Tag Archives: Libby Davies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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Israel lobby group has no credibility to lecture NDP on racism

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Right position for NDP on Venezuela is a left one

What should the leader of Canada’s left wing party say about what’s happening in Venezuela? Here are a few suggestions: “Canada should respect international law in its dealings with Venezuela.” Or, “Canada shouldn’t select the president of Venezuela.” How about, “The US has a long history of overthrowing governments in Latin America and Canada should never take part.”

Any (or all) of these statements would be clear, reasonable positions for a social democratic party that claims to be in favour of international law and to represent the interests of ordinary people, rather than billionaires, to express. Instead, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has issued vague, contradictory words about the Liberal government’s aggressive effort to topple Venezuela’s elected president.

Over the past two years Justin Trudeau’s government has steadily ramped up their campaign to oust Nicolas Maduro’s government. Ottawa has adopted illegal sanctionssupported opposition groups, built an anti-Venezuela regional coalition, pressured Caribbean countries to join their campaign and taken a complaint about the Venezuelan government to the International Criminal Court. Last week it recognized a little-known opposition politician — who has never garnered even 100,000 votes — as president of the country. And before making this Trumpian, anti-democratic, over-the-top-interference-in-another-country’s-internal-affairs decision, Canadian diplomats spent months preparing the move with the opposition to ratchet up tensions in the South American country. It seems the “Trudeau Doctrine” has been proclaimed, similar in purpose to the USA’s “Munroe Doctrine” first issued in 1823.

All of which should have offered a wonderful opportunity for a political party of the left to differentiate itself from the pro-big business, pro-American, pro-imperialist Liberals. But, despite Ottawa openly violating the UN and Organization of American States charters, the NDP leadership has barely mustered any criticism of Canadian policy. After Ottawa recognized National Assembly head Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela last week Jagmeet Singh tweeted a largely meaningless general message. Under pressure from activists — and with NDP MP Niki Ashton, as well as current candidates Svend Robinson and Jessa McLean, making much stronger interventions —the party subsequently published a slightly better statement.

The Canadian Green and Communist parties’ statements are far better. So are those released by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadian Labour Congress, Vancouver and District Labour Council, Common Frontiers, Rights Action, Kingston Peace Council, Hugo Chavez People’s Defence Front, Canadian Network on Cuba, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace and the NDP Courage Coalition.

While many of the party’s activists are probably confused by the leadership’s indifference to Canada’s push for a coup/invasion, NDP foreign-policy is run by a former Canadian diplomat who has aligned herself with Venezuela’s far right. A year ago I published an article Canadian Dimension titled “Has it become NDP policy to support US-backed coups in Latin America?” Among numerous criticisms of Venezuela’s government, foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière called the vice-president “a drug lord” from whom “the American government has seized billions of dollars of his assets for drug trafficking.” Laverdière should have been removed as foreign critic the day after repeating this obviously absurd claim from Venezuela’s lunatic far right. (In what may be the first ever resolution to an NDP convention calling for the removal of a party critic, the NDP Socialist Caucus submitted a motion to last February’s convention titled “Hands Off Venezuela, Remove Hélène Laverdière as NDP Foreign Affairs Critic.”)

Beyond Laverdière, the party leadership is largely aligned with the foreign policy establishment or those, as long time NDP MP Libby Davies put it, who believe a “Time Magazine version” of international affairs. As I detail in Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada, the party leadership fears corporate media backlash and only challenges official international policy when activists force the issue. (Can you imagine if the NDP never challenged government policy inside Canada? There would be no reason, aside from providing a third set of faces, for the party to exist.)

On Venezuela the party leadership would probably prefer the issue simply disappear from public discussion. But, that’s unlikely. The Liberal government has made Venezuela, reports the Globe and Mail, “one of the government’s top foreign policy priorities.” In a town hall speech on Thursday that Global News headlined “Trudeau says clause in Venezuela constitution shows Guaido is interim president”, the PM boasted that “I’ve been making calls to a significant number of global leaders” (including the heads of France, Spain, Ireland, Colombia, Italy and the EU) to convince them to join their campaign against Venezuela.

For his part, Donald Trump, reports the Wall Street Journal, has “long viewed Venezuela as one of his top three foreign-policy priorities, including Iran and North Korea.” The clique of extremists driving US policy have set up a situation that may require an invasion to succeed.

On Monday the “Lima Group” of governments opposed to Venezuela’s elected government are meeting in Ottawa. A protest is planned there, as well as in at least two other Canadian cities. Before the “Lima Group” summit the NDP should release a statement challenging Canada’s coup planning and Niki Ashton, or another MP, should be allowed to speak at the rally.

It’s not too late to do the right thing.

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