Canada’s Envoy ‘to Defend Apartheid’ Gets Israel medal

Canada’s special envoy to combat antisemitism Irwin Cotler. (Photo: video grab)

By Yves Engler

Canada’s special envoy to combat antisemitism is actually a government emissary to promote Jewish supremacy. In a stark example of the Liberals’ anti-Palestinian policies, they have given public resources and prestige to an aggressive apartheid proponent.

Last Friday foreign affairs minister Mélanie Joly tweeted, “I spoke with Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism Irwin Cotler today, where I congratulated him on his Israel Presidential Medal of Honour. Irwin, Canada is stronger because of your work to advance human rights everywhere.”

Cotler was one of 13 individuals recently given a prize by President Isaac Herzog for making “an extraordinary contribution to the State of Israel, the Jewish people, and all humanity.”

The apartheid state is right to celebrate Cotler. Married to a “close confidant” of Likud founder Menachem Begin, Cotler has committed his adult life to promoting colonialism. The former Liberal justice minister continues this work even as fascistic, Jewish supremacist extremists, have taken the reins of power in Israel.

In a sign of his devotion to apartheid, Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism recently co-wrote a National Post commentary in support of blocking the World Court from releasing a legal opinion on Palestine. In “Canada must continue to defend Israel against baseless United Nations attack”, Cotler responded (indirectly) to criticism of the Trudeau government submitting a statement opposing an International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion as per a UN General Assembly resolution titled “Israeli Practices Affecting the Human rights of the Palestinian People in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”.

The resolution requested the UN legal authority deliver an advisory opinion on “the legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” Cotler and the Trudeau government don’t believe the ICJ should assent to the General Assembly’s request to provide its legal opinion!

Previously, Cotler pressed the International Criminal Court to ignore Israeli war crimes and for Ottawa to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem. He’s attended events put on by the racist Jewish National Fund and met with far-right colonists seeking to cleanse occupied East Jerusalem of Palestinians.

In May 2021 the former president of the Canadian Jewish Congress rallied behind Israel’s violence and earlier defended its shooting of ‘march of return’ protesters in Gaza as well as the 2014 and 2009 attacks on Gaza that left nearly 4,000 dead. Just after Israel killed 1,200 Lebanese in the summer of 2006 Cotler spoke to a conference of top Israeli military officials on the importance of managing the message in modern war.

As part of his government’s multifaceted contribution to Palestinian dispossession, Justin Trudeau made Cotler Canada’s inaugural special envoy three years ago. The envoy has $1.1 million to spend annually promoting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism and protecting Israel from growing criticism. (A recent Ekos poll found that 38 percent of Canadians with an opinion believe Israel maintains a system “similar to apartheid” and 20 percent labeled it a state that “restricted minority rights” while only 11 percent consider it a “vibrant democracy.”).

In a sign of his comfort with crying victimhood to enable supremacism, Cotler took on probably the only Canadian named by an official university inquiry to have fabricated claims of antisemitism to smear Palestine solidarity activists. Despite a 2017 McGill University inquiry concluding as much about Noah Lew, Cotler hired Lew as a policy and program analyst.

Canadian Jewish News article about Cotler receiving the Israeli presidential prize offers some insight into Cotler’s commitment to denouncing human rights violations by enemies of the US empire. “I am feeling delighted at the recognition of my father for his tremendous work advancing human rights and doing so while making it very clear that it is synonymous with upholding the right of the State of Israel”, said Michal Cotler-Wunsh, a former member of the Israeli Knesset. Recently made Israel’s Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism, Cotler-Wunsh’s comment suggests her father’s human rights campaigning is designed to build establishment credibility to better promote Jewish supremacy in Israel.

In a concrete example, Cotler’s Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights invited the new Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, to deliver its 2023 Elie Wiesel Distinguished Lectureship in Human Rights. According to the information available online, the May meeting wasn’t specifically about Israel. But does anybody believe the lecture wasn’t partly designed to influence the ICC prosecutor as part of the apartheid lobby’s aggressive campaign to have the court ignore Israel’s war crimes?

Another example of Cotler using his ‘human rights’ standing to advance Jewish supremacy is his response to calling Israel an apartheid state. Prior to all the major human rights groups finding that Israel was committing the crime of apartheid, Cotler repeatedly responded to activists’ claims that Israel was an apartheid state by invoking his role in challenging the “real” version in South Africa.

Cotler has succeeded in getting the dominant media to relay the idea he was central to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and Nelson Mandela’s lawyer, which is a distortion well detailed in “Irwin Cotler And The Mandela Effect”. As being against South African apartheid has taken on greater mainstream status, Cotler has increasingly sought to identify as a leader in that struggle despite the fact he has a well-known association with the party that refused a House of Commons request to condemn Mandela’s imprisonment (Lester Pearson in 1964) and opposed taking action to lessen Canadian complicity with the racist regime (Pierre Trudeau 1968 – 84).

Cotler’s tale about struggling to oppose South African apartheid garners him moral standing to deflect criticism of Israeli apartheid. It also helps obscure the links/similarities between Israel and the South African regime.

When Cotler received the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice prize – named after arch Zionist former Democrat Congressman Tom Lantos who promoted both US invasions of Iraq – the Globe and Mail published a story headlined “Canadian Irwin Cotler, who helped free Mandela, given prestigious human-rights award.”

Even though the August article had nothing explicitly to do with the Middle East, Canadian for Justice and Peace in the Middle East pushed the Globe to correct their headline. CJPME understands that Cotler’s Mandela tale serves his anti-Palestinian agenda.

Israel has great interest in developing ‘human rights’ activists and groups that defend it (or at least ignore its crimes). Liberal minded supporters of Israel don’t want to feel that they are backing oppression and Cotler is among those who help do that.

Objectively, Cotler’s human rights campaigning in service of US imperial aims has helped defend Israeli apartheid. Any honest person who agrees that all human beings have equal rights, including Palestinians, will understand that.

 – Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and a number of other books. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit his website:

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