Tag Archives: Elizabeth May

Where’s NDP on fighter jet purchase?

How about a little friendly pressure?

Hopefully that’s all it would take for Left NDP MPs to join Neil Young, Stephen Lewis, Teagan and Sarah, David Suzuki and many other notable Canadian and international figures in calling for government resources to “be used to eliminate boil water advisories on reserves, build light rail lines across the country and construct thousands of units of social housing”.

So far, it seems the federal NDP wants to be seen as supporting the “best equipment” for the military, even when the government plows $19 billion — $77 billion over the planes’ full lifecycle — into strengthening the force’s capacity to bomb in US-led wars.

As wildfires blaze in western Canada amidst record breaking heat waves, the Liberal government is planning to spend tens of billions of dollars on unnecessary, dangerous, climate destroying fighter jets”, explains a public letter released last week by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute and Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. The letter was signed by Canadian musicians Neil Young, Teagan and Sarah and Sarah Harmer as well as environmentalists David Suzuki and Naomi Klein. The No New Fighter Jets for Canada statement is also endorsed by authors Michael Ondaatje Yann Martel and Gabor Maté as well as four former NDP MPs, city councillors, a senator, NDP MPP and former leader of the Ontario NDP Stephen Lewis. Prominent international figures such as Roger Waters, Daryl Hannah and Noam Chomsky have also backed a call addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Green Party’s two MPs, Elizabeth May and Paul Manly, signed the statement. But no NDP MP was an initiating signatory. (After former NDP foreign affairs critic Svend Robinson complained on Twitter “Is there no NDP MP opposing this outrageous waste?” Leah Gazan signed on.)

I doubt that Matthew Green, Niki Ashton, Alexandre Boulerice or even other less internationalist minded members of the NDP caucus want public resources going to fighter jets over, as the letter puts it, “a just recovery, green infrastructure and investing in Indigenous communities.” But Randall Garrison is the NDP defence critic and he’s a staunch militarist, so they tread carefully on the issue.

Soon after the letter was released and MPs began receiving hundreds of emails about it Garrison replied. In a long message he wrote, “on fighter jets, New Democrats have called on the government to support the purchasing of fighters that can operate safely and effectively in the Arctic while also being interoperable with our allies in NATO and NORAD.” In response Robinson quoted part of Garrison’s statement and wrote “shame on the NDP”.

While Garrison is an extremist within the party, NDP militarism runs far deeper than him. The 2015 NDP platform said the party would “meet our military commitments by maintaining Department of National Defence budget allocations”, which is more than 10 times the size of Environment and Climate Change Canada. In 2011 the NDP supported two House of Commons votes, initiated by the minority Stephen Harper government, endorsing the bombing of Libya. (Green leader Elizabeth May was the only MP to vote against a war in which Canada played a significant role.) To the best of my knowledge the NDP has never apologized or suggested it erred in supporting a Canadian-led bombing campaign that was strenuously opposed by the African Union, which worried (correctly) that the conflict and weapons would spill southward.

Eight days before Canadian fighter jets began dropping bombs on Libya in 2011, military intelligence officers told Ottawa decision makers that the country would likely descend into civil war if foreign countries assisted rebels opposed to Muammar Gadhafi. An internal assessment obtained by the Ottawa Citizen noted, “there is the increasing possibility that the situation in Libya will transform into a long-term tribal/civil war… This is particularly probable if opposition forces received military assistance from foreign militaries.” Ten years later Libya has yet to fully extricate itself from the civil war.

The public letter about the warplanes notes that “Canada’s current fleet of fighter jets has bombed Libya, Iraq, Serbia and Syria.” The NDP opposed the first Iraq war and the 2014–16 bombing of Iraq/Syria. But it supported the illegal 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and the Libya war so it’s not surprising elements of the party want to purchase expensive new fighter jets. But parts of Garrison’s reaction don’t add up.

The fighter jet purchase offers the NDP an opportunity to differentiate itself from the Liberals who are angling to buy the F-35 — they’ve paid hundreds of millions of dollars to remain part of the consortium — by reminding voters of Trudeau’s explicit promise not to do so. Oddly, Garrison didn’t even repeat his opposition to purchasing the F-35 in his long response to the public letter even though he could have stuck with a militarist lens by questioning spending huge sums on fighter jets when drone technology is advancing rapidly.

More substantively, the Covid-19 pandemic and destruction wrought by climate change — the heat wave and subsequent obliteration of Lytton, BC — is rapidly undermining militarist conceptions of “security”, as noted in a long commentary in Saturday’s Globe and Mail. It explained, “increasingly, the foes we have to fight aren’t foreign armies, but pandemics, climate change and other disasters that destabilize the world around us. Our armed forces should adapt accordingly”. In this political moment it’s hard for a progressive to argue that resources should be devoted to fighter jets rather than pandemic recovery and mitigating the climate crisis.

Perhaps a few hundred more phones calls, emails and tweets could move the NDP to just say no to spending “tens of billions of dollars on unnecessary, dangerous, climate destroying fighter jets.”

 

Please take a minute to email all MPs to say NO to the $77 billion fighter jet purchase. 

 

Yves Engler’s Stand on Guard For Whom? — A People’s History of the Canadian Military is available next month.

 

Comments Off on Where’s NDP on fighter jet purchase?

Filed under Military, NDP

Green Party debacle may be win for Palestine

Jenica Atwin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned. This saga certainly does not seem finished.

 

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

Comments Off on Green Party debacle may be win for Palestine

Filed under Green Party, Israel Lobby

Green leadership candidates to debate foreign policy

Debate is the lifeblood of democracy and a good one is fun to watch or listen to. Hopefully an upcoming Green Party debate will accomplish that while simultaneously strengthening progressives’ foreign policy expectations and infrastructure.

On September 10, Rabble and the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute are organizing a Green Party leadership debate on “Canada’s Place in the World.” Moderated by journalist Judy Rebick, the event will allow people to “hear candidates’ views on Palestinian rights, Venezuela, NATO, the global climate crisis, as well as the international mining and arms industries. Candidates will also address the global pandemic, Donald Trump, tensions with China as well as the global struggle against anti-Blackness and Canada’s second consecutive failure to win a seat on the UN Security Council.”

The Greens, like other parties, generally treat foreign policy as an afterthought. There were two pages on international affairs at the end of their 82-page election platform last year. Of nine Green leadership candidates only Dimitri Lascaris, Andrew West and Amita Kuttner appear to have mentioned international affairs in their policy platforms.

When the Greens do engage on international issues, they are all over the place. Resolutions passed at conventions are generally pretty good and one of the three Green MPs, Paul Manly, has signed the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute’s call for a “fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy”, released following Canada’s second consecutive defeat in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Leadership front runner, Lascaris, has put forward a bold foreign policy platform that includes a call for Canada to withdraw from NATO and to reduce military spending by 50%. In 2011 outgoing Green leader Elizabeth May was the only MP to vote against Canada’s bombing of Libya.

But, May has also taken many pro-imperial positions. As I detailed a year ago in “Green leader May supports same old pro-imperialist foreign policies”, she’s lent her name to numerous initiatives targeting Iran and Venezuela organized by Irwin Cotler, a vicious anti-Palestinian who aggressively criticizes ‘enemy’ states while largely ignoring rights violations committed by Canada and the US. Even if she’s come around somewhat on the subject, May forced a special party convention in 2016 because she refused to accept the clearly stated will of party members 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 the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories].”

If politicians aren’t under constant pressure from social movements and progressive organizations they tend to follow the dominant media’s depiction of international affairs or gravitate towards individuals like Cotler, who no progressive should follow. In that sense May’s positions reflect the left’s failures as much as her own. If the left was as organized regarding international issues as on domestic affairs it’s unlikely she would have participated in Cotler’s press conferences targeting Venezuela and Iran.

The Rabble and Canadian Foreign Policy Institute leadership debate needs to be viewed within this optic. It’s about raising expectations and strengthening the Left’s foreign policy ecosystem.

Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East took a step in that direction. They recently surveyed the candidates on their Middle East policy. (Lascaris received top marks and Meryam Haddad was in second place while the top fundraiser in the leadership race, Annamie Paul, received bottom marks.)

The CJPME/IJV survey ups the left’s game on foreign policy. But this type of internationalist intervention needs to be adopted more broadly. It would be great if the newly formed Canadian Latin America Alliance had the resources to do a similar survey on Venezuela, Bolivia and Honduras or if Solidarity Québec Haiti could force the candidates to take a position on Canada’s role in Haiti (Lascaris participated in a discussion held by Solidarity Québec Haiti member Jean Saint-Vil). We also need groups hounding the candidates on Canada’s international mining behemoth, large government-backed arms export industry and the legality of Canadian sanctions.

Any individual seeking to lead a major political party should expect to be pressed to articulate their positions on Canada’s foreign policy. The Green leadership debate is an opportunity to ‘centre’ a left discussion of Canadian foreign policy.

Every progressive in this country should be eager to hear what the Green candidates have to say about “Canada’s place in the world”.

 

If you want to vote in the Green Party leadership election you have to become a member of the party by September 3.  It costs $10. 

Comments Off on Green leadership candidates to debate foreign policy

Filed under Activism, Green Party

Canada’s leading apologist for Israeli war crimes disrupted

cotler_protest

Irwin Cotler at Concordia University

Last week members of Quebec Movement for Peace disrupted a speech by Irwin Cotler on “Canada as a Human Rights leader” (at the last-minute ‘deputy’ foreign minister, Rob Oliphant, canceled his participation). With “Free Palestine” signs in hand, filmmaker Malcolm Guy and I took the stage to denounce Cotler’s anti-Palestinian positions and support for intervention in Venezuela and Iran. After we were ushered off the stage lawyer Dimitri Lascaris rose to interrogate the supposed human rights activist for refusing to criticize injustices inflicted upon Palestinians. Part of the way through Lascaris’ grilling a handful of us at the back of the room began chanting “Cotler, Cotler, you will see Palestine will be free”, as one can hear in this video viewed over 10,000 times.

The Electronic Intifada, Media Coop, Algemeiner and Canadian Jewish News (twice) reported on the intervention (CPAC was purportedly live streaming the event). Prominent anti-Palestinian activists such as Gerald Steinberg, Hillel Neuer, Avi Benlolo and Bernie Farber decried our challenge of their hero. Head of the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG), Michael Levitt created the Twitter hashtag StandWithCotler and called on other MPs to support it, which was duly followed by his CIIG colleagues, including disgraceful NDP MP Randall Garrison. In the House of Commons CIIG Vice-Chair David Sweet asked the government to condemn our disruption of Cotler. The Conservative MP noted, “on Monday he was disrupted and berated during a speech at Concordia University in an attempt by protesters to shut him down.” (After 10 minutes we voluntarily left the room and Cotler spoke extensively.) Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Oliphant, who was scheduled to speak alongside Cotler, expressed the government’s solidarity with the former Liberal party justice minister.

Cotler is a vicious anti-Palestinian who aggressively criticizes “enemy” states while largely ignoring rights violations committed by Canada and the US. In “Canadian apologist for Israeli war crimes nominated for Peace Prize” I detail Cotler’s long-standing devotion to Israeli violence and recent promotion of war on Iran and regime change in Venezuela. But, since that story was published in March more details have emerged about Cotler’s ethno-centrism and promotion of violence. In recent days Cotler has been widely quoted criticizing the use of the term “genocide” in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

According to an Israel National News story, Cotler supports relocating Canada’s embassy to Jerusalem. During “Keep Jerusalem” leader Chaim Silberstein’s visit to Canada last month, Cotler reportedly “expressed enthusiasm” for moving the Canadian embassy and “promised to help promote” the idea within the Liberal party.

In response to our action activist Ron Saba shared a photo of Cotler at last year’s Jewish National Fund fundraiser in Toronto. The explicitly racist JNF excludes the 20-25% of non-Jewish Israelis from its vast landholdings mostly stolen from Palestinians in 1948. In 2017 the Canada Revenue Agency initiated an (ongoing) audit of the JNF for supporting the Israeli military in contravention of Canadian charitable law.

For his part, Masud Sheikh responded to our action by uploading a video — apparently scrubbed from the Internet after previously reaching a Canadian audience — of the Nobel Peace Prize nominee advising Israel on planning a war. Just after Israel killed 1,200 Lebanese in the summer of 2006 Cotler spoke to a conference of top Israeli military officials on the importance of managing the message in modern war.

He did something similar after an earlier Israeli invasion of its northern neighbour. In an April article retired Guelph professor Michael Keefer wrote: “In the wake of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, in the course of which some 15,000 civilians were killed and several thousand Palestinians massacred in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, Cotler participated in a 1984 Jerusalem conference on Hasbara: Israel’s Public Image. Alluding to two of the lesser PR disasters of the war—the IDF’s violation of the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon’s diplomatic immunity, and a Canadian Red Cross doctor’s allegations of Israeli atrocities—Cotler recommended, not that Israel change its behaviour, but rather that it ‘make Hasbara a priority’ and enhance its capacity to offer ‘an authoritative rebuttal’ to such stories.”

In that article Keefer points out that Antony Lerman, founding editor of Antisemitism World Report, called Cotler “one of the key figures” promoting the idea of a “new antisemitism”. Since the 1970s he’s been arguing that criticism of Israel is the “new antisemitism”.

In a remarkable 2002 essay titled “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness” Cotler lays out his thinking, suggesting a confrontation between the “secular religion” of human rights and Jewish “civil religion” of Zionism. He argues that criticizing Israeli human rights violations is “the contemporary analogue to the medieval indictment of the Jew as the ‘poisoner of the wells.’ In other words, in a world in which human rights has emerged as the new secular religion of our time, the portrayal of Israel as the metaphor for a human rights violator is an indictment of Israel as the ‘new anti-Christ’ — as the ‘poisoner of the international wells’ encompassing all the ‘teaching of contempt’ for the ‘Jew among the Nations,’ this new antisemitism implies.”

Cotler further argues that antisemitism has retained its consistent essence as “an assault upon whatever is the core of Jewish self-definition at any moment in time—be it the Jewish religion at the time of classical antisemitism, or the State of Israel as the ‘civil religion’ of the Jewish people under this new anti-Jewishness.” So, because most Jews identify with Israel criticizing that country’s violence or dispossession of Palestinians is anti-Semitic.

Challenging Cotler is important. All high-profile anti-Palestinians should be asked tough questions and hopefully our intervention inspires others to take similar actions. But, it’s also about de-mystifying an individual who retains a progressive gloss. Last month NDP MP Hélène Laverdière and Green Party leader Elizabeth May attended a press conference organized by Cotler calling on Canada to impose sanctions on Iranian officials and list the country’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. New NDP foreign critic Guy Caron participated in a subsequent event on Iran and NDP MP Murray Rankin and May regularly attend events led by Cotler. May and Rankin are also part of the Cotler-led Raoul Wallenberg All-Party Parliamentary Caucus for Human Rights.

The Cotler ‘brand’ should be toxic on the Left. Politicians need to know that many Canadians — as Lascaris put it in his concluding statement to Cotler — consider him “a fraud when it comes to human rights.”

Comments Off on Canada’s leading apologist for Israeli war crimes disrupted

Filed under Activism, Israel, Venezuela