Tag Archives: Canada

Ottawa helped overthrow Africa’s most popular leader

A half-century and one year ago today Canada helped overthrow a leading pan Africanist president. Ghana’s Canadian-trained army overthrew Kwame Nkrumah, a leader dubbed “Man of the Millennium” in a 2000 poll by BBC listeners in Africa.

Washington, together with London, backed the coup. Lester Pearson’s government also gave its blessing to Nkrumah’s ouster. In The Deceptive Ash: Bilingualism and Canadian Policy in Africa: 1957-1971, John P. Schlegel writes: “the Western orientation and the more liberal approach of the new military government was welcomed by Canada.”

The day Nkrumah was overthrown the Canadian prime minister was asked in the House of Commons his opinion about this development. Pearson said nothing of substance on the matter. The next day External Affairs Minister Paul Martin Sr. responded to questions about Canada’s military training in Ghana, saying there was no change in instructions. In response to an MP’s question about recognizing the military government, Martin said: “In many cases recognition is accorded automatically. In respective cases such as that which occurred in Ghana yesterday, the practice is developing of carrying on with the government which has taken over, but according no formal act until some interval has elapsed. We shall carry on with the present arrangement for Ghana. Whether there will be any formal act will depend on information which is not now before us.”

While Martin and Pearson were measured in public, the Canadian high commissioner in Accra, C.E. McGaughey, was not. In an internal memo to External Affairs just after Nkrumah was overthrown, McGaughey wrote “a wonderful thing has happened for the West in Ghana and Canada has played a worthy part.” Referring to the coup, the high commissioner added “all here welcome this development except party functionaries and communist diplomatic missions.” He then applauded the Ghanaian military for having “thrown the Russian and Chinese rascals out.”

Less than two weeks after the coup, the Pearson government informed the military junta that Canada intended to carry on normal relations. In the immediate aftermath of Nkrumah’s overthrow, Canada sent $1.82 million ($15 million today) worth of flour to Ghana and offered the military regime a hundred CUSO volunteers. For its part, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which had previously severed financial assistance to Nkrumah’s government, engaged immediately after the coup by restructuring Ghana’s debt.

Canada’s contribution was an outright gift. During the three years between 1966 and 1969 the National Liberation Council military regime, received as much Canadian aid as during Nkrumah’s ten years in office with $22 million in grants and loans. Ottawa was the fourth major donor after the US, UK and UN.

Two months after Nkrumah’s ouster the Canadian high commissioner in Ghana wrote to Montréal-based de Havilland Aircraft with a request to secure parts for Ghana’s Air Force. Worried Nkrumah might attempt a counter coup, the Air Force sought parts for non-operational aircraft in the event it needed to deploy its forces.

Six months after overthrowing Nkrumah, the country’s new leader, General Joseph Ankrah, made an official visit to Ottawa as part of a trip that also took him through London and Washington.

On top of diplomatic and economic support for Nkrumah’s ouster, Canada provided military training. Schlegel described the military government as a “product of this military training program.” A Canadian major who was a training advisor to the commander of a Ghanaian infantry brigade discovered preparations for the coup the day before its execution. Bob Edwards said nothing. After Nkrumah’s removal the Canadian high commissioner boasted about the effectiveness of Canada’s Junior Staff Officers training program at the Ghanaian Defence College. Writing to the Canadian under secretary of external affairs, McGaughey noted, “All the chief participants of the coup were graduates of this course.”

After independence Ghana’s army remained British dominated. The colonial era British generals were still in place and the majority of Ghana’s officers continued to be trained in Britain. In response to a number of embarrassing incidents, Nkrumah released the British commanders in September 1961. It was at this point that Canada began training Ghana’s military.

While Canadians organized and oversaw the Junior Staff Officers course, a number of Canadians took up top positions in the Ghanaian Ministry of Defence. In the words of Canada’s military attaché to Ghana, Colonel Desmond Deane-Freeman, the Canadians in these positions imparted “our way of thinking”.

Celebrating the influence of “our way of thinking”, in 1965 High Commissioner McGaughey wrote the under secretary of external affairs: “Since independence, it [Ghana’s military] has changed in outlook, perhaps less than any other institution. It is still equipped with Western arms and although essentially non-political, is Western oriented.”

Not everyone was happy with the military’s attitude or Canada’s role therein. A year after Nkrumah’s ouster, McGaughey wrote Ottawa: “For some African and Asian diplomats stationed in Accra, I gather that there is a tendency to identify our aid policies particularly where military assistance is concerned with the aims of American and British policies. American and British objectives are unfortunately not regarded by such observers as being above criticism or suspicion.” Thomas Howell and Jeffrey Rajasooria echo the high commissioner’s assessment in their book Ghana and Nkrumah: “Members of the ruling CPP tended to identify Canadian aid policies, especially in defence areas, with the aims of the U.S. and Britain. Opponents of the Canadian military program went so far as to create a countervailing force in the form of the Soviet equipped, pro-communist President’s Own Guard Regiment [POGR]. The coup on 24 February 1966 which ousted Kwame Krumah and the CPP was partially rooted in this divergence of military loyalty.”

The POGR became a “direct and potentially potent rival” to the Canadian-trained army, notes Christopher Kilford in The Other Cold War: Canada’s Military Assistance to the Developing World, 1945-1975. Even once Canadian officials in Ottawa “well understood” Canada’s significant role in the internal military battle developing in Ghana, writes Kilford, “there was never any serious discussion around withdrawing the Canadian training team.”

As the 1960s wore on Nkrumah’s government became increasingly critical of London and Washington’s support for the white minority in southern Africa. Ottawa had little sympathy for Nkrumah’s pan-African ideals and so it made little sense to continue training the Ghanaian Army if it was, in Kilford’s words, to “be used to further Nkrumah’s political aims”. Kilford continued his thought, stating: “that is unless the Canadian government believed that in time a well-trained, professional Ghana Army might soon remove Nkrumah.”

During a visit to Ghana in 2012 former Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean laid a wreath on Nkrumah’s tomb. But, in commemorating this leading pan-Africanist, she failed to acknowledge the role her country played in his downfall.

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Filed under Canada in Africa

Calling Trudeau a terrorist is not that outrageous

Is calling the Prime Minister a “white supremacist terrorist” hate speech?

Black Lives Matter – Toronto spokesperson Yusra Khogali’s description of Justin Trudeau as a “white supremacist terrorist” at a recent rally against Islamophobia has sparked significant backlash. Right-wing media are using it to attack BLMTO while liberal commentators have called on Khogali to resign as spokesperson. A number of individuals have even labeled Khogali’s comments hate speech.

Fortunately, Chuck D of Public Enemy took to Twitter to push back against calls for Khogali to resign and a Toronto Now piece by Shantal Otchere defended the “white supremacist” part of her statement. The case for labeling our handsome PM a “terrorist” may be less solid, but it’s worth exploring.

In the only effort to justify the “terrorist” tag on Trudeau I’ve seen, Vancouver-based writer and activist Daniel Tseghay pointed to the PM’s arming of Saudi Arabia’s monarchy on Facebook, which is clearly intentionally causing death and serious bodily harm by use of violence in Yemen, not to mention sections of its own population. Not only has the Canadian Commercial Corporation signed a $15 billion Light Armoured Vehicle contract with the reactionary regime, Canadians are also training the Saudis to use the vehicles, sold Riyadh other arms and has backed them diplomatically. The Trudeau government has all but ignored Saudi violence in Yemen, which has left over 10,000 civilians dead and millions hungry.

In another part of the Middle East, a Canadian fighter jet reportedly killed 10 and injured 20 Iraqi civilians on November 19, 2015. While the Trudeau government later withdrew Canadian bombers, two Canadian reconnaissance aircraft and an in-air refuelling tanker are still part of the Iraq/Syria mission, which is bombing without Damascus’s permission. The Trudeau government also tripled the number of Canadian special forces on the ground. Two hundred highly skilled soldiers have provided training, weaponry and combat support to Kurdish forces accused of ethnically cleansing areas of Iraq they’ve captured.

Another 200 Canadian troops are in the Ukraine backing up a force responsible for hundreds of deaths in the east of that country. While it was the previous government that dispatched these troops to the Ukraine, the Trudeau government is ramping up Canada’s military presence in the region. Four-hundred-and-fifty troops will soon be part of a Canadian-led battle group in Latvia and up to a half-dozen CF-18 fighter jets are on their way to the region, which is partly designed to embolden far-right militarists in the Ukraine.

Do any of these activities constitute terrorism? There are certainly decent arguments to be made.

And, while it’s unclear whether Trudeau merits the “terrorist” label 16 months into his term, history suggests it may well fit before he leaves office. Trudeau’s Liberal predecessor Paul Martin is an excellent candidate for the “T” tag because of his role in overthrowing Haitian democracy and supporting a coup regime responsible for thousands of deaths and rapes. For two years, a Canadian-financed, Canadian-trained and Canadian-supervised Haitian police force terrorized Port-au-Prince’s slums with Canadian diplomatic and (for half a year) military backing.

By delivering Washington’s bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership another Liberal prime minister also arguably warranted the “T” label. Lester Pearson had Canadian International Control Commission officials spy on the North for the U.S., approved chemical weapon (Agent Orange, Purple and Blue) testing in Canada and provided various other forms of support to Washington’s terror campaign in Indochina.

One could also make the case that Louis St. Laurent deserved the “T” tag for dispatching 27,000 troops to a war in Korea that left up to 4 million dead. At one point the U.S.-led forces stopped bombing the north when they determined no building over one story was still standing.

While the “terrorist” label may be jarring, strong language by activists directed at the PM is at worst jarring. Sanctimonious commentators who constantly rush to defend power, on the other hand, allow prime ministers to get away with activities that arguably meet the definition of terrorism.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Israeli nationalist tilt of McGill’s Jewish studies is actually inscribed in a major funding agreement. In 2012 the estate of Simon and Ethel Flegg contributed $1 million to McGill’s Jewish Studies department partly for an “education initiative in conjunction with McGill Hillel.” But, Hillel refuses to associate with Jews (or others) who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the state of Israel.”

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

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

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Filed under Canada and Israel

Putting Palestine into the NDP leadership race

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

This article first appeared in The Hill Times.

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

Greens stand firm in face of Israeli bullying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israeli nationalists undermine meaning of ‘remembering the Holocaust’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

A day to remember

Remember.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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