Category Archives: NDP

Does the NDP want a war with Russia?

Heather McPherson

Does the NDP want to go to war with Russia? Unfortunately that is the logic of a recent statement by its deputy foreign affairs critic.

In an interview with Ukrainian-Canadian media outlet New Pathway, Heather McPherson said the government should promote Ukraine joining NATO. Additionally, she wants Ottawa to expand its military presence in the nation. Asked whether the NDP “support Ukraine’s bid to join the MAP [Membership Action Plan] program and advocate for this with our NATO allies” and “expand both the scope of Operation Unifier and number of CAF [Canadian armed forces] personnel within the program?” McPherson responded: “The NDP will continue to strongly support Ukraine’s bid to join the MAP program and we have and will continue to push the government to advocate for this with our NATO allies. That Prime Minister Trudeau and (Foreign Affairs) Minister (Marc) Garneau have been unwilling to explicitly state their support for Ukraine’s bid and their failure to adequately support the bid via advocacy efforts and multi-lateral diplomacy is very disturbing.

“Further, the NDP would expand both the scope of Operation Unifier and number of CAF personnel within the program. In December 2018, the NDP called for an extension of operation UNIFIER after an unprecedented act of aggression by Russia which seized three Ukrainian ships and their 20 crew members off the coast of Crimea. As you know, in March 2019 the operation was renewed. The support needs to be renewed and increased to acknowledge recent increased aggression by Russia.”

McPherson’s position is highly provocative. As part of Operation UNIFIER, 200 Canadian troops “train” Ukrainian forces that have integrated far right militias who use the Nazi “Wolfsangel” symbol and praise officials who helped slaughter Jews and Poles during World War II. When extending the mission in 2018, the Liberals also eased restrictions that required the Canadians to stay in the western half of Ukraine, away from the fighting in the east that has left over 10,000 dead.

Canadian troops also lead a NATO mission in another nation bordering Russia. Alongside 550 Canadian troops in Latvia, Canadian naval vessels have recently patrolled in the Baltic Sea and Canadian fighter jets have been stationed in Romania.

Massing NATO troops on Russia’s border is highly belligerent. It also violates a US, German and French promise to Soviet/Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev regarding the reunification of Germany, an important Cold War divide. In 1990 Gorbachev agreed not to obstruct German reunification, to withdraw tens of thousands of troops from the east and for the new Germany to be part of NATO in return for assurances that the alliance wouldn’t expand “one inch eastward”. Now, the alliance includes countries on Russia’s border and North American troops are stationed there.

Officially NATO operates on the idea that an attack against one member is an attack against all members. Currently the government in Kiev claims Russia is backing a secessionist movement in the largely Russian speaking east of the country and illegally occupying Crimea so adding Ukraine to NATO would put the alliance on a war footing with Russia.

Fortunately, there’s push back to McPherson’s reckless position. In retweeting a Canadian Foreign Policy Institute message stating, “Yikes. NDP is criticizing government for not supporting bringing Ukraine into NATO and says it wants to send more Canadians troops there”, former MP and foreign affairs critic Svend Robinson wrote: “NDP shouldbe calling on Canada to withdraw from this discredited Cold War NATO alliance and redirect arms expenditures into fighting real enemies of climate emergency and obscene inequality in Canada and globally. Canada Out Of NATO.”

Employing more strident language, Rabble blogger David Climenhaga added: “Oh FFS! What is it about Canadian progressives that they have to prove they can be warmongering lunatics too? NATO has no business camped on Russia’s doorstep — it’s bad tactics AND bad strategy. What is the Canadian Greens position on this? I may have to change my vote.” Hoping to stir up dissent within NDP ranks, Green MP Elizabeth May retweeted Robinson’s criticism.

My guess is that Climenhaga and Robinson’s position is closer to that of most NDP activists, members and even voters. A resolution calling on the NDP to “actively campaign to get Canada out of NATO” and “remove the NATO nuclear ring around Russian borders” was submitted by two riding associations to the party’s recent convention (it was never debated). At a time when NATO had at least a nominal Cold War justification, NDP members voted to leave the organization. After years of internal debate over NATO party members called on Ottawa to withdraw from the alliance in 1969. But the position was partially reversed by the NDP leadership in the mid-1980s, culminating in a 1987 “security” policy paper that equivocated on the subject.

Whether or not one believes Canada should withdraw from NATO, pushing to expand the alliance in a way that could put Canada on a war footing with Russia is reckless.

Comments Off on Does the NDP want a war with Russia?

Filed under NDP, Russia

NDP in bed with neocons over China

 

Canadians truly committed to a rules-based, peaceful international order need voices in Parliament to speak up against militarism and the US empire. Instead we get a supposed ‘left’ party indistinguishable from the right.

The recent flap over an award given out by the Halifax International Security Forum highlights how the NDP is jumping into bed with neocon militarists over China.

Recently Washington-based Politico reported that the Trudeau government pressured the HSF not to give its John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. The government denied the charge but initially refused to recommit the $3 million in Department of National Defence (DND) funding for HSF.

NDP foreign affairs critic Jack Harris labeled any interference in the HSF award choice as “shameful and plays into the hands of the Communist leadership of China.” Harris also told Globe and Mail reporter Steven Chase that the award to Tsai would be “an indicator of how the free world is united against China’s bullying tactics.”

If Harris had stopped at “the free world is united against China’s bullying” it would have simply represented an example of his increasingly common China bashing. But Harris also lauded the HSF as “among the free world’s most significant defence meetings.” On Wednesday NDP MPs backed a Conservative motion in the House of Commons, which passed unanimously, supporting giving an award to Tsai and maintaining HSF’s funding.

Sponsored by NATO, DND and military companies, the HSF is based in Washington. It was set up by a neocon who advised the Harper government and was strongly promoted by arch militarist John McCain.

Since its founding a decade ago activists have rallied in front of the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel during the conference. I spoke at the 2018 protest.

The award Harris and Canadian MPs want HSF to give to Tsai is named after an individual who heavily promoted the lies that led to the 2003 Iraq war. John McCain also championed the NATO bombing of Libya and backed Saudi Arabia’s genocide in Yemen. McCain rose to public attention in the late 1960s by dropping bombs on civilian targets (a war crime) in North Vietnam. During his presidential bid in 2000 McCain told reporters “I hate the gooks” and “I will hate them as long as I live.” McCain refused to apologize for using a racial slur to condemn the North Vietnamese who held him captive and tortured him.

Giving an award to Taiwan’s president is a provocative moved designed to increase tension with China. (While apparently Sinophobic reporter Steven Chase implies Beijing is the only force that has pushed the idea Taiwan and mainland China are one country, Ottawa recognized the government in Taiwan as the official representative of all of China for 21 years after the Kuomintang retreated to Taiwan with some two million Chinese supporters after they were defeated by Mao’s forces in 1949. Until 13 years ago the governing party in Taiwan openly claimed to represent all of China.) The award is part of HSF’s growing anti-China posture. In November they released a handbook titled “China vs. Democracy: The Greatest Game” that painted Beijing as a threatening force bent on global domination.

For HSF conflict with China feeds the military/intelligence apparatus they represent. It legitimates Canada spending hundreds of billions of dollars on new naval vessels and fighter jets as well as justifying the racist Five Eyes intelligence arrangement.

Voices citing the China ‘threat’ to justify military spending are growing. In “This is no time for the Liberals to think of slashing defence spending” National Post columnist John Ivison wrote that the government “should increase” military spending in next week’s budget “to counter China’s growing threat”. A recent CTV story said Ottawa should pony up $6 billion to modernize NORAD to deal with the “Threats from Russia, China” while an earlier Global News story said “Canada should follow Australia’s example in defence, foreign policy” by massively increasing military spending to deal with China.

By promoting China hysteria, the NDP is empowering militarists. When the NDP foreign affairs critic labels the Halifax International Security Forum “among the free world’s most significant defence meetings” it really is the No Difference Party.

Comments Off on NDP in bed with neocons over China

Filed under Asia, China, NATO, NDP

NDP votes for Palestine

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments Off on NDP votes for Palestine

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel Lobby, NDP

Why couldn’t Jagmeet Singh say “Palestine”?

On CBC’s The House on Saturday Jagmeet Singh was asked about resolutions submitted to next week’s NDP convention regarding “Canada’s relationship to Israel and the Palestinian territory”. Instead of responding to the question, he mentioned “anti-Semitism” four times. Asked again about “resolutions that in a sense condemn Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians”, Singh again failed to mention Palestine or Palestinians. Instead, he talked about “increased hate crimes also against people of the Jewish faith”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel Lobby, NDP

Israel lobby’s bid to suppress NDP debate reflects their strength and weakness

At the upcoming NDP convention the social democratic party’s members should have the opportunity to vote on two widely endorsed pro-Palestinian resolutions. But Canada’s pro-Israel lobby groups are pressuring the party leadership to suppress debate regarding a resolution critical of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian working definition of antisemitism. They want to suppress NDP members ability to debate a document designed to suppress discussion of Palestinian rights!

Recently B’nai B’rith sent a statement to party leader Jagmeet Singh urging him “to ensure that resolutions rejecting the IHRA definition of antisemitism are, themselves, rejected.” An earlier Times of Israel oped titled “NDP radicals should stop politicizing antisemitism” claimed former NDP MPs Svend Robinson and Libby Davies were “peddling” “antisemitism” by promoting the anti-IHRA resolution. For their part, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has put out a statement criticizing the NDP, tweeted about it and published an op-ed critical of the party’s IHRA resolution. CIJA also sponsored a letter signed by 100 Jewish organizations pressuring Singh to suppress the anti-IHRA resolution.

Employing progressive sounding language claiming Jews should define their own oppression, the letter signers completely ignore Palestinians whose rights the IHRA definition tramples on. A member of the Ontario Legislature and top Israeli diplomat have already used the IHRA definition to attack NDP MP Charlie Angus for sharing a Guardian article critical of Israel’s failure to vaccinate Palestinians. Recently Israeli MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh — daughter of Irwin Cotler — wrote that the International Criminal Court investigation into Israeli crimes violates the IHRA definition.

On its face the Israel lobby’s bid to subvert NDP democracy is an over-the-top reaction to a somewhat symbolic resolution. They have escalated the IHRA issue to the point where it has drawn significant attention and anyone committed to party democracy will demand it be debated.

More broadly, their frenzied response is out of proportion with the seeming consequences if it passes. A powerful state, Israel is not on the precipice of collapsing because of pro-Palestinian NDP resolutions. Its GDP per capita is greater than France and Japan and only $500 less than Canada’s. The economic divide between Israel and Gaza is almost certainly the largest of any bordering peoples on the planet. In the military sphere, Israel is one of nine countries that possesses nuclear weapons. It has the sixth or seventh strongest armed forces in the world with far and away the deadliest destructive capacity in the region. Additionally, the USA, the global hegemon, is legally required to guarantee Israel’s military supremacy over the rest of the region!

In the country in which the IHRA resolution outburst is taking place, the government is firmly anti-Palestinian. The Trudeau government has expanded a trade agreement that treats settlements in the occupied West Bank as part of Israel, turns a blind eye to the illegal recruitment of Canadians for the Israeli military and subsidizes hundreds of millions of dollars in donations annually to Israeli charities, including some that support the IDF, West Bank settlements and explicitly racist organizations. In November leading anti-Palestinian activist Irwin Cotler, who Hill Times recently counted among the 50 most influential Canadians on foreign policy, was appointed Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism.

Canada’s main opposition Conservatives are more supportive of Israel and the sovereigntist Bloc Québecois has more MPs than any party on the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group. After a battle over Palestinian rights that nearly split the Green party, the Israel lobby’s preferred candidate recently became its leader. Last week Annamie Paul attended an Israeli Wine and Canadian Cheese lobbying event hosted by CIJA, Hillel Ottawa and Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC).

In the economic sphere the lobby is well placed as well. A number of the 100 richest Canadians are proud pro-Israel activists while I’m unaware of any on that list who are openly pro-Palestinian.

At the institutional level CIJA, B’nai B’rith, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, Honest Reporting Canada, StandWithUs, Christians United for Israel Canada, Israel on Campus, etc., all have more money and staff than ever before. The same goes for softer arms of the lobby such as United Jewish Appeal Toronto and Federation Combined Jewish Appeal Montréal, as well as Leo Baeck, Hebrew Academy and other private Jewish day schools as well as Hillel and CJPAC.

The lobby’s institutional capacities have enabled their NDP campaign, of course. But just because you have the power to create a political storm doesn’t mean you have to. So why intervene so forcefully in NDP affairs?

Despite working on behalf of a powerful state backed by the global hegemon, the Israel lobby is vulnerable on the ideological plane. The facts on the ground are overwhelming and polls show Canadians are increasingly sympathetic to Palestinians. As such, the Israel lobby has become ever more dependent on intimidating people from discussing what B’Tselem recently dubbed “a regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea” by weaponizing anti-Semitism.

The lobby’s substantial power rests uneasily alongside the injustice they seek to maintain. Like most bullies they get angry when their target wants to talk. They don’t want to hear the other’s point of view. Hopefully, NDP members stand up to the bully and do what’s right.

 

 

On April 5 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute will be hosting a discussion on “Palestine Solidarity: why the NDP convention matters

 

Comments Off on Israel lobby’s bid to suppress NDP debate reflects their strength and weakness

Filed under Israel Lobby, NDP

Why the NDP needs a new defence critic

Randall Garrison with Canadian soldiers in Mali

What should be expected from a “defence critic” for a left-wing political party? An easy answer might be criticism from the left, but in the case of the NDP that doesn’t happen much.

The Department of National Defence/Canadian Forces is far and away the largest federal government department. It has the biggest budget, staff, public relations machine and intelligence-gathering capacities of any ministry. With approximately 120,000 employees, DND spends $30 billion annually, 15 times the budget of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Across the country, DND manages the “largest infrastructure portfolio in the federal government” with its many bases and stations covering over two million hectares. DND/CF is also the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the federal government.

Offensively oriented, the Canadian military has innumerable ties to the “greatest purveyor of violence”, in Martin Luther King’s words, the world has ever seen. Canada has hundreds of cooperation agreements with the US military and Canadian Forces are deployed on more than 20 international missions.

Despite numerous accords, deployments, expenditures, etc. that warrant questioning, the NDP defence critic barely challenges DND (with the exception of sexism within the force). In fact, Randall Garrison mostly advocates for those within the force. As the NDP defence critic told Canadian Defence Review, “if we’re going to send people out and ask them to do tough work we better make sure they’ve got the equipment they need to do it.”

Garrison has stayed silent on Canadian naval vessels taking over NATO’s Standing Naval Forces in the Baltic, North and Norwegian seas. He has also said nothing about Canadian vessels participating in provocative maneuvers in the South China Sea or Canadian vessels engaged in multinational patrols with their Saudi Arabian counterparts. Nor has the NDP defence critic mentioned rotations of Canadian pilots in Romania or the small detachment of troops at a US base in Saudi Arabia. He openly backed Canada’s sizable ‘training’ deployments to Iraq, Ukraine and Latvia.

Garrison has stayed mum on Canadian Defence Attachés promoting arms exports. Nor does he appear concerned with the costly, ecologically damaging and violent nature of Canada’s planned fighter jet purchase.

As I wrote recently, Garrison’s most egregious position concerns the Canadian Surface Combatants (CSC) procurement, which is the largest in Canadian history. “Amidst growing media criticism,” I noted in early January, “Garrison has said nothing regarding the frigates’ cost, secrecy or weaponry. He hasn’t released a single tweet (or retweet) about any of the recent stories on the surface combatant vessels.”

The silence continued after the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated last month that the cost of acquiring 15 highly armed CSCs at $77 billion. Three times the initial estimate, $77 billion is just the sticker price. In a recent Hill Times article former Assistant Deputy Minister of Materiel at DND and Assistant Deputy Minister, Supply Operations Service in Public Works and Government Services Canada, Alan Williams, suggests the full life-cycle cost of the CSC will be an eye popping $286 billion. That would cover tuition for every university student in the country for 15 years or guarantee safe drinking water on every reserve 100 times over. But the CSC’s ballooning costs haven’t elicited a peep from Garrison. He supports plowing a quarter trillion dollars into strengthening the navy’s ability to subjugate others.

To get a sense of Garrison’s deference to the military, he responded to a September Canadian Defence Review question about spending millions of dollars into the ecologically destructive public relations tool that are the Snowbirds by saying: “I go with what the Canadian Forces say they need and want to do, so I don’t have a personal opinion about whether this is what they need to do. If the Canadian Forces tell me, and they clearly have, that this is an important part of what they do and we need to spend money on it, then I’ll support them.”

NDP members, activists and MPs shouldn’t accept this. It is past time Garrison was removed as party defence “critic”.

 

If you are interested in hearing voices that question the military, check out the April 3 discussion on “Why Canada should leave NATO”

 

Comments Off on Why the NDP needs a new defence critic

Filed under Military, NDP

Israel lobby group has no credibility to lecture NDP on racism

 

It’s heating up. With a month to go before the NDP convention the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has twice attacked Palestine solidarity and the left of the party.

In a Twitter thread on Tuesday the official advocacy arm of Canada’s Jewish federations promoted the idea that Canada’s first ever openly gay member of parliament and a 20-year MP were “antisemitic.” CIJA attacked Svend Robinson and Libby Davies for sponsoring a resolution against the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism to the April NDP convention. In a series of aggressive tweets CIJA linked to a Times of Israel story titled “NDP radicals should stop politicizing antisemitism” that claimed Robinson and Davies “peddled” “antisemitism.” The logic (if you can call it that) is that it is anti-Jewish to oppose a definition of anti-Semitism designed to maintain the subjugation of Palestinians.

Former Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) head Sid Ryan recently reported that 55 NDP electoral associations, the president of CUPE Ontario, leadership of OFL, several District Labour Councils, Independent Jewish Voices, Palestine House, Palestinian Canadian Congress, Just Peace Advocates, several NDP MPs and many more have endorsed the anti-IHRA resolution. “There has never been this much broad based support for a resolution submitted to a NDP convention in its 60 year history”, Ryan wrote on Facebook.

At the same time another resolution to the convention dubbed the “Palestine Resolution” has been supported by 33 riding associations and numerous groups. It calls for “ending all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine” and “suspending the bilateral trade of all arms and related materials with the State of Israel until Palestinian rights are upheld.” The resolution effectively urges the NDP to adopt the policy recommendations of the Canadian Labour Congress on the issue.

In a sign of the pressure CIJA is putting on the party leadership to suppress the IHRA and Palestine resolutions, they released a statement that targeted Davies and Robinson. In a release last week that was a clearly designed to marginalize the left within the NDP, CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel noted: “Jeremy Corbyn is toxic. The invitation to the disgraced leader [a March 20 webinar between MP Niki Ashton and Corbyn] is more evidence that Svend Robinson, Niki Ashton, Libby Davies and a few others want to take the NDP in a direction that is antithetical to basic Canadian values. This small group is actively undermining NDP leadership.”

While a definition of anti-Semitism designed to maintain Palestinian subjugation is obviously odious, the anti-IHRA campaign makes me somewhat uncomfortable. It’s too defensive. Rather than being on the backfoot, anti-racists should loudly proclaim that lobbyists for Israel’s “regime of Jewish supremacy” (B’Tselem) have zero credibility on racism.

Alas, Canadian political culture is what it is. CIJA is not done attacking the NDP. As the convention approaches expect op-eds, tweets, press releases, etc. that seek to link Davies, Robinson, Ashton or the NDP more generally to real or perceived anti-Semitism. At recent conventions CIJA has organized breakfasts and brought in ‘progressive’ Israeli officials. How this plays out during this virtual convention is unclear.

In deference to CIJA and the dominant media, expect the party leadership to seek to suppress the IHRA and Palestine resolutions. At the 2018 convention the Palestine Resolution, which was endorsed unanimously by the NDP youth convention and by over 24 riding associations, was blocked from even being discussed by the party hierarchy. (The resolution mostly restated official Canadian policy, except that it called for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”) NDP House Leader Guy Caron mobilized an unprecedented number of current and former MPs, including Alexandre Boulerice, Randall Garrison, Craig Scott, Tracey Ramsey, Hélène Laverdière, Murray Rankin and Nathan Cullen, to vote against even debating the most widely endorsed foreign policy resolution at the convention. Additionally, members of Jagmeet Singh’s family, Stephen Lewis foundation’s Janet Solberg, Broadbent Institute’s Rick Smith and their allies all attended the early morning session to stop the Palestine Resolution from being discussed at the main plenary.

Internationalists participating in the upcoming convention should plan to overcome every trick in the book from the party hierarchy to suppress Palestine solidarity. Courage anti-racists!

Comments Off on Israel lobby group has no credibility to lecture NDP on racism

Filed under Israel Lobby, NDP

Broadbent Institute head smears Ashton, Robinson and internationalism

 

Broadbent Institute head Rick Smith should just be frank and say he hates Palestinians and doesn’t care about internationalism.

On Tuesday Smith tweeted that it was disturbing that NDP MP Niki Ashton was doing an upcoming fundraiser for the Progressive International with former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. In response to former NDP MP Svend Robinson tweeting, “I look forward to joining this great event with Niki and Jeremy Corbyn and supporting Progressive International”, Smith wrote “this is very unfortunate. In a recent report, the UK’s independent Equality and Human Rights Commission found serial ‘unlawful acts’ of antisemitism in UK Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”

After a wave of criticism Smith doubled down. He tweeted that the Conservative party aligned UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission “report is lengthy, detailed, and makes for sobering and distressing reading. This is not the sort of person that should headline a progressive fundraiser or occupy the time of Canadian progressive leaders.”

In case some readers are confused by what this battle over Corbyn is about, it boils down to hardcore Israeli nationalists attempting to impose their views on what constitutes anti-Semitism and internationalism on both the British Labour Party and NDP. Essentially the anti-Corbynites demand that Palestinian solidarity be defined as anti-Jewish and that foreign policy in Canada and the UK be non-partisan, which in practice means accepting the status quo.

In other words, despite its supposed “progressive” credentials, the Broadbent Institute is attempting to keep the NDP from moving to a more “internationalist” position in foreign policy. And this has been happening for some time.

At the 2018 NDP convention multiple Broadbent Institute players supported the party establishment’s move to suppress debate on the “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice”. At an early morning session prior to the main plenary Smith voted against allowing the full convention to debate the Palestine Resolution, which was endorsed by more than two dozen riding associations before the federal convention. The motion mostly restated official Canadian policy, except that it called for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”

The Broadbent Institute’s namesake was anti-Palestinian. In 1975 Ed Broadbent called the Palestinian Liberation Organization “terrorists and murderers whose aim is the destruction of the state of Israel”. During his time as leader of the NDP Broadbent called on the federal government to intervene to block Canadian companies from adhering to Arab countries’ boycott of Israel, which was designed to pressure that country to return land captured in the 1967 war.

Broadbent reversed the party memberships’ 1969 call for Ottawa to withdraw from NATO. After leaving party politics he headed the Canadian government’s equivalent to the CIA cutout National Endowment for Democracy, Rights and Democracy, for seven years.

Smith’s double standard on who is acceptable to speak at a progressive form is stark. In 2014 the Broadbent Institute’s headline speaker was Julia Gillard. The former Australian prime minister was viciously anti-Palestinian. In 2012, for instance, most of Gillard’s cabinet revolted against her plan to deny Palestine observer status in the UN. Australia ultimately abstained on a resolution backed by most of the world.

In 2014 the Broadbent Institute organized an event with Conservative Senator Hugh Segal. Former Chief of Staff to Conservative Ontario Premier Bill Davis and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Segal was at the time chair of the NATO Association of Canada and a member of SNC Lavalin’s board. The event was sponsored by Loblaws and General Electric Canada.

In 2016 Gloria Steinem spoke to the Broadbent Institute. Steinem was funded by the CIA in her early years and in her 2015 book she wrote, “in my experience The Agency [CIA] was completely different from its image; it was liberal, nonviolent and honorable.”

In 2019 Michael Coren spoke at the Broadbent Institute’s annual forum. From 2011 until the channel’s demise in 2015 Coren hosted an evening talk show on the hard-right Sun News Network, which spawned Ezra Levant’s Rebel News. Coren opposed same-sex marriages. During Israel’s destruction of Gaza in 2014 Coren wrote an Edmonton Sun column noting, “I hate the way the Marxists and their friends who supported Israel in the 50s and 60s now call Israelis Nazis. I hate the way Islamic fanatics pretend to care about the Palestinians when at the same time they slaughter their own people and use those same Palestinians as metaphorical and literal shields.”

The Broadbent Institute claims challenging Canadian foreign policy is outside its purview, which is in of itself a massive concession to the status quo. But it’s far worse than that. Informally the organization’s staff have interceded to suppress a modest Palestine resolution and to undercut the Progressive International.

The Broadbent Institute sucks up significance resources from individuals and institutions with far more universalist values than Smith. These individuals should consider reorienting their money to Canadian Dimension, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Rabble, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Independent Jewish Voices or some of the many other groups plugging away for a better, fairer world.

Comments Off on Broadbent Institute head smears Ashton, Robinson and internationalism

Filed under NDP

What’s NDP thinking? Terrorist list is a tool of US Empire

International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy banned “terrorist” organization

Brand a few neo-Nazis in Canada as “terrorists” but train and give military assistance to a much larger and more violent group of them in the Ukraine. What’s going on?

The New Democratic Party’s successful push to list the Proud Boys as a terrorist organization highlights their indifference to imperialism and a decidedly ‘North Americanist’ worldview. A tool of US-led global domination, Canada’s terrorist list should be abolished not have names added to it.

One indication that the push to list the Proud Boys was ‘North Americanist’ posturing is revealed by the NDP’s indifference to the best organized neo-Nazis in the world. A political party serious about listing white supremacist organizations would include right wing groups in the Ukraine that helped bring down the government in 2014. But Ottawa – with NDP backing – has supported those forces as opponents of Russia. Using the Nazi “Wolfsangel” symbol and praising officials who helped slaughter Jews and Poles during World War II, the Azov Battalion is a prime example. In 2018 Canada’s military attaché in Kiev met Azov representatives, Canada finances a police force aligned with them and our military is probably training them.

While none of the more influential Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups are on the list, the far-right Russian Imperial Movement was one of the 13 groups recently added. But, that group is viewed as a geopolitical competitor since it helped pro-Russian separatists in the war in eastern Ukraine.

Another violent, racist group that could be listed, but isn’t because it serves the US Empire, is Venezuela’s Voluntad Popular (VP). The Proud Boys role in the January 6 siege of Capitol Hill – what prompted NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to call for their designation as a terrorist organization – is no worse than VP’s violent coup efforts. In January 2014 VP leader Leopoldo López launched La Salida (exit/departure) in a bid to oust Nicolas Maduro who had just won a presidential election even the Stephen Harper government accepted. VP activists formed the shock troops of “guarimbas” protests that left 43 Venezuelans dead, 800 hurt and a great deal of property damaged. Dozens more were killed in a new wave of VP-backed protests in 2017, including Orlando Jose Figuera who “was burned alive on May 20 in Caracas’ Altamira neighborhood, one of the capital’s affluent areas, after opposition protesters suspected that the 21-year-old Black man was a government supporter.”

At the time NDP deputy foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière criticized the Harper government for being soft on Maduro! Subsequently, Laverdière supported the Liberal government in backing VP National Assembly member Juan Guaidó’s bid to seize power. (Amidst criticism from NDP activists, Singh later equivocated on explicitly recognizing Guaidó.)

The Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) is another group that demonstrates the imperial politics driving terrorist designations. It was removed from the terror list in 2012 prompting the Globe and Mail to note: “Changes to Canada’s terror list a shot across Iran’s bow”. At the same time the Harper government added the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force, an offshoot of Iran’s military. The MEK was removed because it was working with Mossad and the CIA to assassinate Iranian scientists and others. (Under different legislation Iran was also designated a “state sponsor” of terrorism alongside Syria.)

Who are the 70 groups on Canada’s terror list?

Twelve per cent of the list is from a long-occupied land with one tenth of one per cent  of the world’s population. Representing much of Palestinian political life, eight of the oppressed nation’s organizations are listed, ranging from the left secular Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to the elected Hamas ‘government’ in Gaza.

A dozen years after the terror list was established the first ever Canadian-based group was added. In 2014 the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN) was designated a terrorist organization for engaging in the ghastly act of supporting orphans and a hospital in the Gaza Strip through official (Hamas-controlled) channels.

Compared to the Israeli military, Hamas looks like a Quaker social justice club. But the NDP is not pushing to remove Palestinian organizations from the list. Nor is it calling for the Israeli military to be added. In fact, no NDP MP has yet been willing to publicly say Canada should uphold its own laws and stop illegal recruitment for the Israel Defence Force in Canada!

Two other groups on the terror list are leftist Colombian guerilla groups Ejército de Liberación Nacional and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia. But not listed is the far more violent US-backed Colombian military, which has long operated “death squad tactics”. Between 2002 and 2008 the Colombian military murdered more than 10,000 civilians so commanders could bolster their tallies of ‘enemies’ killed in combat. With the FARC disarming as part of a 2017 peace accord the number of indigenous and social movement leaders killed in Colombia has risen to shocking levels.

The dynamic is not dissimilar with a major Turkish group listed. Canada considers the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) a terrorist organization, but not the military of our NATO ally. Through the 1990s and early 2000s the PKK fought a bloody campaign for autonomy. But the bulk of the violence was meted out against Kurdish civilians by the US-armed Turkish military.

Even some of the more violent and reactionary groups on the list have legitimacy. The Taliban governed Afghanistan until the US, Canada and others invaded. Twenty years later they still control much of the country.

Al-Shabab was also part of a short-lived government in Somalia. In 2006, 50,000 Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia, which saw about 6,000 civilians killed and 300,000 flee the country. Washington prodded Addis Ababa into intervening and the US literally fuelled the invasion, providing gasoline, arms and strategic guidance as well as launching air attacks. The invasion/occupation led to the growth of al-Shabab, which waged a violent campaign against the foreign forces in the country and Somalia’s transitional government. Al-Shabab grew from being the relatively small youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union to the leading oppositional force in the country. It also radicalized and turned them from being a national organization towards increasing ties to Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda and ISIS affiliates represent a number of the groups on the terrorism list. But, as distasteful as they may be, their listing also highlights a double standard. Al Qaeda and ISIS are responsible for a fraction of the US military’s terror. Rather than list the Marines, Canada has hundreds of accords with the US military and Canadian generals regularly lead US troops (in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, etc.).

Beyond consisting almost entirely of organizations viewed as challenging US hegemony, Canada’s terrorism list itself reflects imperial dynamics. These lists offer powerful nations an added instrument to exclude and punish. For this reason, the world’s leading bully has copious terrorist legislation. While the US has various forms of terrorist designations, the UN and many countries in the Global South do not. Haitian officials understand full well that as much as many people there may want the Marines or CIA listed as ‘terrorists’ they are simply not in a position to do so.

The NDP leadership is indifferent to the imperial implications of Canada’s terrorism list. They pushed to list the Proud Boys because it garnered them headlines amidst widespread legitimate dislike of Donald Trump. But it is not progressives to reinforce a fundamentally racist US-led imperial system.

Comments Off on What’s NDP thinking? Terrorist list is a tool of US Empire

Filed under NDP

Does Stephen Lewis want Palestine to disappear?

Brian Mulroney and Stephen Lewis

Stephen Lewis seems to want Palestine to disappear. The latest example in a long history of anti-Palestinian activism is his claim that Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN didn’t contribute to its defeat for a seat on the Security Council.

Recently I was forwarded an email that activist Elizabeth Block shared to Independent Jewish Voices’ discussion list in which she challenged Lewis’ omission of Palestine during a recent CBC interview that dealt with Canada’s Security Council defeat. In it Brian Mulroney’s former ambassador to the UN responded, “Dear Elizabeth Block: I’m glad you wrote because it allows me to provide an answer. I didn’t include the Israel/Palestine issue because I genuinely believe that it had nothing to do with Canada’s loss of the Security Council seat. It’s as straightforward as that. There was nothing devious or manipulative in the omission. I just don’t think it applied. The items I listed had, I believe, the decisive influence in Canada’s loss.”

While Lewis denies that Canada’s extremist anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN had any impact on the vote, a slew of officials and commentators have highlighted the importance of the Palestinian question in Canada’s loss. After the vote Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, told the Jerusalem Post, “we are disappointed that Canada didn’t make it, both because we have close ties with the country and because of the campaign that the Palestinians ran against Canada.” In “UN snub the latest in Liberals’ rancid record” Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin noted that Canada’s Security Council defeat was all about Canada’s anti-Palestinian record. He wrote, “there is one and only one reason, IMO [in my opinion], for the resounding defeat of Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat at the UN: Palestine.”

Canada’s voting record at the UN was at the heart of the grassroots No Canada on the UN Security Council campaign. An open letter launching the campaign from the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute noted, “since coming to power the Trudeau government has voted against more than fifty UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights backed by the overwhelming majority of member states.” It added, “should it win a seat on the UNSC, Ottawa has stated that it will act as an “asset for Israel” on the Council.”

A subsequent open letter was signed by over 100 civil society groups and dozens of prominent individuals urging countries to vote against Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat due to its anti-Palestinian positions. The letter, organized by Just Peace Advocates, stated, “the Canadian government for at least a decade and a half has consistently isolated itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights at the UN. … Continuing this pattern, Canada ‘sided with Israel by voting No’ on most UN votes on the Question of Palestine in December. Three of these were Canada’s votes on Palestinian Refugees, on UNRWA and on illegal settlements, each distinguishing Canada as in direct opposition to the ‘Yes’ votes of Ireland and Norway.”

Just Peace Advocates organized 1,300 individuals to email all UN ambassadors asking them to vote for Ireland and Norway instead of Canada for the Security Council. In a sign of the campaign’s impact, Canada’s permanent representative to the UN, Marc André Blanchard, responded with a letter to all UN ambassadors defending Canada’s policy on Palestinian rights. When Blanchard’s letter was made public days before the vote the former vice-chair of a UN committee on the Question of Palestine and Vicar of Gaza, Robert Assaly, responded to the Canadian ambassador’s empty claims and took the opportunity to remind all the UN ambassadors about Canada’s anti-Palestinian record.

There’s no question that Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record harmed its Security Council bid. The only serious question is how big of a role it played.

Omitting Palestine from the Security Council discussion is not motivated by a different interpretation of the facts but rather reflects the longstanding anti-Palestinian activism of Lewis and members of his family. Ontario NDP leader from 1970 to 1978, Lewis demanded the federal government cancel a major UN conference scheduled for Toronto in 1975 because the Palestine Liberation Organization was granted observer status at the UN the previous year and their representatives might attend (the conference had nothing to do with Palestine). In a 1977 speech to pro-Israel fundraiser United Jewish Appeal, which the Canadian Jewish News titled “Lewis praises [Conservative premier Bill] Davis for Stand on Israel”, Lewis denounced the UN’s “wantonly anti-social attitude to Israel” and told the pro-Israel audience that “the anti-Semitism that lurks underneath the surface is diabolical.”

At the NDP’s 2018 convention Lewis’ sister, Janet Solberg, was maybe the loudest anti-Palestinian voice. She led the charge against having the convention even discuss the “Palestine Resolution”. Former president of the Ontario NDP and federal council member, Solberg was a long time backroom organizer for her brother and works at the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Lewis’ wife Michele Landsberg wrote anti-Palestinian diatribes. In one of her latter Toronto Star columns the prominent feminist wrote, “to keep their people primed for endless war, Palestinians have inculcated racist hatred of Jews and of Israel in school texts, official newspaper articles and leaders’ pronouncements, in language so hideous it would have made Goebbels grin.”

Stephen’s father, David Lewis, was also viciously anti-Palestinian. After Israel conquered East Jerusalem in 1967, the long-time influential figure in the NDP promoted a “united Jerusalem”. “The division of Jerusalem,” said David Lewis, “did not make economic or social sense. As a united city under Israel’s aegis, Jerusalem would be a much more progressive and fruitful capital of the various religions.”

Just after stepping down as federal leader of the NDP in 1975 David Lewis was the “speaker of the year” at a B’nai B’rith breakfast. In the hilariously titled “NDP’s David Lewis urges care for disadvantaged”, the Canadian Jewish News reported that Lewis “attacked the UN for having admitted the PLO” and said “a Middle East peace would require ‘some recognition of the Palestinians in some way.’ He remarked that the creation of a Palestinian state might be necessary but refused to pinpoint its location. The Israelis must make that decision, he said, without interference from Diaspora Jewry.”

I can’t find any evidence of Stephen Lewis distancing himself from his or his family’s anti-Palestinian activism. His bid to erase Canada’s anti-Palestinian record from the Security Council defeat suggests he is still plugging away on the issue.

Unfortunately, Lewis’ views on this subject matter. He has access to major platforms and no individual/family has had a greater impact on the NDP’s position towards Palestinians than the Lewis clan.

Comments Off on Does Stephen Lewis want Palestine to disappear?

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel, NDP