Tag Archives: Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group

Challenging the NDP on Palestine during the election campaign

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Last week I interrupted Jagmeet Singh at a public event to criticize the NDP’s suppression of Palestine solidarity activism.

Holding a placard with the words “Jagmeet, Palestinian Lives Matter”, I demanded the NDP leader apologize for overturning the vote of members who elected Rana Zaman to represent the Dartmouth-Cole Harbour ridding because she defended Palestinians mowed down by Israeli snipers. I also asked him to apologize for suppressing debate at last year’s convention on the modest “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice”, which which was unanimously endorsed by the NDP youth convention, many affiliated groups and two dozen riding associations. I also criticized his refusal to heed the 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).

While my intervention was a bit chaotic — there was a concurrent disruption and my phone rang — it served its purpose. It was mentioned in a La Presse story and Global News did a 2 ½ minute clip titled “Protester asks Jagmeet Singh for apology over removal of former NDP candidate in Halifax.” Two hundred people in the room heard the criticism and the video I shot of the intervention was viewed more than 3,000 times online.

In his response, Singh claimed he wasn’t responsible for ousting Zaman but rather a party committee. While technically correct, it’s hard to imagine he didn’t okay it, particularly considering NDP National Director Melissa Bruno – quoted justifying Zaman’s ouster – was Singh’s chief of staff as deputy leader of the Ontario NDP between 2012 and 2017. (Bruno took a break to be “part of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential campaign”, notes her bio.) Similarly, during the 2018 convention Singh mobilized his family and dozens of members of his community to vote against allowing debate on the Palestine Resolution at the convention. Additionally, Singh explicitly rejected the call for the NDP to withdraw from CIIG.

Zaman is not the only candidate the NDP blocked from running at least partly because they support Palestinian rights. A number of individuals who signed the open letter calling on the NDP to withdraw from CIIG had their bids sabotaged. Robbie Mahood and Barry Weisleder were formally disallowed while Saron Gebresellassi and Sid Ryan’s bids to run in the upcoming election were subverted. Christeen Elizabeth who didn’t sign the open letter but supports the Palestinian led boycott movement was also blocked.

The recent decision to block pro-Palestinian candidates follow on the heels of the NDP stopping as many as eight individuals from running or contesting nominations to be candidates in 2015 for defending Palestinian rights. Back then at least the NDP had the excuse that it was the official opposition and atop the polls with Thomas Mulcair explicitly positioning the party as the mainstream alternative to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Today, after the Liberals campaigned to their left in the last election, the NDP has the third most seats in the House of Commons, is languishing below 10% in the polls and the Green Party is polling ahead of them. Many NDP MPs are not running again and the Liberals are portraying themselves as the only credible “left” alternative to the Conservatives.

While it is clear that most voters have decided there is little point to a ‘Liberal-lite’ brand of the NDP, the party brass seems determined to follow the same anti-democratic, anti-Palestinian, centrist script that proved a dead end before. It seems they are more eager to play to the dominant media than party members.

But, there’s a better way. When the Liberals recently ousted Hassan Guillet as a candidate for challenging Israeli apartheid, the NDP should have asked the high-profile Imam to run for the party. The winner of the Saint-Leonard—Saint-Michel riding nomination gained global notoriety for his sermon at the memorial for the victims of the 2017 Québec City mosque attack. Offering Guillet a spot would have embarrassed the Liberals, brought many Quebec Muslims into the NDP fold and increased the party’s chance of winning Saint-Leonard—Saint-Michel or another Montréal riding. It would be good for the NDP to be seen as willing to challenge the Israel lobby, dominant media and Liberals over the issue.

Pro-Palestinian supporters of the NDP should not be afraid of challenging the party leadership during the election campaign. Having seen Singh in action during a confrontation, as well as Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer, I can tell you the NDP leader performs better than the others. Rather than have security usher me out, he at least responded by expressing sympathy towards the plight of Palestinians.

The right wing, Israeli lobby will be active during the election campaign. So too must the Palestinian solidarity movement.

While B’nai B’rith can garner coverage of their criticism of the NDP by releasing a statement, Palestine solidarity activists must disrupt public events for the media to take interest. If that means wherever he goes across the country Jagmeet Singh is confronted by Palestine solidarity activists raising the name of Rana Zaman, the Palestine Resolution and the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group, so be it. Palestinian lives matter. Certainly, more than the comfort of politicians and political parties.

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NDP MP Randall Garrison’s disgraceful anti-Palestinian politics

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Randall Garrison, seated left, Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group AGM

Randall Garrison is an embarrassment to everyone who supports universal human rights. The Victoria area New Democratic Party MP’s anti-Palestinian politics are beyond disgraceful.

Earlier this month Garrison was reappointed vice-chair of the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG). As such, he’s continuing to refuse to heed a call from Roger Waters, Noam Chomsky, Maher Arar, Linda McQuaig and 200 other musicians, academics, trade unionists and NDP members to withdraw from a group that promotes “greater friendship” between the Canadian and Israeli parliaments. In response to the public letter last summer — and other pressure — NDP MPs Peter Julian, Murray Rankin, Cheryl Hardcastle, and Gord Johns all appear to have left CIIG (Rankin is retiring).

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 — are stridently anti-Palestinian and right wing. During the recent Israeli election Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group co-chair, Anat Berko, produced a racist video in which her husband, dressed as a Palestinian ‘terrorist’, kidnaps her and she mocks an Arabic pronunciation to claim the Palestinians never had a state. (In 2016 Berko claimed 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 February the Likud MK responded to criticism that Netanyahu was hosting the right-wing prime ministers of Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic by saying, “they might be anti-Semites, but they’re on our side.”

For the Israel lobby the cross-party nature of CIIG is important. On May 8 the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) tweeted, “pleased to be at the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group AGM on Parliament Hill today. As noted by Chair Michael Levitt along with Vice-Chairs Randall Garrison, Marco Mendicino and David Sweet, great to see so many friends from across the political spectrum here.”

As I detail here, here, here, and here, Garrison’s anti-Palestinian activities go beyond his role as vice-chair of CIIG. Adding to this pattern, Garrison attended last week’s World Jewish Congress meeting in Ottawa. The CIJA-sponsored event passed a series of resolutions targeting Iran, backing Israel’s violence in Gaza and smearing Palestine solidarity activists. The conference also included US President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, who studied and was a soldier in a West Bank settlement and pushed to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Last week Garrison ‘liked’ his CIIG executive colleague’s tweet claiming the Palestinian civil-society-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement is racist. Extremist Conservative Senator Linda Frum tweeted, “yesterday I spoke to my motion which calls on the government to STOP funding BDS. BDS is an expression of antisemitism. It is nothing less than that, and our government has no business funding antisemitism in any form.” Garrison liked this attack on Palestinians from both Frum and arch anti-Palestinian NGO Monitor’s Twitter handles. Presumably, Garrison and Frum believe the ‘antiracist’ position would be for Palestinians (and the world) to simply accept Israeli theft of their lands and destruction of their lives.

Garrison’s position seems to run counter to the NDP’s vote against a 2016 House of Commons resolution condemning the BDS movement. Last year the Socialist International, which the NDP/CCF was a member of for nearly seven decades, endorsed BDS. The group of 140 political parties, including 35 currently in government, called for a “total embargo on all forms of military trade and cooperation with Israel.”

Since the public letter calling on the NDP to withdraw from CIIG was launched 200 Palestinians have been killed and another 5,000 injured by live fire in peaceful March of Return protests in Gaza. Not a single Israeli has died during these protests.

Additionally, the Israeli government passed a nation state law, adding to 65 other explicitly racist Israeli laws. In March Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.”

One wonders how explicit Israeli racism needs to be before Garrison would withdraw from CIIG? How about if Netanyahu produced a poster saying, “Israel is an apartheid state”?

More generally, how many Palestinians does Israel need to kill before Garrison withdraws from CIIG? If Israel killed twice the number of Palestinians they’ve killed over the past decade (5,000) would that do the trick? How about 20,000? 50,000?

But, the question of how much Israeli violence/racism will be accepted shouldn’t only be asked of Garrison. What would Israel need to do before NDP activists/members/MPs/officials/voters refuse to accept an MP participating in a group promoting “greater friendship” with Israel?

The Communist Party candidate in Garrison’s riding of Esquimalt–Saanich–Sooke, Tyson Strandlund, has committed to raising the issue in the campaign. The Green Party candidate in Esquimalt David Merner, who ran for the Liberals in the last election, told me he will not join CIIG if elected. Green MPs Elizabeth May and Paul Manly are not part of CIIG and nor are Bloc Québecois MPs.

Supporters of Palestinian rights in Victoria should up their campaign against Garrison’s participation in CIIG. His support for Israel’s racist laws, oppression and killing of Palestinians must be pointed out to his potential election campaign activists, most of whom would be troubled to learn of their MP’s role in supporting such crimes. A message must be sent that there comes a point when anti-Palestinian politics will simply not be accepted in a party that claims the mantra of social justice.

 

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