Conservative and Liberal media defend Green leader as she accuses her critics of racism

Last month Montréal saw some of its largest ever protests by racialized communities. On May 15 upwards of 10,000 came out for Palestinian rights with about 80% of those participating from an Arab or other racialized background. The racial makeup of the protests in other cities wasn’t dissimilar.

Alongside those taking to the street, huge numbers signed petitions and statements supporting Palestinian rights. The National Council of Canadian Muslims said it generated over 100,000 letters to the government regarding Israel’s attacks on the Al-Asqua mosque, ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem and violence on Gaza. A slew of Canada’s most prominent Black and indigenous activists — from Black Lives Matter to Desmond Cole, Idle No More to Ellen Gabriel — publicly supported the protests. The recent protests for Palestine have been among the largest uprisings of racialized Canadians in recent history.

So, anti-racists are right to be appalled with Annamie Paul’s deflection, refusal to side with Palestinians and inability to criticize Israeli apartheid.

What prompted most to take the street or write government officials was righteous outrage at probably the starkest racism on the planet. On one side is a country with a $44,000 per person GDP, nuclear arms and staunch support from the world’s superpower. On the other side is an imprisoned population with a GDP per capita of $2,000 and no army, let alone nuclear weapons.

Two thirds of the 2 million living in Gaza were ethnically cleansed from what is now Israel. Palestinians in Gaza can’t leave a 363 square km — between the size of Saskatoon and Winnipeg — open-air prison to view the homes their families were driven from 70 years ago but my longtime friend in Vancouver, Michael Rosen — who hasn’t been to Israel, has no familial connection to the country and has never even been religious — can emigrate there.

But the Green Party leader chose to ignore the uprising of racialized Canadians opposed to some of the starkest racism on the planet. Even worse, she is now claiming her anti-racism critics are racist.

Paul’s two statements last month on the conflict were as bad or worse as what the Trudeau government said. In so doing Paul ignored the pleas of Arab and Muslim Canadians, as well as her own party’s democratically determined policy, which repeatedly calls for pressure to be brought to bear on Israel to comply with international law. Before her first statement whitewashed Israeli racism and belligerence, Green MPs Jenica Atwin, Elizabeth May and Paul Manly privately pressed Paul to respect party policy.

When Atwin, Manly, May and many other Canadian political figures expressed support for the besieged Palestinians, Paul’s senior adviser Noah Zatzman smeared them as anti-Semitic and threatened to defeat them. After a huge letter writing campaign, the Green executive council terminated Zatzman’s contract. But Paul kept Zatzman on as a “volunteer” adviser, effectively flouting the executive council’s decision. She has also steadfastly refused to criticize Zatzman’s anti-Palestinian attacks despite a direct request from the Green executive to do so. Instead, she has reportedly threatened to sue the council over their request.

At the same time as this was playing out, Paul refused to talk with Atwin and blocked a number of individuals, including former Green leadership candidate Judy Green, from running for the party. When Atwin responded to Paul’s autocratic and anti-Palestinian behavior by leaving the party the dispute became leading news.

Instead of recognizing her central role in this debacle, Paul responded by calling her opponents “racist” and “sexist”. While Paul’s deflection is transparently self-serving, deeply anti-Palestinian and damaging to equity struggles, much of the dominant media has echoed the establishment–minded politician’s framing. Under the caption “standing her ground” Paul was on the front page of Saturday’s Globe and Mail and a Toronto Star editorial claimed, “the only positive to be found in the party’s sad spiral into irrelevance is the conduct of its embattled leader, Annamie Paul” who has been “attacked by the left fringe of the Green movement.”

Paul’s recent actions have been remarkably cynical, autocratic and anti-Palestinian. But even before she took the helm of the Green’s Paul rode a wave of autocratic and anti-Palestinian decisions. Paul’s rise was largely the outgrowth of former leader Elizabeth May’s disregard for party democracy. Despite promising to stay out of the leadership race, May threw her substantial influence behind Paul, fearing eco-socialist and pro-Palestinian forces in the party led by Dimitri Lascaris.

After members voted for a pro-Palestinian resolution proposed by Lascaris at the party’s 2016 convention, May demonstrated extreme disregard for party democracy. She threatened to resign and forced the party to hold a special convention six months later in Calgary to revaluate that single vote. May also expelled Lascaris and two others from her shadow cabinet and the party initially barred Lascaris from running to be leader of the Green party. Ultimately, Paul defeated Lascaris on the eighth-round of voting by 2,000 votes.

While Paul benefited greatly from May’s massive influence, soon after taking her position Paul butted heads with the May-aligned Federal Council. As a new leader, Paul requested the party pay her the salary of an MP ($185,000) and demanded significant funds be plowed into her Toronto riding where she faces long odds of winning.

As part of this conflict, Paul’s people sought to publicly embarrass the council. The manager of Paul’s unsuccessful Toronto Centre by-election, Sean Yo, implied the people around May were anti-Black and anti-Jewish in a story the Toronto Star headlined “Senior Green officials are sabotaging the first Black woman to lead a Canadian political party, ‘disgusted’ insiders say”.

That the Green party has a race problem should not be controversial. Black Green activist Matthew Sloly has long complained it is the least diverse of all the federal parties. But Sloly is harshly critical of Paul (as well as May’s) autocratic and anti-Palestinian outlook.

Other Black voices within the Greens are challenging Paul. Anti-Racist Equity Consultant Lisa Gunderson, who was seeking the party nomination for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, recently dropped her bid saying she was “concerned that recent events are not consistent with Green values.”

The idea that the way to solve the Green party’s lack of racial diversity is for the party leader’s senior adviser to smear all those, disproportionately Arab and Muslim Canadians, promoting Palestinian rights is outrageous. To frame opposition to Paul’s leadership as simply driven by racism is to ignore her autocratic behavior and anti-Palestinian racism.

Paul has severely divided and damaged the Green Party and is apparently fine with that. Certainly, there have been no public attempts to heal a glaring rift in the membership. If one were to ascribe motives based on her actions, it would seem she aims to purge the internationalist, anti-racist left from the party. By calling them racists. A tactic much of the media is applauding.

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NDP defence critic ignores party policy

Why does the NDP defence critic promote militarism and anti-Palestinian racism? Shouldn’t all critics promote their party’s policies? And if they don’t, what should the party leader do?

Randall Garrison complained to the Hill Times that the government’s recent budget didn’t devote enough to the military. In “Opposition MPs say they’re worried about lack of defence spending in budget, as experts to future of NORAD” he’s quoted saying: “Defence doesn’t change just because there’s a pandemic. … We spent a decade not providing the military with an adequate operating budget to do the work we already asked them to do. It’s time to fix that.”

Garrison has repeatedly demanded more resources for the military, which has more than 10 times the budget of Environment and Climate Change Canada. When the Liberals announced a 70 per cent increase in military spending in 2017 Garrison criticized the announcement for not putting up more money immediately, bemoaning (incorrectly) that “the money you’re proposing will not keep pace with the rate of inflation.”

Garrison supports spending $19 billion — $77 billion over their lifecycle — on 88 new aggressive, climate destroying, fighter jets. Garrison’s most egregious position concerns the Canadian Surface Combatants (CSC) procurement, which could cost $286 billion over their lifecycle. He stayed silent on the issue after the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated in February that the cost of acquiring 15 highly armed CSCs at over $77 billion, five times the initial estimate. And $77 billion is just the sticker price. 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.

Garrison has also ignored media reports about extreme secrecy in the CSC procurement process. Nor has he commented on its radar tying the vessels into US Ballistic Missile Defense or arming the frigates with Tomahawk missiles that travel 1,700 kilometers.

None of this aligns with the views of most NDP members.

In mid-April 85% of NDP convention delegates voted for the Palestine Resolution. 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.”

In response to Israel’s ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem, attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque and violence in Gaza, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called for an arms embargo on Israel and the party promoted a petition making this demand, which most MPs shared.

Garrison stayed quiet on the arms embargo and convention resolution. He also failed to criticize Israel’s violence and ethnic cleansing. Instead, he signed a statement at the end of May designed to shield Israel from criticism, which was promoted by anti-Palestinian lobby group Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). The statement Garrison signed was connected to his position on an unofficial task force lobbying social media firms to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian working definition of anti-Semitism.

Garrison is also vice-chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG). Three years ago 200 well-known musicians, academics, trade unionists and NDP members called on NDP MPs to withdraw from CIIG. Most ultimately did so. Garrison has refused to leave a group that promotes “greater friendship” and “cooperation” between the Canadian and Israeli parliaments. As I detailed, CIIG has organized events with other pro-Israel lobby organizations and the co-chairs of its Israeli counterpart — the Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group — have been stridently anti-Palestinian. Garrison’s ties to anti-Palestinian lobbying groups go beyond his role as vice-chair of CIIG. Garrison has participated in initiatives with the staunchly anti-Palestinian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and CIJA. He has also repeatedly promoted the notion that pro-Palestinian activism is anti-Jewish. Last summer Garrison was one of two NDP MPs who refused to sign Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East’s pledge to oppose Israel’s plans to annex the West Bank.

Garrison is clearly out of step with NDP members on Palestinian rights. His militarism is also not shared by most in the party.

It’s time Jagmeet Singh removed Garrison as defence critic.

 

Please take one minute to send a letter to the NDP leadership calling for Garrison’s removal as defence critic.

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Filed under Israel Lobby, Military, NDP

Annamie Paul’s failure to confront international racism

 

Annamie Paul

Annamie Paul and her supporters are right to cite racism as a driving factor in her leadership crisis. But the Green leader’s supporters have misplaced the source of responsibility. It is Paul’s inability to view colonized peoples, notably Palestinians, as deserving of equal rights that is the source of her current troubles.

As the first Black woman federal party leader with MPs in the House of Commons, Paul has undoubtedly faced discrimination during her eight-month tenure. But Paul’s leadership of the Greens is in crisis due to her anti-Palestinian racism amidst a rebellion against Israel’s ethnic cleansing and violence.

As Israel bombed Gaza last month Paul released a horribly anti-Palestinian statement. It ran counter to the party’s democratically decided policy, which “supports only non-violent responses to violence and oppression, including economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes” to force Israel to comply with international law.

Unlike Paul all three Green MPs echoed the explosion of righteous outrage, criticizing Israeli “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing”. Then Green MP Jenica Atwin also explicitly disagreed with Paul’s statement. Subsequently, Paul’s senior adviser Noah Zatzman publicly denounced “appalling anti-Semitism” and “virulent anti-Jewish behavior” by Green MPs and other politicians. “We will not accept an apology after you realize what you’ve done,” he posted to Facebook. “We will work to defeat you.”

In subsequent interviews and posts Zatzman doubled down on his smears and threats against Green MPs and activists. As her senior adviser attacked much of the party, Paul remained mum regarding Zatzman’s statements. In fact, she responded to questions related to the divisions in the party by talking about anti-Semitism and despite the issue playing itself out in front of millions she has yet to distance herself from Zatzman’s wild statements.

Paul’s anti-Palestinianism is not new. When Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East surveyed the nine Green leadership candidates on their Middle East policy Paul received bottom marks.

And Palestinians aren’t the only colonized and racialized people that she has had a hard time seeing as deserving of equal rights. Paul backed the wealthy, Christian extremist and white supremacist coup against Bolivia’s first everindigenous President Evo Morales. As the Green’s International Affairs Critic, Paul released a statement that began by noting “a post-election audit conducted by the Organisation of American States (OAS) Electoral Observer Mission concluded that those elections were marred by serious irregularities and that the results should be annulled. Evo Morales has announced his resignation as President of Bolivia.” But Morales was forced out by soldiers and the OAS’ claims have been exposed as fraudulent.

Months later Paul stuck to her position by stating that her husband worked for the first indigenous Vice President of Bolivia, Victor Hugo Cárdenas, who became a controversial minister in the unelected post-Morales coup government. Paul’s husband, Mark Freeman, helped establish the New York based liberal imperialist International Center for Transitional Justice, which is largely funded by the Dutch Foreign Ministry, Swedish government and UN.

As leader of the Greens Paul has stoked Sinophobia as well. In February she called on Ottawa to push to move the 2022 Olympics from China and instead hold the games in the US and Canada (on unceded Indigenous lands in BC). She also called for sanctions against China.

As Green MP Paul Manly, environmentalist David Suzuki and other prominent individuals signed a statement critical of Canadian policy in Haiti, Paul has stayed quiet about Canadian imperialism in a country that delivered a major blow to racial slavery. Nor has she spoken out about Canadian mining companies pillaging African resources.

Paul previously worked as an advisor in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. She worked at the ICC at a time when the court was widely derided by Africans for only pursuing individuals from that continent, prompting stories like “Is the International Criminal Court Racist?” and “The ICC’s problem is not overt racism, it is Eurocentricism”.

Paul was posted to the ICC as part of her work for Canada’s lead purveyor of racist imperialism. She joined Global Affairs Canada out of university, working for years in Canada’s Mission to the European Union.

Her resume demonstrates rock solid support for the status quo in Canada and around the world. The problem is most Green Party members do not want the status quo. There are enough political parties working to maintain the privileges of the few against the needs of the many. Most Green Party members want serious change, not only to combat various ecological crisis, but also to create a more just world, where everyone everywhere has equal rights.

Yes, Paul should confront all forms of racism as Green party leader, including racism against Palestinians. But so far she has failed miserably on that important issue.

 

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Filed under Green Party, Israel Lobby

Cotler led Anti-Semitism Summit seeks to deflect criticism of Israeli apartheid

Last week the Trudeau government announced it would hold an emergency National Summit on Anti-Semitism. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and B’nai B’rith (BB) were delighted as they’ve campaigned for the summit since the upsurge of pro-Palestinian activism last month. That the objective of the summit all along was to discredit antiracist and anticolonial Palestine solidarity activism was confirmed when Irwin Cotler was appointed to lead it.

Speaking from his apartment in Jerusalem, Cotler was the keynote speaker at a May 13 online rally in support of Israeli violence in which the moderator lauded Montrealers’ fighting in the Israeli military. On June 30 Cotler is scheduled to speak at a B’nai B’rith conference on “Current Issues in Jewish and Pro-Israel Advocacy” while on May 27 he published a column in the Times of Israel celebrating Israel’s violence. In it he wrote, “while the deliberate and indiscriminate bombardment of Israeli civilians — underpinned by genocidal antisemitism and incitement — have been the trigger for this latest war, there is a longer and underlying proximate cause: the Hamas Terrorist War of Attrition against Israel since 2000.”

Cotler backed attacks that left nearly 4,000 dead in Gazza in 2014 and 2009 as well as its war on Lebanon in 2006. He has sought to pressure the International Criminal Court against investigating Israeli war crimes, supports moving Canada’s embassy to Jerusalem and attends fundraisers for the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund.

The Cotler-led anti-Semitism summit is a transparent effort to deflect criticism from Israel’s ethnic cleansing and violence, as well as an encouragement to those promoting that violence and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians. It is also (less directly) an encouragement of Islamophobia, which lead to an entire family being killed recently in London, Ontario.

The anti-Semitism summit is the outgrowth of weeks of disingenuous claims from the Israel lobby that are often in and of themselves racist. Under the guise of fighting anti-Semitism B’nai B’rith has relentlessly linked Arabs to terrorism in recent weeks. “For the third week in a row, antisemitism and support for terrorism were on display Saturday at a massive protest in downtown Toronto”, they tweeted. In a statement to the Winnipeg Sun BB CEO Michael Mostynsaid, “it is unacceptable that anti-Jewish taunts and support for a banned terrorist group be expressed outside the Manitoba legislature.”

B’nai B’rith has also pushed the argument that anti-Semitism is being “imported” to Canada, which is a coded reference to Arab and Muslim immigrants. Hours before the murder of the Afzaal family in London came to light, they tweeted “we cannot import the conflict to Canada. … and [must stay] united in our stand against antisemitism.” In a National Post opinion article three weeks ago Mostyn wrote:

Over the past two decades, tens of thousands of Jews have fled France due to out-of-control anti-Zionism and society’s reluctance to address it. Some of those French Jews thought they had found refuge in Canada, particularly in Quebec — but what are they to think given what they are now seeing? The anti-Semitic murders of French Jews such as Ilan Halimi and Sarah Halimi (no relation), the terror attacks on Jewish schools and stores in France — none of this emerged from a vacuum, but was rather the inevitable result of a culture of hate and impunity that was allowed to fester.”

Anti-Muslim bigotry from B’nai B’rith and CIJA isn’t new. In a bid to deter organizations from associating with the Palestinian cause or opposing Israeli belligerence in the Middle East, CIJA and BB regularly target Arab and Muslim community representatives, papers, organizations, etc.

They did so again when Imam Munir El-Kassem innocuously stated at the end of Tuesday’s vigil for the Muslim family killed in London that “you all said everything that needs to be said except one angle I would like to share with our officials. Now there’s a reason why they say the world is a small village. Every country has a foreign policy. I just want to say whatever is happening in Jerusalem and Gaza, is related to whatever happened in London, Ontario.” BB tweeted or re-tweeted a dozen messages condemning what Mostyn described as El-Kassem’s “inflammatory remarks”. The other messages called El-Kassem’s comment “disgusting”, “contemporary bloodlibel”, “vile hatred”, “the vigil for the victims was used as an opportunity to vent Jew-hatred”, etc.

CIJA and BB regularly hype “Islamic terror” and openly aligned with the xenophobic backlash against the term “Islamophobia in bill M-103, which called for collecting data on hate crimes and studying the issue of “eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.” In a 2017 BuzzFeed article titled “Zionist Groups in Canada Are Jumping On The ‘Creeping Sharia’ Bandwagon” Steven Zhou detailed CIJA, B’nai Brith and other pro-Israel groups backlash to M-103 and “how Muslim Canadians define Islamophobia.”

A “summit” about anti-Semitism led by Irwin Cotler will have a pre-determined outcome. It will conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. It will encourage those promoting ethnic cleansing and violence against Palestinians. It will be used by the Israel lobby to stoke even more Islamophobia.

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Filed under Israel Lobby, Justin Trudeau

Venezuela conference another example of Liberal hypocrisy

Was it conscious? Did someone at Global Affairs say, ‘we should organize a lofty sounding conference that’s a cover for our pro-US and corporate policy on the anniversary of the international community rejecting Trudeau’s liberal imperialism’?

On the one-year anniversary of Canada’s defeat in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council the Trudeau government is hosting an International Donors’ Conference in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants. While it may sound like a humanitarian endeavor, it’s the latest phase in Canada’s multipronged effort to overthrow Nicolás Maduro’s government, which has included plotting with the opposition to anoint an alternative president.

A number of opponents of the Venezuelan government will participate in the conference. But no one from Maduro’s administration is invited to address the event. Nor is the main issue driving Venezuelans to migrate likely to receive much (or any) attention, namely the seizure of Venezuelan assets and vicious economic sanctions.

The US, Britain and European countries have seized billions of dollars in Venezuelan government assets over the past two and half years. At the same time the country has faced steadily more extreme international sanctions. Canada has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Venezuela since 2017, which have reinforced and legitimated similar devastating US actions. According to the preliminary report by the current UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures, Alena Douhan, “the [Venezuelan] government’s revenue was reported to shrink by 99%, with the country currently living on 1% of its pre-sanctions income.”

The sanctions have contributed to 100,000 deaths, according to former UN Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, and massive outward migration. While Venezuela’s economic decline began when the price of oil dropped sharply in 2014-2015, the number of Venezuelans leaving the country spiked after the 2017 sanctions. According to Venezuela’s Encuesta Nacional de Condiciones de Vida (ENCOVI), 730,000 Venezuelans left the country between 2015 and 2017. In 2018 and 2019 that number more than doubled to 1.54 million.

Most countries and international law experts believe sanctions are only legitimate when approved by the World Trade Organization or United Nations Security Council. In March the Human Rights Council approved a resolution 30 to 15 (with two abstentions) urging all states to stop adopting unilateral sanctions as they impede “the right of individuals and peoples to development.”

In another indication of the two-faced nature of Trudeau’s concern for Venezuelan migrants, Canada has refused to renew the visas of Venezuelan diplomats. As a result, the last individual from that country’s government providing services to Venezuelans in Canada recently had to leave.

As I wrote last year, Canada’s bid to overthrow the Venezuelan government contributed to its Security Council defeat. Venezuelan diplomats publicly campaigned against Canada’s Security Council bid and reports suggest their influence swayed some in the Non-Aligned Movement.

The Security Council defeat was no doubt an embarrassment for the Trudeau government. Pushing for a seat was part of their rebranding of Canadian foreign policy after the Stephen Harper government. But the Liberals are far more committed to supporting the US empire and corporate interests – which drives their Venezuela policy – than winning favour with populations and governments in the Global South, which largely explains why they lost the Security Council bid.

The Liberals need to be a bit more careful with Canadians. They need the public and particularly their electorate to support (acquiesce to) their pro-corporate and empire foreign policy, which is the purpose of the government’s high-minded claims.

Similar rhetorical strategies are employed on a wide range of issues. Trudeau boasts about promoting an “international rules based order” as they apply unilateral (illegal) sanctions on countries and threaten the International Criminal Court to prevent it from investigating Israeli war crimes; A government representative says “we are committed to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons” as they refuse to sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty; The government says they follow a feminist foreign policy while facilitating weapons sales to a patriarchal Saudi monarchy devastating Yemen; They claim to believe in a two-state solution but vote against UN resolutions calling for a Palestinian state; They say they promote democracy as they prop up a corrupt and repressive dictatorship in Haiti. For other examples check out my House of Mirrors: Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy.

The Liberals’ strategy works since the dominant media and most of Canada’s intelligentsia focus on government rhetoric rather than the underlying international policies. Politicians and people elsewhere are not as inclined to believe ‘benevolent Canada’ mythology, which is largely why the Trudeau government lost its Security Council bid.

Maybe it’s fitting that on the one-year anniversary of Canada’s Security Council defeat the government is organizing a humanistic sounding conference that’s part of an imperial strategy. It clearly illustrates Liberal hypocrisy.

 

To mark the one-year anniversary of Canada’s defeat in its bid for a seat on the Security Council the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute will be hosting “International Solidarity Now: A gathering for a more just Canadian foreign policy.”

 

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America, Venezuela

Green Party debacle may be win for Palestine

Jenica Atwin

Score an own goal for Green Party pro-Israel extremists Noah Zatzman and Annamie Paul. Not only are they responsible for the Liberals adding an MP to their caucus, one of their own they slandered as “anti-Semitic” for labeling Israel an “apartheid” state, but also saw to it that millions of Canadians heard mention of Israeli apartheid and now understand that Israel advocates brazenly and unjustly smear those they disagree with.

On Thursday MP Jenica Atwin left the Green party to join the Liberals. She was driven out by party leader Paul and senior adviser Zatzman whose anti-Palestinian animus blinded them to political reality and the scope of support for Palestinians among Greens.

On May 11 Atwin labeled as “totally inadequate” a statement from Paul whitewashing Israel’s ethnic cleansing and violence. On Twitter Atwin added, “Forced Evictions must end! I stand with Palestine and condemn the unthinkable air strikes in Gaza. End Apartheid! #SaveSheikhJarrah.”

In response to Atwin, a statement from Green MPs Paul Manly and Elizabeth May, as well as others, Zatzman accuseda slew of political leaders, including “Green MPs”, of “appalling anti-Semitism” and “virulent anti-Jewish behaviour”. He also said “we” would work to defeat them.

It was extremely stupid and should have led to Zatzman’s immediate removal. Instead, Paul sought to ride out the kerfuffle. But Green activists refused to let the smear and threat slide. They mobilized online and my article “Crazed anti-Palestinian Green adviser must be removed” was widely read and shared. Two weeks after Zatzman’s post the CBC finally reported on the matter. Incredibly, Zatzman doubled down in his attacks on Atwin and Manly in his interview with CBC and elsewhere. With Paul’s apparent support, he told La Presse that he didn’t regret his Facebook statement and that “these two MPs [Atwin and Manly] have propagated what I consider to be anti-Semitic remarks.” He added, “I’m not trying to rule out Jenica or Paul [Manly], but the Green Party wants to become a ‘mainstream’ party and make gains and if that means it has to lose Jenica along the way for that, well, too bad.”

Immediately, more than 150 Green party members signed a public letter calling for Zatzman’s removal. Simultaneously,1,400 individuals emailed Green leaders calling on them to “remove Noah Zatzman as senior adviser”.

On Tuesday the head of the Green Party Fund, Doug Tingey, emailed some members saying that Zatzman’s contract had been terminated a few days earlier. But Zatzman denied he was removed. A Canadian Press investigation found that he was staying on as a “volunteer” adviser to Paul. In other words, the Green executive council voted to end Zatzman’s contract, but Paul effectively flouted their decision.

This is the backdrop to Atwin joining the Liberals. In a press conference alongside New Brunswick cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc, the Liberals brought a new MP into the fold who recently called Israel an “apartheid” state for which she was labeled anti-Semitic. As the Centre for Israel Jewish Affairs, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, B’nai Brith and other Israel lobbyists began complaining about the Liberals embrace of Atwin, her messages critical of Israel were being reported to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Canadians. On Thursday Atwin told the media she stands by her previous criticism of Israel.

At a hastily organized Thursday press conference Paul was grilled for 40 minutes on Atwin’s defection. A half dozen of the country’s leading reporters discussed Zatzman’s charges of anti-Semitism in an incredulous tone and mentioned Israeli apartheid. Paul refused to answer when directly asked whether she “condones or condemns” Zatzman’s statement.

Throughout the press conference and subsequent interviews Paul repeatedly denied that Zatzman’s comments played any role in Atwin leaving the party. But Atwin suggested differently and Elizabeth May and Paul Manly made it clear that Zatzman was responsible. The two Green MPs released a joint statement Thursday afternoon noting, “unfortunately, the attack against Ms. Atwin by the Green Party leader’s chief spokesperson on May 14 created the conditions that led to this crisis. We have no intention of leaving the Green Party.”

Of course, the move by the Liberals to welcome Atwin into the fold was cynically electoral, but fascinating nonetheless. Generally, the Liberals govern from the right and run their election campaigns from the left, so it is smart strategy to embrace an MP identified with fighting for indigenous rights and the climate just prior to a probable election. In his statement Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “with her tireless and effective advocacy on priorities like climate action, mental health, reconciliation, and making life more affordable for families, Jenica Atwin is respected by her constituents and all of her colleagues as a champion for real change.” What’s more interesting is the Liberals’ calculation regarding Atwin’s position on Palestine. Does the party believe it serves their short-term electoral strategy to bring into caucus someone now identified with the Palestinian cause? Is it possible Trudeau’s people are calculating that after the massive outpouring of pro-Palestinian sympathy in recent weeks and the prime minister’s staunch pro-Israel positions it’s good to appear open to pro-Palestinian voices (particularly after the horrific recent anti-Muslim motivated murder in London Ontario)? If that’s the case the Liberals may actually welcome the criticism of Atwin leveled by CIJA, FSWC and other Israel lobbyists.

How will the rest of this game play out? Will there be more own goals by Paul and other fanatic supporters of Israel?

Stay tuned. This saga certainly does not seem finished.

 

Please ask the Green Federal Council to hold a Non-Confidence vote through this action alert.

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Filed under Green Party, Israel Lobby

How activists thwarted Canada’s bid for a UN Security Council seat

A year ago today, Canada’s ambassador to the UN effectively confirmed that a half dozen unpaid activists had derailed the government’s multi-year Security Council lobbying campaign, which included the prime minister flying to various countries.

On June 10 Marc André Blanchard sent a private letter to other UN ambassadors defending Canadian policy on Palestinian rights. “In response to recent claims received from a group of Canadians regarding Canada’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, Blanchard began a statement, which bemoaned “significant inaccuracies” in what the NoUNSC4Canada campaign was saying.

The government was forced on the defensive a week before the Security Council vote by a multifaceted campaign launched with a general critique of Canadian foreign policy in the Toronto Star. A subsequent open letter urging countries to vote against Canada’s Security Council bid due to its anti-Palestinian positions had the biggest effect on UN ambassadors. Signed by over 100 civil society groups and dozens of prominent individuals, it 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”, Canada’s two competitors for a seat on the Security Council. The letter also noted that “Ottawa justified Israel’s killing of ‘Great March of Return’ protesters in Gaza and has sought to deter the International Criminal Court from investigating Israeli war crimes. In fact, Canada’s foreign affairs minister announced that should it win a seat on the UNSC, it would act as an ‘asset for Israel’ on the Council.”

As part of the Palestine-focused element of the campaign, 1,300 individuals emailed all UN ambassadors urging them to vote for Ireland and Norway. Another 1,000 letters were sent to UN ambassadors as part of the broader critique of Canadian foreign policy, which also touched on Palestine.

The impact of flooding UN ambassadors’ inboxes was significant. While a Canadian MP or minister may be regularly deluged with messages on an issue, that’s probably not the case for Antigua’s ambassador to the UN.

A recent response to an Access to Information request made by Tamara Lorincz demonstrates how closely Canadian diplomats followed the NoUNSC4Canada campaign. Andrea Niklaus sent an email titled “Tweet shared from PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] account against Canada’s UNSC campaign” to more than a dozen diplomats, including Canada’s US ambassador. While parts of it are blacked out, Niklaus wrote “we wanted to flag a tweet posted last night on the PLO Public Diplomacy account, which shares/quotes an article by the Canadian–Palestine Association against Canada’s UNSC bid. … We’ve seen some negative comments on our UNSC–related posts on our mission accounts in recent days, but this is the first we’ve seen such messaging amplified from an official Palestinian account. FYI, Ramallah [Canada’s diplomatic post in the West Bank] has inquired with a contact at the PLO as whether this represents their official position on Canada’s candidacy, and they promised to look into it and get back to us.” (When Niklaus mentions “negative comments on our UNSC–related posts on our mission accounts”, she is referring to NoUNSC4Canada activists posting messages to dozens of diplomatic twitter accounts promoting Canada’s Security Council bid.)

On June 17 Canada lost its bid to sit on the Security Council. The loss in the first round of voting was a stunning setback for the Trudeau government, which announced its desire for the seat four years earlier. Israel’s ambassador to the UN said he was “disappointed” Canada lost and the Israel lobby in Canada was briefly put on the back foot.

The NoUNSC4Canada campaign greatly raised the profile of Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN, which Karen Rodman expertly documented over two decades. More generally, the campaign thrust critical discussion of foreign policy into the mainstream and chipped away foreign policy mythology.

Many progressives were wary of openly opposing Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat. But time has proved the importance of the campaign. Last month Norway and Ireland pushed to stop Israeli violence through the Security Council (blocked by Washington). The two countries released a statement with other European Security Councilmembers, France and Estonia, condemning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and calling on Israel to cease settlement activities, demolitions and evictions. It’s highly unlikely the Trudeau government would have pursued a similar tack if it had won a Security Council seat.

The campaign proved that a small number of dedicated activists with a targeted, well-planned strategy could have a major impact on Canadian foreign policy. A half dozen ordinary people undercut the government’s campaign for a Security Council seat, slightly improved Palestinians’ diplomatic position and dented Canadian foreign policy mythology. That should be an inspiration for activists everywhere.

 

To mark the anniversary of Canada’s Security Council defeat, the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute will be hosting “International Solidarity Now: A gathering for a more just Canadian foreign policy” on June 17.

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Anti-Palestinian bigotry overshadowed by anti-Semitism uproar

Greg Nisan, a member of JDL aligned motorcycle club

In response to the recent upsurge in pro-Palestinian activism basically every major Canadian media outlet has published stories about rising anti-Semitism. Many politicians have made statements on the matter and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has called on “our federal government to convene an emergency summit to address growing antisemitism.” B’nai B’rith claims there were more violent anti-Semitic incidents in May than all of last year.

But comparatively little attention has been devoted to anti-Palestinian bigotry despite the publicly verifiable evidence that suggests Palestinian Canadians or those identified with them have faced greater discrimination and violence. And once again, CIJA and B’nai B’rith muddy the waters of understanding racism by conflating criticism and actions against Israel with anti-Semitism.

Let’s take a look at the record over the past few weeks:

  • On May 13 a group of Israeli flag waving individuals in Thornhill are on video trying to fight and threatening to “run over” a small group of Palestinian activists. At one-point police pull their guns apparently fearing an Israel supporter was going to hit them with his vehicle in a bid to reach the Palestinians.
  • On May 15 a Jewish Defence League (JDL) supporter interviewed prior to the pro-Palestinian rally said he was looking to brawl. He then tells a passerby, “I used to rape guys like you in prison, bro.” Subsequently, a pro-Israel individual is caught on camera swinging a stick wildly at someone. At another point an older JDL-aligned individual is caught on camera with a knife and bat.
  • On May 16 a Zionist was photographed with a hammer in his hand at a protest in Montréal. At the same pro-Israel rally an individual rips a Palestinian flag from the man’s hand and the crowd cheers.
  • A Palestinian family in Hamilton that put up a sign on their lawn with a Palestinian flag saying: “We support human rights. #FreePalestine #OngoingNakba” had it stolen on May 24 and a note was left saying: “KEEPYOUR POLITICS AND ANTI-SEMITIC RACISM OUT OF MY COUNTRY AND MY NEIGHBOUR-HOOD. IF YOU DON’T LIKE MY COUNTRY, GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM!” The theft was not caught on camera but there is a photo of the note and stolen sign.
  • On May 25 a recent immigrant from Gaza in Calgary with a Palestinian flag in his rear window films his car being cut off and stopped by a pickup truck. The motorist slams on his window, demanding to fight as he yells “terrorist fuck”, “terrorist ass” and “I have a picture of Mohammed in my car Alah”. He then laughs manically as he rips off the Palestinian Canadian’s windshield wiper.

These instances don’t count individuals — such as a social justice teacher in Toronto put on home assignment, McGill students on a blacklist, a doctor in Toronto smeared and threatened with being fired — for standing up for Palestinian rights. Nor do the above-mentioned examples count anti-Palestinian police racism. In Halifax, Windsor, Calgary, Hamilton and possibly elsewhere the police ticketed dozens of individuals simply for attending Palestine solidarity protests. A report from Windsor suggests — though I have no recorded proof — that cars playing Arabic music were specifically targeted by the police. There’s also a report from Hamilton suggesting that women with Hijabs received eight of 12 tickets given out at a rally.

Before detailing/evaluating the main purported incidents of anti-Semitism it’s important to mention both the discrepancy of resources the two “sides” have to document abuses and their impulse to do so. B’nai B’rith, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, CIJA and the Jewish Federations’ operate hotlines to tabulate incidents of anti-Jewishness and have significant capacity to communicate perceived acts of discrimination. They send individuals to video and photograph pro-Palestinian protests with the express purpose of discovering “proof” of anti-Jewish acts.

Not only does the official Israel lobby have greater resources to document perceived abuses and promote them through the media, it has a greater interest in focusing the discussion this way. As Israeli oppression of Palestinians has become ever more difficult to defend, the lobby’s emphasis on driving the discussion towards anti-Semitism has grown. For its part, the pro-Palestinian movement is more focused on discussing the violence meted out against Palestinians.

With that in mind, let’s look at the most high-profile incidents of “anti-Semitism” cited by supporters of Israel:

  • After massive Palestine solidarity demonstrations on May 15, a knife and bat wielding JDL aligned individual was beaten up after apparently picking a fight (his photo was actually on the cover — subsequently removed — of a May 16 press release titled “CIJA Concerned by wave of violence and antisemitism connected to conflict in the Middle East”). But, even if CIJA’s showcased victim had not been associated with the violent JDL, swung a bat or held a knife would his beating have been an act of bigotry? When a counter protester fights with someone on the other side is that a political disagreement that elevates to violence or an act of bigotry? (During protests against Israel’s brutal 2014 assault on Gaza that left over 2,100 Palestinians dead, I was shoved, spat on, had my bike damaged and lock stolen by members of the JDL in Toronto. Were those acts of bigotry or would it only have been an act of bigotry if I had punched or spat back?)
  • On May 26 Global did a two-minute video report and accompanying article on a Vancouver restaurant owner who claimed to have been a victim of discrimination. Israeli immigrant Ofra Sixto took to Facebook and the nightly news to cry discrimination, but according to credible accounts she was the racist. When a Palestinian solidarity car caravan happened to pass her Denman street restaurant, she yelled some variation of “this is how they are in their countries”, which was heard by a white male, sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, walking past and another woman sitting with her family at a cafe next door heard. They objected. The man later left a negative review of Ofra’s Kitchen online saying that the owner was racist. There’s a variety of screenshots and corroborating evidence suggesting the owner instigated the racism while Sixto hasn’t provided any external evidence, screenshots or other proof of her claims. (And it’s also not exactly clear how anyone was supposed to know the restaurant was Jewish owned).
  • On May 16 — a day after thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters took over downtown Montréal — a small pro-Israel rally was held downtown. Pro-Palestinian counter protesters reportedly threw objects (rocks according to some) at the pro-Israel group. I could not find video of objects being thrown but there is video of minor scuffles between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian individuals and, as I mentioned above, a photo of a Zionist with a hammer and an individual snagging a Palestinian flag. There is also a great deal of video of the Montréal riot squad trying to disburse Palestine solidarity protesters, which suggests they were treated as the aggressors.
  • On May 18 the Montréal municipality of Côte-Saint-Luc, which is heavily Jewish, robocalled all residents to tell them not to be worried about an upsurge of anti-Jewishness (In other words, they frightened people by telling them not to be worried!) Aside from the massive pro-Palestinian demonstration on May 15 and clashes at the May 16 rally, the reason for the robocall was that two men allegedly drove through the municipality yelling anti-Jewish slurs and an Israeli flag flying on a municipal building was removed. I could not find any video evidence of the vehicle though the police detained two individuals.
  • In Edmonton Adam Zepp told Global News he was walking out of his parents’ driveway at 9 p.m. on May 16 when a car drove by with young men yelling “Free Palestine”. Forced to loopback due to the neighborhood layout, Zepp says the men subsequently said, “are there any Jews here? Any Jews live here? Where do the Jews live?” There’s no indication Zepp took down the car’s license plate or recorded the incident. In an interview a representative of Edmonton’s Jewish Federation claimed rather vaguely that others also saw a car passing by.
  • Another widely cited act of discrimination is a TikTok video of two young Arab women, reportedly students at Laurier University, dancing as they burn an Israeli flag, flush it down the toilet, puke over it and fake stab it. Purported outrage over these students “promoting violence” is extremely cynical. The groups calling this “anti-Semitism” frequently justify Israeli violence and often promote the Israeli military in Canada.
  • Many of the lesser incidents presented are placards that in one way or another link Israel to the Nazis. (Of course Nazi comparisons are generally in poor taste, but the Israel lobby regularly invokes the Nazi Holocaust so it’s hypocritical of them to complain about that.)

While all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, must be condemned, readers can judge for themselves who are the primary victims of hatred and discrimination in Israel, as well as here in Canada.

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Canada still supports Colombia’s repressive right-wing government

Last week right-wing Colombian President Ivan Duque deployed the military to Cali. The city of 2.3 million has been the epicenter of a month-long nationwide protest that forced the government to withdraw a regressive tax proposal that unleashed a general strike.

During the past month security forces have killed at least 50 and probably dozens more. Over 300 individuals are missing, according to Colombia’s National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, in a country with a history of political disappearances.

In a sign the politics of the protesters are radicalizing, ten days ago protesters burned massive US and Israeli flags. In response Dan Cohen tweeted, “This isn’t just a strike against austerity measures. It’s a full-on uprising against imperialism.”

Perhaps one could add, against Canadian policies.

Clearly, Canada has promoted the policies Colombians are rebelling against. Over the past three-decades Ottawa has been close diplomatically to Latin America’s most repressive state and has promoted capitalist policies that have contributed to Colombia’s extreme inequality.

The Justin Trudeau Liberals has promoted President Iván Duque who Le Soleil labeled “le champion du retour de la droite dure en Colombie” (champion of the return of the hard right in Colombia). After Duque won a close election marred by fraud allegations, foreign minister Chrystia Freeland “congratulated” him and said, “Canada and Colombia share a commitment to democracy and human rights.” In August 2018 Trudeau tweeted, “today, Colombia’s new President, Ivan Duque, took office and joins … others with a gender-equal cabinet. Iván, I look forward to working with you and your entire team.” A month later he added, “thanks to President Ivan Duque for a great first meeting at UNGA this afternoon, focused on growing our economies, addressing the crisis in Venezuela, and strengthening the friendship between Canada & Colombia.”

As Trudeau got chummy with Duque, the Colombian president undercut the peace accord the previous (right, but not far right) government signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to end Colombia’s 50-year civil war, which left over 200,000 dead. Duque’s policies increased violence towards the ex-rebels and social activists. More than 253 former FARC members have been killed in the past three years. Even more human rights defenders have been murdered.

Trudeau has yet to say anything about the massive repression of protesters in the past month. After numerous Canadian rallies were held in solidarity with protesters in Colombia Foreign Minister Marc Garneau released a statement ten days into the strike. But Garneau criticized the security forces’ deadly violence in equal measure to protestors’ purported vandalism. It also praised the Duque government, which had made all kinds of menacing statements.

This Canadian support for repressive Colombian governments is longstanding.

Stephen Harper had even closer diplomatic ties with Duque’s patron Alvaro Uribe. In 2009 the former PM referred to the far-right president as a valuable “ally” in a hemisphere full of “serious enemies and opponents.” A 2007 visit to Colombia by the Canadian PM was described by the Economist as giving Uribe “a vote of confidence at a time when he [was] being assailed both in Washington and at home.” At the time, Uribe’s government was plagued by a scandal tying numerous top officials to Colombia’s brutal paramilitaries. Dozens of Uribe-aligned congresspeople were implicatedand the president’s cousin was among those who had been jailed.

Uribe’s terrible human rights record did not stop Harper from signing a free-trade agreement with Colombia. Harper devoted a great deal of energy to backing the most repressive and right-wing government in Latin America. According to an April 2009 cable from the US embassy in Ottawa, in private the PM conceded that the Colombia trade accord was unpopular with Canadians. Released by Wikileaks the cable noted: “It was a painful but deliberate choice for the Prime Minister” to support president Alvaro Uribe in the face of stiff resistance to the free trade agreement, particularly from Canada’s labour movement. The Canada-Colombia trade agreement was also opposed by most of that country’s organized peasantry and labour.

The trade deal was part of a long-standing push to liberalize Colombia’s economy. In the late 1990s Canada’s aid agency supported petroleum legislation reform, which benefited Canadian firms. More significantly, Ottawa began an $11 million project to re-write Colombia’s mining code in 1997. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) worked on the project with a Colombian law firm, Martinez Córdoba and Associates, that represents multinational companies, and the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), an industry think-tank based at the University of Calgary.

They spent a couple years canvassing mining companies to find out what the industry wanted from new mining regulations. A representative from Greystar Corp., which was involved in the effort for nearly two years, explained how they provided “input that reflected the mining industry’s point of view as to what was important in such legislation to encourage mining.”

Once completed the CERI/CIDA proposal was submitted to Colombia’s Department of Mines and Energy and became law in August 2001. “The new code flexibilised environmental regulations, diminished labour guarantees for workers and opened the property of afro-Colombian and indigenous people to exploitation,” explained Francisco Ramirez, president of SINTRAMINERCOL, Colombia’s State Mine Workers Union. “The CIDA-backed code also contains some articles that are simply unheard of in other countries,” added Ramirez. “If a mining company has to cut down trees before digging, they can now export that timber for 30 years with a total exemption on taxation.” The new code also reduced the royalty rate companies pay the government to 0.4 percent from 10 percent for mineral exports above 3 million tonnes per year and from 5 percent for exports below 3 million tonnes. In addition, the new code increased the length of mining concessions from 25 years to 30 years, with the possibility that concessions can be tripled to 90 years.

Canadian officials were happy with the results. According to CIDA’s summary of the project, “Canadian energy and mining sector companies with an interest in Colombia will benefit from the development of a stable, consistent and familiar operating environment in this resource-rich developing economy.”

Ottawa has continued to plow ‘aid’ dollars into supporting the mining sector in Colombia. The Skills for Employment in the Extractives Sector of the Pacific Alliance, Andean Regional Initiative and Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector have channeled millions of dollars into assisting mining interests there.

Canadian assistance was used to reform the country’s non-resource sector as well. In 1995 CIDA provided $4 million to “contribute to the liberalization process of the telecommunications sector in Colombia.” Ottawa-based Destrier Management Consultants used the money for training seminars, workshops and advisors. Within a few years Canadian companies operated Colombia’s leading cellular phone provider and installed a large proportion of the country’s phone lines. In 2003 Canada’s “Nortel Networks”, explained Asad Ismi, “helped bring about the liquidation of TELECOM, Colombia’s biggest telecommunications company, and the likely privatization of its successor. … With the privatization, however, 10,000 unionized telecommunications workers lost their jobs that year, and over 70 trade unionists were murdered by paramilitaries for demonstrating against the privatization.”

In the late 1990s and 2000s Crown corporation EDC was heavily invested in Colombia despite widespread state-sponsored human rights violations. They provided investment insurance to Canadian companies, which had significant investments in Colombia. Canadian companies, for instance, ran Colombia’s most important oil pipeline and its two largest natural gas pipelines.

Canadian investment in Colombia, especially in the resource sector, was intimately tied to human rights abuses. A study on “The Presence of Canadian Petroleum Companies in Colombia,” found that “an avalanche of new contracts and new Canadian companies” entered Colombia in 2000 “at a moment when the internal conflict has intensified particularly in traditional, indigenous-occupied areas, and where resistance to their projects is significant.”

In the late 1990s Calgary-based Enbridge operated the OCENSA pipeline jointly with Toronto-based TransCanada Pipelines. Both companies owned a 17.5 percent share of the pipeline along with shares held by British Petroleum, Total and The Strategic Transaction Company. Until 1997 the OCENSA consortium contracted Defence Systems Colombia (a British firm) for security purposes. According to Amnesty International:

What is disturbing is that OCENSA/DSC’s security strategy reportedly relies heavily on paid informants whose purpose is to covertly gather intelligence information’ on the activities of the local population in the communities through which the pipeline passes and to identify possible ‘subversives’ within those communities. What is even more disturbing is that this intelligence information is then reportedly passed by OCENSA to the Colombian military who, together with their paramilitary allies, have frequently targeted those considered subversive for extrajudicial execution and disappearance. …The passing of intelligence information to the Colombian military may have contributed to subsequent human rights violations.”

Amnesty added that OCENSA and DSC purchased military equipment for the notoriously violent 14th Brigade of the Colombian army.

While Canadian investors contributed to Colombia’s dirty war, so did Canadian arms manufacturers. In the late 1990s DND sold 33 Huey helicopters to the US State Department, which added machine guns and sent them to the Colombian police and military as part of “Plan Colombia”. The Huey sale followed Bell Helicopter Textron Canada’s export of 12 helicopters directly to the Colombian air force and police. The helicopter was a type “widely used by the U.S. military in the 1970s in counter-insurgency operations in Vietnam.” Not only did Ottawa allow helicopter sales to Colombia’s military, the Canadian embassy in Bogota promoted them.

In 2013 the Harper government added Colombia to Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List to facilitate the export of assault weapons. Since then, weapons sales to Colombia have usually totaled only a few hundred thousand dollars a year but in 2014 that number reached $45 million. The Crown-owned Canadian Commercial Corporation helped sell 24 light armoured vehicles to the Colombian army and four armoured personnel carriers to its police. Since 2011 Colombian military personnel have participated in Canada’s Military Training and Cooperation Program. Colombia’s police have also been instructed, reports Abram Lutes, “through exchanges with the RCMP and the ongoing Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP), which nominally trains the Colombian national police in combating drug trafficking. The ACCBP is Canada’s contribution to Colombia’s long drug war, which provides pretext for security forces and paramilitaries to target leftist guerillas and peasants who produce cocoa.”

As part of its “role in the fight against drug traffickers” Canada supplied intelligence gathering equipment to Colombia in the early 1990s. In 1990 Canada began a $2 million program to provide intelligence equipment and bomb detectors to the Colombian Departamento Adminitrativo De Securidad. At that time Colombia’s leading news magazine, Semana, suggested that Canada was working with the US in a hegemonic project in the region.

According to former JTF2 soldier Claude Morisset, Canada also sent soldiers to Colombia in the late 1990s. In We Were Invincible Morisset describes his mission to the Colombian jungle to rescue NGO and church workers “because FARC guerillas threatened the peace in the region.” The Canadian soldiers were unaware that they were transporting the son of a Colombian leader, which prompted the FARC to give chase for a couple days. On two different occasions the Canadian forces came under fire from FARC guerrillas. Ultimately the Canadians were saved by US helicopters, as the JTF2 mission was part of a US initiative.

While Colombian protesters didn’t burn the Canadian flag, maybe they should have. Canada has long promoted corporate and imperial interests in Colombia and continues to do so.

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Green division over Palestine could net NDP 2 MPs

Annamie Paul

Green party leader Annamie Paul is a competent, well spoken, social democratic politician. She’s also fanatically anti-Palestinian. In her devotion to the apartheid state, Paul is giving two thirds of the Green party’s parliamentary caucus every reason to join the NDP.

On May 14 Paul’s senior adviser Noah Zatzman posted a message to Facebook stating: “Shabbat shalom. I have never experienced more anti-Semitism and Jew hatred from people I thought I knew well, then I did this week. (This includes being on campus at York and Carleton in 2002-7 — not a walk in the park). The progressive and climate communities have displayed, at some points this week, overt and virulent anti-Jewish behavior.

“Appalling anti-Semitism and discrimination from a range of political actors beginning with Jagmeet Singh and Dimitri Lascaris and many Liberal, NDP and sadly Green MPs.

“We will not accept an apology after you realize what you’ve done. We will work to defeat you and bring in progressive climate champions who are antifa and pro-LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists!!!! Am Israel chai [The people of Israel live].”

In recent interviews with CBC, Canadian Press, iPolitics and La Presse Zatzman effectively doubled down on his smears and threats. The former adviser to Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne told La Presse that he doesn’t regret his Facebook statement and that “these two deputies have propagated what I consider to be anti-Semitic remarks.” He added, “I’m not trying to rule out [Green MPs] Jenica [Atwin] or Paul [Manly], but the Green Party wants to become a ‘mainstream’ party and make gains and if that means it has to lose Jenica along the way for that, well, too bad.”

As he’s threatened and slandered innumerable individuals, Zatzman has presented himself as the victim. Zatzman told the media that those criticizing his outrageous Facebook statement were anti-Semitic and that his parents had to delist their home address (presumably fearing Green activists).

In another attack against party members Zatzman called on “all progressives” to “stay away” from the 2,300-member Green Party of Canada Supporters Facebook group. “They are not climate activists and I doubt they are even members of the Green Party of Canada”, he wrote. “It is a group of 150 of the country’s worst anti-Semitic actors … including a few neo-Nazis. They have been digitally harassing me and many others because we are Jewish in recent days, weeks and months. We must all come together to defeat anti-Semitism!!!!”

As her senior adviser smears the party’s activists and MPs, Annamie Paul has remained mum regarding Zatzman. In fact, she’s responded to questions related to the divisions in the party by talking about anti-Semitism.

Considering the circumstances, who could begrudge Manly or Atwin for changing parties? The NDP rank and file recently adopted a decent Palestine Resolution and Jagmeet Singh has called for an arms embargo on Israel. Could the division in the Green Party net the NDP two MPs? Incredibly, that may be where things are headed.

Manly’s father was an NDP MP and he was blocked from running for that party under former pro-Israel leader Tom Mulcair due to comments Manly made when Israel detained his father as part of an effort to breach Israel’s siege of Gaza. Manly would likely gain more votes running as an NDP candidate in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

The electoral calculation may be less favourable for Atwin since the NDP hasn’t traditionally been strong in New Brunswick. But the Greens hadn’t won a seat there before Atwin’s 2019 victory.

It will be interesting to see if Manly or Atwin join the NDP in coming weeks. If they do it would have significant positive effect on Palestinian solidarity in Canada.

 

Please ask the Green leadership to remove Noah Zatzman as senior adviser through this action alert.

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Filed under Green Party, Israel Lobby