinians forced from their homes by Zionist forces in 1947-48 – the JNF openly discriminates against the 20% of Israelis who are not Jewish. Its website notes that “a surveycommissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.”)

My alternative resolution makes no demands of Israel so it’s hard to link it to the BDS bogeyman. Best of all, the party has the power to immediately implement this small gesture of support for the long-suffering Palestinians.

I will be speaking about “What’s Wrong with NDP Foreign Policy?” on the sidelines of the convention.

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When siding with Israel supports Trump, Canada abstains

Thank you President Donald Trump and US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley for helping end the Trudeau government’s ‘Israel no matter what’ voting pattern.

On Thursday Canada actually abstained on a UN General Assembly resolution, which affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and in this regard, calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem.”

Since taking office the Trudeau government has repeatedly isolated Canada with the US, Israel and a few tiny Pacific island states in voting against UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights. Last Tuesday, for instance, Canada opposed a motion supported by 176 nations calling for Palestinian statehood. Two weeks earlier the Trudeau government also voted against a resolution on Jerusalem backed by 151 UN member states.

As RawStory pointed out, the media attention devoted to Trump and Haley’s threats against those voting in favour of the Jerusalem resolution actually drove Trudeau to abstain on Thursday instead of his usual pro-Israel vote. While Stephen Harper’s anti-Palestinian positions at the UN found support among many of the party’s base of rightwing Jews, evangelical Christian Zionists and Islamophobes, the same is not true of the Liberals. Prominent Trudeau fundraisers such as serial tax evader Stephen Bronfman and the late murder suspect Barry Sherman may want Canada to side with Israel ‘no matter what’, but younger, darker skinned and progressive Liberal supporters believe Palestinians are human beings. They overwhelmingly reject the notion that a 3,000-year-old book grants Poles, Austrians, New Yorkers, etc. the right to take a city from its indigenous inhabitants or that the world should enable Russians, French, Torontonians, etc. to gather in the Middle East to fulfill Bible literalists’ interpretation of the supposed “word of God”.

The Liberal leadership understands that party supporters and the broader public are uncomfortable with Israeli expansionism and Canada isolating itself from world opinion on the matter so the more attention devoted to their UN votes the more equivocal the Liberals’ position. Hopefully the recent attention devoted to the Trudeau government’s extreme pro-Israel voting record will spur further abstentions on Palestine votes (at this point its probably too much to expect Trudeau to vote in support of international law and official Canadian policy).

Regularly abstaining at the UN on Palestine would be a step forward, but these votes are only the tip of the iceberg in Canada’s multifaceted contribution to Israeli expansionism. The two-decade old Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement includes the occupied West Bank as a place where Israel’s custom laws apply. Ottawa also has a wide-ranging “border management and security” agreement with Israel, even though the two countries do not share a border. Additionally, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment has long gathered intelligence on Palestinians for Israel.

Every year, registered Canadian charities channel tens of millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel’s powerful military, racist institutions and illegal settlements. The Canada Revenue Agency allows organizations whose projects contravene international law and official Canadian policy to write tax credits for these donations.

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?

Even a large swath of Canada’s “aid” to the Palestinians – who have one-twentieth of their occupier’s per capita GDP – is explicitly designed to advance Israel’s interests. Over the past decade Ottawa has delivered over $100 millionand sent military and police trainers to build a security apparatus to protect the corrupt Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority from popular disgust over its compliance in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement building.

There have been increasing references in the past months during high-level bilateral meetings with the Israelis about the importance and value they place on Canada’s assistance to the Palestinian Authority, most notably in security/justice reform,” read an internal 2012 note signed by then Canadian International Development Agency president Margaret Biggs. In the heavily censored note Biggs explained that “the emergence of popular protests on the Palestinian street against the Palestinian Authority is worrying and the Israelis have been imploring the international donor community to continue to support the Palestinian Authority.”

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

Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem may well mark the end of the spurious “peace process” and Abbas’ US–Canada–Saudi–Israel backed Palestinian Authority. Hopefully, it will also be seen as a turning point in Canada’s effort to suffocate the Palestinian liberation struggle.

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McGill University ignores its real racism problem

While accusations of student anti-Semitism at McGill draw international headlines, the university administration’s open association with the Jewish National Fund has been ignored.

In the latest iteration of a multi-year smear campaign against Palestine solidarity activists at the university, Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee activist Noah Lew cried “anti-Semitism” after he wasn’t voted on to the Board of Directors of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). At a General Assembly last month Democratize SSMU sought to impeach the student union’s president Muna Tojiboeva. The ad-hoc student group was angry over her role in suspending an SSMU vice president and adopting a Judicial Board decision that declared a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolution unconstitutional.

(After two close votes, in February 2016 a motion mandating the student union support some BDS demands passed the union’s largest ever General Assembly, but failed an online confirmation vote after the university administration, Montreal’s English media and pro-Israel Jewish groups blitzed students. The resolution’s constitutionality was subsequently challenged.)

At the recent General Assembly Democratize SSMU’s effort to impeach the president failed. While they couldn’t muster the two thirds of votes required to oust the non-Jewish president of the student union, Democratize SSMU succeeded in blocking the re-election of two Board of Directors candidates who supported the effort to outlaw BDS resolutions.

After failing to be re-elected to the Board of Directors Noah Lew claimed he was “blocked from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity and my affiliations with Jewish organizations.” His claim was reported on by the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Global Television, as well as Israeli and Jewish press outlets. McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier sent out two emails to all students and faculty concerning the matter while the SSMU Board of Directors established a committee to investigate anti-Semitism. The affair was even mentioned in the House of Commons.

While a great deal has been written about alleged student anti-Jewish attitudes, the McGill administration’s open association with an explicitly Jewish supremacist organization passes with nary a comment. On November 28 McGill’s Associate Vice-Principal Innovation Angelique Mannella is scheduled to participate in a Jewish National Fund networking event called Tech Shuk, which connects Jewish capitalists with Montreal start-ups in a “Dragon’s Den” style competition. But, the JNF is a racist organization. Owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, it systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up a fifth of the population. According to a UN report, Jewish National Fund lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” The JNF oversees discriminatory land use policies in Israel outlawed in this country 60 years ago.

In 2004 long-time McGill Principal Bernard Shapiro was the honoured guest at JNF Montréal’s annual fundraising dinner (two years later the then former University Principal was master of ceremonies at the event). The current president of JNF Montréal, Michael Goodman, was a member of the advisory board of McGill ASD (Autism spectrum disorder). In 2014 McGill gave an honorary degree to Marvin Corber. The University’s press releaseannouncing its two honorary degree recipients cited an award Corber received from the JNF. Corber has been a JNF Montréal campaign advisor and chair of its annual fundraising dinner.

While the university administration’s ties to the JNF are a stark example of its racial bias, McGill is also entangled in other more subtle forms of anti-Palestinianism. The Montréal university has a memorandum of understanding with Tel Aviv University, which claims to be on “the front line of the critical work to maintain Israel’s military and technological edge.” McGill also has a partnership with Technion, which conducts “research and development into military technology that Israel relies on to sustain its occupation of Palestinian land.”

In 2012 the estate of Simon and Ethel Flegg contributed $1 million to McGill’s Jewish Studies department partly for an “education initiative in conjunction with McGill Hillel.” But, the cultural organization turned Israel lobby group refuses to associate with Jews (or others) who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the state of Israel.”

Imagine the outcry if a McGill department accepted a large donation to work with an organization that openly excluded Jews and others who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Palestine and fail to recognize Palestinians’ UN enshrined rights.”

It’s time to discuss the McGill administration’s support for Jewish supremacy in the Middle East.

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Canada must stop subsidizing this racist, colonial, institution

Imagine if there were an organization called the White National Fund that raised tens of millions of dollars each year from Canadians to buy land in the US to be held exclusively for people of European descent. WNF land couldn’t be leased or sold to anyone who they didn’t consider “white”. Would it be acceptable to give such an organization charitable status so donors received tax breaks?

While similar exclusionary land policies are its raison d’être, Jewish National Fund apologists in Canada claim it is racist to highlight the organization’s discrimination.

In a recent commentary on Jagmeet Singh’s embrace of imperialist NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière I pointed out that she “participated in a ceremony put on by the head of the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund during a visit to Israel” in November.

An individual on my Facebook had the temerity to respond: “Yves Engler would do well to more thoroughly research the long and positive history, aims and accomplishments of the Jewish National Fund, before branding it with his own thinly veiled anti-Semitism, by describing (and underlining) it as ‘explicitly racist’.” (My “underlining” was a link to supporting evidence.)

The Green Party was smeared in a similar fashion when members proposed a resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the JNF’s charitable status because of its discrimination against non-Jews in Israel through its bylaws which prohibit the lease or sale of its lands to non-Jews.” In a National Post op-ed last summer then JNF head Josh Cooper accused the Greens’ of discrimination and a commentary published by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs directly labeled the party “anti-Semitic”.

JNF officials responded in a similar way after a 2013 protest against the organization in Colorado. KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler said, “attacks and demonstrations against us [Jews] have picked up momentum of late, we [JNF] are targeted first and foremost because we are helping to realize the Zionist vision.”

The chutzpah of JNF apologists’ beggars belief. JNF racism is not concealed; it is, in fact, the organization’s raison d’être. The US State Department, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Israeli SupremeCourt are all on record regarding the discriminatory policies of the JNF, which controls 13% of Israel’s land and has significant influence over most of the rest. Indicative of its discrimination against the over 20% of Israelis who aren’t Jewish, JNF Canada’s Twitter tag says it “is the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners  — Jewish people everywhere.” Its parent organization in Israel — the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael — is even more open about its racism. Its website notes that “a survey commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.”

The JNF is an openly Jewish supremacist organization operating in a Jewish/white supremacist state. Think KKK during Jim Crow in the US South. But, in the JNF’s case proponents of the racist organization smear internationalist/universalist critics as discriminatory!

The JNF provides a stark example of the ethnocratic blinders that Zionism has placed on large swaths of Canada’s Jewish community. Seven decades ago Jewish individuals and groups fought against discriminatory land use policies in this country while today thousands attend JNF fundraisers across the country. In the most famous challenge to discriminatory land covenants, in 1948 Annie Noble decided to sell a cottage in the exclusive Beach O’ Pines subdivision on Lake Huron to Bernie Wolf, who was Jewish. During the sale Wolf’s lawyer realized that the original deed for the property restricted sale to “any person wholly or partly of negro, Asiatic, coloured or Semitic blood.” The deed further explained: “The land and premises herein described shall never be sold, assigned, transferred, leased, rented or in any manner whatsoever alienated to and shall never be occupied or used in any manner whatsoever by any person of the Jewish, Hebrew, Semitic, negro or coloured race or blood, it being the intention and purpose of the Grantor, to restrict the ownership, use, occupation and enjoyment of the said recreational development, including the lands and premises herein described to person of the white or Caucasian race not excluded by this clause.”

Noble and Wolf tried to get the court to declare the restriction invalid but they were opposed by the Beach O’Pines Protective Association. Both a Toronto court and the Ontario Court of Appeal refused to invalidate the racist covenant. But Noble pursued the case — with assistance from the Canadian Jewish Congress — to the Supreme Court of Canada. In a six-to-one decision the highest court reversed the lower courts’ ruling and allowed Noble to purchase the property.

Were the judges who voided the discriminatory land covenant “anti-Caucasian”? Of course not.

If the JNF disappeared or Israel outlawed discriminatory land policies would Israeli Jews become oppressed? Hardly.

But, myself and other Canadian critics haven’t even called for the JNF to be outlawed. Notwithstanding the anti-Semitism smears, the above-mentioned Green Party resolution or Independent Jewish Voices’ JNF campaign simply calls on the Canadian state to stop subsidizing its discrimination (and implicitly for public representatives in this country to stop participating in JNF events). As far as I’m aware, no one has called for the organization to be banned, its executives to be investigated for contravening Canadian law or for the land and assets it controls to be seized.

Eventually the JNF’s charitable status will be revoked. Taxpayers can’t be expected to subsidize discriminatory land-use policies in Israel forever. At some point groups and individuals who claim to oppose racism will stop running scared of “anti-Semitism” insults and will add their voice to Independent Jewish Voices political and legal challenge of the JNF’s charitable status.

For the Palestinian solidarity movement 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 campaign to revoke the JNF’s charitable status is simply a call for the Canadian state to stop subsidizing an explicitly racist, colonial, institution. There is nothing anti-Jewish in that.

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Defenders of racism in Israel should not be consulted about racism here

Would an organic farmer ask a fox to help design a security system for her free-range chickens?

A group that stokes Islamophobia and defends an explicitly supremacist organization shouldn’t be part of a Public Consultation on Systemic Discrimination and Racism in Québec. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) should be removed from the “list of selected organizations” for this important initiative.

While groups participating in the just launched consultation are supposed to “develop concrete proposals to combat systemic discrimination and racism”, last summer CIJA campaigned aggressively against a Green Party of Canada resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the charitable status of an explicitly racist organization. The Green’s motion described the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel through its bylaws which prohibit the lease or sale of its lands to non-Jews.” Owner of 13 percent of Israel’s land – mostly seized from Palestinians in 1948 – the JNF systematically discriminates against the 20% of non-Jewish Israeli citizens. JNF racism is not the all too common ‘personal’ or even ‘structural’ variety, rather a legalistic discrimination outlawed in Canada six decades ago.

CIJA and the JNF Canada often work together and sponsor each other’s events. Additionally, JNF Canada CEO Lance Davis previously worked as CIJA’s National Jewish Campus Life director.

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

In a bid to deter organizations from associating with the Palestinian cause or opposing Israeli belligerence in the region, CIJA demonizes Canadian Arabs and Muslims by constantly accusing them of supporting “terror”. Last week the lobbying arm of Canada’s Jewish Federations said it was “shocked” Ottawa failed to rescind the charitable status of the Islamic Society of British Columbia. CIJA alleges that the Vancouver area mosque supports Hamas, which the federal government considers a terrorist organization but Palestinians (and most of the world) consider a political/resistance organization.

In 2014 CIJA pushed to proscribe as a terrorist entity Mississauga-based IRFAN (International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy). The Jewish group’s press release about the first Canadian-based group ever designated a terrorist organization boasted that “current CIJA board member, the Honourable Stockwell Day … called attention to IRFAN-Canada’s disturbing activities nearly a decade ago.”

In the early 2000s pro-Israel groups and the Conservative Party accused a charity that supported thousands of orphans in a dozen countries of working for Hamas. But, a Canada Revenue Agency audit failed to substantiate the claim. As the two-year audit was about to wrap up at the end of 2004, Stockwell Day and the Canadian Coalition of Democracies (CCD) held a press conference where they accused IRFAN of being a front for Hamas, which prompted a defamation suit (CCD eventually retracted the allegation while Day was protected by parliamentary privilege).

When Day’s Conservatives later took power the CRA renewed their investigation of IRFAN in what appeared to be an effort to prove that Muslim Canadians financed “Hamas terror”. In 2011 the CRA revoked the group’s charitable status, claiming “IRFAN-Canada is an integral part of an international fundraising effort to support Hamas.” A big part of the CRA’s supporting evidence was that IRFAN worked with the Gaza Ministry of Health and Ministry of Telecommunications, which came under Hamas’ direction after they won the 2006 Palestinian legislative election. The Canadian organization tried to send a dialysis machine to Gaza and continued to support orphans in the impoverished territory with the money channelled through the Post Office controlled by the Telecommunications Ministry.

This author cannot claim any detailed knowledge of the charity, but on the surface of it the charge that IRFAN was a front for Hamas makes little sense. First of all, the group was registered with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank when the Fatah-controlled PA was waging war against Hamas. Are we to believe that CRA officials in Ottawa had a better sense of who supported Hamas then the PA in Ramallah? Additionally, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) viewed the Canadian charity as a legitimate partner. In 2009 IRFAN gave UNRWA $1.2 million to build a school for girls in Battir, a West Bank village.

In a sign of how the campaign against IRFAN stigmatized a marginalized group, the CRA’s findings were used to smear the 2012 edition of the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto because IRFAN was one of 17 sponsors of one of the largest Muslim gatherings in North America.

While quick to attack Arabs and Muslims’ support for “terror” or “anti-Semitism”, CIJA clams up when explicit Jewish Islamophobia is brought to their attention. In 2012 the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) asked for CIJA’s help with an aggressively anti-Muslim textbook used at Joe Dwek Ohr HaEmet Sephardic School in Toronto. It described Muslims as “rabid fanatics” with “savage beginnings”, but CIJA refused to respond.

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

An initiative promoted by committed anti-racist campaigners, the Public Consultation on Systemic Discrimination and Racism in Québec is important. It should not include a group that stokes Islamophobia and defends an explicitly supremacist organization.

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B’nai Brith’s shamefully attacks Niki Ashton

B’nai Brith claim to speak for Jews in general, but in reality defend Israel no matter what that country does.

The group’s recent attack against NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton was a brazen attempt to use the decimation of European Jewry to protect Israel from criticism and follows a formula used so often most now see its hypocrisy.

Last May the self-declared human rights organization slammed the NDP leadership contender for “Standing in ‘Solidarity’ with Terrorists” because Ashton attended a rally for Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike where someone had a photo of an individual B’nai Brith calls a terrorist. But, that attack failed when Ashton refused to back down and actually became more forceful in her support of the Palestinian cause.

Since then Ashton has sent out emails to join the party to elect “a leader that will stand up for Palestinian human rights” and demanded an end to the “occupation of Palestinian lands,” blockade of Gaza and “abuse of Palestinians’ human rights.” She called for an outright ban on goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements and expressed some support for the broader Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Ashton told Jacobin that “many inspiring activists across the country are doing great work on this front, decrying human rights abuses, decrying injustices, and putting forward a plan for change, including through the BDS movement. The NDP needs to be a strong voice in support of the work that so many activists are doing.”

In response to an Independent Jewish Voices/Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East questionnaire to the four NDP leadership candidates she said:

I support the important work of civil society in pursuing justice through non-violent means, including calls for boycotts and divestment. Similar tactics were used effectively against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, and BDS today can play a constructive role by encouraging a just resolution. It is the role of governments to respond to pressure from civil society and to be a force for positive change. In 1986, Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney responded to social movements by implementing sanctions against South Africa, and we face a similar ethical and moral responsibility to listen to those who are struggling for peace and justice.”

“Like any other country, sanctions against Israel should be considered when it consistently fails to meet international law and obligations, particularly in relation to the occupation which has denied rights to the Palestinian people for half a century. I support looking into targeted sanctions to put strategic pressure on the Israeli government.”

Ashton’s increasingly strident statements in support of the Palestinian cause obviously angered B’nai Brith. But, they kept quiet for three months, perhaps hoping they could find something worse than “terrorism” to connect her to. Having failed to deter Ashton from expressing support for the Palestinian cause by associating her with “terrorists,” B’nai Brith brought the Holocaust into the race. At the end of last month they put out a press release headlined: “NDP Leadership Candidate Endorsed by Holocaust-Denying Community Leader.” Ashton’s supposed transgression was having her picture taken with Nazih Khatatba at a campaign event in Toronto. B’nai Brith accuses Khatatba of defending armed Palestinian resistance and “engaging in Holocaust denial.”

The evidence presented of Khatatba’s Holocaust denial is a 15-second interview he gave at an event commemorating the Nakba (Palestinian catastrophe) last year. (In response to B’nai Brith’s press release, Khatatba posted on Facebook, “I recognize the genocide of more than six million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. What I did say in the interview was that there were Jewish groups who experienced massacres in Europe and then went to the Middle East and perpetrated massacres there.”)

Presuming B’nai Brith’s translation is accurate and that relevant context wasn’t omitted from the video they produced of the interview, Khatatba’s comments were definitely historically inaccurate. The ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1947-48, displacement of another 300,000 in 1967, the half-century illegal occupation of the West Bank, repeated assaults on Gaza, etc. are an immense injustice. Still, they don’t equal what the Nazis did to European Jewry.

Of course it’s not uncommon for social justice activists to make hyperbolic or historically inaccurate claims in their zeal to advance a cause. But, they are rarely accused of sinister intentions for doing so.

As I detail here, B’nai Brith has accepted or promoted more significant distortions of Jewish suffering when it served Israel’s aims. The group aggressively backed the pro-Israel Stephen Harper regime despite government officials repeatedly minimizing the Nazi Holocaust. In 2009 Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said “Israel Apartheid Days on university campuses like York sometimes begin to resemble pogroms,” and told a European audience that pro-Palestinian activism spurred anti-Jewish activities “even more dangerous than the old European anti-Semitism.” Similarly, in May 2008 Canwest reported: “Some of the criticism brewing in Canada against the state of Israel, including from some members of Parliament, is similar to the attitude of Nazi Germany in the Second World War, Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned.”

In a backdoor way B’nai Brith’s reaction to Khatatba’s historically inaccurate comments explain them. When Zionists repeatedly use 70-year-old Jewish suffering in Europe to justify their ongoing oppression of Palestinians is it any wonder some Palestinians seek to minimize Nazi crimes against Jews?

The attack on Niki Ashton is a stark example of the “Holocaust Industry” Norman Finkelstein outlined 15 years ago. B’nai B’rith should be ashamed.

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