Tag Archives: Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

NDP votes for Palestine

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments Off on NDP votes for Palestine

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel Lobby, NDP

Why couldn’t Jagmeet Singh say “Palestine”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel Lobby, NDP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

Filed under Israel Lobby, NDP

Israel lobby group has no credibility to lecture NDP on racism

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filed under Israel Lobby, NDP

Judge cozies up to Israel lobby in conflict of interest

Thomas Cromwell

Even the appearance of a conflict of interest should be enough to dissuade any prudent public official, especially a judge, from an action.

As such, it’s baffling that former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell would accept an invitation to speak at two Israel lobby groups’ conference while overseeing an inquiry into whether a former official of the organizations acted improperly.

In a report on conflicts of interest within the public service a government commission of inquiry explained, “A perceived or apparent conflict of interest can exist where it could be perceived, or appears, that a public official’s private interests could improperly influence the performance of their duties — whether or not this is in fact the case.”

On February 9 Cromwell is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)/United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto conference on “The Rule of Law in Times of Crisis.” At the same time he is speaking at this forum, Cromwell is overseeing an investigation into a highly politicized dispute over a job offer that was rescinded by the University of Toronto law school. Last summer Valentina Azarova had an offer to head its International Human Rights Program withdrawn after reported pressure from Tax Court of Canada judge David Spiro, former co-chair of CIJA Toronto and chair of UJA Toronto’s Public Affairs Committee. Spiro was hostile towards Azarova because of her defence of Palestinian rights.

Spiro’s influence over the University of Toronto largely comes from his family’s wealth. His uncle, Larry Tanenbaum, owner of the Toronto Raptors, financed the University’s Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. One of the wealthy donors that founded CIJA, Larry Tanenbaum and his brother have given the University of Toronto at least $10 million and helped raise $10 million more.

The Azarova incident has drawn widespread condemnation. Over 1,000 academics and lawyers signed an open letter in support of Azarova while Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others have criticized the university. The Canadian Association of University Teachers Council recently moved closer to taking the rare step of censuring — which includes a call for academics to boycott — the University of Toronto over the affair. Spiro’s conduct in the affair is being investigated by the Canadian Judicial Council, which may remove him as a Tax Court of Canada judge.

Within the University of Toronto, the issue is a hot potato. The individual initially appointed to lead the inquiry resigned under pressure and Cromwell was picked to replace them.

Cromwell’s participation in an event put on by two organizations with close ties to an individual at the centre of an investigation he’s overseeing raises serious questions about his impartiality in the Azarova inquiry. And there’s another reason why Cromwell should not participate in this conference on the “Rule of Law”. Le Journal de Montréal recently reported on UJA Toronto’s role in possibly criminal acts. On 4 June UJA Toronto publicized a webinar by Nefesh-B’Nefesh titled “Joining the IDF”, which claimed to offer participants “everything you need and want to know about joining the IDF”. Yet the Foreign Enlistment Act clearly outlaws recruiting for a foreign military. It states: “Any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.” Evidence of UJA Toronto’s violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act was recently delivered to the RCMP and over 700 people have written a letter to press the RCMP commissioner to investigate the matter.

A few days ago lawyer John Philpot informed Cromwell about UJA Toronto’s role in illegal recruitment for the IDF and that speaking at the conference would impact the perception of his role within the Azarova inquiry. Writing on behalf of Just Peace Advocates, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute and Palestinian and Jewish Unity, Philpot asked Cromwell to withdraw from the CIJA/UJA Toronto conference.

I followed up to ask Cromwell if he was aware that an individual at the centre of the investigation he lead had been a top official of both CIJA and UJA Toronto and whether he was being paid to speak at the CIJA/UJA event. He answered “no” to both questions. In response I asked, “in light of David Spiro’s former position as CIJA Toronto board member and UJA Toronto Public Affairs Committee chair are you considering withdrawing as keynote speaker?” He didn’t respond to my email by the time the story went to press.

So, readers will be left wondering why a former Supreme Court Justice would address a conference put on by two organizations with close ties to an individual at the centre of a highly politicized investigation he is overseeing?

Comments Off on Judge cozies up to Israel lobby in conflict of interest

Filed under Israel Lobby

End the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement

 

images

On Sunday a demonstration is planned in Montréal against the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA). Under the banner “Against Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley. No to the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement!”, the march is seeking to politicize CIFTA amidst Israel’s plan to formally annex parts of the West Bank.

The march follows an open letter released last month by over 100 Montréal artists and activists calling for the cancellation of CIFTA.

Signed in 1997, CIFTA was Canada’s fourth free trade agreement and first outside the Western hemisphere (US, NAFTA and Chile). In an implicit recognition of the occupation, the free trade agreement includes the West Bank as a place where Israel’s custom laws are applied. Canada’s trade agreement is based on the areas Israel maintains territorial control over, not on internationally recognized borders. The European Union’s trade agreement with Israel, on the other hand, explicitly excludes products from territory Israel captured in the 1967 war and occupies against international law.

The Liberals “modernized” Canada’s FTA with Israel. International trade minister Jim Carr boasted the new accord “strengthens bilateral ties between Canada and Israel.” Liberal MPs on Parliament’s Standing Committee on International Trade rejected an NDP amendment to the trade accord’s legislation stipulating its implementation “shall be based on respect for human rights and international law.” They also rejected an NDP amendment to the deal that would have required distinct labels on products originating from “Palestinian territory that has been illegally occupied since 1967.”

In July 2019 Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi wrote, “the Palestinian leadership calls on the Canadian government to act in accordance with Canadian and international laws and amend, without delay, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (Bill C-85), which affords products originating from illegal Israeli settlements tariff free status, in flagrant violation of Canada’s obligations under international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and United Nations Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016).”

In July 2017 the federal government said its FTA with Israel trumped Canada’s Food and Drugs Act after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency called for accurate labelling of wines produced in the occupied West Bank. After David Kattenburg repeatedly complained about inaccurate labels on two wines sold in Ontario, the CFIA notified the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) that it “would not be acceptable and would be considered misleading” to declare wines produced in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as “products of Israel”. Quoting from longstanding official Canadian policy, CFIA noted that “the government of Canada does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967.” In response to pressure from the Israeli embassy, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai Brith, the government announced that it was all a mistake made by a low level CFIA official and that the Canada-Israel FTA governed the labelling of such wine, not CFIA rules. “We did not fully consider the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement,” a terse CFIA statement explained. “These wines adhere to the Agreement and therefore we can confirm that the products in question can be sold as currently labeled.”

In other words, the government publicly proclaimed that the FTA trumps Canada’s consumer protections. But, this was little more than a pretext to avoid a conflict with B’nai B’rith, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and Israeli officials, according to Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Trade and Investment Research Project director Scott Sinclair. “This trade-related rationale does not stand up to scrutiny,” Sinclair wrote. “The Canadian government, the CFIA and the LCBO are well within their legal and trade treaty rights to insist that products from the occupied territories be clearly labeled as such. There is nothing in the CIFTA that prevents this. The decision to reverse the CFIA’s ruling was political. The whole trade argument is a red herring, simply an excuse to provide cover for the CFIA to backtrack under pressure.”

If the Canadian government does indeed support a rules-based international order as Prime Minister Trudeau has proclaimed then the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement should be scrapped.

Information on the demonstration “Against Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley. No to the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement!” is available here.

Comments Off on End the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel, Justin Trudeau, Middle East

Jewish Defence League attacks pro-Palestine restaurant

 

20200707-foodbenders.jpg-resize_then_crop-_frame_bg_color_FFF-h_400-gravity_center-q_70-preserve_ratio_true-w_600_

Why the official silence about Toronto’s most powerful extreme right group? Is it because we live in a political culture where Palestinian lives don’t matter?

Recently an individual with the Jewish Defence League (JDL) was photographed defacing a pro-Palestinian storefront with supremacist graffiti in broad daylight. Nothing has happened to them but the anti-racist victim has faced negative consequences.

On Sunday JDL thugs held a rally in front of Foodbenders, a sandwich shop that has “I Love Gaza” painted on its window. During their hate fest they scrubbed a Palestinian Lives Matter marking from the sidewalk and, similar to what Jewish supremacist settlers do to Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, someone painted the symbol on the Israeli flag onto the restaurant window. Alongside painting Stars of David on her storefront, Kimberly Hawkins has faced a bevy of online abuse. The Foodbenders owner has been called a “dirty Palestinian whore” and told “Palestine sucks I will burn your business down” and “I hope your family gets trapped inside the restaurant when it burns.”

460332

Hawkins has faced these attacks since an Instagram post of hers began circulating last week that stated, “Open Now – 8 PM for non-racist shoppers #Bloordale #Bloorstreet, #Toronto, #Open, #ftp #FreePalestine and #ZionistsNotWelcome.” The police seem to have ignored the whole affair, perhaps because a few weeks earlier Foodbenders was embroiled in a controversy over a sign that read “No Justice, No Peace, F*ck the Police!”

The anti-Palestinian lobby pounced on the #ZionistsNotWelcome hashtag and demanded food delivery services boycott the store. Submitting to the pressure, Uber Eats, Ritual and DoorDash have cancelled their contract with the restaurant. (While “for non-racist shoppers” and “#ZionistsNotWelcome” are entirely legitimate statements, they are near impossible to enforce and it is questionable to block someone with racist views from purchasing a sandwich, as Hawkins immediately explained.)

The media has all but ignored the JDL’s hate, as have the groups and individuals who claim to monitor the far right in Canada. The double standard is stark. When individuals have covered or painted over Black Lives Matter symbols the incidents have been widely reported and interpreted as racist. A couple in Contra Costa, California, were charged with a hate crime for painting over a BLM marking on the street. The Foodbender’s case is far worse. The subjugation of Palestinians is crueller than the oppression of Black people in North America and the JDLers chose to deface the property with the symbol of Palestinians’ oppressors.

Over the past decade JDL Toronto has built itself up by aggressively harassing Palestinian solidarity activists. Facebook has banned JDL Canada’s account, classifying it a “dangerous organization”. In 2011 the RCMP launched an investigation against a number of JDL members who were thought to be plotting to bomb Palestine House in Mississauga and in 2017 JDL Toronto members organized a mob that attacked protesters at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington DC. In the worst incident, a 55-year-old Palestinian-American teacher was punched, kicked and hit with flagpoles. Bruised across his body, Kamal Nayfeh needed 18 stitches around his eye.

In November JDL supporters attacked peaceful pro-Palestinian activists protesting a presentation by Israeli military reservists at York University. One of the victims was reportedly knocked unconscious.

In the US the FBI labeled the JDL a “right-wing terrorist group” in 2001 after its members were convicted in a series of acts of terror, including the killing of the regional director of the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee and a plot to assassinate a congressman. A member of the JDL’s sister organization in Israel killed 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers in the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre 20 years ago.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, B’nai B’rith, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and a slew of other politicians have all condemned Foodbenders. Simultaneously, they have ignored the JDL’s racism, further emboldening Toronto’s most powerful far right organization. It seems, for them, Palestinian lives do not matter.

 

Please take one minute to send an email to major Toronto media to ask them why they have not covered this outrageous attack against a pro-Palestinian restaurant.

Comments Off on Jewish Defence League attacks pro-Palestine restaurant

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel

Canada’s Security Council defeat is a win for Palestine

Black Festival Fall Promotional Twitter Post (4)

Canada’s defeat in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council is a major victory for Palestinian solidarity. It also puts Canada’s Israel lobby on the defensive.

Israeli politicians and commentators have begun to publicly bemoan the loss. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, told the Jerusalem Post, “we are disappointed that Canada didn’t make it, both because we have close ties with the country and because of the campaign that the Palestinians ran against Canada.” In another story in that paper headlined “With annexation looming, Canada’s UNSC upset is bad news for Israel, US” Deputy Managing Editor Tovah Lazaroff labels Canada’s loss “a sharp reminder of the type of diplomatic price tag Israel’s allies can suffer on the international stage.”

Inside Canada the Security Council defeat is a blow to the Israel lobby. While the Canadian media has generally minimized the impact Canada’s anti-Palestinian position had on the vote, the subject is being raised. In a Journal de Québec column titled “Why did Canada suffer a humiliating defeat at the UN?” Norman Lester writes, “it is the support of the Trudeau Liberal government for Israel, like that of Harper before him, that is probably the main reason for Ottawa’s two successive setbacks. Ireland and Norway have more balanced policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than Canada.” He concludes the article by noting, “Canada has no chance of returning to the Security Council in the foreseeable future unless there is a radical change in its position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

By acquiescing almost entirely to the ‘Israel no matter what’ outlook of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai B’rith, the Trudeau government undercut its bid for a seat on the UN’s highest decision-making body. The Israel lobby’s point people in the Liberal caucus, Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt, are no doubt hoping to avoid too much blowback for their role in this embarrassment. Housefather ought to be prodded on his contribution to the Trudeau government’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN since he repeatedly boasted that it was more pro-Israel than Stephen Harper’s.

Canada’s voting record at the UN was at the heart of the grassroots No Canada on the UN Security Council campaign. An open letter launching the campaign from the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute noted, “since coming to power the Trudeau government has voted against more than fifty UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights backed by the overwhelming majority of member states.” A subsequent open letter was signed by over 100 civil society groups and dozens of prominent individuals urging countries to vote against Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat due to its anti-Palestinian positions. That letter organized by Just Peace Advocates stated, “the Canadian government for at least a decade and a half has consistently isolated itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights at the UN. … Continuing this pattern, Canada ‘sided with Israel by voting No’ on most UN votes on the Question of Palestine in December. Three of these were Canada’s votes on Palestinian Refugees, on UNRWA and on illegal settlements, each distinguishing Canada as in direct opposition to the ‘Yes’ votes of Ireland and Norway.”

Just Peace Advocates organized 1,300 individuals to email all UN ambassadors asking them to vote for Ireland and Norway instead of Canada for the Security Council. In a sign of the campaign’s impact, Canada’s permanent representative to the UN Marc André Blanchard responded with a letter to all UN ambassadors defending Canada’s policy on Palestinian rights.

Not only has Canada’s voting record on Palestinian rights undercut its standing within the General Assembly, the Canadian public doesn’t want the government pursuing anti-Palestinian positions. A recent Ekos poll found that 74% of Canadians wanted Ottawa to express opposition to Israel’s plan to formally annex a large swath of the West Bank with 42% of the public desiring some form of economic and/or diplomatic sanction against Israel if it moves forward with annexation. “The Trudeau government has not only isolated Canada from international opinion regarding Palestinian rights at the UN, but its positions contravene the wishes of most Canadians regarding the long-beleaguered Palestinians,” explained Karen Rodman of Just Peace Advocates.

While the impact of the loss shouldn’t be exaggerated, Justin Trudeau’s brand is linked to the idea that he is liked internationally. Additionally, the Liberals’ base supports the UN and the international body is closely connected with how they market their foreign policy.

Kowtowing to CIJA, B’nai B’rith and Israeli nationalists such as Housefather, Levitt, etc. on Palestinian rights at the UN helped scuttle Canada’s Security Council bid — that’s a fact Trudeau and the Liberals must face. More important, the international community’s rejection of a government enthralled to the Israel lobby weakens Israel diplomatically and is a victory for Palestine solidarity.

Comments Off on Canada’s Security Council defeat is a win for Palestine

Filed under Canada and Israel, Justin Trudeau

Palestinian solidarity unsettles Canadian diplomats

4

The Palestinian solidarity movement is unsettling Canada’s diplomatic apparatus. In the final week of their multi-year campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council they’ve been forced to respond to a strong, well-documented, campaign in defence of Palestinian rights.

Yesterday, Canada’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Marc-André Blanchard, delivered a letter to all UN ambassadors defending Canadian policy on Palestinian rights. Blanchard was responding to an Open Letter organized by Just Peace Advocates signed by more than 100 organizations and dozens of prominent individuals. Over the past week more than 1000 individuals have used that letter as a template to contact all 193 UN ambassador to ask them to vote for Ireland and Norway instead of Canada for two seats available on the Security Council.

Canada’s ambassador claims the Just Peace Advocates’ letter contains “significant inaccuracies”, but he doesn’t identify a single one of those “inaccuracies” (Blanchard probably hoped his letter wouldn’t be put online).

 

 

Here is the Palestinian solidarity letter sent to all UN ambassadors:

“As humanity reels from the Covid-19 pandemic, you will soon select the world’s representatives on the UN’s highest decision-making body. As organizations and individuals advocating in Canada and elsewhere for a just peace in Palestine/Israel, we respectfully ask you to reject Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.
As you choose seats on the Security Council between the bids of Canada, Ireland and Norway for the two Western Europe and Other States, the UN’s historic contribution to Palestinian dispossession and responsibility to protect their rights must be front of mind. In these uncertain times, Palestinians are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 due to Israel’s military occupation and violations of UN resolutions.
The Canadian government for at least a decade and a half has consistently isolated itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights at the UN. Since coming to power – after the dubious record of the Harper government – the Trudeau government has voted against more than fifty UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights that were backed by the overwhelming majority of member states. 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.
The Canadian government has refused to abide by 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2334, calling on member states to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied in 1967.” On the contrary, Ottawa extends economic and trade assistance to Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
Canada has repeatedly sided with Israel. 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.
When deciding who represents the international community on the UN’s highest decision-making body, we urge you to consider the UN-established rights of the long-suffering Palestinians, and to vote for Ireland and Norway, which have better records on the matter than Canada.”

In reality, the letter only touches on the current government’s anti-Palestinian record. They’ve also celebrated Canadians who fight in the Israeli military, threatened to cut off funding to the International Criminal Court for investigating Israeli crimes, protected Israeli settlement wine producers, added Palestinian organizations to Canada’s terrorism list, adopted a definition of antisemitism explicitly designed to marginalize those who criticize Palestinian dispossession and repeatedly slandered the pro-Palestinian movement. None of this is secret. In fact, Liberal MP and former chair of the government’s Justice and Human Rights Committee, Anthony Housefather, has repeatedly boasted that the Trudeau government’s voting record at the UN was more anti-Palestinian than the Stephen Harper government!

The Trudeau government has almost entirely acquiesced to Housefather, B’nai B’rith, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the rest of the Israel lobby’s positions. But, they understand that there is sympathy for Palestinians within the UN General Assembly. And they need those individuals to vote for Canada’s Security Council bid if they don’t want to suffer an embarrassing defeat.

To be forced to respond at this late hour in their Security Council campaign represents a setback to the Liberals. But, we won’t know how significant the damage is until after next week’ vote. In the meantime please send a letter to all UN ambassadors calling on them to vote for Canada’s competitors, Norway and Ireland, for the two non-permanent Security Council spots open for Western countries.

As Just Peace Advocates’ Karen Rodman has pointed out, “the letter is seeking to pull at the heartstrings of the individuals who cast the secret ballots for the Security Council seat. We want to remind UN ambassadors that Canada has consistently isolated itself against world opinion when it comes to the long-suffering Palestinians.”

Comments Off on Palestinian solidarity unsettles Canadian diplomats

Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel, Justin Trudeau, Middle East

Israel lobby in Canada

1

The Trudeau government has been campaigning aggressively for a seat on the Security Council, but its bid to win a place on the UN’s most powerful decision-making body will be hampered by Canada’s decidedly anti-Palestinian voting record. Despite claiming to support the “international rules based order”, the Trudeau government has voted against more than 50 resolutions upholding Palestinian rights. The extent to which the Liberals have mimicked the Stephen Harper Conservative’s position regarding General Assembly resolutions, which are little more than symbolic acts of solidarity with the long-beleaguered Palestinians, highlights the power of the Israel lobby in Canada.

Together the United Jewish Appeal/Combined Jewish Appeal of Toronto, Montréal, Winnipeg, Windsor, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Vancouver and Atlantic Canada raise over $100 million annually and have about $1 billion in assets. For half a century UJA Toronto has organized an annual Walk with Israel and the Montréal branch organizes an annual Israel Day march. Many thousands march each year. The lobbying arm of the UJA/CJA, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has over 40 staff and a $10 million budget. In addition, B’nai B’rith has a handful of offices across the country. For its part, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Canada’s budget is $7-10 million annually. These groups work closely with StandWithUs Canada, CAMERA, Honest Reporting Canada and other (often extreme right wing) Israeli nationalist political organizations. Dozens of registered Canadian charities, ranging from the Jewish National Fund to Christians United for Israel also engage in at least some pro-Israel campaigning.

Since 2013 the chief fundraiser for the Trudeau Liberals has been Stephen Bronfman, scion of an arch Israeli nationalist family. Bronfman has millions invested in Israeli technology companies and over the years the Bronfman clan has secured arms for Israeli forces and supported its military in other ways.

Other notable Canadian moguls have long histories of ensuring ties between Israel and Canada.

Worth more than $3 billion prior to his death, David Azrieli was among the richest Canadians. In his youth he served in the paramilitary Haganah group during the 1948 war. His unit was responsible for the Battle of Jerusalem, including forcibly displacing 10,000 Palestinians.  Azrieli was also a real estate developer in Israel and in 2011 he made a controversial donation to Im Tirtzu, a hardline Israeli-nationalist organization (deemed a “fascist” group by an Israeli court).

Worth $1.6 billion, Gerald Schwartz and his wife Heather Reisman created the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides millions of dollars annually for non-Israelis who fight in the IDF.

In recent years Canadian-Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams has plowed tens of millions of dollars into various sports and cultural initiatives to rebrand Israel.

Other Canadian billionaires Larry Tanenbaum, Mark Scheinberg, David Cheriton, Daryl Katz, Seymour Schulich, as well as the Zekelman, Reichmann and Sherman families, all back Israel.

In “A story of failed re-engagement: Canada and Iran, 2015–2018” University of Ottawa professor Thomas Juneau highlighted the Israel lobby’s role in deterring the government from re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran:

“Initially, Cabinet and most caucus supported re-engagement. Dion, who was actively lobbied by Bombardier (whose headquarters were in his riding) and the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, was especially keen. Other senior ministers such as Freeland (International Trade) and Harjit Sajjan (Defence) also supported. With time, however, opposition within caucus grew. It was led by Michael Levitt, the influential MP for York-Center and chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group, and also included Anthony Housefather (MP for Mount-Royal). These MPs had support from former minister Irwin Cotler, who had long argued for harsher policies towards Iran.”

Juneau continued, “other interviewees also highlighted the differences in organization among pressure groups. Between the tabling of the motion [to oppose reengaging with Iran] and the vote four days later, groups opposing reengagement, such as the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, rapidly launched an effective campaign to pressure MPs. Groups favoring reengagement, however, such as the Iranian Canadian Congress, were unable to match these lobbying efforts.”

For a movement defending open racism and colonialism the Israel lobby wields a unique and powerful stick: The ability to play victim and smear those advocating for justice as racist.

The Liberals ousted high-profile Imam Hassan Guillet as a candidate to run for the party in 2019 after B’nai B’rith attacked him for challenging Israeli expansionism. 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, but when B’nai B’rith twisted his pro-Palestinian statements to imply he was anti-Semitic the Liberals dumped their star candidate.

Similarly, when members of the extremist Jewish Defence League attacked peaceful pro-Palestinian activists protesting a presentation by Israeli military reservists at York University Trudeau sided with the thugs crying anti-Semitism. Following a statement by B’nai B’rith, CIJA and the Israel lobby’s point person in the Liberal government, Michael Levitt, Trudeau denounced “anti-Semitism” by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

The influence of CIJA, B’nai B’rith, Bronfman, Schwartz, etc. largely explains the Trudeau government’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN. Whether that will scuttle Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council is to be determined.

But, we should hope so. Please join over 100 organizations and dozens of prominent individuals that have signed an open letter calling on UN member states to vote for Canada’s competitors, Norway and Ireland, for the two non-permanent Security Council spots open for Western countries.

 

Comments Off on Israel lobby in Canada

Filed under Israel, Justin Trudeau, Middle East