Tag Archives: United Jewish Appeal

Israel lobby in Canada

1

The Trudeau government has been campaigning aggressively for a seat on the Security Council, but its bid to win a place on the UN’s most powerful decision-making body will be hampered by Canada’s decidedly anti-Palestinian voting record. Despite claiming to support the “international rules based order”, the Trudeau government has voted against more than 50 resolutions upholding Palestinian rights. The extent to which the Liberals have mimicked the Stephen Harper Conservative’s position regarding General Assembly resolutions, which are little more than symbolic acts of solidarity with the long-beleaguered Palestinians, highlights the power of the Israel lobby in Canada.

Together the United Jewish Appeal/Combined Jewish Appeal of Toronto, Montréal, Winnipeg, Windsor, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Vancouver and Atlantic Canada raise over $100 million annually and have about $1 billion in assets. For half a century UJA Toronto has organized an annual Walk with Israel and the Montréal branch organizes an annual Israel Day march. Many thousands march each year. The lobbying arm of the UJA/CJA, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has over 40 staff and a $10 million budget. In addition, B’nai B’rith has a handful of offices across the country. For its part, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Canada’s budget is $7-10 million annually. These groups work closely with StandWithUs Canada, CAMERA, Honest Reporting Canada and other (often extreme right wing) Israeli nationalist political organizations. Dozens of registered Canadian charities, ranging from the Jewish National Fund to Christians United for Israel also engage in at least some pro-Israel campaigning.

Since 2013 the chief fundraiser for the Trudeau Liberals has been Stephen Bronfman, scion of an arch Israeli nationalist family. Bronfman has millions invested in Israeli technology companies and over the years the Bronfman clan has secured arms for Israeli forces and supported its military in other ways.

Other notable Canadian moguls have long histories of ensuring ties between Israel and Canada.

Worth more than $3 billion prior to his death, David Azrieli was among the richest Canadians. In his youth he served in the paramilitary Haganah group during the 1948 war. His unit was responsible for the Battle of Jerusalem, including forcibly displacing 10,000 Palestinians.  Azrieli was also a real estate developer in Israel and in 2011 he made a controversial donation to Im Tirtzu, a hardline Israeli-nationalist organization (deemed a “fascist” group by an Israeli court).

Worth $1.6 billion, Gerald Schwartz and his wife Heather Reisman created the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides millions of dollars annually for non-Israelis who fight in the IDF.

In recent years Canadian-Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams has plowed tens of millions of dollars into various sports and cultural initiatives to rebrand Israel.

Other Canadian billionaires Larry Tanenbaum, Mark Scheinberg, David Cheriton, Daryl Katz, Seymour Schulich, as well as the Zekelman, Reichmann and Sherman families, all back Israel.

In “A story of failed re-engagement: Canada and Iran, 2015–2018” University of Ottawa professor Thomas Juneau highlighted the Israel lobby’s role in deterring the government from re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran:

“Initially, Cabinet and most caucus supported re-engagement. Dion, who was actively lobbied by Bombardier (whose headquarters were in his riding) and the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, was especially keen. Other senior ministers such as Freeland (International Trade) and Harjit Sajjan (Defence) also supported. With time, however, opposition within caucus grew. It was led by Michael Levitt, the influential MP for York-Center and chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group, and also included Anthony Housefather (MP for Mount-Royal). These MPs had support from former minister Irwin Cotler, who had long argued for harsher policies towards Iran.”

Juneau continued, “other interviewees also highlighted the differences in organization among pressure groups. Between the tabling of the motion [to oppose reengaging with Iran] and the vote four days later, groups opposing reengagement, such as the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, rapidly launched an effective campaign to pressure MPs. Groups favoring reengagement, however, such as the Iranian Canadian Congress, were unable to match these lobbying efforts.”

For a movement defending open racism and colonialism the Israel lobby wields a unique and powerful stick: The ability to play victim and smear those advocating for justice as racist.

The Liberals ousted high-profile Imam Hassan Guillet as a candidate to run for the party in 2019 after B’nai B’rith attacked him for challenging Israeli expansionism. The winner of the Saint-Leonard-Saint-Michel riding nomination gained global notoriety for his sermon at the memorial for the victims of the 2017 Québec City mosque attack, but when B’nai B’rith twisted his pro-Palestinian statements to imply he was anti-Semitic the Liberals dumped their star candidate.

Similarly, when members of the extremist Jewish Defence League attacked peaceful pro-Palestinian activists protesting a presentation by Israeli military reservists at York University Trudeau sided with the thugs crying anti-Semitism. Following a statement by B’nai B’rith, CIJA and the Israel lobby’s point person in the Liberal government, Michael Levitt, Trudeau denounced “anti-Semitism” by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

The influence of CIJA, B’nai B’rith, Bronfman, Schwartz, etc. largely explains the Trudeau government’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN. Whether that will scuttle Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council is to be determined.

But, we should hope so. Please join over 100 organizations and dozens of prominent individuals that have signed an open letter calling on UN member states to vote for Canada’s competitors, Norway and Ireland, for the two non-permanent Security Council spots open for Western countries.

 

Comments Off on Israel lobby in Canada

Filed under Israel, Justin Trudeau, Middle East

As Israel’s racism grows more Canadian Jews turn against it

Jewish Home leader Michael Ben Ari (left) speaks during a ceremony honouring the late Jewish extremist leader Meir Kahane.

The anti-Palestinianism of Canada’s establishment Jewish organizations is extreme. Fortunately, a growing number of Canadian Jews appear to be rejecting their racism and support for Israeli violence.

According to a recent Canadian Jewish News article, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and United Jewish Appeal Toronto both declined to comment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alliance with the Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party. For their parts, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and American Jewish Committee both criticized Netanyahu’s push to merge Jewish Power and Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) to increase the far-right parties’ chance of garnering the minimum 3.25 per cent of the total vote needed to serve in the Knesset. Subsequently, Israel’s Supreme Court banned the leader of Jewish Power, Michael Ben-Ari, from standing in next month’s election.

Jewish Power is not operating in the Ukraine, but rather in an openly Jewish supremacist state. From the law of return to the nation state law, there are over 65 explicitly racist Israeli laws. Netanyahu recently wrote, “Israel is not  a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.”

From what I can find, CIJA and UJA Toronto have failed to criticize or distance themselves from Netanyahu’s statement. In fact, they denounce any mention of Israeli apartheid. One wonders how explicit Israeli racism needs to be before CIJA recognizes/criticizes the obvious?

More generally, how many Palestinians does Israel need to kill before the established Jewish organizations back away from their staunch support? They’ve endorsed Israeli forces weekly killing of peaceful March of Return protesters in Gaza over the past year. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed and another 6,000 injured by live fire in these demonstrations. Not a single Israeli has died.

In a particularly disturbing comment on Israel’s supporters, aggression has been good for fundraising. Following the IDF killing of 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza in the summer of 2014, UJA Toronto launched an emergency appeal for Israel, which raised over $5.6 million. Amidst the June 1967 war, leading Canadian capitalist Samuel Bronfman initiated a $25 million campaign for Israel. Similarly, during the October 1973 war Canadians purchased over $100 million in Israel Bonds. After Israel’s summer 2006 destruction of Lebanon another $42 million was raised.

Jewish Power’s ideological allies in Canada — the Jewish Defense League — remain more influential with the established Jewish organizations than the substantially larger and more humanistic/internationalist Independent Jewish Voices. In response to pressure from the JDL, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg recently canceled its sponsorship of an event by Lex Rofeberg because the 4th year rabbinical student is a member of the anti-occupation (though not anti-zionist) US Jewish group IfNotNow. Rofeberg wasn’t even going to speak about Israel. (The subject of his planned talks were “‘Winnipeg Jets or Winnipeg Jews,’ on the intersection of Judaism and sports, and ‘Your Podcast is My Synagogue,’ on the ever-growing world of digital Judaism.”) To explain their bowing to pressure from extremists, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg President Laurel Malkin said, “the values of the speaker are not in-line with ours.”

While most Canadian Jews, particularly the powerful and moneyed, seem to support Israeli racism and violence two recent polls suggest that a growing proportion of Jewish Canadians don’t. An Independent Jewish Voices and United Jewish People’s Order commissioned EKOS poll  found that 37 percent of a random sample of 359 Jewish Canadians surveyed have a negative opinion of the Israeli government, 31 percent oppose the military blockade of Gaza and 30 percent think Palestinians’ call for a boycott of Israel is reasonable.

The IJV/UJPO poll is in line with a more extensive Environics Institute Survey conducted in partnership with the University of Toronto, York University and the main Jewish Federations. It found that nearly 3 times more Canadian Jews believe West Bank settlements hurt Israel’s security than the opposite. Additionally, most of the respondents doubted the Israeli government’s sincerity about making peace. Generally, notes the executive summary, “younger Jews are considerably less likely than older Jews to consider caring for Israel an essential aspect of Jewishness.”

It’s long past time to directly challenge CIJA, the Jewish Federations and the politicians who embolden them. It’s time for those who believe in peace and international justice to treat CIJA and the Federations the same way they treat Palestinians, as enemies to be overcome.

Comments Off on As Israel’s racism grows more Canadian Jews turn against it

Filed under Canada and Israel, Uncategorized