Tag Archives: Israel

Strange bedfellows at ‘anti-racism’ forum

Why would one of Toronto’s leading anti-racist writers share a stage with three individuals who support an explicitly racist institution?

Recently radio host and Toronto Star columnist Desmond Cole spoke at a forum put on by the Mosaic Institute titled “Canada in a Trump World”. It was about “increased racist and xenophobic attacks” and offered a “dialogue for communities to come together for honest conversation.”

Executive director of the Mosaic Institute and head of the Canadian Jewish Congress between 2005 and 2011, Bernie Farber also spoke. So did former Executive Director of the B’nai Brith league for Human rights, Karen Mock. The chair of the event was Warren Kinsella, a former board member of the Canada-Israel Committee.

All three of these individuals have worked with or expressed support for the Jewish National Fund. An owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, the JNF discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up one-fifth of the population. According to a UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” Echoing the UN, a 2012 US State Department report detailing “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel says JNF “statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”

In October JSpaceCanada, which Karen Mock chairs, was a “participating organization” with JNF Canada on an event honouring the life of former Israeli president Shimon Peres. Mock also sat on the board of the Canadian Peres Center for Peace Foundation, which raised funds for the Israeli-based Peres Center For Peace. In Israel the Peres Center operated a slew of projects with JNF Canada and other branches of the racist organization.

In 2001 Mock spoke at a Hamilton rally titled “Israel under siege”.

In August Warren Kinsella criticized a Green Party of Canada resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status because of its “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel.” Alongside Ezra Levant, Kinsella sat on the board of directors of the Canada-Israel Committee, whose personnel were often close to the JNF. In 2014 Kinsella approved of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which led to the killing of 2,200 Palestinians.

For his part, Bernie Farber called the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (Independent Jewish Voices predecessor) “a rump on the edge of Jewish society” because it, among other things, called for the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status. During Farber’s quarter century at the Canadian Jewish Congress the organization and its personnel had many ties to the JNF. In 2015 the Consulate of Israel in Toronto co-hosted an event with Farber’s Mosaic Institute.

Should we laugh or cry at an antiracist forum put on by individuals with ties to an organization practicing discriminatory land-use policies outlawed in this country half a century ago? Does Farber, Mock and Kinsella’s support for an explicitly racist institution concern Desmond Cole or does he have an opinion about Ottawa subsidizing racist land use policies abroad?

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Canada and Israel

Putting Palestine into the NDP leadership race

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

This article first appeared in The Hill Times.

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

Anti-Palestinian coverage part of broader media pattern

Media coverage of world affairs mostly focuses on Ottawa/Washington’s perspective. While the dominant media is blatant in its subservience to Canadian/Western power, even independent media is often afraid to challenge the foreign policy status quo.

A recent Canadaland podcast simultaneously highlighted anti-Palestinian media bias and the fear liberal journalists’ face in discussing one of the foremost social justice issues of our time. The media watchdog’s discussion of the Green Party’s recent resolutions supporting Palestinian rights started strong with Canadaland publisher Jesse Brown laying out three “facts”:

  • In an editorial titled “[Elizabeth] May must renounce anti-Israel resolutions” the Vancouver Sun (reposted on the Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald websites) called Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) “an anti-Israel group that uses the fig leaf of Jewishness to lend support to Iran, deny the Holocaust, participate in anti-Semitic Al-Quds protests, encourage terrorism against Israelis and promulgate lies about Israel’s history, society and policies.” When IJV sent a letter threatening libel action Postmedia removed the editorial from its websites.
  • A B’nai B’rith article described left-wing news outlet Rabble.ca as a “racist, white supremacist and antisemitic website”, which they erased after a media inquiry.
  • Not one of a “couple dozen” reports examined about the Green Party resolution calling for “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]” quoted a supporter of the successful motion.

Instead of seriously considering these “facts”, one Canadaland panellist partially justified suppressing Green Party voices favouring the BDS resolution and opposed talking about pro-Zionist media coverage because it contributes to stereotypes of Jewish control over the media. Diverting further from his “facts”, Brown bemoaned anti-Semitism and how Israel/Palestine debates rarely lead to agreement while another panellist mocked people from small towns who express an opinion on the subject. Aired on dozens of community radio stations across the country, the episode ended with a comment about how people shouldn’t protest those killed by Israel if they don’t take a position on the conflict between “North and South Sudan”.

(“North Sudan”, of course, doesn’t exist. And the ongoing war in that region is between two political/ethnic groups within South Sudan, which gained independence five years ago. But, even if they’d gotten their Sudan facts right, the statement is akin to saying Canadaland shouldn’t discuss major advertiser Enbridge pressuring the Vancouver Province to remove a cartoon critical of its Northern Gateway pipeline project because the show didn’t say anything about Tata Motors removing ads from the Times of India over their auto reporting.)

After detailing stark anti-Palestinian media bias, the Canadaland panellists cowered in the face of the “facts” presented. They failed to discuss whether the examples cited reflect a broader pattern (they do), what impact this has on Canadians’ perceptions of Palestinians (it is damaging) or explain the source of the bias.

One wonders if this reflects the panellists’ anti-Semitism, as if they fear talking about coverage of Israel will reveal a “Jewish conspiracy” to shape the news. But, there is no ethnic/religious conspiracy, rather a powerful propaganda system “hiding in plain sight”. While Canadian media bias on Palestine is glaring, that’s largely owing to the depths of grassroots activism on the issue, rather than dynamics particular to the subject. In fact, Canadian media bias on all aspects of this country’s foreign policy is shocking.

While there are particularities, coverage of Israel/Palestine fits the dominant media’s broad bias in favour of power on topics ranging from Haiti to Canada’s international mining industry. The main explanation for the biased coverage is a small number of mega corporations own most of Canada’s media and these firms are integrated with the broader elite and depend on other large corporations for advertising revenue. Media outlets also rely on US wire services and powerful institutions for most of their international coverage and these same institutions have the power to punish media that upset them.

Discussing the structural forces driving media bias and how they interact with the Canadian establishment’s long history of support for Zionism/Israel is a lot for a radio segment. But, the Canadaland panelists could have at least explored some notable developments/dynamics driving anti-Palestinian coverage.

After buying a dozen dailies in 2000 Izzy Asper pushed the CanWest newspaper chain to adopt extremist pro-Israel positions. When Montréal Gazette publisher Michael Goldbloom suddenly resigned in 2001 the Globe and Mail reported “sources at The Gazette confirmed yesterday that senior editors at the paper were told earlier that month to run a strongly worded, pro-Israel editorial on a Saturday op-ed page”, which was written by the head office in Winnipeg and was accompanied by a no rebuttal order. The CanWest editorial demanded Ottawa support Israel even as Israeli government ministers called for the assassination of PLO head Yasser Arafat after 15 Israelis were killed. “Canada must recognize the incredible restraint shown by the Israeli government under the circumstances. … Howsoever the Israeli government chooses to respond to this barbaric atrocity should have the unequivocal support of the Canadian government without the usual hand-wringing criticism about ‘excessive force.’ Nothing is excessive in the face of an enemy sworn to your annihilation.”

In 2004 the CanWest head office was caught directing papers to edit Reuters stories to denigrate Palestinians. “The message that was passed down to the copy desk was to change ‘militant’ to ‘terrorist’ when talking about armed Palestinians,” Charles Shannon, a Montréal Gazette copy editor, told The Nation. “One definite edict that came down was that there should be no criticism of Israel.”

(One Reuters story was changed from “the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a four-year-old revolt against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank” to “the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group that has been involved in a four-year-old campaign of violence against Israel.”)

While Aspers’ interventions were crass, they elicited limited response since anti-Palestinianism pervades the political and media establishments. Both a reflection of this bias and propelling it forward, leading media figures have various links to Israeli nationalist organizations. In 2014 the president of Postmedia, which controls most of English Canada’s daily newspaper circulation, was chairman of the Calgary Gala of the Jewish National Fund, which discriminates against non-Jewish Israelis in its land-use policies. Paul Godfrey is not the first influential media figure fêted by the explicitly racist organization. In 2007 Ottawa Citizen publisher Jim Orban was honorary chair of JNF Ottawa’s annual Gala while prominent CBC commentators Rex Murphy and Rick Mercer, as well as US journalists Barbra Walters and Bret Stephens, have spoken at recent JNF events.

The Ottawa Citizen has sponsored a number of the racist institution’s galas. The paper has also covered JNF events in which the Citizen is listed as a ‘Proud Supporter’. In what may indicate a formal financial relationship the JNF promoted their 2013 Ottawa Gala in the Citizen, including running an advertisement the day after the event. According to the Israeli press, the JNF has entered financial agreements with numerous media outlets, including a recent 1.5 million shekels ($500,000) accord with Israel’s Channel 10 to run 14 news reports about its work.

Prominent media figures often speak at pro-Israel events. In 2015 editor-in-chief of The Walrus Jonathan Kay and Postmedia columnist Terry Glavin spoke on a panel with Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs CEO Shimon Fogel at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington DC. Conversely, Palestinian solidarity groups rarely have the resources to pay for high profile journalists and most leading media figures fear associating with their struggle.

While Israeli nationalist organizations prefer to draw influential media figures close, they also have the capacity to punish those challenging their worldview. Honest Reporting Canada organizes Israel apologist ‘flack’. The registered charity monitors the media and engages its supporters to respond to news outlets that fail to toe its extreme Israeli nationalist line. If pursued consistently this type of ‘flack’ drives editors and journalists to avoid topics or be more cautious when covering an issue.

In my forthcoming book A Propaganda System: How the Canadian government, media, corporations and academia sell war and exploitation I detail numerous instances of media owners interceding in international affairs coverage, as well as institutions drawing in influential newspeople and organizing ‘flack’ campaigns. But, there are two unique elements shaping Palestine/Israel coverage.

As a partially ethno/religious conflict the greater number of Jews than Palestinians (or Arabs) in positions of influence within the Canadian media does exacerbate the overarching one-sidedness. In a backdoor way Canadaland’s Jesse Brown highlighted this point when he describes Israeli family members influencing his opinion on the topic.

Another dynamic engendering anti-Palestinianism in the media is Israeli nationalist groups’ capacity to accuse Canadians’ standing up for a people facing the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism of being motivated by a widely discredited prejudice. At the heart of the ideological system, journalists are particularly fearful of being labeled “anti-Semitic” and the smear puts social justice activists on the defensive.

When a “couple dozen” articles fail to quote a single proponent of a Green resolution pressing Israel to relinquish illegally occupied land it suggests systemic media bias. Canadaland’s inability to contextualize this anti-Palestinianism reveals a media watchdog subservient to the dominant foreign-policy framework about Israel. 

And a sign of how bad coverage is of all foreign affairs.

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

Could Christian Zionism explain Green Party leader’s threats to resign?

Elizabeth May’s response to Green Party members voting to oppose Canadian support for Israeli colonialism has been wildly anti-democratic. She has not simply disagreed with a majority of members, which could reflect healthy internal processes, but publicly derided the party’s procedures and members’ clearly expressed opinions. After diluting a resolution about revoking the Jewish National Fund of Canada’s charitable status strongly endorsed by members in an online poll, May threatened to resign if the party didn’t organize another vote on a BDS resolution members strongly backed in a pre-convention online poll, convention caucus and full convention vote.

The possibility of the Green Party leader resigning over BDS has thrust the Israel boycott into the news and will turn into a highly fortuitous development for the Palestinian cause if members remain steadfast. But, May’s actions make little sense from a Green perspective.

As Maclean’s magazine pointed out, the party has more to gain by aligning with the growing number of Canadians critical of Ottawa’s support for Israeli colonialism. Only if one believes May could lose her seat in the House of Commons over the matter, which seems improbable, would embracing Palestine solidarity activism be bad electorally.

According to a poll conducted just before Israel killed 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza in 2014, 16% of Canadians sided with Palestine, while 17% sided with Israel. (The rest were undecided.) The percentage of Canadians who sided with Palestine is almost five times the 3.4% of Canadians who voted for the Greens last year. Additionally, the issue drives NDP activists to the party. The Greens have already gained a number of prominent NDP members disenchanted with that party’s support for Israeli violence.

But, even if you disagree with this electoral calculation, May’s reaction still makes little sense from the party’s perspective. Her actions have upset Palestinian sympathizers yet the media storm over the BDS vote makes it hard to imagine anyone mildly sympathetic to Israeli colonialism would vote, let alone campaign, for the Greens even if May succeeds in modifying the party’s support for BDS at a special convention.

Since her actions make little electoral sense, commentators have speculated May is driven by a combination of ego, fear of Jewish Zionist groups’ accusations of anti-Semitism, a desire to join the Liberal cabinet or her establishment foreign-policy outlook. But, the influence of Christian Zionism represents an unexplored variable in May’s position.

A practicing Anglican, May was studying to become a priest until a few years ago. She’s disparaged abortion and questioned whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a practicing Christian. “Being a Christian in politics is part of who I am as a person, so I don’t hide it”, May explained to the Anglican Journal in 2013.

In 2013 she praised the Jewish National Fund for “the great work that’s done in making the desert bloom.” While not explicitly Christian Zionist wording, this (anti-ecological) statement echoes its thinking.

While only May knows exactly what drives her thinking/positions, her church has a long history of Zionism, which began as a Christian movement. “Christian proto- Zionists [existed] in England 300 years before modern Jewish Zionism emerged,” notes Evangelics and Israel. Until the mid-1800s Zionism was an almost entirely non-Jewish movement. And yet it was quite active. Between 1796 and 1800 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.

One of May’s co-religionists Rev. William H. Hechler, chaplain to the British Embassy in Vienna, arranged for Jewish Zionist leader Theodore Herzl to meet Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Ottoman sultan, which then controlled Palestine. Another Anglican, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, came up with the infamous Zionist slogan “a land without people for a people without a land”. He wanted Jews to go to their “rightful home” (Palestine) under a British protectorate. According to a Canadian Jewish News review of Allies for Armageddon: The Rise of Christian Zionism, “The Earl of Shaftesbury was the first millennariast, or restorationist, to blend the biblical interest in Jews and their ancient homeland with the cold realities of [British imperial] foreign policy.” He got Britain’s foreign secretary to appoint the first British consul to Jerusalem in 1839.

A speech in England by Anthony Ashley Cooper in 1839 or 1840 was the first encounter with Zionist thinking for Canada’s leading early proponent of the movement. At the time of Confederation Canada’s preeminent Zionist was Henry Wentworth Monk who briefly studied to become an Anglican minister. In A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada Irving Abella explains: “Henry Wentworth Monk, an eccentric but respected businessman, spent much of his time and money crusading for a Jewish homeland. In the 1870s and 1880s — long before Theodore Herzl, the Austrian founder of [Jewish] Zionism, even thought of a Jewish state — Monk took up a campaign in Canada and England to raise funds to buy land in Palestine for European Jews. In 1881 Monk even proposed setting up a Jewish National Fund. He issued manifestoes, wrote long articles, spoke to assorted meetings and lobbied extensively in England and Canada to realize his dream.” Citing a mix of Christian and pro-British Empire rationale, Monk called on London to establish a “dominion of Israel” similar to the dominion of Canada.

Monk was not alone in Canada. Many public figures, including prime ministers Lester Pearson and Arthur Meighan, expressed Christian Zionist thinking in backing the formation of the Israeli state. The son of a minister, Pearson’s memoirs refer to Israel as “the land of my Sunday School lessons” where he learned that “the Jews belonged in Palestine.”

While Christian Zionism is now associated with right-wingers such as evangelist Charles McVety, who campaigns against sexual education in Ontario schools, Left Christian Zionism has a long history. Future CCF (the NDP’s predecessor) leaders Tommy Douglas and Stanley Knowles, as well as a number of labour leaders, were members of the Canadian Palestine Committee (CPC), a group of prominent non-Jewish Zionists formed in 1943. (Future external minister Paul Martin Sr. and the premier of Alberta, Ernest C. Manning, were also members). Many CPC members’ Zionism was partly motivated by biblical teachings. Both Knowles and Douglas were Protestant ministers and, as an indication of the extent to which religion shaped Douglas, his main biography is titled Tommy Douglas: The Road to Jerusalem. In 1975, Douglas, the “father of Medicare”, told the Histadrut labour federation: “The main enmity against Israel is that she has been an affront to those nations who do not treat their people and their workers as well as Israel has treated hers.” This speech was made eight years into Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and a quarter century after 800,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed in 1947/48.

A decade later Canadian Labour Congress president Dennis McDermott, who referred to himself as a “Catholic Zionist”, denounced a Canadian Senate report that rebuked Israel’s 1982 invasion/occupation of Lebanon and provided mild support for the Palestinian Liberation Organization. McDermott said the 1985 Senate report, which stopped short of calling the PLO the legitimate voice of Palestinians, was an “exercise in bad judgment and, even worse, bad taste.” (A portrait of McDermott hangs in a library named after him at the trade school of the Histadrut.)

Aggressive Christian Zionism still crops up in progressive circles. When I spoke about the Conservatives’ losing their bid for a seat on the UN Security Council to a Council of Canadians meeting in Delta BC, an older woman interrupted me to ask: “are you criticizing Harper’s support for Israel? Doesn’t the Bible say Israel is the Jewish homeland?”

May, of course, would never be so crass. But, she is associated with a religious tradition that has promoted this type of thinking. Recognizing their contribution to Palestinian dispossession, some Christian groups have sought to right a historical wrong by divesting from or boycotting companies enabling Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. Others have directly challenged Christian Zionism.

In 2013 the Anglican Church of Canada committed itself “to explore and challenge theologies and beliefs, such as Christian Zionism, which support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.” Last year a number of groups organized an important multi-day conference in Vancouver titled “Seeking the Peace of Jerusalem: Overcoming Christian Zionism in the Quest for Justice.”

I can’t say for sure whether Christian Zionism has influenced Elizabeth May’s thinking. But, it’s clear she’s not supporting progressive Anglicans and other Christians reassessing their contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

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

Misuse of term ‘anti-Semitic’ will have repercussions

Sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me — and they may come back to haunt the name-callers.

In finding anti-Semites behind every challenge to Canadian complicity with Israeli colonialism, mainstream Jewish organizations are emptying the term “anti-Semitism” of its historical weight.

The Green Party of Canada’s vote in favour of the anti-Semitic boycott campaign against Israel shows the party has been infected by a vicious strain of anti-Jewish hate,” said the President of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, Avi Benlolo. In case anyone missed his point the head of the self-described “top Jewish human rights foundation in Canada with a substantial constituency” added that the Green’s “sole foreign policy is based on anti-Semitic hatred.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai Brith released only slightly less wild statements in response to the Greens supporting “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].”

The Greens’ resolution, which is basically official Canadian government policy — based as it is on two states and the illegality of the settlements — with a little added pressure, freaks out Israeli nationalists because they understand it is a crack in the decades-old settler-state solidarity shield of invincibility. So, establishment pro-Israel organizations are increasingly shrill in smearing the growing Palestinian solidarity movement. While supporters of Palestinian rights generally ignore these smears or reply that it’s not anti-Semitic to stand up for Palestinian rights, defensive strategies aren’t sufficient. The anti-Semitic label is too potent to not confront directly.

It seems to this writer that the name-callers are on a track that will eventually lead to a new reality, one where:

• Those who are smeared will begin to embrace the label. People will begin to understand that if they haven’t been called anti-Semitic (or self hating) they’re probably not doing enough to support justice.

• Mocking the accuser and the term will become common. Benlolo et al. will be bombarded with tweets and messages about anti-Semites at the library, gym, behind the bed etc. Jokes about anti-Semitism will undercut the word’s force.

For example: Q. What does it take to get a student union to divest from Israel’s occupation? A. A dozen hard-core Jew-hating campaigners and 3,000 anti-Semites.

• Eventually, the embrace of the term by social justice advocates will lead to a widespread re-appropriation of its meaning. It could come to have ironically positive usage like the “N-word” in certain African-American circles. Or like the word Canuck, which originally was a term of derision aimed at French Canadians in New England, perhaps it will one day be displayed proudly on hockey team jerseys.

• If right-wing Israeli nationalist groups persist in their efforts to debase the Shoah in the service of colonialism and power, dictionaries and Wikipedia will be pressed to add “a movement for justice and equality” to their definition of anti-Semitism. (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary actually included “opposition to Zionism: sympathy with opponents of the state of Israel”, as part of its definition of anti-Semitism.)

Of course, considering the historical oppression originally defined by the term, most progressive-minded folk would be discomforted by the idea of mocking and re-appropriating “anti-Semitism.” But, isn’t this inevitable when “leading Jewish organizations” publicly denounce “anti-Semitism” in inverse relation to discernible anti-Jewish animus?

When Jews fleeing Hitler’s atrocities were blocked from entering Canada, notes A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada, the dominant Jewish organizations mostly shied away from publicly criticizing Ottawa’s prejudice. Similarly, some Jewish representatives negotiated with McGill over the cap it placed on Jews in some university programs in the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

While some Jewish activists at the time pushed for a more forceful response to this quantifiable anti-Semitism, the “leading” community representatives didn’t want to rock the boat. Their aim was largely to join the power structure.

Today, the dominant Jewish organizations are well entrenched within the ruling elite. Whether they smear a political party, university students or the World Social Forum (“an event that was widely denounced as anti-Semitic”, according to a Canadian Jewish News report about last week’s conference in Montréal), they face little pushback in mainstream political and media life.

Nor do the less extreme elements within the Jewish community devote much energy to challenging the debasement of the term anti-Semitism. With the exception of Independent Jewish Voices, some smaller activist groups and a few righteous commentators, most liberal Jews are apathetic in the face of the cynical manipulation of centuries of Christian European prejudice.

One reason, I would postulate, is a lack of genuine concern over anti-Semitism in this country. Christianity has largely lost its cultural weight and a half-dozen other ethnic/religious groups are more likely to be targeted if there were an explosion of xenophobia in this country.

Over the past half-century Canadian Jews lived experience suggests little prejudice. In fact, most Canadian Jews benefit from white privilege and, to the extent an individual is tied into the generally educated and prosperous community, they benefit from accompanying familial and social advantages. As such, individuals uncomfortable about the nonsensical claims of anti-Semitism, simply don’t consider it worth putting their neck out to challenge the obvious damage done to the term by Simon Wiesenthal Center, B’nai Brith and CIJA, which have institutional/financial reasons to monger fear.

The primary public use of “anti-Semitism” today is to denigrate those defending a people facing the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism. Those who seek equality and international justice need to directly confront this abuse.

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Greens face vote on tax subsidy to Jewish National Fund

Despite a backlash evocative of those who defended the Jim Crow U.S. South, Green Party members recently voted in favour of a resolution calling on Ottawa to stop subsidizing racist land covenants. The Greens will make a final decision on whether they support the principles underlying a half-century old Supreme Court of Canada decision outlawing discriminatory land-use policies.

Two months ago Green Party member Corey Levine put forward a resolution calling on the party to pressure the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the Jewish National Fund’s charitable status. The Independent Jewish Voices activist crafted a motion criticizing the JNF’s “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel through its bylaws which prohibit the lease or sale of its lands to non-Jews.”

In response to this exercise in party democracy, B’nai B’rith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs asked their supporters to email Party leader Elizabeth May to condemn “anti-Semitism.” After thousands denounced the Green Party, the Jewish Defence League, a far-right group banned in the U.S. and Israel for a series of killings, said it would protest at the party’s August convention in Ottawa.

Backlash aside, the Green’s JNF resolution affirms a principle enunciated by the Supreme Court 60 years ago. Into the 1950s, restrictive land covenants in many exclusive neighbourhoods and communities across Canada made it impossible for Jews, Blacks, Chinese, Aboriginals and other “non-whites to buy property.

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 contained the following clause: “The lands 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, 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 persons of the white or Caucasian race.”

Noble and Wolf tried to get the court to declare the restriction invalid but they were opposed by the Beach O’ Pines Protective Association and 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.

The publicity surrounding the case prompted Ontario to pass a law voiding racist land covenants, and in 2009 the federal government defined the Noble and Wolf v. Alley Supreme Court case “an event of national historic significance” in the battle “for human rights and against discrimination on racial and religious grounds in Canada.”

Six decades after the Supreme Court delivered a blow to racist property covenants, 62 per cent of Green members have voted for a resolution calling on Ottawa to end its support for a charity that discriminates in land use abroad.

An owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, JNF bylaws and lease documents contain a restrictive covenant stating its property will not be leased to non-Jews. A 1998 United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights found it systematically discriminated against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up a fifth of the population.

According to the UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” Echoing the UN, a 2012 US State Department report detailing “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel says JNF “statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”

Yet JNF Canada, which raised $29 million in 2014, is a registered charity. As such, it can provide tax credits for donations, meaning that up to 25 per cent of their budget effectively comes from public coffers.

The Green Party should ignore the right-wing backlash and uphold the principle that discriminatory land-use policies are wrong.

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