Tag Archives: Israel

McGill University ignores its real racism problem

While accusations of student anti-Semitism at McGill draw international headlines, the university administration’s open association with the Jewish National Fund has been ignored.

In the latest iteration of a multi-year smear campaign against Palestine solidarity activists at the university, Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee activist Noah Lew cried “anti-Semitism” after he wasn’t voted on to the Board of Directors of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). At a General Assembly last month Democratize SSMU sought to impeach the student union’s president Muna Tojiboeva. The ad-hoc student group was angry over her role in suspending an SSMU vice president and adopting a Judicial Board decision that declared a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolution unconstitutional.

(After two close votes, in February 2016 a motion mandating the student union support some BDS demands passed the union’s largest ever General Assembly, but failed an online confirmation vote after the university administration, Montreal’s English media and pro-Israel Jewish groups blitzed students. The resolution’s constitutionality was subsequently challenged.)

At the recent General Assembly Democratize SSMU’s effort to impeach the president failed. While they couldn’t muster the two thirds of votes required to oust the non-Jewish president of the student union, Democratize SSMU succeeded in blocking the re-election of two Board of Directors candidates who supported the effort to outlaw BDS resolutions.

After failing to be re-elected to the Board of Directors Noah Lew claimed he was “blocked from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity and my affiliations with Jewish organizations.” His claim was reported on by the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Global Television, as well as Israeli and Jewish press outlets. McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier sent out two emails to all students and faculty concerning the matter while the SSMU Board of Directors established a committee to investigate anti-Semitism. The affair was even mentioned in the House of Commons.

While a great deal has been written about alleged student anti-Jewish attitudes, the McGill administration’s open association with an explicitly Jewish supremacist organization passes with nary a comment. On November 28 McGill’s Associate Vice-Principal Innovation Angelique Mannella is scheduled to participate in a Jewish National Fund networking event called Tech Shuk, which connects Jewish capitalists with Montreal start-ups in a “Dragon’s Den” style competition. But, the JNF is a racist organization. Owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, it systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up a fifth of the population. According to a UN report, Jewish National Fund lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” The JNF oversees discriminatory land use policies in Israel outlawed in this country 60 years ago.

In 2004 long-time McGill Principal Bernard Shapiro was the honoured guest at JNF Montréal’s annual fundraising dinner (two years later the then former University Principal was master of ceremonies at the event). The current president of JNF Montréal, Michael Goodman, was a member of the advisory board of McGill ASD (Autism spectrum disorder). In 2014 McGill gave an honorary degree to Marvin Corber. The University’s press releaseannouncing its two honorary degree recipients cited an award Corber received from the JNF. Corber has been a JNF Montréal campaign advisor and chair of its annual fundraising dinner.

While the university administration’s ties to the JNF are a stark example of its racial bias, McGill is also entangled in other more subtle forms of anti-Palestinianism. The Montréal university has a memorandum of understanding with Tel Aviv University, which claims to be on “the front line of the critical work to maintain Israel’s military and technological edge.” McGill also has a partnership with Technion, which conducts “research and development into military technology that Israel relies on to sustain its occupation of Palestinian land.”

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, the cultural organization turned Israel lobby group 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.”

Imagine the outcry if a McGill department accepted a large donation to work with an organization that openly excluded Jews and others who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Palestine and fail to recognize Palestinians’ UN enshrined rights.”

It’s time to discuss the McGill administration’s support for Jewish supremacy in the Middle East.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Canada must stop subsidizing this racist, colonial, institution

Imagine if there were an organization called the White National Fund that raised tens of millions of dollars each year from Canadians to buy land in the US to be held exclusively for people of European descent. WNF land couldn’t be leased or sold to anyone who they didn’t consider “white”. Would it be acceptable to give such an organization charitable status so donors received tax breaks?

While similar exclusionary land policies are its raison d’être, Jewish National Fund apologists in Canada claim it is racist to highlight the organization’s discrimination.

In a recent commentary on Jagmeet Singh’s embrace of imperialist NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière I pointed out that she “participated in a ceremony put on by the head of the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund during a visit to Israel” in November.

An individual on my Facebook had the temerity to respond: “Yves Engler would do well to more thoroughly research the long and positive history, aims and accomplishments of the Jewish National Fund, before branding it with his own thinly veiled anti-Semitism, by describing (and underlining) it as ‘explicitly racist’.” (My “underlining” was a link to supporting evidence.)

The Green Party was smeared in a similar fashion when members proposed a resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the JNF’s charitable status because of its discrimination against non-Jews in Israel through its bylaws which prohibit the lease or sale of its lands to non-Jews.” In a National Post op-ed last summer then JNF head Josh Cooper accused the Greens’ of discrimination and a commentary published by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs directly labeled the party “anti-Semitic”.

JNF officials responded in a similar way after a 2013 protest against the organization in Colorado. KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler said, “attacks and demonstrations against us [Jews] have picked up momentum of late, we [JNF] are targeted first and foremost because we are helping to realize the Zionist vision.”

The chutzpah of JNF apologists’ beggars belief. JNF racism is not concealed; it is, in fact, the organization’s raison d’être. The US State Department, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Israeli SupremeCourt are all on record regarding the discriminatory policies of the JNF, which controls 13% of Israel’s land and has significant influence over most of the rest. Indicative of its discrimination against the over 20% of Israelis who aren’t Jewish, JNF Canada’s Twitter tag says it “is the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners  — Jewish people everywhere.” Its parent organization in Israel — the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael — is even more open about its racism. Its website notes that “a survey commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.”

The JNF is an openly Jewish supremacist organization operating in a Jewish/white supremacist state. Think KKK during Jim Crow in the US South. But, in the JNF’s case proponents of the racist organization smear internationalist/universalist critics as discriminatory!

The JNF provides a stark example of the ethnocratic blinders that Zionism has placed on large swaths of Canada’s Jewish community. Seven decades ago Jewish individuals and groups fought against discriminatory land use policies in this country while today thousands attend JNF fundraisers across the country. In the most famous challenge to discriminatory land covenants, in 1948 Annie Noble decided to sell a cottage in the exclusive Beach O’ Pines subdivision on Lake Huron to Bernie Wolf, who was Jewish. During the sale Wolf’s lawyer realized that the original deed for the property restricted sale to “any person wholly or partly of negro, Asiatic, coloured or Semitic blood.” The deed further explained: “The land and premises herein described shall never be sold, assigned, transferred, leased, rented or in any manner whatsoever alienated to and shall never be occupied or used in any manner whatsoever by any person of the Jewish, Hebrew, Semitic, negro or coloured race or blood, it being the intention and purpose of the Grantor, to restrict the ownership, use, occupation and enjoyment of the said recreational development, including the lands and premises herein described to person of the white or Caucasian race not excluded by this clause.”

Noble and Wolf tried to get the court to declare the restriction invalid but they were opposed by the Beach O’Pines Protective Association. Both a Toronto court and the Ontario Court of Appeal refused to invalidate the racist covenant. But Noble pursued the case — with assistance from the Canadian Jewish Congress — to the Supreme Court of Canada. In a six-to-one decision the highest court reversed the lower courts’ ruling and allowed Noble to purchase the property.

Were the judges who voided the discriminatory land covenant “anti-Caucasian”? Of course not.

If the JNF disappeared or Israel outlawed discriminatory land policies would Israeli Jews become oppressed? Hardly.

But, myself and other Canadian critics haven’t even called for the JNF to be outlawed. Notwithstanding the anti-Semitism smears, the above-mentioned Green Party resolution or Independent Jewish Voices’ JNF campaign simply calls on the Canadian state to stop subsidizing its discrimination (and implicitly for public representatives in this country to stop participating in JNF events). As far as I’m aware, no one has called for the organization to be banned, its executives to be investigated for contravening Canadian law or for the land and assets it controls to be seized.

Eventually the JNF’s charitable status will be revoked. Taxpayers can’t be expected to subsidize discriminatory land-use policies in Israel forever. At some point groups and individuals who claim to oppose racism will stop running scared of “anti-Semitism” insults and will add their voice to Independent Jewish Voices political and legal challenge of the JNF’s charitable status.

For the Palestinian solidarity movement the campaign to revoke the JNF’s charitable status is important beyond winning the specific demand. It draws attention to the racism intrinsic to Zionism and highlights Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

The campaign to revoke the JNF’s charitable status is simply a call for the Canadian state to stop subsidizing an explicitly racist, colonial, institution. There is nothing anti-Jewish in that.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

B’nai Brith’s shamefully attacks Niki Ashton

B’nai Brith claim to speak for Jews in general, but in reality defend Israel no matter what that country does.

The group’s recent attack against NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton was a brazen attempt to use the decimation of European Jewry to protect Israel from criticism and follows a formula used so often most now see its hypocrisy.

Last May the self-declared human rights organization slammed the NDP leadership contender for “Standing in ‘Solidarity’ with Terrorists” because Ashton attended a rally for Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike where someone had a photo of an individual B’nai Brith calls a terrorist. But, that attack failed when Ashton refused to back down and actually became more forceful in her support of the Palestinian cause.

Since then Ashton has sent out emails to join the party to elect “a leader that will stand up for Palestinian human rights” and demanded an end to the “occupation of Palestinian lands,” blockade of Gaza and “abuse of Palestinians’ human rights.” She called for an outright ban on goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements and expressed some support for the broader Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Ashton told Jacobin that “many inspiring activists across the country are doing great work on this front, decrying human rights abuses, decrying injustices, and putting forward a plan for change, including through the BDS movement. The NDP needs to be a strong voice in support of the work that so many activists are doing.”

In response to an Independent Jewish Voices/Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East questionnaire to the four NDP leadership candidates she said:

I support the important work of civil society in pursuing justice through non-violent means, including calls for boycotts and divestment. Similar tactics were used effectively against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, and BDS today can play a constructive role by encouraging a just resolution. It is the role of governments to respond to pressure from civil society and to be a force for positive change. In 1986, Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney responded to social movements by implementing sanctions against South Africa, and we face a similar ethical and moral responsibility to listen to those who are struggling for peace and justice.”

“Like any other country, sanctions against Israel should be considered when it consistently fails to meet international law and obligations, particularly in relation to the occupation which has denied rights to the Palestinian people for half a century. I support looking into targeted sanctions to put strategic pressure on the Israeli government.”

Ashton’s increasingly strident statements in support of the Palestinian cause obviously angered B’nai Brith. But, they kept quiet for three months, perhaps hoping they could find something worse than “terrorism” to connect her to. Having failed to deter Ashton from expressing support for the Palestinian cause by associating her with “terrorists,” B’nai Brith brought the Holocaust into the race. At the end of last month they put out a press release headlined: “NDP Leadership Candidate Endorsed by Holocaust-Denying Community Leader.” Ashton’s supposed transgression was having her picture taken with Nazih Khatatba at a campaign event in Toronto. B’nai Brith accuses Khatatba of defending armed Palestinian resistance and “engaging in Holocaust denial.”

The evidence presented of Khatatba’s Holocaust denial is a 15-second interview he gave at an event commemorating the Nakba (Palestinian catastrophe) last year. (In response to B’nai Brith’s press release, Khatatba posted on Facebook, “I recognize the genocide of more than six million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. What I did say in the interview was that there were Jewish groups who experienced massacres in Europe and then went to the Middle East and perpetrated massacres there.”)

Presuming B’nai Brith’s translation is accurate and that relevant context wasn’t omitted from the video they produced of the interview, Khatatba’s comments were definitely historically inaccurate. The ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1947-48, displacement of another 300,000 in 1967, the half-century illegal occupation of the West Bank, repeated assaults on Gaza, etc. are an immense injustice. Still, they don’t equal what the Nazis did to European Jewry.

Of course it’s not uncommon for social justice activists to make hyperbolic or historically inaccurate claims in their zeal to advance a cause. But, they are rarely accused of sinister intentions for doing so.

As I detail here, B’nai Brith has accepted or promoted more significant distortions of Jewish suffering when it served Israel’s aims. The group aggressively backed the pro-Israel Stephen Harper regime despite government officials repeatedly minimizing the Nazi Holocaust. In 2009 Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said “Israel Apartheid Days on university campuses like York sometimes begin to resemble pogroms,” and told a European audience that pro-Palestinian activism spurred anti-Jewish activities “even more dangerous than the old European anti-Semitism.” Similarly, in May 2008 Canwest reported: “Some of the criticism brewing in Canada against the state of Israel, including from some members of Parliament, is similar to the attitude of Nazi Germany in the Second World War, Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned.”

In a backdoor way B’nai Brith’s reaction to Khatatba’s historically inaccurate comments explain them. When Zionists repeatedly use 70-year-old Jewish suffering in Europe to justify their ongoing oppression of Palestinians is it any wonder some Palestinians seek to minimize Nazi crimes against Jews?

The attack on Niki Ashton is a stark example of the “Holocaust Industry” Norman Finkelstein outlined 15 years ago. B’nai B’rith should be ashamed.

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Filed under Canada and Israel

Who do you trust when it comes to NDP leadership candidates?

Like bears attracted to spawning salmon, politicians seek out power. The former needs to build stores of fat to survive the winter, while the latter must attract the resources and support necessary for successful electoral campaigns. Given the survival imperative, neither bear nor politician should be criticized too harshly for what comes naturally. But, the two best ways to judge politicians are by taking a look at whom they choose to gather resources from and what they are prepared to do to get them.

At worst politicians pander to society’s wealthiest and reactionary social forces, further solidifying their grip on the economic and political system. At best they seek out progressive grassroots and labour organizations, collecting the necessary resources from ordinary people while amplifying their influence.

It’s within this context that one should understand Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh’s trip to Israel with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. At the start of the year the current NDP leadership candidate took an organized trip there and met to discuss it with Galit Baram, Israel’s consul general in Toronto.

The trip and meeting were most likely aimed at allaying particular concerns since in early December Singh was the only member of the Ontario legislature to speak out against a provincial vote to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He criticized a CIJA-backed motion supporting the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” and rejecting “the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

When speaking to NDP members recently Singh has repeatedly highlighted that move rather than the CIJA trip or consular visit. Similarly, Singh published eleven tweets about Palestine on July 16. In the best of the lot he stated: “3 yrs ago today the 2014 Gaza War made headlines when 4 Palestinian boys were killed by an Israeli military strike while playing on a beach” and “I stand for Palestinians’ right to freely determine their political status & pursue their economic, social & cultural development.” In response to two questions Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East submitted to NDP leadership candidates Singh said, “I would considersupporting the use of targeted sanctions against Israel” and “I would support mandatory labeling of products originating from Israel’s colonies, and excluding these products from the benefits of CIFTA [Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement]. I am also open to considering a ban.”

(In assessing Singh’s responses to their Middle East policy questionnaire IJV gave him a B for third place while CJPME ranked him second with an –A. Niki Ashton received an A+ from both IJV and CJPME.)

Singh clearly wants average NDP members to think he’s opposed to Israeli violence and supportive of Palestinian solidarity activism. Simultaneously, however, he wants to signal to CIJA and Israeli officials that he’ll play ball.

The Palestinian question is particularly tricky for the Brampton-based politician. With some claiming that his open (Sikh) religiosity is a liability in Québec, Singh’s path to becoming leader is largely contingent on convincing members he’s best positioned to expand NDP support among the young and communities of colour. But, younger and darker NDP members/sympathizers largely oppose the current NDP leadership’s de facto support for Israeli expansionism/belligerence. A February poll found that only 17 per cent of Canadian millennials had a positive opinion of the Israeli government versus 37 per cent of those 65 plus. I’m not aware of any Canadian polling by ethnicity on the subject, but US polling provides a window into attitudes here. According to a July Newsweek headline: “Young, Black and Latino Americans Don’t Like Israel” (after the invariable push back the headline was changed to “Why More Young, Black and Latino Americans Than Ever Before Don’t Like Israel”).

To the extent that Singh can rally younger and ethnically diverse folks to the party it would tend to push the NDP towards Palestinian solidarity. On the other hand, Singh is the preferred candidate of much of the party establishment and his candidacy is heavily media-driven. The dominant media and NDP hierarchy are generally hostile to discussing Canada’s complicity in Palestinian dispossession.

At the first six leadership debates there wasn’t a single question related to the NDP’s position on Palestine. While the party hierarchy refuses to debate it, the NDP actually devotes significant energy to the subject. During the 2015 federal election the NDP ousted as many as eight individuals from running or contesting nominations because they defended Palestinian rights on social media. Last year NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington and traveled to Israel with Canada’s Governor General where she attended a ceremony put on by the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund (Laverdière is backing Singh for NDP leader). Many party officials – 20 federal NDP MPs, according to a 2014 iPolitics calculation – have gone on all-expense paid trips to that country with an Israeli nationalist organization.

So, party representatives can travel halfway across the globe to investigate the conflict and individuals chosen by local riding associations can be removed for their opinions on the issue, but the subject doesn’t warrant debate.

If Singh wins the leadership will he expend the energy needed to shake up the established order on this issue?

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Filed under Canada and Israel

‘Free trade’ has come to mean powerful interests get whatever they want

“Free trade” has become a euphemism for “whatever power wants,” no matter how tangentially tied to transfering goods across international borders.

In an extreme example, Ottawa recently said its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Israel trumps Canada’s Food and Drugs Act since accurately labelling two wines might undermine a half-century long, illegal, military occupation.

Of little connection to international trade, the North American Free Trade Agreement — and subsequent FTAs — has granted foreign corporations the ability to bypass domestic courts and sue governments in secret tribunals for pursuing policies that interfere with their profit making. Over 75 cases have been brought before the Investor StateDispute Settlement section of NAFTA, which has resulted in tens of millions of dollars paid to companies impacted by Ottawa banning the export of toxic PCB wastes or the import of suspected neurotoxin gasoline additive MMT.

Strengthening this dynamic, Canada’s “free trade” deal with the European Union (CETA) empowers companies to sue municipalities if they expand public services. For instance, a municipality unhappy with private water delivery could face a suit if they tried to remunicipalize (or de-privatize) this service.

CETA, TPP, WTO and other self-described “free trade” agreements also extend patent and copyright protections (monopolies), which stifle competition, a pillar of free trade ideology. CETA’s increased patent protections are expected to drive up already high Canadian pharmaceutical drug costs by between $850 million and $1.65 billion a year. Negotiations to “modernize NAFTA” could end up granting big pharma perks that would effecitvely block Canada’s ability to set up universal pharmacare. Similarly, the yet to be signed TPP strengthens patents and would increase the length of copyright in Canada from 50 to 70 years after the death of an author.

It is little exaggeration to say politicians have come to employ the term “free trade” to mean “whatever powerful corporations want.” But, the Trudeau Liberals recently broadened the term’s definition even further. In a move to make “free trade” mean “whatever powerful interests want,” they announced that Canada’s FTA with Israel supercedes this country’s Food and Drugs Act.

After David Kattenburg repeatedly complained about inaccurate labels on two wines sold in Ontario, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) notified the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) that it “would not be acceptable and would be considered misleading” to declare Israel as the country of origin for wines produced in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Quoting from 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, CFIA quickly reversed its decision. “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 labelled.”

In other words, the government is publicly proclaming that the FTA trumps Canada’s consumer protections. But, this is little more than a pretext to avoid a conflict with B’nai B’rith, CIJA 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 writes. “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 labelled as such. There is nothing in the CIFTA [Canada–Israel FTA] 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.”

In another commentary on the government “backtracking under pressure,” Peter Larson points out that CIFTA grants Israel an important concession that seeks to sidestep Canada’s commitments under international law. The agreement says, “unless otherwise specified, ‘territory’ means with respect to Israel the territory where its customs laws are applied,” but omits “in accordance with international law,” which is in many of Canada’s other free trade agreements. This omission seeks to allow goods produced on land occupied in contravention of the 4th Geneva Convention and Statute of Rome to benefit from CIFTA.

David Kattenburg and his lawyer Dmitri Lascaris will be challenging CFIA’s decision in court. On Monday they filed an appeal of the wine labelling and released a statement to the media.

The Council of Canadians and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have recently added their voices to those criticizing CFIA’s decision. The NDP’s trade critic has yet to comment.

Kattenburg and Lascaris’ court challenge offers NDP leadership candidates Niki Ashton, Charlie Angus, Guy Caron and Jagmeet Singh a good opportunity to express their opposition to defining “free trade” as “whatever power wants.”

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy

Kinsella’s silence on JNF racism speaks loudly

What do you call someone who says they head an antiracist organization, but claims to be ignorant of an explicitly racist institution they’ve publicly defended? I have no idea, but I do know Warren Kinsella confirmed the central point of my recent article titled “The Left’s racism problem concerning Israel”.

In a series of threatening emails to the editor of Dissident Voice in response to my article the former advisor to Olivia Chow’s mayoral bid wrote: “These statements are wildly defamatory. They are false and malicious in their plain and ordinary meaning. They are calculated to damage my reputation in the eyes of the community. The fact is, I presently help lead an anti-racist organization and have received death threats as a result. I have ‘ties’ to no other. I have been involved in anti-racism work for more than three decades. I oppose hate against all people, in all of its myriad forms. To state that I support or condone ‘explicit racism’ is a disgusting, appalling lie.”

I responded by saying: “While I appreciate your anti-racism work in certain areas, the point being made in the article claimed to be libelous is that you, in fact, do not condemn all forms of racism, specifically anti-Palestinian racism as conceived and carried out by the Jewish National Fund. I can find no record of you condemning or even criticizing the Jewish National Fund’s structural racism. On the other hand, you have condemned and criticized those who do.

If you do oppose all forms of racism, specifically including that of the Jewish National Fund, please let me know and I will apologize unreservedly to you and correct the article in question. If, on the other hand, you do not believe the Jewish National Fund is racist, or you are simply unwilling to condemn or criticize it, then I must stand by my words in the article.”

And here is where things became interesting. Kinsella responded to my email by stating “I don’t even know what the JNF is. I have nothing to do with it. …”

Claiming to have been involved in antiracism work for three decades, Kinsella says he’s ignorant of the only (to my knowledge) explicitly racist institution sanctioned by the Canadian state to give tax write-offs. It is not like the JNF is some marginal group. The century-old organization’s eleven offices across Canada raised $75 million over the past three years and the sitting prime minister spoke to the organization in 2013.

While he now denies knowledge of the registered charity, last year Kinsella derided a resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status because of its “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel.” Additionally, in the late 2000s Kinsella sat on the board of directors of the Canada-Israel Committee, whose personnel were often close to the JNF.

Why would someone who claims to be an antiracist activist be unwilling to criticize an organization that practices discriminatory land-use policies outlawed in this country six decades ago?

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Filed under Canada and Israel

Trudeau confuses anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism

Canada’s Prime Minister would like us to believe that the ideology that shaped Israel is designed to fight anti-Jewish prejudice. But, even when anti-Semitism was a significant political force in Canada, Zionism largely represented a chauvinistic, colonialist way of thinking.

On Israel Independence Day earlier this month Justin Trudeau delivered a speech by video to a rally in Montréal and published a statement marking the occasion. “Today, while we celebrate Israel’s independence, we also reaffirm our commitment to fight anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism”, declared the PM in a rare reference by a top politician to Israel’s state ideology.

Israel apologists often link anti-Zionism and anti-Jewishness, but it’s disingenuous. Canadian Zionism has long been comfortable with anti-Jewish sentiment and it has never been primarily an anti-prejudicial ideology.

When anti-Semitism was a social force of consequence in Canada it was not uncommon for anti-Jewish politicians to back Zionism. During a July 1922 speech to the Zionist Federation of Canada, anti-Semitic Prime Minister Mackenzie King “was effusive with praise for Zionism,” explains David Bercuson in Canada and the Birth of Israel. King told participants their aspirations were “in consonance” with the greatest ideals of the “Englishman.” According to Zachariah Kay in Canada and Palestine: The Politics of Non-Commitment, long-time Alberta Premier E.C. Manning “allowed his name to be associated with the [pre-state Zionist organization] Canadian Palestine Committee, but was known for anti-Jewish statements on his ‘back to the bible’ Sunday radio broadcasts.”

Known to support Zionism as a way to deal with the “Jewish problem,” in 1934 Prime Minister R.B. Bennett opened the annual United Palestine Appeal fundraiser with a coast-to-coast radio broadcast. Lauding the Balfour declaration and British conquest of Palestine, Bennett said, “scriptural prophecy is being fulfilled. The restoration of Zion has begun.”

At a policy level the government’s aversion to accepting post-World War II Jewish refugees was a factor in Canadian diplomats promoting the anti-Palestinian UN partition plan. An ardent proponent of the Zionist cause during the 1947 international negotiations dealing with the British mandate of Palestine, Canadian diplomat Lester Pearson believed sending Jewish refugees to Palestine was the only sensible solution to their plight.

Compared to six decades ago, anti-Semitism today barely registers in Canada. But, embers of anti-Jewish Zionism linger. Over the past decade the Charles-McVety-led Canada Christian College has repeatedly organized pro-Israel events – often with B’nai Brith – yet in the 1990s the College was in a dispute with the Canadian Jewish Congress over courses designed to convert Jews. Canada’s most influential Christian Zionist activist, McVety also heads the Canadian branch of Christians United for Israel, which believes Jews need to convert or burn in Hell upon the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

This dancing with the enemy is nothing new. Historically some Jews aligned with anti-Jewish Zionists. During World War I many Canadian Jewish Zionists enthusiastically supported Britain and recruited young men to help conquer Palestine, even though London was allied with Russia’s notoriously anti-Semitic czar. (At that time Zionism was commonly promoted as a way for Jews to escape czarist anti-Semitism.)

After World War II some Jewish Zionists tapped into anti-Jewish sentiment to advance their cause. In Canada’s Jews: a People’s journey Gerald Tulchinsky reports, “fully cognizant of the government’s reluctance to admit Jews to Canada, the [Zionist] delegation reminded [anti- Semitic Prime Minister Mackenzie] King that in the post war years, when ‘multitudes of uprooted people … would be knocking on the doors of all countries,’ Palestine could accommodate many of the Jews who might want to come to Canada.”

It is true that the Zionist colonies in Palestine absorbed tens of thousands of refugees after World War II and provided a safe haven to many Jews escaping Nazi persecution in the 1930s. But, it’s also true that Zionists were willing to stoke anti-Semitism and kill Jews if it served their nationalistic/colonialist purposes. To foil British efforts to relocate Jewish refugees fleeing Europe to Mauritius, in 1940 the Jewish Agency, the Zionist government-in-waiting in Palestine, killed 267 mostly Jews by bombing the ship Patria. In State of Terror: How Terrorism Created Modern Israel Tom Suarez concludes that the Zionist leadership was prepared to kill Jews if it aided the cause, because “persecuted Jews served the political project, not the other way around.”

Generally presented as a response to late 1800s European anti-Semitism — “Zionism … developed in the late 19th century in response to European antisemitism”, according to a recent story on the pro-Palestinian website Canada Talks Israel Palestine — the Theodore Herzl-led Zionist movement was, in fact, spurred by the Christian, nationalist and imperialist ideologies sweeping Europe at the time.

After two millennia in which Jewish restoration was viewed as a spiritual event to be brought about through divine intervention, Zionism finally took root among some Jews after two centuries of active Protestant Zionism. “Christian proto-Zionists [existed] in England 300 years before modern Jewish Zionism emerged,” notes Evangelics and Israel: The Story of American Christian Zionism. Until the mid-1800s Zionism was an almost entirely non-Jewish movement. And yet it was quite active. Between 1796 and 1800, notes Non-Jewish Zionism: its roots in Western history, there were at least 50 books published in Europe about the Jews’ return to Palestine. The movement reflected the more literal readings of the Bible that flowed out of the Protestant Reformation.

Another factor driving Jewish Zionism was the nationalism sweeping Europe in the late 1800s. Germany, Italy and a number of eastern European states were all established during this period.

Alongside nationalist and biblical literalist influences, Zionism took root at the height of European imperialism. In the lead-up to World War I the European “scramble” carved up Africa and then the Middle East. (Europeans controlled about 10 percent of Africa in 1870 but by 1914 only Ethiopia was independent of European control. Liberia was effectively a US colony.) At the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903 Herzl and two-thirds of delegates voted to pursue British Secretary of State for the Colonies Joseph Chamberlain’s proposal to allocate 13,000 square km in East Africa as “Jewish territory … on conditions which will enable members to observe their national customs.”

As much as it was a reaction to anti-Semitism, Zionism was an attempt by European Jews to benefit from and participate in colonialism.

In Canada today Jewish support for Zionism has little to do with combating prejudice. If Zionism were simply a response to anti-Semitism, why hasn’t the massive decline of anti-Jewishness lessened its popularity in the Jewish community? Instead, the leadership and a significant segment of Canadian Jewry have become increasingly focused on supporting a highly militarized state that continues to deny its indigenous population the most basic political rights.

In 2011 the leading donors in the community scrapped the 100-year-old Canadian Jewish Congress and replaced it with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. As the name change suggests, this move represented a shift away from local Jewish concerns and towards ever greater lobbying in favour of Israeli policy.

With institutional barriers to advancement overcome a half century ago and an ever more secular society, Rabbis and Jewish organizations have to find a purpose. Israel has become many people’s primary connection to Judaism. In Understanding the Zionist Religion, Jonathan Kay wrote, “In some cases I have observed, it is not an exaggeration to say that Zionism is not just the dominant factor in Jews’ political lives—but also in their spiritual lives.”

Between the late 1960s and mid-2000s there was an inverse correlationbetween Jewish votes and pro-Israel governments. Though they were less pro-Israel, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien gained more support from Canadian Jewry than Brian Mulroney or Stephen Harper in his first victory in 2006.

The political trajectory of the Montréal riding of Mount Royal provides an interesting insight into the Jewish community’s shift towards focusing on Israel. Repeatedly re-elected in a riding that was then 50% Jewish, Pierre Trudeau distanced Ottawa from Israeli conduct more than any other prime minister before or since. Still, Pierre Trudeau was incredibly popular with the Jewish community. Representing Jewry’s ascension to the heights of Canada’s power structures, Trudeau appointed the first Jew to the federal cabinet, Herb Gray, and brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which strengthened religious freedoms. But, of recent the riding has become a battleground.

During the 2015 federal election Mount Royal was the only riding in greater Montréal the Conservative Party seriously contested. Even though Liberal party candidate Anthony Housefather is a staunch Israel advocate, he won his seat because of non-Jewish voters.

A similar dynamic is at play in the centre of Canadian Jewish life. Possibly the best placed of any in the world, the Toronto Jewish community faces little economic or political discrimination and has above average levels of education and income. Yet it’s the North American base of the Zionist extremist Jewish Defense League. It’s also a power base for an explicitly racist, colonialist, institution. In what was “reported to be the largest kosher dinner in Canadian history”, three years ago 4,000 individuals packed the Toronto Convention Centre to raise money for the Jewish National Fund in honour of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

No matter what Justin Trudeau says, Zionism and anti-Jewish prejudice have little to do with each other.

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