Category Archives: Canada and Israel

Strange bedfellows at ‘anti-racism’ forum

Why would one of Toronto’s leading anti-racist writers share a stage with three individuals who support an explicitly racist institution?

Recently radio host and Toronto Star columnist Desmond Cole spoke at a forum put on by the Mosaic Institute titled “Canada in a Trump World”. It was about “increased racist and xenophobic attacks” and offered a “dialogue for communities to come together for honest conversation.”

Executive director of the Mosaic Institute and head of the Canadian Jewish Congress between 2005 and 2011, Bernie Farber also spoke. So did former Executive Director of the B’nai Brith league for Human rights, Karen Mock. The chair of the event was Warren Kinsella, a former board member of the Canada-Israel Committee.

All three of these individuals have worked with or expressed support for the Jewish National Fund. An owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, the JNF discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up one-fifth of the population. According to a UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” Echoing the UN, a 2012 US State Department report detailing “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel says JNF “statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”

In October JSpaceCanada, which Karen Mock chairs, was a “participating organization” with JNF Canada on an event honouring the life of former Israeli president Shimon Peres. Mock also sat on the board of the Canadian Peres Center for Peace Foundation, which raised funds for the Israeli-based Peres Center For Peace. In Israel the Peres Center operated a slew of projects with JNF Canada and other branches of the racist organization.

In 2001 Mock spoke at a Hamilton rally titled “Israel under siege”.

In August Warren Kinsella criticized a Green Party of Canada resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status because of its “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel.” Alongside Ezra Levant, Kinsella sat on the board of directors of the Canada-Israel Committee, whose personnel were often close to the JNF. In 2014 Kinsella approved of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which led to the killing of 2,200 Palestinians.

For his part, Bernie Farber called the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (Independent Jewish Voices predecessor) “a rump on the edge of Jewish society” because it, among other things, called for the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status. During Farber’s quarter century at the Canadian Jewish Congress the organization and its personnel had many ties to the JNF. In 2015 the Consulate of Israel in Toronto co-hosted an event with Farber’s Mosaic Institute.

Should we laugh or cry at an antiracist forum put on by individuals with ties to an organization practicing discriminatory land-use policies outlawed in this country half a century ago? Does Farber, Mock and Kinsella’s support for an explicitly racist institution concern Desmond Cole or does he have an opinion about Ottawa subsidizing racist land use policies abroad?

Comments Off on Strange bedfellows at ‘anti-racism’ forum

Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Backers of ‘anti-Semitism lessons’ fail to speak out against all forms of racism

Is a school lesson plan, widely used across Canada, designed to fight racism like its promoters say? Or is it also a clever cover for defending Jewish and white supremacy in the Middle East?

A recent 12-page Canadian Jewish News insert about Elizabeth and Tony Comper raises the issue. According to the supplement, in 2005 the Bank of Montreal head and his wife Elizabeth started Fighting Anti-Semitism Together (FAST), a coalition of non-Jewish business leaders and prominent individuals. FAST sponsored a lesson plan for grades six to eight called “Choose Your Voice: Antisemitism in Canada.”

Over 2.4 million students in 19,000 schools have been through the FAST program. A year ago, FAST added Voices into Action, an anti-racism lesson for Canadian high schoolers that devotes a third of its plan to the Nazi Holocaust in Europe.

Unfortunately, FAST does not appear to be an example of business leaders struggling for social justice. Rather, it’s part of what Norman Finkelstein dubbed the “Holocaust Industry,” which exploits historical Jewish suffering to deflect criticism of Israeli expansionism.

In the section titled “What we stand for” on its website, FAST calls on Canadians “to speak out against all forms of bigotry, racism and hatred,” yet the Compers were honoured guests at a 2009 Jewish National Fund fundraiser in Toronto. Owning 13 per cent of Israel’s land, the JNF discriminates against Palestinian-Arab citizens who make up a fifth of Israel’s population. (What would we think of anti-racist activists who attend KKK meetings?)

In a 2006 article titled “BMO head slams one-sided Israel critics” the Canadian Jewish Newsreported on FAST’s Quebec launch:

“Singling out Israel for blame in the Middle East conflict, even by those of good faith, is fanning anti-Semitism, Bank of Montreal president Tony Comper says. It may not be the intent, but the effect of condemning Israel alone is providing justification for hatred of Jews in Canada and internationally, Comper warned more than 400 business executives….In underscoring the serious threat of anti-Semitism worldwide, Comper suggested that ‘a second Holocaust’ is possible if Iran acquires nuclear arms and attacks Israel.”

In his speech, Comper cited CUPE Ontario and the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada’s support for boycotting Israel as spurring anti-Semitism.

FAST supporters include a who’s who of the corporate elite: President TD Bank, Ed Clark; CEO of CN, Hunter Harrison; CEO of Manulife Financial, Dominic D’Allessandro; CEO of Bombardier, Laurent Beaudoin; president of Power Corporation, André Desmarais; President of RBC Financial, Gordon M. Nixon and many others.

According to the Canadian Jewish News supplement, the Toronto couple also sponsored the Elizabeth and Tony Comper Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism and Racism at the University of Haifa in Israel. The Center operates an online Ambassadors Program, which reports the paper, “gives students intellectual material and technical skills to combat online the global boycott, divestment and sanctions anti-Israel movement.”

The supplement was partly sponsored by Larry and Judy Tanenbaum. Larry was one of a half-dozen rich right-wing donors that scrapped the 100-year-old Canadian Jewish Congress in 2011 and replaced it with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. As the name change suggests, this move represented a shift towards ever greater lobbying in favour of Israeli nationalism.

The Compers provided over $500,000 to the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. Established in 2008, Larry and Ken Tanenbaum gave the U of T $5 million dollars and helped raise more than $10 million more for the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies.

Andrea and Charles Bronfman gave over $500,000 to the Anne Tanenbaum Centre, which has close ties with the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Chair in Israeli Studies. In 1997, the Bronfman family provided $1.5 million to create an Andrea and Charles Bronfman Chair in Israeli Studies at the U of T. “Fifty years after its rebirth, the miracle of modern Israel is of broad interest,” said Charles Bronfman at the launch.

The long-standing Zionist family put up $1 million to establish a Jewish Studies program at Concordia two years later. An orchestrator of opposition to Palestinian solidarity activism at the Montreal university through the 2000s, Concordia Jewish studies professor Norma Joseph was also “instrumental” in setting up the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies. In 2011, multi-billionaire David Azrieli gave Concordia $5 million to establish the first minor in Israel Studies at a Canadian university. After attending an Association for Israel Studies’ conference organized by the Azrieli Institute, prominent anti-Palestinian activist Gerald Steinberg described the Institute as part of a “counterattack” against pro-Palestinian activism at Concordia.

The Israeli nationalist tilt of McGill’s Jewish studies is actually inscribed in a major funding agreement. 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, Hillel 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.”

The individuals driving Jewish studies and anti-Semitism lessons in Canada overwhelmingly back Jewish and white supremacy in the Middle East and encourage the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism.

Unfortunately, support for anti-Palestinian racism, along with colonialism and western imperialism, makes one question their “anti-racism” credentials.

Comments Off on Backers of ‘anti-Semitism lessons’ fail to speak out against all forms of racism

Filed under Canada and Israel

Putting Palestine into the NDP leadership race

To the sound of crickets chirping from opposition benches Justin Trudeau’s government has once again isolated Canada on Palestinian rights. But, recent developments suggest this shameful chapter in Canadian diplomacy is past its political best before date.
On November 21 Canada joined the US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau in opposing a UN Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee resolution in support of “the right of Palestinian people to self-determination” backed by 170 countries. Two weeks earlier Ottawa aligned with Israel, the US, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau in opposing a motion titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” supported by 156 countries.
While the Trudeau government disgraced this country at the UN, prominent figures including Yann Martel, Naomi Klein, Bruce Cockburn, Richard Parry (Arcade Fire), Gabor Mate and Rawi Hage worked to redeem Canada from its extreme pro-Israel position. At the end of November over 50 authors, musicians, labour leaders, environmentalists, academics and filmmakers appealed to Green Party of Canada members to support “concrete international action” for Palestinian rights and applauded the party’s August vote to support “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation” of Palestinian land.
The former head of CUPE Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Labour, Sid Ryan, signed the appeal. “Sid Ryan for NDP Leader”, a recently launched website to enlist him to run for the head of the party, notes: “Sid Ryan’s advocacy for the Palestinian people, starting in his days in CUPE where he endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, shows that an NDP leader could muster broad support for a process where Canada is non-aligned, expresses solidarity with Palestinians and other oppressed nations in the Global South, and champions a foreign policy based on peace, democracy, social justice and human rights.”
No matter who wins the campaign to become NDP leader in October it’s hard to imagine they will be as hostile to Palestinians as outgoing leader Tom Mulcair — who once said “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances”.
Putting pressure on NDP leadership candidates, last weekend the Green Party reconfirmed its support for “government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment” to support the Palestinians. Backed by 85% of those at a special general meeting in Calgary, the motion encompasses the Palestinian-civil-society-led BDS campaign’s three demands: equal rights for the Arab minority in Israel, the right of refugees to return and an end to “Israel’s illegal occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and the Golan Heights, and Israel’s siege of Gaza.”
The new resolution also details Canadian complicity in dispossessing “the indigenous people”, calling on Ottawa to renegotiate the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, end “all military and surveillance trade” with Israel and “to divest from any companies which are directly benefiting from activity within Israel’s illegal settlements.” Finally, it calls on Ottawa “to ask the International Criminal Court to prioritize its investigation into charges of potential war crimes by members of the Israeli forces.”
Green leader Elizabeth May backed the new policy, which makes her publically stated position on Palestinian rights the strongest of anyone with a seat in the House of Commons.
As the NDP leadership campaign heats up, expect Palestine to be a major point of debate. Hopefully before long a new NDP leader will begin to pressure the government to end Canada’s shameful international opposition to Palestinian rights.

This article first appeared in The Hill Times.

Comments Off on Putting Palestine into the NDP leadership race

Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

Greens stand firm in face of Israeli bullying

In a major self-inflicted wound, Israeli nationalist groups recently turned support for a BDS motion targeting Israel’s occupation into overwhelming approval. In addition, the resolution also demanded action to address the plight of Palestinian refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

In a further bizarre twist, Elizabeth May and others within the Green Party leadership have tried to obfuscate the extent of the membership’s support for Palestinian rights.

In August, the Green Party of Canada voted to support “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted at those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the [Occupied Palestinian Territories].” While the new policy drops the BDS formulation, it supports “economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes” and encompasses the Palestinian civil-society-led BDS campaign’s three demands.

It calls for the Green Party to “respect the intent of UN Resolution 194,” on the right of Palestinian refugees to return, as well as an “accord to the Arab-Palestinian population of Israel equal political and civil rights.” It also calls to “end Israel’s illegal occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and the Golan Heights, and Israel’s siege of Gaza.”

The new resolution also details Canadian complicity in dispossessing “the indigenous people,” calling on Ottawa “to divest from any companies which are directly benefiting from activity within Israel’s illegal settlements or its occupation of the OPT” and “to ask the International Criminal Court to prioritize its investigation into charges of potential war crimes by members of the Israeli forces.”

Supported by 84.5 per cent of those at the special general meeting on Saturday, it also calls for the “renegotiation of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement” and “termination and indefinite suspension of all military and surveillance trade and cooperation.”

At the closed-door meeting, May spoke in favour of the new policy, which makes her expressed position on Palestinian rights the strongest of anyone with a seat in the House of Commons. Yet immediately after the vote passed, May sought to distort the motion. She tweeted “we just repealed BDS policy” while a press release noted, “Green Party explicitly rejects the notion of boycotting the state of Israel.”

Over the past three years May and other Green leaders have battled members over Palestine (and by extension whether the Greens will be a progressive, grassroots, party). Seeking to maintain her standing within a wildly anti-Palestinian Canadian political establishment, May has repeatedly been at odds with party activists no longer willing to accept blatant anti-Palestinian sentiment.

In November 2013 a Jewish Tribune reporter challenged May over her planned participation in a fundraiser for Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CPJME). Apparently thinking the interview wouldn’t be read outside pro-Israel circles, May told the Tribune CJPME was “anti-Israel” and noted she recently attended a recent Jewish National Fund fundraiser, even lauding “the great work that’s [the JNF] done in making the desert bloom.” (An explicitly racist institution, the JNF has helped dispossess Palestinians and Judaize historically Arab areas.)

May’s comments sparked a pro-Palestinian backlash that jolted the party’s only member of parliament and pushed the party towards a better position on the issue. A few months later, the party adopted a resolution critical of Israeli expansionism and when party President Paul Estrin published an anti-Palestinian screed in the midst of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, he was forced to resign.

In a sign of the growing power of the Palestine solidarity movement, at the August convention members ignored May’s vociferous opposition to the BDS resolution. May responded by threatening to resign if the party didn’t revisit the issue and organizing a special general membership meeting to reconsider the issue. A month after the convention she fired three members of her shadow cabinet for defending the party’s recently passed policy from attacks by the head of the British Columbia Greens.

In response to May’s authoritarian, anti-Palestinian, moves, party activists organized aggressively for this weekend’s special general meeting. The author of the resolution and ousted Green justice critic, Dmitri Lascaris, spoke at 18 townhall meetings across country. Support for the Palestine policy was overwhelming and drew many new individuals to the party. Facing the prospect of a humiliating defeat at the special meeting, which would have all but forced her to resign, May backed a “consensus resolution” that strengthened support for Palestinian rights, but eliminated explicit support for BDS.

Though she’s unable to control members’ position on this issue, May can shape what the public learns about it. In conjunction with a pro-Israel press, she has worked to downplay the depth of Green support for Palestinian liberation.

Notwithstanding the “two steps forward one step back” character of the struggle within the Green Party, their recent vote puts pressure on the NDP. Alongside Yann Martel, Rawi Hage, Bruce Cockburn, Richard Parry and numerous high profile lefties, the former head of the Ontario Federation of Labour Sid Ryan signed a recent appeal to Green Party of Canada members “not to succumb to political pressure to weaken or reverse [their] vote to support Palestinian rights.”

Sid Ryan for NDP Leader, a website encouraging him to run for the head of the party, notes: “Sid Ryan’s advocacy for the Palestinian people, starting in his days in CUPE where he endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, shows that an NDP leader could muster broad support for a process where Canada is non-aligned, expresses solidarity with Palestinians and other oppressed nations in the Global South, and champions a foreign policy based on peace, democracy, social justice and human rights.”

No matter who wins the campaign to become NDP leader in October, it’s hard to imagine they will be as hostile to Palestinians as outgoing leader Tom Mulcair  — who once said “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances.”

The Canadian Jewish News is already fretting over the new NDP leader. With a change in NDP leadership on the horizon, the Green vote will sting. Rather than forcing members to cower, Israel nationalists’ attacks focused attention on the Green campaign and helped solidify the most significant pro-Palestinian victory in Canadian political history — notwithstanding May’s effort to obscure it.

Comments Off on Greens stand firm in face of Israeli bullying

Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

Israeli nationalists undermine meaning of ‘remembering the Holocaust’

Is “remembering the Nazi Holocaust and where anti-Semitism can lead” a good thing? Unfortunately, thanks to people who constantly cite this horrible genocide in order to justify the illegal, immoral and anti-human behaviour of the Israeli state, one must answer, “it depends.”

Drawing attention to the Nazi Holocaust and anti-Semitism in Canada today often reinforces, rather than undermines, oppression and discrimination. This perverse reality was on display at two recent events in Toronto.

At a semi-annual Ryerson Student Union meeting, a Hillel member pushed a resolution calling on the union to promote Holocaust Education Week in conjunction with United Jewish Appeal-Toronto, which marked Israel’s 2014 slaughter in Gaza by adding $2.25 million to its annual aid to that wealthy country. The motion stated, “this week is not in dedication to anti-Zionist propaganda” and called for the week to focus “solely on the education of the Holocaust and not on other genocides.”

Objecting to this brazen attempt to use the decimation of European Jewry to protect an aggressive, apartheid state many students left the meeting. When quorum was lost before the vote, pro-Israel activists cried — wait for it — anti-Semitism.

“Tonight, I experienced true and evil anti-Semitism,” complained Tamar Lyons, vice-president of communications for Students Supporting Israel at Ryerson University, in a social media post republished by B’nai Brith. In it, the Emerson Fellow of StandWithUs, an organization that trains university students to advance Israel’s interests, bemoaned how “a Muslim student ‘goy-splained’ me.”

After the meeting, Lyons linked the purported anti-Jewish incident to the Ryerson Student Union endorsing the BDS movement two years earlier. She told the Canadian Jewish News it was “a direct result of [the] boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the anti-Israel sentiment that’s so prevalent on campus.”

Taking place on the eve of an Ontario legislature vote to condemn BDS activism, the national director of B’nai Brith jumped on the Ryerson affair. “What starts with BDS does not end with BDS,” said Amanda Hohmann. “More often than not, BDS is simply a gateway drug to more blatant forms of anti-Semitism.”

(Yup, take a toke of that leftist–internationalist “pressure Israel to follow international law” bud and soon you’re longing for some Neo-Nazi ‘get-the-Jews’ smack.)

 

As B’nai Brith hyped the Ryerson affair, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs pushed the Ontario legislature to pass a motion in support of the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” and to reject “the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

Passed 49 to 5 (with 53 absent), motion sponsor Gila Martow told the legislature: “We would not be here supporting the Ku Klux Klan on our campuses, so why are we allowing [the] BDS movement and other anti-Jewish and anti-Israel organizations to have demonstrations and use our campuses, which are taxpayer-funded?”

In an interview with the Toronto Sun after the vote the Thornhill MPP described BDS as “psychological terrorism on the campuses….The motive behind BDS is to hurt the Jewish community by attacking Israel.”

The only MPP who spoke against the motion was the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh. But, even this defender of the right to criticize Israel spent much of his speech talking about how anti-Semitism “must be denounced.”

Notwithstanding the anti-Semitism hullabaloo, the BDS vote and Ryerson affair have little to do with combating anti-Jewishness. As is obvious to anybody who thinks about it for a second, comparing internationalist and social justice minded individuals to the KKK will elicit, not lessen, anti-Jewish animus. Similarly, labeling a non-violent movement “psychological terrorism” and writing about “Muslim goy-splaining” isn’t likely to endear Jewish groups to those concerned with Palestinian dispossession and building a just world.

The major Jewish organizations and trained Israeli nationalist activists scream anti-Semitism to protect Israel from censure, of course. But they also do so because few are willing to challenge them on it. As such, the anti-Semitism smears should be seen as a simple assertion of CIJA and B’nai Brith’s political, economic and cultural clout.

Possibly the best placed of any in the world, the Toronto Jewish community faces almost no discernable economic, social or cultural discrimination. Describing it as “the envy of the UJA federation world,” Alan Dershowitz told its 2014 Toronto Major Gifts dinner: “You mustnever be ashamed to use your power and strength. Never be afraid that people will say, ‘You’re too strong and powerful.’ Jews need power and strength. Without this strength — economically, morally, militarily — we can’t have peace.”

But, UJA-Toronto, CIJA, B’nai Brith, etc. aren’t seeking “peace.” Rather, they’re working to strengthen a Sparta-like, Jewish-supremacist state in the Middle East.

The Ryerson affair and vote at the provincial legislature reflect a Toronto Jewish establishment drunk with its power. But the sober reality of constantly justifying oppression by citing the Holocaust/anti-Semitism is that it undermines the power of that memory and is an insult to all those who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis.

Comments Off on Israeli nationalists undermine meaning of ‘remembering the Holocaust’

Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Liberals isolate Canada as a result of blind support for Israel

How can you identify a Canadian Liberal? They talk to the left, but walk to the right.

Under Justin Trudeau, “Canada is back” to isolating itself from world opinion on Palestinian rights.

On Monday Canada joined the US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau in opposing a UN Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee resolution in support of Palestinian self determination. Two weeks ago Ottawa joined Israel, the U.S., Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau in opposing motions titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” and “persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities.” One hundred and fifty-six countries voted in favour of the motions while seven abstained on the first and six on the second.

Two among numerous resolutions upholding Palestinian rights Canada opposed, these votes follow on the heels of foreign minister Stéphane Dion attacking UNESCO for defending Palestinian rights. Last month the UN cultural body criticised Israel for restricting Muslim access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and recognised Israel as the occupying power. “Canada strongly rejects UNESCO World Heritage singling out Israel & denying Judaism’s link to the Old City + Western Wall,” Dion tweeted.

A few months earlier Trudeau’s minister criticized another arm of the UN. In March, Dion denounced the UN Human Rights Council’s appointment of University of Western Ontario law professor Michael Lynk as “Special Rapporteur on Palestine.” Claiming the Canadian lawyer was hostile to Israel, Dion asked the UNHRC to review Lynk’s appointment.

In addition to isolating Canada internationally, the Trudeau government has pursued various pro-Israel moves. At the start of the month Governor General David Johnston visited a Jewish National Fund Forest. An owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, the JNF discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up one-fifth of the population. According to a UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.”

While Johnston recently visited a racist Israeli institution, the PM attended the “Butcher of Qana’s” funeral at the end of September. In 1996 Shimon Peres ordered the shelling of a Lebanese village, which killed 106 civilians in Qana — half of whom were children. Through his long political career, reports Patrick Martin, Peres “was deeply implicated in many of the foulest historical crimes associated with the establishment, expansion and militarization of the state of Israel.”

Peres’ role in dispossessing Palestinians didn’t stop the Trudeau government from gushing with praise after he passed away. “The whole country of Canada is supporting the whole country of Israel and the prime minister wanted that to be very clear,” Dion told the press.

At the start of the year the Liberals condemned Canadians seeking to hold Israel accountable to international law. The Prime Minister and most Liberal MPs supported a Conservative Party call for the House of Commons to “reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel.” The February resolution also “condemned any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

The Trudeau government’s efforts to undermine Palestinians liberation strengthens Canada’s multifaceted contribution to Israeli expansionism. Each year registered Canadian charities channel tens of millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel’s powerful military, racist institutions and illegal settlements.

Over the past decade, Ottawa has delivered over 100 million dollars 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. Further legitimating its illegal occupation, Canada’s two-decade old free trade agreement with Israel allows settlement products to enter Canada duty-free.

The truth is, it’s hard to tell Canada’s political parties apart when it comes to enabling Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

Without a growing popular movement campaigning for Palestinian rights, this country’s political elites will continue to isolate Canada from world opinion.

Comments Off on Liberals isolate Canada as a result of blind support for Israel

Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

A day to remember

Remember.

Remember that today marks the culmination of a militarist, nationalist ritual organized by a reactionary state-backed group.

Every year the Royal Canadian Legion sells about 20 million red poppies in the lead-up to Remembrance Day. Remember that red poppies were inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian army officer John McCrae. The pro-war poem calls on Canadians to “take up our quarrel with the foe” and was used to promote war bonds and recruit soldiers during World War I.

Remember that today, red poppies commemorate Canadians who have died at war. Not being commemorated are the Afghans, or Libyans killed by Canadians in the 2000s, or the Iraqis and Serbians killed in the 1990s, or the Koreans killed in the 1950s, or the Russians, South Africans, Sudanese and others killed before that. By focusing exclusively on “our” side Remembrance Day poppies reinforce a sense that Canada’s cause is righteous. But, Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: World War II.

While there’s some criticism of the nationalism and militarism driving Remembrance Day, the organization sponsoring the red poppy campaign receives little critical attention. Incorporated by an act of Parliament, the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League was formed in 1926. Renamed the Royal Canadian Legion in 1960, from the get-go it was designed to counter more critical veteran organizations. In The Vimy Trap: or, How We Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Great War, Ian McKay and Jamie Swift write, “benefiting from government recognition, the Legion slowly supplanted its rivals. It was consciously designed as [a] body that would soothe the veterans temper and moderate their demands.”

In 1927 the federal government granted the Legion a monopoly over poppy distribution and the Veterans Affairs-run Vetcraft made the Legion’s poppies for 75 years. The Legion has benefited from various other forms of government support. Its branches have received public funds and the Governor General, head of the Canadian Forces, is the Legion’s Grand Patron and numerous prime ministers and defence ministers have addressed its conventions.

While its core political mandate is improving veterans’ services, the Legion has long advocated militarism and a reactionary worldview. In the early 1930s it pushed for military build-up and its 1950 convention called for “total preparedness.” In 1983 its president, Dave Capperauld, supported US cruise missiles tests in Alberta and into the early 1990s the Legion took “an uncompromising stand on the importance of maintaining a strong Canadian military presence in Europe through NATO, and by supporting the United States build-up of advanced nuclear weapons.”

The Legion has also espoused a racist, paranoid and pro-Empire worldview. In the years after World War II it called for the expulsion of Canadians of Japanese origin and ideological screening for German immigrants. A decade before WWII, reports Branching Out: the story of the Royal Canadian Legion, “Manitoba Command unanimously endorsed a resolution to ban communist activities, and provincial president Ralph Webb…warned that children were being taught to spit on the Union Jack in Manitoba schools.”

Long after the end of the Cold War the organization remains concerned about “subversives.” Today, Legion members have to sign a statement that begins: “I hereby solemnly declare that I am not a member of, nor affiliated with, any group, party or sect whose interests conflict with the avowed purposes of the Legion, and I do not, and will not, support any organization advocating the overthrow of our government by force or which advocates, encourages or participates in subversive action or propaganda.”

The veterans group has sought to suppress critical understanding of military history. In the mid-2000s the Legion battled Canadian War Museum historians over an exhibition about the World War II allied bomber offensive. After shaping its development, the Legion objected to a small part of a multifaceted exhibit, which questioned “the efficacy and the morality of the…massive bombing of Germany’s industrial and civilian targets.” With the museum refusing to give the veterans an effective veto over its exhibit, Legion Magazine called for a boycott. The Legion’s campaign led to hearings by the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs and a new display that glossed over a bombing campaign explicitly designed to destroy German cities. It also led to the director of the museum, Joe Guerts, resigning.

A decade earlier the Legion participated in a campaign to block the three-part series The Valour and the Horror from being rebroadcast or distributed to schools. The 1992 CBC series claimed Canadian soldiers committed unprosecuted war crimes during World War II and that the British-led bomber command killed 600,000 German civilians. The veterans groups’ campaign led to a Senate inquiry, CRTC hearing and lawsuit, as well as a commitment from CBC to not rebroadcast The Valour and the Horror without amendments.

Rather than supporting the militaristic, jingoistic, nationalism of the Legion, Canadians of good conscience should support peace organizations’ white poppy campaign to remember all victims of war.

Comments Off on A day to remember

Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel, Canada in Africa, Canada in Haiti, The Truth May Hurt, The Ugly Canadian

Xenophobia, racism accompany right wing Israeli and Quebecois nationalism

What do today’s right-wing Quebec and Israeli nationalists share in common? A claim to victimhood that enables them to deny their role in oppressing others.

This commonality became clear when a prominent right-wing Quebec nationalist politician cited the French language and Jewish sensibilities to criticize immigration and the veil. It also reflected a historic reversal in Québecois-Jewish relations. More significantly, it highlighted the dangers of an “empowered sense of vulnerability,” a psychological state many Quebeckers and Jews seem to share.

(I admit, up front, that generalizations about large groups of people most often reflect nothing more than ignorance — sometimes wilful — but simplification is also a necessary tool for the construction of useful theories.)

At the end of August, Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) leader Francois Legault called for slashing the number of immigrants to Quebec by 10,000 a year to protect the French language. “I have deep concerns about the survival of French in the long term in Quebec,” Legault explained at a press conference. Alongside his anti-immigrant announcement the former Parti Québecois minister criticized the Montreal police for allowing women to wear hijabs on the job. Legault asked how a Jew would feel interrogated by a veiled policewoman.

A right-wing nationalistic politician citing Jewish sensibilities to oppose a police decision is a historic turnaround. In the annals of Canadian history, Quebec anti-Semitism is probably the most widely discussed variety. Most infamously, medical students at Montréal’s Notre-Dame Hospital went on strike in 1934 to block a Jewish student from taking up a senior internship.

But, Quebec anti-Semitism has been overemphasized in English Canada (at least in relation to the WASP variety) to undermine Quebec nationalism. Driven by Catholicism and simple xenophobia, anti-Jewish animus in Quebec was also enmeshed in legitimate majoritarian cultural and economic aspirations stifled by an Anglo elite, which Jews largely aligned with.

Francophones discriminated against Jews, yet were themselves subjugated by Anglos. While broadly recognized, this history is rarely contrasted with Francophone-Jewish oppression of others. From an Indigenous perspective, both groups’ wealth was largely derived from land stolen from First Nations.

In addition to stealing territory, French settlers enslaved Indigenous people. Aaron Hart, the first Jew who arrived with the conquering British forces in 1759, became the wealthiest landowner in the empire outside Britain. He and other Jews living in current day Quebec also held Africans as property. To better situate relative historic oppression, a Jew became grandmaster of the anti-Catholic Orange order in British North America three years after slavery was abolished while Toronto elected Nathan Phillips, its first Jewish mayor, in 1955, five years before Indigenous people gained the right to vote in Canada.

Even compared to some other “white” groups, French-Canadians and Jews have fared not so bad. During the First World War, thousands of Ukrainians were interned while 600 Canadians of Italian descent were jailed in the Second World War. In the mid-1800s, thousands of Irish died of typhus at an inspection and quarantine station on Grosse Ile in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Neither Jews nor Francophones suffered equivalent abuse.

Never at the bottom of the totem pole, both groups retain (broadly speaking) a distinct identity. French-speaking Québecois and Jews have also had the capacity to articulate their own histories. Both groups also share (again pardon the generalization) a sense of victimhood far out of proportion to their Canadian experience, which blinds many to their own religious/ethnic supremacism.

Quebec Racism

Quebec has more equitable child care, rent control, parental leave and post-secondary education systems. It also has an appealing pacifist current and Montreal has the most dynamic left protest culture of any city north of the Rio Grande. But, when it comes to race, I’d take Calgary over Quebec City, Kelowna over Shawinigan.

It took me a while to realize this. During my first few years in Montreal, I rejected the idea that Quebec nationalism enabled xenophobia. Now I see signs of it regularly.

A recent Journal de Montréal advertisement pictured its 23 columnists. All the faces were white, yet the ad noted: “Composed of personalities from all milieus and trends, our columnists offer a large diversity of opinion.”

To the left of the ideological spectrum, a September L’aut’journal commentary criticized multiculturalism and suggested an independent Quebec would restrict immigration. According to the nationalist paper’s publisher, Quebec currently requires immigrants to maintain its numeric and political strength within Canada but that would change with independence.

After winning office in 2012 the traditionally social democratic Parti Québecois stoked a “reasonable accommodation” debate simmering since a racially homogenous village between Montreal and Quebec City, Hérouxville, moved to write a code of conduct for immigrants in 2007. Deciding it was easier to dump on the most marginalized immigrants than challenge neoliberalism, the Parti Québecois introduced a Charter of Values targeted at removing veiled women from public sector jobs.

While the Charter of Values was presented as protecting Quebec’s secularist identity, a secularist movement worth its tabernacle would start by targeting the most ostentatious religious symbols and the last time I looked a big cross remains atop the mountain in Montreal’s name. Another adorns the national legislature in Quebec City.

Protecting a colonial language

I first encountered the blinders imposed by Quebec’s emboldened sense of vulnerability when Canada helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government in 2004. Quebec-based politicians, businesses and NGOs led Canada’s violent, undemocratic policies. In contrast to their generally weaker English Canadian counterparts, the Quebec Left largely supported the coup (or stayed quiet).

During three years of campaigning with Haiti Action Montréal a (broad) racial or linguistic pattern emerged: the more “pure laine” Québecois a person or institution, the more likely they were to be antagonistic to Haiti’s impoverished majority. Nationalist/leftist Le Devoir’s coverage of the coup was by far the worst of the city’s four dailies. Within La Presse, Mauritius-born Jooneed Khan was a singularly sympathetic voice while the Montreal Gazette included a few sympathetic reporters. The Mirror and Hour were also better than their francophone alt-weekly counterpart Voir.

The divide was also evident within left provincial party Québec Solidaire. Iranian-born spokesperson Amir Khadir was nominally sympathetic to Haiti solidarity activism while co-spokesperson François David traveled to the country in the midst of the coup government’s crimes. Upon her return, she parroted the elite’s perspective on Radio Canada and elsewhere, blaming supporters of the ousted government for violence. Later she spoke alongside Danielle Magloire, an individual who was part of the seven-person group that appointed the brutal coup prime minister Gérard Latortue.

Within nationalist intellectual circles Haiti has a certain cultural cachet. It’s partly based on the Haitian diaspora living here, but there are three times as many Quebeckers of Italian descent without the same mystique. Quebec’s relationship to Haiti is largely based on paternalism and a purported linguistic commonality. A 1984 North-South Institute report titled Canadian Development Assistance to Haiti explains that country’s importance to Quebec: “As the only independent French-speaking country in Latin American and the Caribbean, Haiti is of special importance for the preservation of the French language and culture.”

But, most Haitians don’t speak French. French is the language of Haiti’s elite and language has served as a mechanism through which they maintain their privilege (10 per cent of Haitians speak French fluently while basically everyone speaks Haitian Creole). A Quebec group in Haiti almost invariably reinforces the influence of French in that country. Whether conscious or not, a French-focused foreigner in Haiti has taken (at least linguistically speaking) a side in the country’s brutal class war. (In terms of Haitians adopting a more useful common second-language, Spanish would facilitate ties with the eastern half of the island while English would enable greater relations with other parts of the Caribbean.)

While the linguistic and class French-Creole divides are particularly striking in Haiti, similar divides exist in most former French colonies. Aside from Quebec, is there any place in the world where French is the language of the oppressed? Yet, to project this province’s linguistic heritage, Quebec provides more development assistance than other provinces and Ottawa expanded its aid to “Francophone” nations to placate Quebec nationalists.

Within the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) claims responsibility for relations with “French”-speaking countries. In the months after the removal of Haiti’s elected government, progressive elements within the CLC tried to pass a resolution critical of Canada’s role in overthrowing Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government and supporting a murderous dictatorship. The FTQ worked to dilute it and the Quebec labour federation repeatedly justified the coup.

One reason Québec groups were hostile to Haiti’s elected government was that Aristide promoted the Creole language at the expense of French. Progressive Quebec intellectuals and NGOs were tied to a Haitian elite benefiting from the power of French.

During a stint working for the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) union in Ottawa, I chalked up a white supremacist office dynamic partly to an empowered sense of linguistic vulnerability. The predominantly francophone Quebec office staff were righteous about bilingualism, which made sense for a pan-Canadian union. But, it made me wonder if this blinded the generally well-treated office to its lily-white character in a neighborhood with many of Arab and Somali descent. When the union collapsed into Unifor in 2013 and the national office transferred to Toronto, I briefly worked in a significantly more racially diverse space.

Are Canadian Jews underdogs?

Toronto opened my eyes to another group’s empowered sense of vulnerability. In summer 2014 I saw thousands demonstrate in favour of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, a small strip of land inhabited by Palestinians mostly driven from their homes in 1947/48.

I was shoved, spat on, had my bike damaged and lock stolen by men wearing “never again” T-shirts. My offence was to chant “kill more Palestinian children” as hundreds of Jewish Defense League and B’nai Brith supporters rallied at Queens Park to applaud the onslaught on Gaza in a counter demonstration to those opposed to Israel’s massacres.

Over the two-month long “war,” I witnessed numerous random outbursts of anti-Arab racism. During a rally on Bloor Street a middle-aged man walking with his partner crumbled a leaflet I handed him, pointed at two older Arab looking men who responded, and yelled “barbarians.” In a similarly bizarre racist outburst, a man who was biking past a demonstration stopped to engage and soon after he was pointing at a young Arab looking child close by and telling me that I was indoctrinating him to kill. And then an older woman interrupted a phone conversation I was having about Israel’s destruction of Gaza and yelled she hoped Israel kills “10,000 more.”

But, it was a young man in a tank top who embodied the dangers of an empowered sense of vulnerability. The stereotypical college football quarterback stood at the end of a 300 metre long fence separating competing rallies and berated largely recent immigrant Muslim families arriving at the Ontario legislature. When I confronted him, he invoked “never again,” but once he realized I wasn’t having the Jewish victimhood shtick the privileged looking twenty-something simply flipped the script, unleashing a torrent of racist, supremacist, views.

In a more sophisticated way the establishment Jewish organizations did the same. In the midst of Israel’s 2014 onslaught on Gaza United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, B’nai Brith, Canada Israel Experience, March of the Living Canada and the Jewish National Fund organized a pro-war demonstration under the banner: “We Will Not be Silent: A March Against Global Anti-Semitism.” The Times of Israel reported: “The purpose of the march was passionately summed up in Bill Glied’s closing remarks: ‘Thank God for the IDF [Israel’s army]. Thank God for Israel. And remember together we must stand. Never again!'”

Framed as a challenge to prejudice, the march was little more than a group of white people calling for the further subjugation of brown folk. About 1,500 Palestinian and six Israeli civilians were killed during the seven-week war.

In another stark example of the Jewish establishment’s empowered sense of vulnerability, two weeks ago the Atlantic Jewish Council packed Halifax Pride’s annual general meeting with straight white men to vote down a Queer Arabs of Halifax resolution to disallow the distribution of materials at the Pride Fair touting Israel’s purported LGBT-friendliness. Queer Arabs of Halifax claimed these materials were part of an Israeli campaign to “pinkwash” its violations of Palestinian rights. After the vote an audience member reportedly yelled “‘Straight white pride wins again’ and a contingent of BIPOC people [Black, Indigenous and People of Colour], many with tears in their eyes, angrily left the room.”

In April, Canadian Jewish News editor Yoni Goldstein responded to my criticism of his paper’s racism and abuse of the term “anti-Semitism” by claiming “Jews are the main victim of hate crimes in Canada.” Nonsense. What Goldstein ought to have written is: “Jewish organizations are best equipped to catalogue and publicize hate crimes targeted at their community.”

At a time when institutional anti-Semitism had largely disappeared, B’nai Brith started producing an annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents in Canada in 1982. In A History of Antisemitism in Canada, Ira Robinson writes, “the scope and sophistication of the Audit’s reporting have greatly increased in the more than 30 years in which the report has appeared, as have the number of incidents reported.”

Many of the allegedly anti-Semitic incidents B’nai Brith catalogues are expressions of Palestinian solidarity activism. Their 2014 report noted: “Toronto — Woman at Israel support rally harassed as she was walking home because she was carrying an Israeli flag. Calgary — Fuck Israel spray painted on roadway. Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto — Multiple assaults take place at Pro-Palestinian or Pro-Israel rallies.”

In Underdog: Confessions of a Right-Wing Gay Jewish Muckraker, Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy implies Jews are “underdogs.” In a Jewish Forward interview, she noted: “The number of anti-Semitic people out there, and the volume of virulent and vitriolic emails I get, is appalling.”

But, there’s little socio-economic data to back up the idea of Jewish victimhood in Canada. Do Jews have higher unemployment rates? Are they overrepresented in jail? Do they commit suicide more often? Are their children more likely to be taken from their care? Do they have higher high-school dropout rates? Are they underpaid for equal work? Is their legal discrimination against Jews?

It is simply preposterous to claim Jews are underdogs in Toronto. Among elite business, political and professional circles Jewish representation surpasses their slim 1.3 per cent of the Canadian population. Canadian Jews are twice as likely as the general population to hold a bachelors degree and three times more likely to earn over $75,000. In The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora: Origins, Experiences and Culture, Mark Avrum Ehrlich claims a fifth of the wealthiest Canadians were Jewish and Toronto’s Shalom Life reported that six of the 24 Canadians who made Forbes’ 2011 list of global billionaires were Jewish.

An exclusive inner-city suburb, Hampstead reflects Jewish ascension in Montréal. Until after the Second World War, Jews were largely excluded from the small municipality modeled after the Garden City movement, a late-1800s move by London’s elite to move out of the city centre. Without retail shops in its boundaries, Quebec’s second-wealthiest municipality is now three-quarters Jewish.

A specialist in Canadian Jewish history, Harold Troper provides a window into Canadian Jewry’s empowered sense of victimhood:

“Jewish students in my classes…feel a strong proprietary right to the history of anti-Semitism, to the Holocaust, and to the earlier era of overt anti-Jewish discrimination in Canada. It is their proximate history, a basic element in their Jewish identity…That their experience of anti-Semitism is secondhand or thirdhand, however, does not seem to weaken their deeply held and often expressed conviction that anti-Semitism is a clear and present danger today.”

But, as a group Jews in Canada are not oppressed. Nor are Quebeckers. This is not to say there isn’t anti-Jewish prejudice or that federal government policies considered pro-Québec don’t elicit anti-Quebec comments. But, in both groups’ case this prejudice has little impact on their material or social reality.

Born 80 years earlier, François Legault would probably have supported Montréal medical students’ anti-Jewish strike. But, times have changed. The right-wing nationalist politician now sees Jews as potential allies in his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant campaign.

No matter whether his political calculation is correct, Legault’s outlook highlights a historical reversal. And it reflects an ever-present danger of nationalism — be it Israeli or Quebec — when claims of historic victimhood are used to oppress others, the ideology is no longer progressive, but rather has descended into xenophobia, jingoism and racist chauvinism.

Comments Off on Xenophobia, racism accompany right wing Israeli and Quebecois nationalism

Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

Israeli apologists blinded by ‘Zionist religion’

Israel apologists often complain about leftists “singling Israel out” or “obsessing” over the country, inferring a motivation of anti-Semitism.

Putting aside the obvious truth that “obsessing” over the plight of an oppressed people ought to be considered a compliment and campaigning on any issue amounts to “singling” it out, the accusation often represents what a Freudian analyst would call a “projection.”

It is the Israeli nationalists themselves who single out and obsess over that country.

In Understanding the Zionist ReligionNational Post columnist and Walrus Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Kay wrote, “At a recent large speaking event at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, for instance, a middle-aged woman proudly told the crowd that she spent eight hours a day on Facebook groups devoted to the subject. Other crowd members seemed to regard this as an admirable lifestyle choice. … Many Jewish retirees I know have quite literally made online Israel advocacy a full-time calling… In some cases I have observed, it is not an exaggeration to say that Zionism is not just the dominant factor in Jews’ political lives—but also in their spiritual lives.”

Beyond the psychological aspect, the argument Israel is treated unfairly by leftists collapses upon historical inspection. In fact, one could better argue that the Canadian left remains in debt to Palestinians and must make up for all the one-sided support it gave to the Zionist project over the decades.

For example:

  • At its inaugural convention in 1956, the Canadian Labour Congress called on the “government to lend sympathetic support to Israel’s request for defensive armaments, in order that Israel may match, in quality if not in quantity, the constant flow of Soviet bloc armaments into the Arab countries, and further appeals to our government to use its good offices in urging other free Western countries to do likewise.” The resolution was passed just before Israel invaded Egypt alongside former colonial powers France and Britain. What is especially disturbing about this resolution is that Canada had been selling Israel weapons for a number of years and was under (private) pressure from Washington to send Israel advanced fighter jets. I’m unfamiliar with the CLC ever calling for weaponry to be sent to another country.
  • Anger at decades of unwavering support for Israeli expansionism prompted a resolution to the CLC’s 1988 convention, which never made the floor, noting: “whereas in the past both the Federation and Congress have often been reluctant to allow debate on resolutions critical of Israel, often scheduling them so that they will not reach the floor. Therefore be it resolved that in light of the extensive killing and violation of Palestinian human rights by Israel, that the resolutions committee for the Canadian Labour Congress convention schedule resolutions so that the delegates can have the opportunity to debate this issue.”
  • Labour unions have also offered Israel unique financial support. With the new state having difficulty raising money on Wall Street, Israel Bonds were launched in 1951 to pay for infrastructure. According to a 2005 estimate, Canadian unions purchased $20 million worth of Israel Bonds annually. Economics was the main motivation for acquiring Israel Bonds but there was also “a historical bond between Israel and the unions,” said Lawrence Waller, executive vice president of State of Israel Bonds Canada, which to this day has a Canadian labour division that organizes annual dinners.
  • In 2000 Hamilton’s Jewish National Fund dedicated its Negev Dinner to Enrico and Joe Mancinelli from the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). The union’s pension fund began investing in Israel Bonds in the early 1980s and in 1999 Joe Mancinelli visited Israel to see the construction and infrastructure projects financed by Israel Bonds. “They have a longstanding relationship with and support for the state of Israel,” said Jewish National Fund Hamilton chairperson Tom Weisz to the Hamilton Spectator.
  • The Jewish National Fund reveals another way in which Israel is “singled out.” To the best of my knowledge it is the only openly racist organization “leftists” continue to associate with. Manitoba NDP Premier Gary Doer was honoured at a 2006 JNF Negev Dinner, as was cabinet minister Christine Melnick in 2011. During a 2010 trip to Israel subsequent NDP Premier Greg Selinger signed an accord with the JNF to jointly develop two bird conservation sites while water stewardship minister Melnick spoke at the opening ceremony for a park built in Jaffa by the JNF, Tel Aviv Foundation and Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable.
  • In 2013 Green Party leader Elizabeth May attended a JNF fundraiser in Ottawa. In an interview afterwards she lauded “the great work that’s [the JNF] done in making the desert bloom.”

An organization that explicitly discriminates in land use policies, the JNF is but one of hundreds of charities the Canada Revenue Agency authorizes tax credits for donations to a wealthy and far away country. A mid-1990s survey found there were more than 300 registered Canadian charities with ties to Israel and in 1991 the Ottawa Citizen estimated Canadian Jews sent more than $100 million a year to Israel and possibly as much as $200 million. How many registered Canadian charities funnel money to France or Sweden?

When leftists speak out on the issue, they are often “singled out” for abuse even by purported left organizations. A month ago, Elizabeth May expelled three members of the party’s shadow cabinet for publicly defending the Greens’ recent vote for “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories].”

Similarly, during the 2015 federal election the NDP blocked or removed a half-dozen individuals from running as candidates after it came to light they criticized Israeli violence. Not since Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis purged the leftist Waffle in the early 1970s has the party done anything similar.

The truth is that if Canada, the US and Britain had never “singled out” Israel for special treatment, Palestinians would have long had their homeland and the entire region would be more stable. Canadians blinded by the “Zionist religion” need to seek treatment before accusing others of what they do.

Comments Off on Israeli apologists blinded by ‘Zionist religion’

Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Anti-Palestinian coverage part of broader media pattern

Media coverage of world affairs mostly focuses on Ottawa/Washington’s perspective. While the dominant media is blatant in its subservience to Canadian/Western power, even independent media is often afraid to challenge the foreign policy status quo.

A recent Canadaland podcast simultaneously highlighted anti-Palestinian media bias and the fear liberal journalists’ face in discussing one of the foremost social justice issues of our time. The media watchdog’s discussion of the Green Party’s recent resolutions supporting Palestinian rights started strong with Canadaland publisher Jesse Brown laying out three “facts”:

  • In an editorial titled “[Elizabeth] May must renounce anti-Israel resolutions” the Vancouver Sun (reposted on the Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald websites) called Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) “an anti-Israel group that uses the fig leaf of Jewishness to lend support to Iran, deny the Holocaust, participate in anti-Semitic Al-Quds protests, encourage terrorism against Israelis and promulgate lies about Israel’s history, society and policies.” When IJV sent a letter threatening libel action Postmedia removed the editorial from its websites.
  • A B’nai B’rith article described left-wing news outlet Rabble.ca as a “racist, white supremacist and antisemitic website”, which they erased after a media inquiry.
  • Not one of a “couple dozen” reports examined about the Green Party resolution calling for “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories]” quoted a supporter of the successful motion.

Instead of seriously considering these “facts”, one Canadaland panellist partially justified suppressing Green Party voices favouring the BDS resolution and opposed talking about pro-Zionist media coverage because it contributes to stereotypes of Jewish control over the media. Diverting further from his “facts”, Brown bemoaned anti-Semitism and how Israel/Palestine debates rarely lead to agreement while another panellist mocked people from small towns who express an opinion on the subject. Aired on dozens of community radio stations across the country, the episode ended with a comment about how people shouldn’t protest those killed by Israel if they don’t take a position on the conflict between “North and South Sudan”.

(“North Sudan”, of course, doesn’t exist. And the ongoing war in that region is between two political/ethnic groups within South Sudan, which gained independence five years ago. But, even if they’d gotten their Sudan facts right, the statement is akin to saying Canadaland shouldn’t discuss major advertiser Enbridge pressuring the Vancouver Province to remove a cartoon critical of its Northern Gateway pipeline project because the show didn’t say anything about Tata Motors removing ads from the Times of India over their auto reporting.)

After detailing stark anti-Palestinian media bias, the Canadaland panellists cowered in the face of the “facts” presented. They failed to discuss whether the examples cited reflect a broader pattern (they do), what impact this has on Canadians’ perceptions of Palestinians (it is damaging) or explain the source of the bias.

One wonders if this reflects the panellists’ anti-Semitism, as if they fear talking about coverage of Israel will reveal a “Jewish conspiracy” to shape the news. But, there is no ethnic/religious conspiracy, rather a powerful propaganda system “hiding in plain sight”. While Canadian media bias on Palestine is glaring, that’s largely owing to the depths of grassroots activism on the issue, rather than dynamics particular to the subject. In fact, Canadian media bias on all aspects of this country’s foreign policy is shocking.

While there are particularities, coverage of Israel/Palestine fits the dominant media’s broad bias in favour of power on topics ranging from Haiti to Canada’s international mining industry. The main explanation for the biased coverage is a small number of mega corporations own most of Canada’s media and these firms are integrated with the broader elite and depend on other large corporations for advertising revenue. Media outlets also rely on US wire services and powerful institutions for most of their international coverage and these same institutions have the power to punish media that upset them.

Discussing the structural forces driving media bias and how they interact with the Canadian establishment’s long history of support for Zionism/Israel is a lot for a radio segment. But, the Canadaland panelists could have at least explored some notable developments/dynamics driving anti-Palestinian coverage.

After buying a dozen dailies in 2000 Izzy Asper pushed the CanWest newspaper chain to adopt extremist pro-Israel positions. When Montréal Gazette publisher Michael Goldbloom suddenly resigned in 2001 the Globe and Mail reported “sources at The Gazette confirmed yesterday that senior editors at the paper were told earlier that month to run a strongly worded, pro-Israel editorial on a Saturday op-ed page”, which was written by the head office in Winnipeg and was accompanied by a no rebuttal order. The CanWest editorial demanded Ottawa support Israel even as Israeli government ministers called for the assassination of PLO head Yasser Arafat after 15 Israelis were killed. “Canada must recognize the incredible restraint shown by the Israeli government under the circumstances. … Howsoever the Israeli government chooses to respond to this barbaric atrocity should have the unequivocal support of the Canadian government without the usual hand-wringing criticism about ‘excessive force.’ Nothing is excessive in the face of an enemy sworn to your annihilation.”

In 2004 the CanWest head office was caught directing papers to edit Reuters stories to denigrate Palestinians. “The message that was passed down to the copy desk was to change ‘militant’ to ‘terrorist’ when talking about armed Palestinians,” Charles Shannon, a Montréal Gazette copy editor, told The Nation. “One definite edict that came down was that there should be no criticism of Israel.”

(One Reuters story was changed from “the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a four-year-old revolt against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank” to “the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group that has been involved in a four-year-old campaign of violence against Israel.”)

While Aspers’ interventions were crass, they elicited limited response since anti-Palestinianism pervades the political and media establishments. Both a reflection of this bias and propelling it forward, leading media figures have various links to Israeli nationalist organizations. In 2014 the president of Postmedia, which controls most of English Canada’s daily newspaper circulation, was chairman of the Calgary Gala of the Jewish National Fund, which discriminates against non-Jewish Israelis in its land-use policies. Paul Godfrey is not the first influential media figure fêted by the explicitly racist organization. In 2007 Ottawa Citizen publisher Jim Orban was honorary chair of JNF Ottawa’s annual Gala while prominent CBC commentators Rex Murphy and Rick Mercer, as well as US journalists Barbra Walters and Bret Stephens, have spoken at recent JNF events.

The Ottawa Citizen has sponsored a number of the racist institution’s galas. The paper has also covered JNF events in which the Citizen is listed as a ‘Proud Supporter’. In what may indicate a formal financial relationship the JNF promoted their 2013 Ottawa Gala in the Citizen, including running an advertisement the day after the event. According to the Israeli press, the JNF has entered financial agreements with numerous media outlets, including a recent 1.5 million shekels ($500,000) accord with Israel’s Channel 10 to run 14 news reports about its work.

Prominent media figures often speak at pro-Israel events. In 2015 editor-in-chief of The Walrus Jonathan Kay and Postmedia columnist Terry Glavin spoke on a panel with Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs CEO Shimon Fogel at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington DC. Conversely, Palestinian solidarity groups rarely have the resources to pay for high profile journalists and most leading media figures fear associating with their struggle.

While Israeli nationalist organizations prefer to draw influential media figures close, they also have the capacity to punish those challenging their worldview. Honest Reporting Canada organizes Israel apologist ‘flack’. The registered charity monitors the media and engages its supporters to respond to news outlets that fail to toe its extreme Israeli nationalist line. If pursued consistently this type of ‘flack’ drives editors and journalists to avoid topics or be more cautious when covering an issue.

In my forthcoming book A Propaganda System: How the Canadian government, media, corporations and academia sell war and exploitation I detail numerous instances of media owners interceding in international affairs coverage, as well as institutions drawing in influential newspeople and organizing ‘flack’ campaigns. But, there are two unique elements shaping Palestine/Israel coverage.

As a partially ethno/religious conflict the greater number of Jews than Palestinians (or Arabs) in positions of influence within the Canadian media does exacerbate the overarching one-sidedness. In a backdoor way Canadaland’s Jesse Brown highlighted this point when he describes Israeli family members influencing his opinion on the topic.

Another dynamic engendering anti-Palestinianism in the media is Israeli nationalist groups’ capacity to accuse Canadians’ standing up for a people facing the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism of being motivated by a widely discredited prejudice. At the heart of the ideological system, journalists are particularly fearful of being labeled “anti-Semitic” and the smear puts social justice activists on the defensive.

When a “couple dozen” articles fail to quote a single proponent of a Green resolution pressing Israel to relinquish illegally occupied land it suggests systemic media bias. Canadaland’s inability to contextualize this anti-Palestinianism reveals a media watchdog subservient to the dominant foreign-policy framework about Israel. 

And a sign of how bad coverage is of all foreign affairs.

Comments Off on Anti-Palestinian coverage part of broader media pattern

Filed under A Propaganda System, Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

Could Christian Zionism explain Green Party leader’s threats to resign?

Elizabeth May’s response to Green Party members voting to oppose Canadian support for Israeli colonialism has been wildly anti-democratic. She has not simply disagreed with a majority of members, which could reflect healthy internal processes, but publicly derided the party’s procedures and members’ clearly expressed opinions. After diluting a resolution about revoking the Jewish National Fund of Canada’s charitable status strongly endorsed by members in an online poll, May threatened to resign if the party didn’t organize another vote on a BDS resolution members strongly backed in a pre-convention online poll, convention caucus and full convention vote.

The possibility of the Green Party leader resigning over BDS has thrust the Israel boycott into the news and will turn into a highly fortuitous development for the Palestinian cause if members remain steadfast. But, May’s actions make little sense from a Green perspective.

As Maclean’s magazine pointed out, the party has more to gain by aligning with the growing number of Canadians critical of Ottawa’s support for Israeli colonialism. Only if one believes May could lose her seat in the House of Commons over the matter, which seems improbable, would embracing Palestine solidarity activism be bad electorally.

According to a poll conducted just before Israel killed 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza in 2014, 16% of Canadians sided with Palestine, while 17% sided with Israel. (The rest were undecided.) The percentage of Canadians who sided with Palestine is almost five times the 3.4% of Canadians who voted for the Greens last year. Additionally, the issue drives NDP activists to the party. The Greens have already gained a number of prominent NDP members disenchanted with that party’s support for Israeli violence.

But, even if you disagree with this electoral calculation, May’s reaction still makes little sense from the party’s perspective. Her actions have upset Palestinian sympathizers yet the media storm over the BDS vote makes it hard to imagine anyone mildly sympathetic to Israeli colonialism would vote, let alone campaign, for the Greens even if May succeeds in modifying the party’s support for BDS at a special convention.

Since her actions make little electoral sense, commentators have speculated May is driven by a combination of ego, fear of Jewish Zionist groups’ accusations of anti-Semitism, a desire to join the Liberal cabinet or her establishment foreign-policy outlook. But, the influence of Christian Zionism represents an unexplored variable in May’s position.

A practicing Anglican, May was studying to become a priest until a few years ago. She’s disparaged abortion and questioned whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a practicing Christian. “Being a Christian in politics is part of who I am as a person, so I don’t hide it”, May explained to the Anglican Journal in 2013.

In 2013 she praised the Jewish National Fund for “the great work that’s done in making the desert bloom.” While not explicitly Christian Zionist wording, this (anti-ecological) statement echoes its thinking.

While only May knows exactly what drives her thinking/positions, her church has a long history of Zionism, which began as a Christian movement. “Christian proto- Zionists [existed] in England 300 years before modern Jewish Zionism emerged,” notes Evangelics and Israel. Until the mid-1800s Zionism was an almost entirely non-Jewish movement. And yet it was quite active. Between 1796 and 1800 there were at least 50 books published in Europe about the Jews’ return to Palestine. The movement reflected the more literal readings of the Bible that flowed out of the Protestant Reformation.

One of May’s co-religionists Rev. William H. Hechler, chaplain to the British Embassy in Vienna, arranged for Jewish Zionist leader Theodore Herzl to meet Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Ottoman sultan, which then controlled Palestine. Another Anglican, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, came up with the infamous Zionist slogan “a land without people for a people without a land”. He wanted Jews to go to their “rightful home” (Palestine) under a British protectorate. According to a Canadian Jewish News review of Allies for Armageddon: The Rise of Christian Zionism, “The Earl of Shaftesbury was the first millennariast, or restorationist, to blend the biblical interest in Jews and their ancient homeland with the cold realities of [British imperial] foreign policy.” He got Britain’s foreign secretary to appoint the first British consul to Jerusalem in 1839.

A speech in England by Anthony Ashley Cooper in 1839 or 1840 was the first encounter with Zionist thinking for Canada’s leading early proponent of the movement. At the time of Confederation Canada’s preeminent Zionist was Henry Wentworth Monk who briefly studied to become an Anglican minister. In A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada Irving Abella explains: “Henry Wentworth Monk, an eccentric but respected businessman, spent much of his time and money crusading for a Jewish homeland. In the 1870s and 1880s — long before Theodore Herzl, the Austrian founder of [Jewish] Zionism, even thought of a Jewish state — Monk took up a campaign in Canada and England to raise funds to buy land in Palestine for European Jews. In 1881 Monk even proposed setting up a Jewish National Fund. He issued manifestoes, wrote long articles, spoke to assorted meetings and lobbied extensively in England and Canada to realize his dream.” Citing a mix of Christian and pro-British Empire rationale, Monk called on London to establish a “dominion of Israel” similar to the dominion of Canada.

Monk was not alone in Canada. Many public figures, including prime ministers Lester Pearson and Arthur Meighan, expressed Christian Zionist thinking in backing the formation of the Israeli state. The son of a minister, Pearson’s memoirs refer to Israel as “the land of my Sunday School lessons” where he learned that “the Jews belonged in Palestine.”

While Christian Zionism is now associated with right-wingers such as evangelist Charles McVety, who campaigns against sexual education in Ontario schools, Left Christian Zionism has a long history. Future CCF (the NDP’s predecessor) leaders Tommy Douglas and Stanley Knowles, as well as a number of labour leaders, were members of the Canadian Palestine Committee (CPC), a group of prominent non-Jewish Zionists formed in 1943. (Future external minister Paul Martin Sr. and the premier of Alberta, Ernest C. Manning, were also members). Many CPC members’ Zionism was partly motivated by biblical teachings. Both Knowles and Douglas were Protestant ministers and, as an indication of the extent to which religion shaped Douglas, his main biography is titled Tommy Douglas: The Road to Jerusalem. In 1975, Douglas, the “father of Medicare”, 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.” This speech was made eight years into Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and a quarter century after 800,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed in 1947/48.

A decade later Canadian Labour Congress president Dennis McDermott, who referred to himself as a “Catholic Zionist”, denounced a Canadian Senate report that rebuked Israel’s 1982 invasion/occupation of Lebanon and provided mild support for the Palestinian Liberation Organization. McDermott said the 1985 Senate report, which stopped short of calling the PLO the legitimate voice of Palestinians, was an “exercise in bad judgment and, even worse, bad taste.” (A portrait of McDermott hangs in a library named after him at the trade school of the Histadrut.)

Aggressive Christian Zionism still crops up in progressive circles. When I spoke about the Conservatives’ losing their bid for a seat on the UN Security Council to a Council of Canadians meeting in Delta BC, an older woman interrupted me to ask: “are you criticizing Harper’s support for Israel? Doesn’t the Bible say Israel is the Jewish homeland?”

May, of course, would never be so crass. But, she is associated with a religious tradition that has promoted this type of thinking. Recognizing their contribution to Palestinian dispossession, some Christian groups have sought to right a historical wrong by divesting from or boycotting companies enabling Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. Others have directly challenged Christian Zionism.

In 2013 the Anglican Church of Canada committed itself “to explore and challenge theologies and beliefs, such as Christian Zionism, which support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.” Last year a number of groups organized an important multi-day conference in Vancouver titled “Seeking the Peace of Jerusalem: Overcoming Christian Zionism in the Quest for Justice.”

I can’t say for sure whether Christian Zionism has influenced Elizabeth May’s thinking. But, it’s clear she’s not supporting progressive Anglicans and other Christians reassessing their contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

Comments Off on Could Christian Zionism explain Green Party leader’s threats to resign?

Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

Misuse of term ‘anti-Semitic’ will have repercussions

Sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me — and they may come back to haunt the name-callers.

In finding anti-Semites behind every challenge to Canadian complicity with Israeli colonialism, mainstream Jewish organizations are emptying the term “anti-Semitism” of its historical weight.

The Green Party of Canada’s vote in favour of the anti-Semitic boycott campaign against Israel shows the party has been infected by a vicious strain of anti-Jewish hate,” said the President of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, Avi Benlolo. In case anyone missed his point the head of the self-described “top Jewish human rights foundation in Canada with a substantial constituency” added that the Green’s “sole foreign policy is based on anti-Semitic hatred.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai Brith released only slightly less wild statements in response to the Greens supporting “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories].”

The Greens’ resolution, which is basically official Canadian government policy — based as it is on two states and the illegality of the settlements — with a little added pressure, freaks out Israeli nationalists because they understand it is a crack in the decades-old settler-state solidarity shield of invincibility. So, establishment pro-Israel organizations are increasingly shrill in smearing the growing Palestinian solidarity movement. While supporters of Palestinian rights generally ignore these smears or reply that it’s not anti-Semitic to stand up for Palestinian rights, defensive strategies aren’t sufficient. The anti-Semitic label is too potent to not confront directly.

It seems to this writer that the name-callers are on a track that will eventually lead to a new reality, one where:

• Those who are smeared will begin to embrace the label. People will begin to understand that if they haven’t been called anti-Semitic (or self hating) they’re probably not doing enough to support justice.

• Mocking the accuser and the term will become common. Benlolo et al. will be bombarded with tweets and messages about anti-Semites at the library, gym, behind the bed etc. Jokes about anti-Semitism will undercut the word’s force.

For example: Q. What does it take to get a student union to divest from Israel’s occupation? A. A dozen hard-core Jew-hating campaigners and 3,000 anti-Semites.

• Eventually, the embrace of the term by social justice advocates will lead to a widespread re-appropriation of its meaning. It could come to have ironically positive usage like the “N-word” in certain African-American circles. Or like the word Canuck, which originally was a term of derision aimed at French Canadians in New England, perhaps it will one day be displayed proudly on hockey team jerseys.

• If right-wing Israeli nationalist groups persist in their efforts to debase the Shoah in the service of colonialism and power, dictionaries and Wikipedia will be pressed to add “a movement for justice and equality” to their definition of anti-Semitism. (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary actually included “opposition to Zionism: sympathy with opponents of the state of Israel”, as part of its definition of anti-Semitism.)

Of course, considering the historical oppression originally defined by the term, most progressive-minded folk would be discomforted by the idea of mocking and re-appropriating “anti-Semitism.” But, isn’t this inevitable when “leading Jewish organizations” publicly denounce “anti-Semitism” in inverse relation to discernible anti-Jewish animus?

When Jews fleeing Hitler’s atrocities were blocked from entering Canada, notes A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada, the dominant Jewish organizations mostly shied away from publicly criticizing Ottawa’s prejudice. Similarly, some Jewish representatives negotiated with McGill over the cap it placed on Jews in some university programs in the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

While some Jewish activists at the time pushed for a more forceful response to this quantifiable anti-Semitism, the “leading” community representatives didn’t want to rock the boat. Their aim was largely to join the power structure.

Today, the dominant Jewish organizations are well entrenched within the ruling elite. Whether they smear a political party, university students or the World Social Forum (“an event that was widely denounced as anti-Semitic”, according to a Canadian Jewish News report about last week’s conference in Montréal), they face little pushback in mainstream political and media life.

Nor do the less extreme elements within the Jewish community devote much energy to challenging the debasement of the term anti-Semitism. With the exception of Independent Jewish Voices, some smaller activist groups and a few righteous commentators, most liberal Jews are apathetic in the face of the cynical manipulation of centuries of Christian European prejudice.

One reason, I would postulate, is a lack of genuine concern over anti-Semitism in this country. Christianity has largely lost its cultural weight and a half-dozen other ethnic/religious groups are more likely to be targeted if there were an explosion of xenophobia in this country.

Over the past half-century Canadian Jews lived experience suggests little prejudice. In fact, most Canadian Jews benefit from white privilege and, to the extent an individual is tied into the generally educated and prosperous community, they benefit from accompanying familial and social advantages. As such, individuals uncomfortable about the nonsensical claims of anti-Semitism, simply don’t consider it worth putting their neck out to challenge the obvious damage done to the term by Simon Wiesenthal Center, B’nai Brith and CIJA, which have institutional/financial reasons to monger fear.

The primary public use of “anti-Semitism” today is to denigrate those defending a people facing the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism. Those who seek equality and international justice need to directly confront this abuse.

Comments Off on Misuse of term ‘anti-Semitic’ will have repercussions

Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

The Left in denial over Canadian imperialism

As hard as it is to admit for a former junior hockey player who spends many hours writing at the neighbourhood Tim Hortons, some things are better in the USA.

For example, comparing Green Party leader Elizabeth May to her American counterpart Jill Stein on foreign-policy issues puts Canada to shame. While Stein has articulated forthright criticism on various international issues, May spouts nationalist platitudes as often as she challenges unjust policies.

Recently, Stein endorsed the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, called for Washington and Moscow to work together and said, “US pursuit of regime change in Libya, Iraq, and Syria created the chaos that promotes power grabs by extremist militias. Many of the weapons we are sending into Syria to arm anti-government militias are winding up in the hands of ISIS. This isn’t a clever foreign policy — it’s disastrous militarism.”

For her part, May spent last weekend undermining her party’s internal democracy to protect the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund and Israel from censure. At their convention in Ottawa May and most of the Green leadership succeeded in eliminating any mention of the JNF in a resolution, which was rewritten from targeting that institution to call on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the status of all charities engaged in international human rights violations. Fortunately, the party leadership failed to block a resolution endorsing BDS in what is probably the single most significant pro-Palestinian victory in Canadian history.

While the Green members who bucked the party leadership to support the JNF and BDS resolutions deserve to be congratulated, the anti-Palestinian, right-wing Israeli nationalist groups who terrorized May in the lead-up to the convention raised an important, if disingenuous, point: Why were there only two resolutions dealing with foreign-policy at the convention? Why didn’t the Greens debate Canadian mining companies’ abuses abroad, special forces in Iraq/Syria, international tar sands promotion, troops on the Russian border, among numerous other important international issues?

The Green’s 2015 federal election foreign-policy platform paper was peppered with nationalist platitudes. It said “Canada is fundamentally a peaceful country” and “defender of human rights.” In laying out the party’s 2015 election position in Esprit de Corps magazine May wrote, “the world needs more Canada” and argued, “we should also support the United Nations’ ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) doctrine”, which was used to justify bombing Libya in 2011 and ousting Haiti’s elected government in 2004.

May backed the Conservative government’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, a $30-$40 billion effort to expand the combat fleet over three decades. But the naval upgrade will strengthen Canadian officials’ capacity to bully weaker countries. The 2000 book Canadian Gunboat Diplomacy details the navy’s extensive history of flexing its muscles, including dozens of interventions in the Caribbean and pressuring Costa Rica to repay money the Royal Bank loaned to an unpopular dictator. And it’s not just history; over the past 25 years the Canadian Navy has played an increasing pro-imperial role in the Middle East and off parts of Africa.

May and Green Party policy statements have also mythologized Canadian foreign policy, citing Lester Pearson as some sort of hero. May claimed “a Green Party approach to international issues will return Canada to the values of Lester B. Pearson.” But, as I detail in Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt, the former external minister and prime minister was an ardent cold warrior, who played a part in dispossessing Palestinians, creating NATO and helping the US wage war in Vietnam and Korea.

Of course, the problem runs deeper than May or the Green Party. Much of the Canadian ‘left’ is highly nationalistic, wedded to both the idea this country is a US “dependency” and international “peacekeeper”.

While far from what’s needed, internationalist minded Americans have helped expose US imperialism. Progressive people in this country have largely failed to do the same with Canadian imperialism. In fact, left-wing Canadian academics have probably written more books and articles criticizing US foreign policy than Canada’s.

Certainly the US left has built more of an infrastructure/culture willing to genuinely challenge US foreign policy. A number of prominent academics are highly critical of US foreign policy and left-wing US media outlets such as CounterPunch, Z, Dissident Voice, Common Dreams, etc. shun foreign-policy apologetics.

In Canada the most prominent ‘left-wing’ foreign-policy think tank is led by Peggy Mason who was a key adviser to Conservative foreign minister Joe Clark in the late 1980s and has held numerous diplomatic postings and UN positions since. During a 2012 National Defence Committee parliamentary meeting on NATO the head of the Rideau Institute noted, “I’m talking as someone who has spent the better part of the last 10 years working with NATO.” Mason trained NATO commanders for peace and crisis stabilization operations and boasted she trained the general Charles Bouchard, who led the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya, which the Rideau Institute head described as a “very important mission.”

The Rideau Institute’s lead collaborator/advisor is an employee of the Canadian Forces who aggressively supported Canada’s worst foreign-policy crime of the first decade of the 21st century (the coup in Haiti). Walter Dorn’s Rideau Institute reports are usually co-published by Canada’s leading left think tank, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. While the CCPA Monitor publishes some articles critical of Canadian foreign policy, its international affairs reports, which receive the bulk of resources, do not offer serious criticism. A number of recent reports have called for adjustments to military priorities while accepting the broad outlines of Canadian militarism. In February they co-published Unprepared for Peace?: The decline of Canadian peacekeeping training (and what to do about it). On the cover of the report a white Canadian soldier, with a massive M-16 strapped around his shoulder, is bent over to hold the hand of a young black boy. In the background are Canadian and UN colours. A call for the Canadian Forces to offer its members more peacekeeping training, Unprepared for peace? is premised on the erroneous notion that UN missions are by definition socially useful and it repeatedly implies that Canada’s most significant recent contribution to a UN mission — the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) — was an operation we should be proud of.

Last year the CCPA and Rideau Institute co-published Smart Defence: A Plan for Rebuilding Canada’s Military, which introduces the issue this way: “When the Harper government came to power in 2006, it pledged to rebuild Canada’s military. But for nine long years, it has failed to deliver on most of its promises, from new armoured trucks and supply ships to fighter jets and search-and-rescue planes.” Author Michael Byers peppers the report with various militarist claims. Canada “faces challenges at home and abroad that require a well-equipped and capable military,” he writes. At another point he says “the Canadian Army cannot deploy large numbers of troops overseas because of a shortage of armoured trucks.” In other words, let’s improve Canada’s military capacity.

While mostly providing a counterpoint to the dominant media, Rabble also publishes some blatantly establishment foreign-policy pieces. It regularly runs Gerald Caplan’s apologetics for the US–Britain–Canada backed Paul Kagame, Africa’s most bloodstained dictator. In late 2015 Rabble ran interviews by CCPA research affiliate Christopher Majka of Libyan, Syrian and Russian invitees to the Halifax International Security Forum, which is sponsored by NATO, the Department of National Defence and various arms firms.

Last week Rabble published a blog by Penney Kome, former editor of the now defunct left website Straight Goods, claiming Donald Trump is soft on Russia. She wrote: “Three of Trump’s top aids have extensive Russian connections, (Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Carter Page) and Trump’s policies — such as they are — are strongly pro-Russian. It’s only fair to wonder what his Russophillia means for NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and for former Soviet Union countries that Vladimir Putin may still want to annex, such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.” Kome’s piece comes a few weeks after Ottawa announced it would send 450 troops and armoured vehicles to Latvia to be permanently stationed on Russia’s border.

During his campaign to win the Democratic Party nomination Bernie Sanders, who largely avoided foreign-policy before endorsing a hawk for president, at least criticized Washington’s role in overthrowing Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, Salvador Allende in Chile as well as the US war in Indochina. It made me wonder if a leading Canadian politician had ever criticized a past foreign policy.

It’s hard to imagine an NDP leader saying, “we shouldn’t blindly follow Washington’s war aims since that led Lester Pearson’s government to deliver US bombing threats to North Vietnam in violation of international law.” Or, “as we evaluate our support for this UN mission let’s not forget the blow Canadian peacekeepers delivered to central Africa when they helped undermine Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba.”

It’s as if there’s a sign hanging in Parliament that says: “foreign policy mythologizers only.” A maxim Elizabeth May seems to have embraced, to the shame of all Canadians who really do want this country to be a force for good in the world.

Comments Off on The Left in denial over Canadian imperialism

Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel, Canada in Africa, Canada in Haiti, The Truth May Hurt, The Ugly Canadian

Greens face vote on tax subsidy to Jewish National Fund

Despite a backlash evocative of those who defended the Jim Crow U.S. South, Green Party members recently voted in favour of a resolution calling on Ottawa to stop subsidizing racist land covenants. The Greens will make a final decision on whether they support the principles underlying a half-century old Supreme Court of Canada decision outlawing discriminatory land-use policies.

Two months ago Green Party member Corey Levine put forward a resolution calling on the party to pressure the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the Jewish National Fund’s charitable status. The Independent Jewish Voices activist crafted a motion criticizing the JNF’s “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel through its bylaws which prohibit the lease or sale of its lands to non-Jews.”

In response to this exercise in party democracy, B’nai B’rith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs asked their supporters to email Party leader Elizabeth May to condemn “anti-Semitism.” After thousands denounced the Green Party, the Jewish Defence League, a far-right group banned in the U.S. and Israel for a series of killings, said it would protest at the party’s August convention in Ottawa.

Backlash aside, the Green’s JNF resolution affirms a principle enunciated by the Supreme Court 60 years ago. Into the 1950s, restrictive land covenants in many exclusive neighbourhoods and communities across Canada made it impossible for Jews, Blacks, Chinese, Aboriginals and other “non-whites to buy property.

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 contained the following clause: “The lands 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, 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 persons of the white or Caucasian race.”

Noble and Wolf tried to get the court to declare the restriction invalid but they were opposed by the Beach O’ Pines Protective Association and 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.

The publicity surrounding the case prompted Ontario to pass a law voiding racist land covenants, and in 2009 the federal government defined the Noble and Wolf v. Alley Supreme Court case “an event of national historic significance” in the battle “for human rights and against discrimination on racial and religious grounds in Canada.”

Six decades after the Supreme Court delivered a blow to racist property covenants, 62 per cent of Green members have voted for a resolution calling on Ottawa to end its support for a charity that discriminates in land use abroad.

An owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, JNF bylaws and lease documents contain a restrictive covenant stating its property will not be leased to non-Jews. A 1998 United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights found it systematically discriminated against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up a fifth of the population.

According to the UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” Echoing the UN, a 2012 US State Department report detailing “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel says JNF “statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”

Yet JNF Canada, which raised $29 million in 2014, is a registered charity. As such, it can provide tax credits for donations, meaning that up to 25 per cent of their budget effectively comes from public coffers.

The Green Party should ignore the right-wing backlash and uphold the principle that discriminatory land-use policies are wrong.

Comments Off on Greens face vote on tax subsidy to Jewish National Fund

Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

What we’re told to remember and why

How can you tell when “remembering” horrible events is being twisted to defend the status quo and support the powerful against the weak? When a sports network airs a Nazi Holocaust themed show.

Last week TSN ran a six-minute video feature about Hank Rosenbaum, a Polish Jew whose life was turned upside down when German troops invaded 77 years ago. The sports angle for TSN’s “Yom HaShoah, the international day of remembrance for the more than 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust during WW II” commemoration, was that Rosenbaum became a hockey fan when he arrived in Toronto six decades ago. The sports network showed him watching his 10-year-old grandson’s house league game.

While the Rosenbaum story was horrifying and more socially meaningful than TSN’s typical fare, does it really represent a concern for human rights by the broadcaster?

TSN is not seeking out a hockey loving Kikuyu who hid in forests around Nairobi when British forces rounded up most of Kenya’s largest ethnic group in the mid-1950s (with a Canadian in charge of the police force). Nor will they interview a Herero descendent of the German concentration camps in Namibia or an East Timorese whose family was wiped out by Indonesian forces. While also crimes against humanity and analogous to Rosenbaum’s experience, these stories would shine a light on little-known imperial history and challenge authority, which is the anti-thesis of the “Holocaust Industry”.

In The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, Norman Finkelstein argues that the American Jewish establishment has exploited the memory of the Nazi Holocaust for economic and political gain and to further the interests of Israel. Finkelstein shows how discussion of the Nazi Holocaust grew exponentially after the June 1967 Six Day war. Prior to that war, which provided a decisive service to US geopolitical aims in the Middle East, the genocide of European Jewry was a topic largely relegated to private forums and among left wing intellectuals.

Paralleling the US, the Nazi Holocaust was not widely discussed in Canada in the two decades after World War II. One study concluded that between 1945 and 1960 Canadian Jewry exhibited “collective amnesia” regarding the six million Jews killed by the Nazis. “B’nai B’rith Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress displayed little interest [in discussing Nazi crimes] immediately after the war”, wrote Professor Henry Srebrnik in the Jewish Tribune. When a National Jewish Black Book Committee (with Albert Einstein as honourary chair) published The Black Book: The Nazi Crime Against the Jewish People in 1946, “the book went almost unnoticed in Canada. Valia Hirsch, the executive secretary of the [National Jewish Black Book] committee, voiced her concerns that no meetings had been held in the Jewish communities of Montreal,Toronto, Ottawa, or Hamilton, to bring it to the attention of the Jewish community. The Canadian Jewish Congress had ordered 100 copies of the book in the summer of 1946, but had never bothered, according to Hirsch, to obtain them from Canada Customs. The CJC indicated a year later that they were no longer interested and ‘cannot use them.’”

Numerous commentators trace the establishment Jewish community’s interest in Nazi crimes to the Six Day War. “The 1967 war,” explained Professor Cyril Leavitt, “alarmed Canadian Jews. Increasingly, the Holocaust was invoked as a reminder of the need to support the Jewish state.” President of the Vancouver Jewish Community Center, Sam Rothstein concurred. “The 1967 war … was the one development that led to a commitment by community organizations to become more involved in Holocaust commemoration. … Stephen Cummings, the founder of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Center, said that ‘consciousness [of the Holocaust] has changed. Jews are much more proud, and that’s a post-1967 [phenomenon]. It was the event that gave Jews around the world confidence.’”

Holocaust memorials proliferated after Israel smashed Egyptian-led pan-Arabism in six days of fighting, providing a decisive service to US geopolitical aims. Nearly three decades after World War II, in 1972, the Canadian Jewish Congress and its local federations began to establish standing committees on the Nazi Holocaust. The first Canadian Holocaust memorial was established in Montreal in 1977.

Today’s Yom HaShoah ceremonies are often explicitly aligned with Israel advocacy. Standing in front of Israeli flags, at last week’s Montréal commemoration Mayor Denis Coderre criticized the “new anti-Semitism”, which he described as “singling outone state among the family of nations for discriminatory treatment.” Similarly, in a Yom HaShoah statement Conservative party leader Rona Ambrose said, we havealways been proud to support Holocaust remembrance and education both in Canada and around the world. As a Government, we took a leading role in the fight against the scourge of anti-Semitism, including against efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel.”

Beyond Israeli apologetics, the Nazi Holocaust/anti-Semitism are increasingly invoked to attack Leftist political movements. Zionist groups, media commentators and Blairites in the British Labour Party recently whipped up an “anti-Semitism” crisis to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. As part of the witch-hunt, Black-Jewish activist Jackie Walker was suspended from the Party for writing on her Facebook that her ancestors both benefited from and were victims of the transatlantic slave trade, which she described as an “African Holocaust”.

A Canadian Jewish News editorial and front page cover about the NDP supporting the Leap Manifesto suggests the Jewish community’s leading organ would pursue similar tactics if the NDP elected a left-wing leader. Already, established Canadian Jewish organizations have cried “anti-Semitism”/Holocaust desecration to attack non-Palestine focused progressive movements. During the 2012 Québec student strike some protesters responded to police repression by comparing the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) to the Nazi SS secret police. Many chanted “S-S PVM, police politique!” while others mocked the police by marching in formation and extending their arm as if saluting Hitler. On what he said would have been Nazi victim and child author Anne Frank’s 83rd birthday, B’nai B’rith CEO Frank Dimant issued a statement attacking a social movement much reviled by the establishment. “We condemn, in the strongest of terms, this inexcusable display of hate by Quebec student protesters”, which Dimant said “defile[s] the memory of the Holocaust.” Similarly, Jewish representatives and Canadian officials repeatedly accused Hugo Chavez’ government of anti-Semitism. In 2009 former Liberal Minister Irwin Cotler said the Venezuelan government, which was focused on redressing inequality and lessening US dominance, was responsible for a “delegitimization from the president on down of the Jewish people and Israel.”

In their story TSN failed to mention that Rosenbaum is co-president of Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants. Affiliated with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the survivors’ organization was established 54 years after World War II ended. For his part, Rosenbaum says he only began to talk about his experiences in Poland after watching the 1993 movie Schindler’s List.

If Rosenbaum, TSN and others publicly commemorating the Nazi Holocaust are truly motivated by a desire to prevent crimes against humanity and not simply by Israeli nationalism, I expect to see them support reparations to the victims of slavery and colonialism as well as indigenous (including Palestinian) rights.

Comments Off on What we’re told to remember and why

Filed under Canada and Israel

Could it be anti-Semitic to misuse the term ‘anti-Semitic’?

“Anti-Semitism” may be the most abused term in Canada today. Almost entirely divorced from its dictionary definition – “discrimination against or prejudice or hostility toward Jews” – it is now primarily invoked to uphold Jewish/white privilege.

In a recent Canadian Jewish News interview long time l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) professor Julien Bauer slurs Arabs and Muslims as he bemoans “anti-Semitism”. “In the corridors of UQAM, there are occasionally pro-Hamas demonstrations and anti-Semitic posters, but this is relatively rare,” Bauer wrote in French. “At Concordia University, it’s an anti-Semitic festival every day of the year! This is normal because there are many more Arab and Muslim students at Concordia than UQAM.”

The Jewish community’s leading media outlet, which recently called Jews the “Chosen People”, failed to question Bauer’s racism and Islamophobia. Instead, they put his picture on the front of the Québec edition.

Over the past several weeks Jewish leaders have labeled a student General Assembly at McGill University, art depicting Palestinian resistance at York, and an effort at that university to divest from arms makers as “anti-Semitic”. Head of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Avi Benlolo, described the arms divestment effort at York, since it includes Students Against Israeli Apartheid, as “a malicious campaign that targets and singles out the Jewish community as a collective, demonizes Israel and Israelis, applies unfair double standards to Israel at the exclusion of other nations in the Middle East and rejects the legitimacy of Israel as the only Jewish state in the world, thereby inciting an abhorrent resurgence of anti-Semitism.”

Rather than calming the tantrum, Canadian political leaders often contribute to the hysteria of certain Jewish groups. During the recent debate to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign MPs repeatedly accused a movement demanding Israel comply with international law of being “anti-Semitic”. The terms “anti-Semitic” and “anti-Semitism” were invoked over 80 times in a debate to justify Jewish/white supremacy in the Middle East.

According to Hansard, parliamentarians have uttered the words “anti-Semitism” and “anti-Semitic” more in the past decade than “racism” or “racist”. (And many of the “racist” references describe purported prejudice against Jews.) The term “anti-blackness” was not recorded in the House of Commons during this period.

Despite widespread discussion of “anti-Semitism”, there is little discussion of Canadian Jewry’s actual place in Canadian society. Among elite business, political and professional circles Jewish representation far surpasses their slim 1.3% of the Canadian population. Studies demonstrate that Canadian Jews are more likely than the general population to hold a bachelor’s degree, earn above $75,000 or be part of the billionaire class.

While Canadian Jews faced discriminatory property, university and immigration restrictions into the 1950s, even the history of structural anti-Jewish prejudice should be put into proper context. Blacks, Japanese and other People of Colour (not to mention indigenous peoples) have been subjected to far worse structural racism and abuse. Even compared to some other “white” groups Canadian Jews have fared well. During World War I,8,500 individuals from countries part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (mostly Ukrainians) were interned while in the mid-1800s thousands of Irish died of typhus at an inspection and quarantine station on Grosse Ile in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Canadian Jewry hasn’t faced any equivalent abuse.

While howls of “anti-Semitism” are usually an effort to deter Palestinian solidarity, the shrill claims may also represent what a Freudian psychologist would call a “projection”. Prejudice against Arabs and Muslims appears rampant in the Jewish community. Then there are the remarkable efforts to keep the Jewish community separate and apart from others. A Canadian Jewish News article about mixed race Jews’ inability to find a match on the Jewish Tinder, JSwipe, highlights the issue.

After Israel, no subject garners more attention in the Canadian Jewish News than the importance of cloistering children by ethnicity/religion. Half of Jewish children in Montréal attend Jewish schools, which is startling for a community that represented 7% of the city’s population a century ago. (In the 1920s Yiddish was Montréal’s third most spoken language.)

Montréal’s Jewish community has segregated itself geographically as well. Without retail shops in its boundaries, Hampstead is an affluent Montréal suburb that is three quarters Jewish. Four times larger than the adjacent Hampstead, Côte Saint-Luc is a 32,000-person municipality that is two thirdsJewish.

According to Federation CJA, only 15%-17% of Jewish Montrealers live in intermarried (or common-law) households. For those under-30 it’s still only a quarter. (In Toronto, where Canada’s largest Jewish community resides, the self-segregation is slightly less extreme.)
Inward looking and affluent, the Jewish community is quick to claim victimhood. But, like an out of control child, the major Jewish organizations need a time out. Without an intervention of some sort, the Jewish community risks having future dictionaries defining “anti-Semitism” as “a movement for justice and equality.”

Comments Off on Could it be anti-Semitic to misuse the term ‘anti-Semitic’?

Filed under Canada and Israel

Exploiting the Holocaust for political ends

By blaming Palestinians for the Nazi Holocaust Benjamin Netanyahu wildly distorted Jewish suffering for Israel’s ends. The lack of comment by Canada’s main Jewish organizations speaks to their own use of Nazi crimes to serve Israel and power more generally.

Using words that would have destroyed the political career of any mainstream North American, or western European leader, Netanyahu said the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Al-Husseini convinced Hitler to gas European Jewry. “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said: ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here [to Palestine].’” Hitler, according to Netanyahu, then asked: “What should I do with them?” with the mufti allegedly replying: “Burn them.”

The Centre for Israel Jewish Affairs (CIJA), B’nai B’rith and other Canadian Holocaust organizations have stayed silent in the face of Netanyahu’s ridiculous effort to blame Palestinians for Nazi crimes. While telling, this silence not surprising. These groups aggressively backed the outgoing 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.”

Indifferent to the Conservatives’ Holocaust minimization, CIJA and B’nai B’rith denounced others for lesser transgressions. During the 2012 Québec student strike some protesters responded to police repression by comparing the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) to the Nazi SS secret police. Many chanted “S-S PVM, police politique!” while others mocked the police by marching in formation and extending their arm as if saluting Hitler. On what he said would have been Nazi victim and child author Anne Frank’s 83rd birthday, B’nai B’rith CEO Frank Dimant issued a statement attacking a social movement much reviled by the establishment. “We condemn, in the strongest of terms, this inexcusable display of hate by Quebec student protesters”, which Dimant said “defile[s] the memory of the Holocaust.”

The pro-Harper Jewish groups also pounced when Justin Trudeau criticized the outgoing government by, in part, invoking Canada’s refusal to give Jews fleeing Nazi Germany safe haven. In March the Liberal Party leader told a McGill audience “we should all shudder to hear the same rhetoric that led to a ‘none is too many’ immigration policy toward Jews in the 30s and 40s being used today, to raise fears against Muslims today.” The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies dubbed Trudeau’s comment a “careless metaphor”, CIJA called it “inaccurate and inappropriate” and Bnai Brith described it a “highly-inappropriate and offensive Nazi-era comparison.”

But, when Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney repeatedly invoked the Nazi Holocaust a week earlier the same groups failed to register any concern. To justify the extraordinary powers of Bill C-51 Blaney told a parliamentary committee the government needed to curtail free speech, among other rights, because “the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chamber, it began with words.”

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, B’nai B’rith and CIJA refused to criticize Blaney’s remarks with CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel performing mental gymnastics to justify them. “Minister Blaney was speaking to an element of the legislation that focuses on the power of words and referenced Rwanda and the Holocaust in that context. Considering the genocidal statements issued by the Ayatollah calling quite literally for a new Holocaust targeting Jews, and the actions of ISIL along with their pronouncements, any discussion about the rationale for legislation that would address such language and its potential toxic influence is not entirely out of place,” Fogel said.

(If a comparison between Bill C – 51 and the Nazi Holocaust is to be drawn it’s in how the bill could pave the way to a Nazi-style police state.)

Netanyahu has demonstrated a clear willingness to distort Jewish suffering for Israel’s ends. And in like fashion Canada’s main Jewish organizations have also participated in this injustice to Palestinians and insult to Hitler’s victims, for their own political ends.

All real opponents of Nazi crimes must cringe at this shameful debasement of the memory of tens of millions victims of fascism.

Comments Off on Exploiting the Holocaust for political ends

Filed under Canada and Israel

How soon until Justin Trudeau reveals his liberal imperialism?

Right-wing commentators are calling Justin Trudeau’s decision to withdraw fighter jets from Syria-Iraq “un Liberal” and unfortunately they’re right.

But, by citing the Liberal sponsored Responsibility to Protect (R2P) to justify Canadian participation in the US-led bombing, these pundits are revealing the essence of this “humanitarian imperialist” doctrine.

Last week senior Maclean‘s writer Michael Petrou called on Trudeau to rethink his commitment to stop Canadian bombing raids, writing “reasons for confronting Islamic State with force are decidedly Liberal. Your party pioneered the notion of ‘responsibility to protect’.” For his part, National Postcolumnist Matt Gurney bemoaned how “the Liberal Party of Canada once championed, at least with words, the so-called Responsibility to Protect doctrine.”

Ignored by the outgoing Conservative government, R2P was a showpiece of previous Liberal Party governments’ foreign-policy. In September 2000 Canada launched the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which presented its final report, The Responsibility to Protect, to the UN in December 2001. At the organization’s 2005 World Summit, Canada advocated that world leaders endorse the new doctrine. It asserts that where gross human rights abuses are occurring, it is the duty of the international community to intervene, over and above considerations of state sovereignty. The doctrine asserts that “the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.”

But who gets to decide when “gross human rights abuses” are occurring? Lesotho? Uruguay? Or the USA?

The truth is, human rights rhetoric aside, R2P is an effort to redefine international law to better serve the major powers. While the less sophisticated neoconservatives simply call for a more aggressive military posture, the more liberal supporters of imperialism prefer a high-minded ideological mask to accomplish the same end. Those citing R2P to pressure Trudeau to continue bombing Iraq-Syria are demonstrating an acute, but cynical, understanding of the doctrine.

R2P was invoked to justify the 2011 NATO war in Libya and 2004 overthrow of Haiti’s elected government. Both proved highly destructive to those “protected”.

As NATO’s bombing of Libya began a principal author of the R2P report, Ramesh Thakur, boasted that “R2P is coming closer to being solidified as an actionable norm.” Similarly, at the end of the war former Liberal Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy and Canadian Ambassador to the UN Allan Rock wrote: “In a fortuitous coincidence, last week’s liberation of Libya occurred exactly a decade after the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle was proposed by the Canadian-initiated International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS).”

But don’t expect R2P proponents to discuss Libya today. “Since Col Gaddafi’sdeath in Sirte in October 2011,” the BBC reported in August, “Libya has descended into chaos, with various militias fighting for power.” ISIS has taken control of parts of the country while a government in Tripoli and another in Benghazi claim national authority. The foreign intervention delivered a terrible blow to Libya and has exacerbated conflicts in the region.

Canadian officials also cited R2P to justify cutting off assistance to Haiti’s elected government and then intervening militarily in the country in February 2004. In discussing the January 2003 Ottawa Initiative on Haiti, where high level US, Canadian and French officials discussed overthrowing elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Liberal Secretary of State for Latin America and Minister for La Francophonie Dennis Paradis explained that “there was one thematic that went under the whole meeting… The responsibility to protect.” Similarly, in a highly censored February 11, 2004 cable from the embassy in Port-au-Prince to Foreign Affairs, Canadian ambassador Kenneth Cook explained that “President Aristide is clearly a serious aggravating factor in the current crisis” and that there is a need to “consider the options including whether a case can be made for the duty [responsibility] to protect.”

Thousands of Haitians were killed in the violence unleashed by the coup and the country remains under UN military occupation.

It’s telling that neo-conservative supporters of the discredited Harper government are now the ones invoking R2P.

Will Trudeau discard the doctrine or quickly reveal himself as just another liberal imperialist?

Comments Off on How soon until Justin Trudeau reveals his liberal imperialism?

Filed under Canada and Israel, Canada in Africa, Canada in Haiti, The Ugly Canadian

Will Canada’s love affair with Israel last?

Pro-Israel lobbyists have had it good in Canada. The outgoing government is wildly supportive and the “Left” party recently purged a number of candidates for publicly expressing pro-Palestinian sympathies. But the election this fall may turn out to be zenith of Israeli influence.

Stephen Harper’s pro-Israelism is legend. At the General Assembly this week, Canadian diplomats voted against the vast majority of the world in opposing a bid to fly the Palestinian flag at the UN headquarters. Further adding to Harper’s Zionist cred, Canada and Israel recently expanded their free trade agreement, which allows products produced in illegal Israeli settlements to enter Canada duty-free. The European Union trade agreement, on the other hand, explicitly precludes Israel from putting made in Israel on goods produced in the occupied West Bank.

Aside from Israel, Canada may be the only country that isn’t officially supporting the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (permanent UN Security Council members US, Russia, China, England and France as well as Germany). While they’ve criticized the accord for not guaranteeing that Iran won’t pursue a nuclear weapon, the Conservatives have repeatedly opposed initiatives to create a nuclear-free Middle East. In the spring, Canada joined the US and Britain in opposing consensus at a Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference that proposed a plan to create a Middle East nuclear-weapons-free zone. As the region’s only nuclear armed state, Israel objected to the NPT scheduling a conference on a nuclear free Middle East even though it hasn’t signed the NPT. In a bid to protect Israel’s large nuclear stockpile, Canadian diplomats worked to scuttle the meeting.

Painful as it is to admit, Harper has deftly turned Israel to his political advantage. The Prime Minister’s aggressive public defense of Israeli actions pleases elements of his Christian evangelical base and plays well with most of the Jewish community all the while strengthening his neoconservative bona fides. But, the Conservatives have also successfully stoked tensions within the opposition parties over Israel.

At the start of the ongoing election campaign the Conservatives set up a website called, “Meet the NDP,” detailing purportedly controversial statements its candidates have made on various issues, including a number of comments critical of Israel. One NDP candidate the Conservatives targeted, Morgan Wheeldon, was forced to resign by the party leadership because he wrote on his Facebook page that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza last summer and that “one could argue that Israel’s intention was always to ethnically cleanse the region — there are direct quotations proving this to be the case.” Apparently, the NDP has excluded as many as eight individuals from contesting riding nominations because of comments criticizing Israel.

(A pro-Palestinian version of “Meet the Conservatives” would not be based on candidates’ Facebook posts, but the slightly more consequential actions of a sitting Prime Minister. Did you know, it might read, Harper addressed an organization — Jewish National Fund — that practices explicit ethnic/religious discrimination in its land use policies and he invited a representative of a group banned in the US and Israel — the Jewish Defense League — to join his delegation to Israel.)

When the NDP blocked Paul Manly, a filmmaker and son of a former NDP MP, from seeking the NDP candidacy in Nanaimo-Ladysmith at the start of the year, he decided to run for the Green party. (In 2012 Manly criticized the NDP after it failed to call on Israel to release his father after illegally seizing a Gaza-bound boat he was aboard.) The Green Party’s embrace of Manly reflects the growing clout of pro-Palestinian activists inside Canada’s fourth national party.

In November 2013 a Jewish Tribune reporter challenged Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, over her planned participation in a fundraiser for Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CPJME). Apparently thinking the interview wouldn’t be read outside pro-Israel circles, May told the Tribune CJPME was “anti-Israel” and noted that she had attended a recent Jewish National Fund fundraiser in Ottawa, even lauding “the great work that’s [the JNF] done in making the desert bloom.” (In actual fact the JNF has helped dispossess Palestinians and Judaize historically Arab areas of Israel.)

While the Tribune likely saw their intervention as a way to pressure May, it sparked a pro-Palestinian backlash that jolted the Green Party’s only Member of Parliament and pushed the party towards a better position on the issue. A few months later the party adopted a resolution critical of Israeli expansionism and when Green Party President Paul Estrin published an anti-Palestinian screed in the midst of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza he was soon forced to resign.

It seems Green Party activists are no longer willing to accept blatant anti-Palestinian sentiment. Moreover, the party leadership has realized they can bleed support from the NDP, particularly among activists, over Israel. If NDP leader Tom Mulcair — who once said “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances” — continues to take anti-Palestinian positions, the Greens are likely to gain more traction among those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, which should in turn push the party to take stronger positions in favor of Palestinian liberation.

Internal fissures within the NDP concerning Palestine are likely to grow. With the most violent and colonialist forces in ascendance, Israel will likely launch another assault on Gaza like those of 2008/09, 2012 and 2014, which left 3700 Palestinians dead, including over 800 children. During last summer’s Israeli attack, Ipolitics described the “NDP’s Simmering Civil War over Gaza.” Deep antipathy towards Harper has tempered some internal criticism, but Mulcair can’t expect this to continue indefinitely if he becomes Prime Minister.

The NDP’s purge of pro-Palestinian candidates, which largely bypassed those with a strong chance of winning seats in the House of Commons, was a depressing reminder of the official dominance of the Israeli perspective. But the large number of individuals targeted, and their disbursement across the country, reflects the growing number of NDP activists critical of Israel.

A historical perspective helps to see the shift. By far Canada’s most significant contribution to Palestinian dispossession: In 1947, Canadian diplomats played an important role in shaping the UN partition plan, which gave the new Jewish state the majority of Palestine despite the Jewish population owning only seven per cent of the land and representing less than a third of the population. The partition plan provided diplomatic legitimacy to a Zionist movement intent on expelling Palestinians from their homeland. But few Canadians understood, let alone protested, Ottawa’s actions. Yet when Israel attacked Gaza last year, tens of thousands demonstrated. In recent years tens of thousands more have voted through their labour union, student union or church to support the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

History may view 2015 as the zenith of pro-Israel influence in Canada.

A version of this article appeared on Electronic Intifada.

Comments Off on Will Canada’s love affair with Israel last?

Filed under Canada and Israel, The Ugly Canadian

Jewish voters turning to Harper

Where are Conservatives most likely to be elected in Canada? Historically, rural and suburban White, Protestant ridings and the wealthiest parts of English-speaking cities have been where the Tories enjoyed the most success.

Certainly the Conservatives have never been the party of those marginalized for economic, social or religious reasons.

Yet, at the start of the month Stephen Harper launched his re-election campaign from the Ben Weider Jewish Community Centre in Mount Royal, one of two ridings in the country with a Jewish plurality (about 36% of the population).

If Conservative candidate Robert Libman wins Pierre Trudeau’s old seat it would represent a significant feat. The Liberals have held the riding for 75 years and the Conservatives don’t currently hold a single seat in greater Montréal. In fact, they aren’t seriously contesting any other constituency near Mount Royal.

So, what’s going on?

In the 2011 federal election an Ipsos exit poll found that 52 per cent of Canadian Jews voted Conservative versus 39 per cent of the overall population. On October 19 the Tories’ share of the Jewish vote is expected to increase while the Conservatives’ overall total drops.

The remarkable growth in Jewish support for the Conservatives over the past decade is a strong sign that anti-Semitism barely registers in the lives of most Canadian Jews. In general, they are a widely accepted, relatively successful part of Canada’s multicultural fabric — so much so that a majority now votes for the primary political party of the Canadian ruling class.

Outside Harper’s speech at the Ben Weider Jewish Community Centre a crowd of 100 protested. A self-described  “Zionist” holding an “Israel is NOT a partisan issue” sign, Bryan Wolofsky, told me that when he canvassed during the last election in Hampstead and Cote Saint-Luc, the largely Jewish municipalities in the Mount Royal riding, Israel was people’s primary concern.

While some may disagree, there is nothing inherently troubling about a group of Canadians voting in response to a government’s policy towards another country. In fact, it can represent a righteous, selfless act.

In the mid-2000s I worked with members of Montréal’s Haitian community to defeat Liberal MPs complicit in the violent overthrow of the Caribbean nation’s elected government. For many in the Haitian-Canadian community this country’s foreign policy was a key issue in the election. They hoped to defend their homeland against outside intervention.

But the Jewish community’s support for Israel is the exact opposite. The recipient of billions of dollars of support from the world’s most powerful country, Israel is a nuclear-armed state that has repeatedly slaughtered a largely defenseless population it dispossessed. Rather than selfless internationalism, Canadian Jewish support for Israel is an assertion of ethnic/religious supremacy.

The Jewish community’s shift towards the Conservatives opens a window into the ideological underpinnings of the century-old Zionist movement. Generally presented as a response to late 1800s European anti-Semitism, the Theodore Herzl led Zionist movement was in fact spurred by the nationalist and imperialist ideologies then sweeping Europe. After two centuries of active Protestant Zionism and two millennia in which Jewish restoration was viewed as a spiritual event to be brought about through divine intervention, Zionism took root among some Jews as the European “scramble” carved up Africa and then the Middle East. (Europeans controlled about 10 percent of Africa in 1870 but by 1914 only Ethiopia was independent of European control. Liberia was effectively a US colony). At the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903 Herzl and two thirds of delegates voted to pursue British Secretary of State for the Colonies Joseph Chamberlain’s proposal to allocate 13,000 square km in East Africa as “Jewish territory …  on conditions which will enable members to observe their national customs.”

History strongly suggests that Zionism was both a reaction to anti-Semitism and an attempt by European Jews to benefit from and participate in colonialism.

If Zionism were simply a response to anti-Semitism why hasn’t the decline of anti-Semitism lessened its popularity in the Canadian Jewish community? Instead, the leadership of that community has become more and more obsessed with Israel. In 2011 the leading donors in the community scrapped the hundred-year-old Canadian Jewish Congress and replaced it with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. As the name change suggests, this move represented a shift away from local Jewish concerns and towards ever greater lobbying in favour of Israeli policy.

The political trajectory of Mount Royal provides an interesting insight into the shift towards focusing on Israel. Repeatedly re-elected in a riding that was then 50% Jewish, Pierre Trudeau distanced Ottawa from Israeli conduct more than any other prime minister before or since. Still, Trudeau was incredibly popular with the Jewish community. He appointed the first Jew to the federal cabinet, Herb Gray, and brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which strengthened religious freedoms.

If Conservative candidate Robert Libman wins in Mount Royal on October 19 it would mark a decisive end to the notion that the Canadian Jewish community is a liberal force in politics. It would also suggest that the political priority of a large number of Canadian Jews is to support a highly militarized state that continues to deny its indigenous population the most basic political rights.

Comments Off on Jewish voters turning to Harper

Filed under Canada and Israel

White privilege masquerades as anti-racism

Why does a demonstration of hundreds of people against “anti-Semitism” in Toronto seem more like a march for white supremacy than a rally against racism?

On August 20, reported the Canadian Jewish News, several thousand took to Bathurst Street under the slogan “We Will Not be Silent: A March Against Global Anti-Semitism.” The demonstration was organized by United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, B’nai Brith Canada, Canada Israel Experience, March of the Living Canada and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Canada.

If one were to take the organizers’ slogan seriously this demonstration was among the largest anti-racist mobilizations in recent Canadian history. But, unfortunately it was little more than a group of “white” people calling for the further subjugation of “brown” folk.

Photos and articles suggest that many among the racially homogenous crowd carried Israeli flags and celebrated that country’s recent military onslaught on Gaza. The Times of Israel reported: “The purpose of the march was passionately summed up in Bill Glied’s closing remarks: ‘Thank God for the IDF. Thank God for Israel. And remember together we must stand. Never again!’”

Despite shrill voices claiming otherwise, most objective evidence reveals anti-Semitism to be a mere shadow of its former oppressive character. (An example of this ‘if I scream loud enough people may believe me’ tactic, Toronto businessman and board member of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Michael Diamond, wrote in the Canadian Jewish News last month that “we Jews are under siege right now – on campus, in Israel, in the media, even in our high schools and on the street.”)

Well, how does this compare to seven decades ago when “none is too many” was the order of the day in Ottawa, which rejected Jewish refugees escaping Nazi concentration camps. This hostile anti-Semitic climate continued into the 1950s with some neighborhoods excluding Jews from owning property through land covenants and institutions such as McGill University in Montreal imposing quotas on Jewish students.

Fortunately, Christianity’s decline, combined with a rise in anti-racist politics has significantly undercut anti-Semitism as a social force in Canada.
Today, Jews are largely seen as “white” people. Canada’s Jewish community is well represented among institutions of influence in this country and there is very little in terms of structural racism against Jews (which is not to say there isn’t significant cultural stereotyping, which must be challenged). In fact, among elite business, political and professional circles Jewish representation far surpasses their slim 1.3% of the Canadian population.

Canadian Jews are twice as likely as the general population to hold a bachelors degree and three times more likely to earn over $75,000. In The Encyclopedia of the Jewish diaspora: origins, experiences, and culture Mark Avrum Ehrlich claims that a fifth of the wealthiest Canadians were Jewish and Toronto’s Shalom Life reported that six of the 24 Canadians who made Forbes’ 2011 list of global billionaires were Jewish.

Even the sad history of structural anti-Semitism in this country should be put into proper context. When Jewish immigrants were blocked from entering Canada so were most non-Europeans. Similarly, the land covenants that excluded Jewish property ownership usually took aim at other groups as well and throughout the university quota period few South Asians or blacks had any access to higher learning. During this period of institutional discrimination against Jews, Status Indians were unable to vote and the Indian Act prohibited First Nations from practicing their religious/cultural ceremonies (such as potlatches, pow-wows, sweat lodges and sun dances).

It would be disingenuous at best to claim anti-Semitism has or had anywhere near the effect of racism against First Nations or other people of colour in Canada.

A little over-zealous defence of one’s own “tribe” could perhaps be forgiven, but not when accompanied by a ringing endorsement of the racist militarism sweeping Israeli society. Over the past two months the Israeli military has killed some 1,700 Palestinian civilians in Gaza and there has been an upsurge in racist outbursts targeting those seen as a threat to the Jewish character of the state (mostly Palestinian citizens of Israel but also African refugees and anti-Zionist Jews).
One of the groups that organized the Toronto protest has long promoted Jewish/white supremacy in the Middle East. The Jewish National Fund may be the only openly racist registered charity operating in this country.

While it was made illegal to restrict the sale of property to certain ethnic or religious groups in Canada a half-century ago, the JNF does just that in Israel today. The JNF’s bylaws and lease documents contain a restrictive covenant stating its property will not be leased to non-Jews. A 1998 United Nations Human Rights Council report found that the JNF systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up about 20 percent of the country’s population. According to the UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.”

More recently, the US State Department’s 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices detailed “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel. The report noted, “Approximately 93 percent of land was in the public domain, including approximately 12.5 percent owned by the NGO Jewish National Fund (JNF), whose statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”

In Israel, as in Canada, Jewish/white privilege is a much greater social problem than anti-Semitism. It’s time to check that privilege.

Comments Off on White privilege masquerades as anti-racism

Filed under Canada and Israel

Supporting ‘terror tourism’ to Israel gets Canadian tax credits

When is a Canadian who leaves this country to join a foreign military force and participate in the killing of innocent civilians, including children, called a “terror tourist” and sent to jail? The answer is: Only when that person joins a military force the Conservative government disagrees with.

Numerous ministers in the current federal government have loudly denounced the radicalization of Canadian youth in foreign wars. Last year, the Conservatives passed a law that sets a maximum fifteen year prison sentence for “leaving or attempting to leave Canada” to commit terrorism. Jason Kenney, the minister for multiculturalism, recently said the government is trying “to monitor networks that recruit and radicalize youth.”

Last month, Somali-Canadian Mohamed Hersi was sentenced to ten years in prison for attempting to join the al-Shabab militia in Somalia. Arrested at Toronto’s Pearson airport before leaving, Hersi was not found guilty of committing or plotting a specific act of violence, but according to the presiding judge, was “poised to become a terror tourist.”

Yet our government does nothing to hundreds of other Canadians who join a different foreign military force which daily terrorizes millions of people and often uses explosives to kill thousands — most of whom are civilians.

It’s unknown exactly how many Canadians are participating in Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza but an Israeli military spokesperson has said there were 139 Canadians in the Israeli military in 2013. The Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program, an organization supporting the Israeli military, has referred to 145 Canadians in the Israeli military. That figure, however, only refers to what the organization calls Canadian “lone soldiers” — soldiers without family in Israel.

Breaking the stereotype of radicalized youth who join terror groups, recent media reports suggest that most of the Canadians joining the Israeli military are children of lawyers, doctors and other professionals. When thirty individuals attended the 2012 launch of a Toronto support group for Parents of Lone Soldiers, it took place at the home of Perla and Ron Riesenbach. The latter is a vice-president at the University of Toronto’s Baycrest Health Sciences Centre.

Earlier this month the French language website La Presse quoted a McGill University law student, Menachem Freedman, who recently completed a stint with the Israeli military and now does legal work for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

A partner in a Toronto law firm, Audrey Shecter has two kids with Israeli military experience. According to the National Post, Shecter’s son completed 27 months with the Israeli military in February and her daughter, Orli Broer, currently serves on a base in the illegally occupied West Bank.

Broer, a 19-year-old Torontonian, who is in a unit that processes visas and other paperwork, helps to deny Palestinians freedom of movement in their own homeland. “It’s my home and I have to protect my home,” the Canadian born and raised Broer told the National Post.

While the Foreign Enlistment Act technically prohibits Canadians from recruiting for a foreign army, there are a number of organizations that help individuals enlist in the Israeli military. At its Toronto office, the Friends of Israeli Scouts’ Garin Tzabar program provides Hebrew lessons and support services, as well as help with transport and accommodation in Israel, for twenty-five to thirty Canadian “lone soldiers” each year.

According to a Garin Tzabar spokesperson who spoke to La Presse, the recent killing and destruction in Gaza has prompted a flood of inquiries about joining the Israeli military.

Part of the tab for lone soldier support services is picked up by Canadian taxpayers through tax credits for “charitable” donations. The Israel-based Lone Soldier Center has Canadian charitable status through the Ne’eman Foundation. So does the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, which has, according to its website, sponsored “fun activities” for “lone soldiers.”

Financial backing for lone soldiers reaches the top echelons of the Canadian business world. Billionaire Toronto couple Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman created the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers. Reisman and Schwartz provide up to $3 million per year for post-military scholarships for these non-Israeli soldiers.

Members of the Israeli high command — Heseg’s board has included a number of generals and a former head of the secret service Mossad — say “lone soldiers” are of value beyond their military capacities. Foreigners volunteering to fight for Israel are a powerful symbol to reassure Israelis weary of their country’s violent behavior. Schwartz and Reisman’s support for Heseg has spurred a campaign to boycott the Indigo, Chapters and Cole bookstore chain they own.

Canadians in the Israeli military benefit from various Canadian-financed support programs and may also find other Canadians stocking their equipment. Approximately 150 Canadians serve as volunteers on Israeli army supply bases each year through the Zionist organization Sar-El. That organization takes out ads in the Canadian Jewish News calling on individuals to “Express your Zionism by serving as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli army supply base.”

There are a number of other registered Canadian “charities” that aid the Israeli army. Money sent to Disabled Veterans of Israel or Beit Halochem (Canada) and Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel support the Israeli military in different ways. Established in 1971, the Association for the Soldiers of Israel – Canada, which gives tax receipts through the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association, provides financial and “moral” support to active duty soldiers.

Various Canadian organizations have long supported the Israeli military and individuals from this country have directly participated in its violence. At least 25 volunteers from the Greater Toronto Area fought in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, the three-week assault in late 2008 and early 2009, which left some 1,400 Palestinians dead.

Canada’s military contribution to the conquest of Palestine predates the creation of Israel.

During the First World War, Québec City-born Lieutenant General Sir Charles MacPherson Dobell, fresh from leading the Anglo-French conquest of German West Africa, was given a command position in the 1917 Egyptian expeditionary force sent to seize Gaza from the Ottomans. Additionally, as many as four hundred Canadians (approximately half recruited specifically for the task) fought in British General Edmund Allenby’s Jewish Legion that helped conquer Palestine.

A number of Canadians, with at least tacit support from the Ottawa authorities, played a direct role in “de-Arabizing” Palestine in 1947 and 1948. Representatives from the Haganah, the primary Zionist military force behind the Nakba — the ethnic cleansing leading to Israel’s foundation — recruited three hundred experienced Canadian soldiers.

The heir to the menswear firm Tip Top Tailors, Ben Dunkelman, was Haganah’s main recruiter in Canada. He claimed that “about 1,000” Canadians “fought to establish Israel.” During the Nakba, Israel’s small air force was almost entirely foreign, with at least 53 Canadians, including 15 non-Jews, enlisted.

Given this country’s past, perhaps today’s double standard about “terror tourism” is not surprising. But those of us who want a just Canadian foreign policy must nonetheless expose our government’s hypocrisy.

While al-Shabab has committed many reprehensible acts and espouses a terribly repressive ideology, the group’s growth and radicalization is largely a response to the 2006 US-sponsored foreign invasion of Somalia that has left tens of thousands of Somalis dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

On the other hand, it’s as if the Canadians fighting with Israel are unsatisfied with their and their ancestors’ dispossession of First Nations in North America and now want to help colonize yet another indigenous people.

The double standard is extreme. It is illegal for Somali Canadians to fight in that country but it is okay for Canadian Jews to kill Palestinians in Gaza. And the government will give you a charitable tax credit if you give money to support the latter.

Fortunately, activists in one country have made strides on this issue. A Palestine solidarity group in South Africa recently launched a case against citizens of that country who have served in the Israeli military.

Some have suggested another solution. Eminent Canadian historian Jack Granatstein recently said: “In my view, no one who is a Canadian should be able to enlist in some other country’s military and keep his Canadian citizenship.”

Canadians of good conscience must at least insist upon fairness and an end to an outrageous double standard.

Comments Off on Supporting ‘terror tourism’ to Israel gets Canadian tax credits

Filed under Canada and Israel, The Ugly Canadian

Israel has turned a progressive community into warmongers

From a left-wing community once at the forefront of struggles against racism, unconditional support for Israel has turned a significant proportion of Toronto Jews into promoters of hatred against “Arabs” and into allies of right wing, bigoted, homophobic Christian Bible literalists.

During 15 years of activism in Montréal, Ottawa and Vancouver I haven’t seen anything equivalent to the racist, militarist pro-Israel movement experienced recently in Toronto. And sadly the quasi-fascistic organization driving the charge seems increasingly enmeshed within a community that once led the fight against racism and fascism in the city.

On Saturday at Queen’s Park (the grounds of the Ontario legislature) I was shoved, spat on, had my bike damaged and lock stolen by members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a hate group that is banned in the U.S. and Israel. My offence was to chant “kill more Palestinian children” as hundreds of JDL and B’nai B’rith supporters rallied to applaud the onslaught on Gaza in a counter demonstration to those opposed to Israel’s massacres.

The following day, also at Queen’s Park, a JDL member knocked a pro-Palestinian counter demonstrator to the ground and kicked him in the face. Half an hour after this happened, a JDL member walked some 50 metres around a barricade to where I was standing alone chanting at the pro-war rally and spat on me three times. Both incidents were caught on tape by major media outlets.

New to pro-Palestinian activism in Toronto, I was unaware of just how aggressive and organized the JDL had become. It’s reached the point where some Palestinian solidarity groups avoid publicizing pickets out of fear they might disrupt them.

In the US the JDL has been outlawed since 2001. Its members have been 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 twenty years ago. 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.

Despite the group’s links to terrorism, the JDL appears to find support from much of the organized Jewish community and even in Ottawa. In a significant boost to the group, Stephen Harper included a member in his official delegation on a recent trip to Israel; recent Canadian Jewish News coverage of the group has been sympathetic; rabbis attended the JDL/B’nai B’rith sponsored counterdemonstration Saturday; on Sunday the group provided “security” for the Canadians for Israel rally. Rather than being an isolated fringe group the Jewish mainstream tries to ostracize, the JDL seems to be gaining influence.

The growth of Canada’s JDL parallels the increasingly extreme violence of the Israeli government and the resulting worldwide outrage over that country’s aggressive expansionism. The mainstream Jewish community is marching in lockstep with the Israeli state and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have not only accepted it, they have promoted it. Over the past three weeks Israel has killed over 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza, displaced more than a tenth of the population and destroyed most of the area’s electricity and water supply. Yet, the Israeli government still receives unequivocal support from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, B’nai B’rith and other leading Canadian Jewish organizations. As part of its support for the recent killings in Gaza the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto, the community’s main philanthropic arm, has added $2.25 million to its annual aid to Israel.

While the JDL would likely back the complete incineration of Gaza, one wonders just how far the more mainstream groups are willing to go in cheering on Israel’s current onslaught, its third large-scale assault on Gaza in five years. Will the Jewish establishment withdraw support if 2,000 Palestinian are killed? Or is the breakpoint 5,000? Or maybe B’nai B’rith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs would back the Israeli military all the way to 50,000 dead?

While one might want to believe that the warmongering promoted by dominant Jewish organizations is not widely shared by the community they claim to represent, I’ve seen too many sizable pro-war rallies and witnessed too many outbursts of anti-Arab racism over the past three weeks in Toronto to be hopeful in this regard. Wide swaths of Toronto’s Jewish community seem to be mimicking the Israeli public’s racist militarism. (Google stories about Israelis chanting “death to the Arabs”, celebrating military blasts on Gaza from hilltops nearby or beating peace activists.) On Bloor Street two weeks ago a middle-aged man walking with his partner crumbled a leaflet I handed him, pointed at two older Arab looking men who responded, and yelled “barbarians”. In a similarly bizarre racist outburst, a man who was biking past the Saturday demonstration stopped to engage and soon after he was pointing at a young Arab looking child close by and telling me that I was indoctrinating him to kill. And then on Sunday an older woman interrupted a phone conversation I was having about Israel’s destruction of Gaza and yelled she hoped Israel kills “10,000 more”.

The idea that Toronto’s Jewish community in 2014 would be front-and-centre in backing racist militarism is profoundly depressing and quite the historic reversal. Seven decades ago righteous Jewish youth fought back against fascist thugs terrorizing non-Anglo-Saxons in the 1933 Christie Pits Riot. Two decades after that the Canadian Jewish Congress helped win the famous Noble v. Alley Supreme Court case, which prompted Ontario to pass a law voiding racist land covenants, a major victory in the battle for racial equality.

But, while six decades ago Jewish organizations fought racist land restrictions, today there is no other community that so strongly and openly backs racist supremacy in land use. Six months ago some 4,500 people packed the Toronto Convention Centre to honour Stephen Harper at a Jewish National Fund fundraiser. Owner of 13% of Israel’s land, the Jewish National Fund excludes Palestinian citizens of Israel and other non-Jews from its properties.

In 2014 “respectable” members of the pro-Zionist Jewish community fundraise for an organization with racist land covenants, work together with Christian fundamentalists and defend Israel’s slaughter of civilians in Gaza, while the harder edge youth attend JDL demonstrations or enlist as “lone soldiers” with a murderous foreign army.

Shame.

Comments Off on Israel has turned a progressive community into warmongers

Filed under Canada and Israel

Interview: Canadian ‘aid’ goes to policing Palestinians

Real News Network Interview

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Engler Report.
Now joining us is Yves Engler. He is a Canadian commentator and author, and his most recent book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.
Thank you so much for joining us, Yves.
YVES ENGLER, AUTHOR AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST, MONTREAL: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: So, Yves, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he was recently in Israel, and this is the first time that a Canadian prime minister actually addressed the Israeli Knesset. The mainstream press has really focused on two points of Harper’s speech, one being where he extolled the virtues of supporting Israel, or the fact that the omitted–Canada disagrees with Israel’s settlements. But there seems to be less attention focused on agreements to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. What’s the real story here?
ENGLER: Well, I mean, the Harper government has been–Israel, no matter what [incompr.] Israel, no matter what position, since being elected, supporting bombing of Gaza, supporting the 2006 war on Lebanon, and taking all kinds of pro-Israel diplomatic positions. Alongside that has been a real deepening of bilateral ties, economic, military, security ties with Israel, many different cooperation agreements with the Israeli military, exchanges with the Israeli military. Recently, Canadian naval vessels and Israeli naval vessels were doing interchanges, practice runs together.
And on this trip to Israel, the Harper government wants to extend the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement that was signed in 1997. This is a free trade agreement that does not exclude products that are produced in Israeli settlements. The European Union trade agreement with Israel explicitly precludes Israel from putting Israel on products that are produced in the occupied West Bank. The Canadian trade agreement doesn’t. The Harper government wants to extend this trade agreement alongside a series of other cooperation accords.
And the sort of underlying policies of sort of deepening institutional ties between Canada and Israel have generally gotten less attention than the bombastic pro-Israel comments of the Harper government, but I think that once Harper’s gone, it’s going to be these economic accords that are really designed to help the Israeli economy. They’re very much oriented to Israel’s interests rather than Canada’s interests. And once Harper’s gone, it’s going to be these accords that have the longer-lasting impact on deepening bilateral ties between the two countries.
DESVARIEUX: How do these economic accords, as you put it, compare with Harper’s $66 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority?
ENGLER: Well, I think they shouldn’t be compared all. On one hand, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement is designed to deepen economic ties on, you know, fairly egalitarian terms between Israel and Canada. In the case of the aid that Canada’s giving to the Palestinian Authority, this is–you know, it’s stated, it’s called aid, but in fact if you look at what most of the Canadian five-year $300 million aid program that began in December 2007 to the Palestinian Authority, and if you look at where most of that aid money went to, it went to building up the Palestinian security force in the West Bank that was designed to, on one hand, combat the rise of Hamas, so to support the Palestinian Authority in their political battle with Hamas, and on the other hand, it was designed to prop up a corrupt and undemocratic Palestinian Authority. Of course, Mahmoud Abbas’s electoral mandate ended in 2009.
So we actually have internal documents from Margaret Biggs, who is the president of the CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, from about a year ago, where she stated very clearly that Israel supports Canada’s aid program to the Palestinian Authority. The Canadian government had actually threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinian authority when the Palestinian Authority pursued its UN statehood bid. And Israel was actually pushing Canada to continue that aid.
And in the internal document that was published by Postmedia, it also states–Margaret Biggs, the head of CIDA, says that “the emergence of popular protests … against the Palestinian Authority,” [incompr.] quotes, that this made Canadian aid to the Palestinian Authority security force particularly important. So, in other words, the Palestinian Authority is facing pressure from grassroots protests, and Canadian aid to the Palestinian Authority goes to supporting their security force that has put down demonstrations, demonstrations against the Palestinian Authority’s operations, but also demonstrations against ongoing Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.
So the Canadian aid, we call it aid to the Palestinians. Really what it is is aid to a corrupt, undemocratic Palestinian Authority that is increasingly out of touch with the desire of most Palestinians for liberation from Israeli colonialism.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Yves Engler, thank you so much for joining us.
ENGLER: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Engler Report.
Now joining us is Yves Engler. He is a Canadian commentator and author, and his most recent book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.
Thank you so much for joining us, Yves.
YVES ENGLER, AUTHOR AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST, MONTREAL: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: So, Yves, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he was recently in Israel, and this is the first time that a Canadian prime minister actually addressed the Israeli Knesset. The mainstream press has really focused on two points of Harper’s speech, one being where he extolled the virtues of supporting Israel, or the fact that the omitted–Canada disagrees with Israel’s settlements. But there seems to be less attention focused on agreements to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. What’s the real story here?
ENGLER: Well, I mean, the Harper government has been–Israel, no matter what [incompr.] Israel, no matter what position, since being elected, supporting bombing of Gaza, supporting the 2006 war on Lebanon, and taking all kinds of pro-Israel diplomatic positions. Alongside that has been a real deepening of bilateral ties, economic, military, security ties with Israel, many different cooperation agreements with the Israeli military, exchanges with the Israeli military. Recently, Canadian naval vessels and Israeli naval vessels were doing interchanges, practice runs together.
And on this trip to Israel, the Harper government wants to extend the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement that was signed in 1997. This is a free trade agreement that does not exclude products that are produced in Israeli settlements. The European Union trade agreement with Israel explicitly precludes Israel from putting Israel on products that are produced in the occupied West Bank. The Canadian trade agreement doesn’t. The Harper government wants to extend this trade agreement alongside a series of other cooperation accords.
And the sort of underlying policies of sort of deepening institutional ties between Canada and Israel have generally gotten less attention than the bombastic pro-Israel comments of the Harper government, but I think that once Harper’s gone, it’s going to be these economic accords that are really designed to help the Israeli economy. They’re very much oriented to Israel’s interests rather than Canada’s interests. And once Harper’s gone, it’s going to be these accords that have the longer-lasting impact on deepening bilateral ties between the two countries.
DESVARIEUX: How do these economic accords, as you put it, compare with Harper’s $66 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority?
ENGLER: Well, I think they shouldn’t be compared all. On one hand, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement is designed to deepen economic ties on, you know, fairly egalitarian terms between Israel and Canada. In the case of the aid that Canada’s giving to the Palestinian Authority, this is–you know, it’s stated, it’s called aid, but in fact if you look at what most of the Canadian five-year $300 million aid program that began in December 2007 to the Palestinian Authority, and if you look at where most of that aid money went to, it went to building up the Palestinian security force in the West Bank that was designed to, on one hand, combat the rise of Hamas, so to support the Palestinian Authority in their political battle with Hamas, and on the other hand, it was designed to prop up a corrupt and undemocratic Palestinian Authority. Of course, Mahmoud Abbas’s electoral mandate ended in 2009.
So we actually have internal documents from Margaret Biggs, who is the president of the CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, from about a year ago, where she stated very clearly that Israel supports Canada’s aid program to the Palestinian Authority. The Canadian government had actually threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinian authority when the Palestinian Authority pursued its UN statehood bid. And Israel was actually pushing Canada to continue that aid.
And in the internal document that was published by Postmedia, it also states–Margaret Biggs, the head of CIDA, says that “the emergence of popular protests … against the Palestinian Authority,” [incompr.] quotes, that this made Canadian aid to the Palestinian Authority security force particularly important. So, in other words, the Palestinian Authority is facing pressure from grassroots protests, and Canadian aid to the Palestinian Authority goes to supporting their security force that has put down demonstrations, demonstrations against the Palestinian Authority’s operations, but also demonstrations against ongoing Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.
So the Canadian aid, we call it aid to the Palestinians. Really what it is is aid to a corrupt, undemocratic Palestinian Authority that is increasingly out of touch with the desire of most Palestinians for liberation from Israeli colonialism.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Yves Engler, thank you so much for joining us.
ENGLER: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

Comments Off on Interview: Canadian ‘aid’ goes to policing Palestinians

Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

The long history of Zionism in Canada

Canada’s Conservative government is trying to convince Canadian Jews to support its right-wing imperialistic worldview.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently spoke to the annual Toronto gala of the Jewish National Fund, which has a long history of dispossessing Palestinians and discriminating against non-Jews.

Echoing the words of Theodor Herzl, a founder of political Zionism, Harper told the 4,000 attendees that Israel is a “light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness.”

Shortly before this event the Minister for Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney spoke at the launch of the Canadian chapter of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Established by a former colonel in the Israeli military, MEMRI selectively (mis)translates stories from Arab and Iranian media in a bid to advance expansionist Israeli interests.

Kenney told the audience assembled at Montreal’s Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue that MEMRI is “a peaceful weapon of truth-telling in a civilizational conflict in which we are all engaged.”

The comments from Harper and Kenney certainly play well with those in the Jewish community committed to Israeli and Western imperialism, but they also spur that sentiment. Most people respect power and when leading politicians say a country is involved in a “civilizational conflict” against “a region of darkness” it tends to shape opinion.

Few Canadian Jews — or others among the target audience for that matter — realize that Harper and Kenney don’t take this “clash of civilizations” talk literally (if they did they wouldn’t be deepening political ties with a number of Middle Eastern monarchies and selling billions of dollars in weaponry to the region’s “darkest” regime, Saudi Arabia.)

While the Harper government’s pro-Israel comments are particularly extreme, they are far from unique in Canadian history. For more than a century non-Jewish Canadians have promoted a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Similar to Europe, Zionism’s roots in Canada are Christian, not Jewish. Early Canadian support for Zionism was based on the more literal readings of the Bible that flowed out of the Protestant Reformation.

They were also tied to this country’s status as a dominion of the British Empire, which in the latter half of the nineteenth century began to see Zionism as a potential vehicle to strengthen its geostrategic position in the region.

At the time of confederation, Canada’s preeminent Christian Zionist was Henry Wentworth Monk. To buy Palestine from the Ottoman Empire in 1875, Monk began the Palestine Restoration Fund.

Unsuccessful, seven years later he took out an ad in the Jewish World proposing a “Bank of Israel” to finance Jewish resettlement. Irving Abella’s book A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada describes Monk as “an eccentric but respected businessman” who took up a campaign in Canada and England to raise funds for buying land in Palestine during the 1870s and 1880s.

“In 1881 Monk even proposed setting up a Jewish National Fund,” Abella writes. “He issued manifestoes, wrote long articles, spoke to assorted meetings and lobbied extensively in England and Canada to realize his dream.”

Monk called for the British Empire to establish a “dominion of Israel” similar to the dominion of Canada. In the 1978 book Canada and Palestine, Zachariah Kay notes: “Monk believed that Palestine was the logical center of the British Empire, and could help form a confederation of the English-speaking world.”

Monk was not alone in Canada. Citing a mix of Christian and pro-British rationale, leading Canadian politicians repeatedly expressed support for Zionism. In 1907, two cabinet ministers attended the Federation of Zionist Societies of Canada convention, telling delegates that Zionism had the support of the government, according to Kay’s book.

Kay’s book also states that Arthur Meighen, then solicitor-general and later prime minister, proclaimed in November 1915: “I think I can speak for those of the Christian faith when I express the wish that God speed the day when the land of your forefathers shall be yours again. This task I hope will be performed by that champion of liberty the world over — the British Empire.”

The 1917 Balfour Declaration, which declared British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, boosted support for Zionism in this country. In the years thereafter, Canadian politicians of various stripes repeatedly urged Jews (and others) to support Zionism.

During a July 1922 speech to the Zionist Federation of Canada, the anti-Semitic Prime Minister Mackenzie King “was effusive with praise for Zionism,” explains David Bercuson in Canada and the Birth of Israel. King told participants their aspirations were “in consonance” with the greatest ideals of the “Englishman.”

A dozen years later, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett told a coast to-coast radio broadcast for the launch of the United Palestine Appeal fund drive that the Balfour Declaration and the British conquest of Palestine represented the beginning of the fulfillment of biblical prophecies.

According to a 1962 book by Canadian Zionist Bernard Figler, Bennett said, “When the promises of God, speaking through his prophets, are that the home will be restored in the homeland of their forefathers…Scriptural prophecy is being fulfilled. The restoration of Zion has begun.”

Jewish Zionism must be understood from within the political climate in which it operated. And Canada’s political culture clearly fostered Zionist ideals.

British imperialism, Christian Zionism and nationalist ideology were all part of this country’s political fabric. Additionally, in the early 1900s most Canadians did not find it odd that Europeans would take a “backward” people’s land, which is what settlers did to the indigenous population here.

A number of books about Canada’s Jewish community discuss how elite Canadian Jews, especially after the 1917 Balfour Declaration, were more active Zionists than their US counterparts. In Canada’s Jews: A People’s Journey, Gerald Tulchinsky explains: “The First World War accentuated differences between Canadian and American Jewry. For example, loyalty to Britain’s cause provided Zionists with opportunities to identify their purposes with Britain’s imperial mission.”

When British General Edmund Allenby led a campaign in late 1917 to take Palestine from the Ottomans as many as 400 Canadians (about half recruited specifically for the task) fought in Allenby’s Jewish Legion. Sometimes beleaguered Jewish communities were praised by the media for taking up England’s cause to conquer Palestine.

Since Israel’s creation in 1948 different Canadian governments have expressed varying degrees of support. But overall, the laudatory public declarations have continued.

After a long career of support for Zionism as external minister and prime minister, Lester Pearson referred to that country as “an outpost, if you will, of the West in the Middle East.”

External Affairs Minister Don Jamieson echoed this sentiment in an October 1977 speech. “Israel is an increasingly valuable ally of the West and Jews and non-Jews alike should see to it that Israel remains … an ally of the Western world,” Jamieson said. “We in Canada must see to it that when Israel is making such tremendous sacrifices, we should stand ready to help Israel with oil and material assistance.”

Yes, the current government is more aggressive in its public declarations than any before it and this has helped drive the establishment Jewish community to an even more hardline position.

To the Conservatives’ delight, two years ago the ninety-year old Canadian Jewish Congress was disbanded by its wealthy donors in favor of an even more Israel-focused Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Similarly, the Conservatives’ strong ties to Christian Zionism has prodded the Zionist lobby group B’nai Brith to deepen its ties with Canada Christian College and the prominent right-wing evangelist Charles McVety.

At the same time, the anti-racist sectors of Canada’s Jewish community have made major strides in recent years. Groups such as Independent Jewish Voices, Not In Our Name, Jewish Voice for Peace, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Women in Solidarity with Palestine and Jews for a Just Peace, have undercut the notion that all Canadian Jews support Israeli policy or Zionism. But these groups are unlikely to become dominant voices within the Jewish community until there is a shift in Canada’s political culture.

Canadian Zionism has long been part of the religious and political establishment. In every community there are those who take the side of the rich and powerful.

Comments Off on The long history of Zionism in Canada

Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada and Israel

Illegal in Canada, but okay in Israel?

In Canada it is illegal to restrict the sale of property to certain ethnic or religious groups but many of our business people and politicians promote an organization that does exactly that in Israel.

Into the 1950s restrictive land covenants in many exclusive neighbourhoods and communities across Canada made it impossible for Jews, Blacks, Chinese, Aboriginals and others deemed to be non-’white’ to buy property. It was not until after World War II that these policies began to be successfully challenged in court.

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 contained the following clause: “The lands 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, 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 persons of the white or Caucasian race.”

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 6-to-1 decision the highest court reversed the lower courts’ ruling and allowed Noble to purchase the property.

The publicity surrounding the case prompted Ontario to pass a law voiding racist land covenants and in 2009 the Conservative government defined the Noble and Wolf v. Alley Supreme Court case “an event of national historic significance” in the battle “for human rights and against discrimination on racial and religious grounds in Canada.”

Six decades after the Supreme Court delivered this blow to racist property covenants, a Canadian charity that discriminates in land use continues to receive significant public support. Ottawa provides financial and political support to the Jewish National Fund, which owns 13 percent of Israel’s land and has significant influence over most of the rest. Established internationally in 1901 and nine years later in Canada, the JNF’s bylaws and lease documents contain a restrictive covenant stating its property will not be leased to non-Jews.

A 1998 United Nations Human Rights Council report found that the JNF systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up about 20 percent of the country’s population. According to the UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” Similarly, after an Arab Israeli couple was blocked from leasing a house in the mid-1990s they took their case all the way to Israel’s High Court and in 2005 the court found that the JNF systematically excluded Palestinian citizens of Israel from leasing its property.

More recently, the US State Department’s 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices detailed “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel. The report noted, “Approximately 93 percent of land was in the public domain, including approximately 12.5 percent owned by the NGO Jewish National Fund (JNF), whose statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”

For their part, JNF Canada officials are relatively open about the discriminatory character of the organization. In May 2002, JNF Canada’s executive director for eastern Canada, Mark Mendelson, explained: “We are trustees between world Jewry and the land of Israel.” JNF Canada’s head Frank A. Wilson echoed this statement in July 2009: “JNF are the caretakers of the Land of Israel on behalf of its owners, who are the Jewish people everywhere around the world.”

The JNF’s bylaws and operations clearly violate Canadian law. Yet JNF Canada, which raises about $7 million annually, is a registered charity in this country. As such, it can provide tax credits for donations, meaning that up to 40% of their budget effectively comes from public coffers.

On top of its charitable status, JNF Canada has received various other forms of official support. Alberta and Manitoba, for instance, have signed multimillion dollar accords with the JNF while Harper’s Conservatives are strong supporters of the organization. Over the past year ministers Jason Kenney and John Baird have spoken at JNF galas while Peter Kent toured southern Israel with officials from the organization. On December 1 Prime Minister Stephen Harper is set to be honored at the JNF Negev Dinner in Toronto, which will be the first time a sitting Canadian prime minister has spoken to a JNF gala in the organization’s 100-year history.

Does Harper support the JNF’s racist land use policies?

Independent Jewish Voices has launched a campaign to revoke the JNF Canada’s charitable status for its racist land use policies and role in dispossessing Palestinians. On December 1 Harper will be greeted by protesters in Toronto while a protest is also planned for the JNF gala in Ottawa on October 29.

In 2011, Stop the JNF in England pushed Prime Minister, David Cameron, to withdraw his patron status from the JNF. Additionally, at least 68 members of the UK parliament have endorsed a call 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.”

Here in Canada it would be nice to see progressive politicians such as NDP MP Libby Davies or Green Party leader Elizabeth May circulate a similar call to their colleagues in the House of Commons. At least some federal politicians must oppose Canada subsidizing racist property restrictions.

Comments Off on Illegal in Canada, but okay in Israel?

Filed under Canada and Israel

Canada’s neoconservative turn

An attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada.”
– Peter Kent, Junior Foreign minister, 12 February 2010

In my new book Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid I argue that the trajectory of this country’s foreign policy has been clear. The culmination of six decades of one-sided support, and four years into the government of Conservative Party Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Canada is (at least diplomatically) the most pro-Israel country in the world.

Since the book went to print a couple of months ago the Conservatives have launched a more extreme phase of Israel advocacy. Groups in any way associated with the Palestinian cause have been openly attacked and Ottawa has taken a more belligerent tone towards Iran.

In the beginning of February, Ottawa delighted Israeli hawks by canceling $15 million in funding for the UN agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The money has been reallocated to Palestinian Authority judicial and security reforms in the West Bank. At the same time, Canada doubled the number of troops involved in US Lt. General Keith Dayton’s mission to train a Palestinian force to strengthen Fatah against Hamas and to serve as an arm of Israel’s occupation.

Only a few weeks earlier, Israel apologists sang Harper’s praise when his government chopped $7 million from Kairos, a Christian aid organization that had received government money for 35 years. During a visit to Israel, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Canada had “defunded organizations, most recently like Kairos, who are taking a leadership role” in campaigns to boycott Israel. Palestinian advocacy was also the reason Ottawa failed to renew its funding for Montreal-based Alternatives, an international solidarity organization, which received most of its budget from the federal government.

The Conservatives chose a different tactic with the arm’s-length government agency Rights and Democracy. Instead of cutting its budget, they stacked the board with hard-line supporters of Israel. Last week, Maclean magazine reported that “The Rights and Democracy board is now predominantly composed of people who have devoted much of their life to an unequivocal position: that no legal challenge to Israel’s human rights record is permissible, because any such challenge is part of a global harassment campaign against Israel’s right to exist.”

The new “Israel no matter what” board members hounded the organization’s president, Remy Beauregard, until he died of a heart attack after a “vitriolic” meeting a month ago. Once in charge, the new board voted to “repudiate” three $10,000 grants given to Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups (B’Tselem, Al-Haq and Al Mezan). On Wednesday, the Toronto Star reported that the “Conservative-appointed [Rights and Democracy] board secretly decided to close the agency’s Geneva office, distancing itself from a United Nations body it viewed as anti-Israeli.”

Internationally, Harper has used his pulpit as host of this year’s G8 to pave the way for a possible US-Israeli attack on Iran. “Canada will use its G8 presidency to continue to focus international attention and action on the Iranian regime,” explained the prime minister on 9 February.

While Ottawa considers Iran’s nuclear energy program a major threat, Israel’s atomic bombs have not provoked similar condemnation. The Harper government has repeatedly abstained on votes asking Israel to place its nuclear weapons program under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) controls.

A week ago Ottawa criticized China, a key trading partner of Iran, for refusing to follow Western dictates regarding the Islamic Republic. “I think China should step up to the plate and do something here,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said.

While they are silent on the appalling record of the pro-West monarchy in Saudi Arabia and the dictatorship in Egypt, Canadian officials regularly berate Iran. “This regime continues to blatantly ignore its international obligations, and this threatens global security,” Cannon said last week.

At times Canadian words have been even more menacing. A 17 February Toronto Star article was headlined: “Military action against Iran still on the table, Kent says.” Peter Kent, the junior foreign minister, explained that “It may soon be time to intensify the sanctions and to broaden those sanctions into other areas.” He added: “I think the realization [is] that it’s a dangerous situation that has been there for some time. It’s a matter of timing and it’s a matter of how long we can wait without taking more serious preemptive action.”

“Preemptive action” is likely a euphemism for a bombing campaign. Canadian naval vessels are already running provocative maneuvers off Iran’s coast and by stating that “an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada,” Kent is trying to create the impression that Iran may attack Israel. But isn’t it Israel that possesses nuclear weapons and threatens to bomb Iran, not the other way around? Of course that would be a reality-based analysis, not something George W. Bush’s Canadian clones favor.

This article first appeared in The Electronic Intifada, Feb. 26, 2010

Comments Off on Canada’s neoconservative turn

Filed under Canada and Israel