Tag Archives: Svend Robinson

Does the NDP want a war with Russia?

Heather McPherson

Does the NDP want to go to war with Russia? Unfortunately that is the logic of a recent statement by its deputy foreign affairs critic.

In an interview with Ukrainian-Canadian media outlet New Pathway, Heather McPherson said the government should promote Ukraine joining NATO. Additionally, she wants Ottawa to expand its military presence in the nation. Asked whether the NDP “support Ukraine’s bid to join the MAP [Membership Action Plan] program and advocate for this with our NATO allies” and “expand both the scope of Operation Unifier and number of CAF [Canadian armed forces] personnel within the program?” McPherson responded: “The NDP will continue to strongly support Ukraine’s bid to join the MAP program and we have and will continue to push the government to advocate for this with our NATO allies. That Prime Minister Trudeau and (Foreign Affairs) Minister (Marc) Garneau have been unwilling to explicitly state their support for Ukraine’s bid and their failure to adequately support the bid via advocacy efforts and multi-lateral diplomacy is very disturbing.

“Further, the NDP would expand both the scope of Operation Unifier and number of CAF personnel within the program. In December 2018, the NDP called for an extension of operation UNIFIER after an unprecedented act of aggression by Russia which seized three Ukrainian ships and their 20 crew members off the coast of Crimea. As you know, in March 2019 the operation was renewed. The support needs to be renewed and increased to acknowledge recent increased aggression by Russia.”

McPherson’s position is highly provocative. As part of Operation UNIFIER, 200 Canadian troops “train” Ukrainian forces that have integrated far right militias who use the Nazi “Wolfsangel” symbol and praise officials who helped slaughter Jews and Poles during World War II. When extending the mission in 2018, the Liberals also eased restrictions that required the Canadians to stay in the western half of Ukraine, away from the fighting in the east that has left over 10,000 dead.

Canadian troops also lead a NATO mission in another nation bordering Russia. Alongside 550 Canadian troops in Latvia, Canadian naval vessels have recently patrolled in the Baltic Sea and Canadian fighter jets have been stationed in Romania.

Massing NATO troops on Russia’s border is highly belligerent. It also violates a US, German and French promise to Soviet/Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev regarding the reunification of Germany, an important Cold War divide. In 1990 Gorbachev agreed not to obstruct German reunification, to withdraw tens of thousands of troops from the east and for the new Germany to be part of NATO in return for assurances that the alliance wouldn’t expand “one inch eastward”. Now, the alliance includes countries on Russia’s border and North American troops are stationed there.

Officially NATO operates on the idea that an attack against one member is an attack against all members. Currently the government in Kiev claims Russia is backing a secessionist movement in the largely Russian speaking east of the country and illegally occupying Crimea so adding Ukraine to NATO would put the alliance on a war footing with Russia.

Fortunately, there’s push back to McPherson’s reckless position. In retweeting a Canadian Foreign Policy Institute message stating, “Yikes. NDP is criticizing government for not supporting bringing Ukraine into NATO and says it wants to send more Canadians troops there”, former MP and foreign affairs critic Svend Robinson wrote: “NDP shouldbe calling on Canada to withdraw from this discredited Cold War NATO alliance and redirect arms expenditures into fighting real enemies of climate emergency and obscene inequality in Canada and globally. Canada Out Of NATO.”

Employing more strident language, Rabble blogger David Climenhaga added: “Oh FFS! What is it about Canadian progressives that they have to prove they can be warmongering lunatics too? NATO has no business camped on Russia’s doorstep — it’s bad tactics AND bad strategy. What is the Canadian Greens position on this? I may have to change my vote.” Hoping to stir up dissent within NDP ranks, Green MP Elizabeth May retweeted Robinson’s criticism.

My guess is that Climenhaga and Robinson’s position is closer to that of most NDP activists, members and even voters. A resolution calling on the NDP to “actively campaign to get Canada out of NATO” and “remove the NATO nuclear ring around Russian borders” was submitted by two riding associations to the party’s recent convention (it was never debated). At a time when NATO had at least a nominal Cold War justification, NDP members voted to leave the organization. After years of internal debate over NATO party members called on Ottawa to withdraw from the alliance in 1969. But the position was partially reversed by the NDP leadership in the mid-1980s, culminating in a 1987 “security” policy paper that equivocated on the subject.

Whether or not one believes Canada should withdraw from NATO, pushing to expand the alliance in a way that could put Canada on a war footing with Russia is reckless.

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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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