Tag Archives: Anat Berko

United Church suppresses Palestinian youth cultural event

 

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Israeli Consulate General in Toronto Galit Baram and Trinity-St. Paul Reverend Cheri DiNovo

The Jewish Defence League and B’nai Brith are boasting that they convinced the Trinity-St. Paul Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts to cancel a room booking “to celebrate the artistic and cultural contributions of Palestinians in the diaspora.” The Toronto United Church had agreed to provide space to the Palestinian Youth Movement for “an evening of spoken word, music and food” to “showcase the winners of the Ghassan Kanafani Resistance Arts Scholarship.” Planned for July 13, the event was suppressed after the anti-Palestinian groups complained it included the name of Ghassan Kanafani, a famous novelist who was a spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the early 1970s.

The church’s move is an outrage. An analogy would be if the Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts suppressed a social put on by student climate strikers that included a “David Suzuki Arts Scholarship” in response to complaints by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Or, maybe more apt, if the church suppressed an Indigenous Youth Voices event that included the “Ellen Gabriel Arts Scholarship” because the “Western chauvinist” Proud Boys complained that the Mohawk spokesperson during the “Oka Crisis” had justified violence.

It’s shocking that an organization prominently declaring that it is “seeking justice and peace” would concede to this pressure. But, it’s equally scandalous that progressives have accepted the anti-Palestinianism of Trinity-St. Paul’s spiritual leader.

The church is run by former NDP member of the Ontario Legislature Cheri DiNovo, who “had no involvement in the original decision and unequivocally supports the cancellation of the event”, according to a church board member. On March 14 of last year DiNovo met Israeli consular official Galit Baram who posted a photo with her to the “Israel in Toronto” Facebook page and wrote, “it’s always a good time catching up with our good friend and former MPP Cheri DiNovo. Great to see you again!”

In 2017 DiNovo met the co-chairs of the Knesset’s Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group Anat Berko and Yoel Hasson. A Lieutenant-Colonel in the IDF reserves, Berko openly disparaged African refugees and Palestinians. Berko put forward a bill to jail individuals who display Palestinian flags at demonstrations and in a 2016 Knesset debate made the ridiculous claim that the absence of the letter “P” in the Arabic alphabet meant Palestine did not exist since “no people would give itself a name it couldn’t pronounce.” (In response Richard Silverstein noted, “apparently, the fact that the word is spelled and pronounced with an ‘F’ (Falastin) in Arabic seems to have escaped her. It’s worth noting, too, that according to her logic, Israeli Jews do not exist either, since there is no letter ‘J’ in Hebrew.”)

DiNovo regularly appears at events organized by the anti-Palestinian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. She attended “an FSWC presentation on the anti-Israel boycott movement” in 2015 at Queen’s Park and participated in FSWC events in May and last November. She has also supported Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee events.

In 2010 DiNovo was one of 30 MPPs who supported a resolution condemning Israeli Apartheid Week at the Ontario Legislature. Afterwards she told the Toronto Star the word apartheid is “inflammatory” and “used inappropriately in the case of Israel” and that “Apartheid does not help the discussion.” Even NDP leader Andrea Horwath later dubbed the resolution condemning IAW “divisive by nature.”

In response to criticism of her anti-Palestinian position DiNovo doubled down. She defriended and erased the comments of dozens of individuals who criticized her on Facebook, prompting the creation of a number of Facebook groups by those defriended by DiNovo, which were then shut down after someone complained. In subsequent interviews DiNovo claimed she received a death threat for her anti-Palestinian vote and was quoted by the Jewish Tribune saying, “we Christians know our roots and we know, because we read our Scripture, that Jews are the Chosen People of the Chosen Land of Israel, so mazel tov.”

Despite her anti-Palestinianism, DiNovo remains popular with some on the left end of the NDP. Fightback, Momentum, Socialist Action and The Leap have collaborated with her recently.

During her ongoing vacation in South Africa DiNovo has repeatedly tweeted about the fight against apartheid there. On‏ July 2 she tweeted, “the history of apartheid copied from our own reservation system.” It’s good DiNovo is drawing the historic links between Canadian colonialism and South Africa, but I wonder if she is aware that many anti-apartheid leaders have compared the Palestinians plight to white rule (generally concluding it is worse)?

As DiNovo no doubt knows, the United Church actively contributed to Canadian Apartheid. I wonder if she’s concerned that her church is contributing to apartheid in Palestine today?

 

If you are outraged by the Trinity-St. Paul’s suppression of the Palestinian Youth Movement’s event please email: tsp@trinitystpauls.ca

 

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Good riddance to NDP MP who is pro-Israel, pro-US empire

Israeli Ambassador Barkan with MPs Levitt, Sweet and Rankin as well as former MP Irwin Cotler.

Victoria MP Murray Rankin’s recent announcement that he won’t seek re-election is a victory for NDP members who stand for Palestinian rights and oppose regime change efforts in Iran and Venezuela.

Since taking his place in Parliament seven years ago Rankin has been a leading anti-Palestinian activist in the NDP. Here is a brief summary of his blindly pro-Israel, pro-US Empire activities as MP:

  • During Israel’s Summer 2014 destruction of Gaza, which left 2,200 Palestinians dead, he offered remarks supporting Israel (along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper) read at a Victoria Jewish Federation event to raise money for an emergency Israel Relief Fund. In 2016 Rankin went to Israel in a Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs organized trip and was one of the MPs who blocked the “Palestine Resolution” from being discussed at the NDP convention in February. In December Rankin joined Ambassador Nimrod Barkan and other prominent anti-Palestinian politicians (Michael Levitt, David Sweet, Irwin Cotler) for an event at the Israeli Embassy.
  • An early endorser of Thomas Mulcair’s bid for the NDP leadership, Rankin is on the executive of the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group, which promotes “greater friendship” and “cooperation” between the two countries’ parliaments. In refusing to heed a call from 200 well-known musicians, academics, trade unionists and NDP members to withdraw from CIIG, Rankin told Huffington Post, “as a New Democrat, I am committed to advancing peace and justice, and a two-state solution, which can only be achieved through open dialogue with Israelis and Palestinians.” But, the claim of “dialogue” between Israelis and Palestinians conjures up famed South African activist Desmond Tutu’s insight that “if you neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Ironically, Rankin made the same point— though not about Palestinians – at a 2017 Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies event. At the Israel lobby group’s event he quoted Elie Wiesel saying, “neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”
  • While he justifies participating in CIIG by citing “dialogue”, Rankin doesn’t specify whom he’s talking to. A quick Google search of CIIG’s Israeli partner — the Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group — shows that all 13 of its members have expressed problematic views or proposed racist laws. Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group co-chair Anat Berko is openly anti-African  and recently pushed for expanding the Israeli forces powers to punish Palestinians. Berko told the Knesset: “When we  speak of revoking resident status or demolishing homes, it should happen immediately. The punishment cannot be [held up] in the High Court of Justice for 11 years.”
  • Since announcing his retirement the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, as well as CIIG colleagues Michael Levitt and Anthony Housefather, have tweeted their praise for Rankin. Extremist former Canadian Ambassador to Israel Vivian Bercovici‏, a former colleague of Rankin’s at the law firm of Heenan Blaikie, also praised him recently, which he retweeted.
  • Through his participation in CIIG Rankin has repeatedly attacked Tel Aviv’s regional bogeyman, Iran. Rankin participated in a recent press conference with CIIG chair Michael Levitt, vice-chair David Sweet and executive member Anthony Housefather calling for a new round of Canadian sanctions on Iran. Led by former CIIG executive Irwin Cotler, this effort flouts the NDP’s position on Iran. Rankin’s disagreement with NDP policy took place amidst the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and bid to force others to adhere to its illegal sanctions, by threatening to sanction any country that buys Iranian oil.
  • With Cotler and Levitt, Rankin has participated in a number of events put on by the Canadian Section of Scholars at Risk, which is unduly focused on Iranian rights violations. In August Rankin attended the launch of a new advocacy group for political prisoners set up by Cotler who has devoted much of his career to defending Israeli human rights violations. (His wife, Ariela Zeevi, was a “close  confidant” of Likud founder Menachem Begin when the arch anti-Palestinian party was established to counter Labour’s dominance of Israeli politics. His daughters were part  of the Israeli military.)
  • Rankin is a regular at events led by Cotler, who has been attacking Iran and Venezuela incessantly for at least a decade. At one event Rankin said, “I feel a real honour to be on this stage with such giants of human rights as professor Cotler and Bill Browder.” A story on Rankin’s website about a joint event claims, “Irwin Cotler, who acted as counsel to Mandela.” But, when numerous media outlets repeated this claim after Cotler became a lawyer for right wing Venezuelan politician Leopoldo Lopezin 2015, South Africa’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Pandit Thaninga Shope-Linney, said, “Irwin Cotler was not Nelson Mandela’s lawyer.” For his part, Nelson Mandela mentions a number of lawyers (he was one) in his biography but Cotler’s name seems absent.
  • In 2015 Rankin participated in a press conference led by Cotler calling on the government to adopt the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Magnitsky Law). The legislation empowered Ottawa to sanction individuals outside the framework of international law. Thirty Russians, 19 Venezuelans and three South Sudanese officials were the initial targets of Canada’s Magnitsky Act.
  • In 2016 Rankin joined Cotler and the Executive Director of UNWATCH, Hillel Neuer, to urge Justin Trudeau’s government to oppose the election of Cuba and other countries to the UN Human Rights Council. A staunch anti-Palestinian, Neuer recently appeared  on Rebel Media’s The Ezra Levant Show to complain about Canadian funding to UNRWA, the UN body that supports Palestinian Refugees.
  • In 2016 Rankin joined Cotler and others “to mark the second anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s passing — and International Human Rights Day — by calling for the release of four political prisoners inspired by Mandela’s courage and commitment.” One was Iranian, Ayatollah Hossein Kazamani Boroujerdi, and another was Lopez who Rankin claimed, “was recently sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for his role in pro-democracy protests in a trial devoid of any semblance of due process or legality.” In fact, the Harvard-educated Lopez endorsed  the military 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez and the leader of the hardline Voluntad Popular party was convicted of inciting violence during the 2014 “guarimbas” protests that sought to oust President Nicolas Maduro. According to a series of reports, Lopez was the key Venezuelan organizer of the plan to anoint Juan Guaidó interim president of Venezuela.

Rankin’s departure weakens the anti-Palestinian, pro-imperialist camp in the NDP. It also offers an opportunity for a more internationalist minded politician to take his seat.

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