By Yves Engler
One of the most disingenuous arguments made by Canadian apologists for Israeli crimes is that it is irrelevant what transpires here. If they genuinely believed this why seek to squash support for Palestinians?
In fact, the Zionist colonization/Palestine liberation struggle plays out daily in Canadian bookstores, schools, media, diplomacy and elsewhere. But the forces of justice are up against a powerful, well-financed, state-backed movement employing all manner of slander and deception to defend Israel’s system of Jewish supremacy.
As they run roughshod, Israeli lobbyists claim it is racist to even talk about their actions. When Passage editor Davide Mastracci recently tweeted that he was setting up “a free newsletter that will track the Israel lobby’s influence on Canadian media” United Jewish Appeal of Toronto representative Noah Zatzman, former Jewish Defense League leader Meir Weinstein and others called Mastracci/the newsletter anti-Semitic. Before its first publication!
The newsletter could be an important contribution. Recently Postmedia apologized after the Montreal Gazette published an Amnesty International ad featuring 15-year-old Palestinian journalist Janna Jihad, who has been repeatedly targeted by Israeli forces. Under pressure from Honest Reporting Canada (HRC), Postmedia’s Senior Vice President Local Sales, Adrian Faull, said the “advertisement should not have been published and was a direct result of human error.
Our entire Local Sales Advertising Team across Canada will be attending a mandatory training session on Thursday, December 9, to further reinforce our processes and standards.” The message delivered to the advertising employees at Canada’s biggest newspaper chain was (probably) ‘take Amnesty’s money but not if they mention Palestinians’.
In a sign of Postmedia’s complete lack of impartiality, a week Saturday the Montreal Gazette and National Post both published full-page ads for the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC). One read that it “trains the top pro-Israel politically-engaged university students from across Canada to become the next generation of political leaders.” Incredibly, Postmedia was listed as a top sponsor of CJPAC, which organizes an annual “Israeli Wine and Canadian Cheese party” on Parliament Hill with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs to “celebrate the strength of the Canada-Israel relationship.”
In October the Maple Leaf removed a story by a Canadian soldier part of Op PROTEUS, which assists Palestinian security forces to oversee Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. HRC criticized the military publication for an article by Lieutenant Colonel Len Matiowsky titled an “Artistic initiative that made a difference in Palestine”. HRC complained that the story employed the word “Palestine” in its title “even though official Canadian policy does not recognize ‘Palestine’ as a state as the Palestinians haven’t met the requirements for statehood.” HRC also complained about the Canadian soldier’s (innocuous) description of recent Palestinian history.
On December 20, Chapters Indigo officially banned the book ‘Amazing Women of the Middle East: 25 Stories from Ancient Times to Present Day’. Hasbara Fellowships Canada complained about a map in the book that read “Palestine” while discussing a woman born in Nazareth in 1886. Owned by a couple who’ve spent upwards of $100 million supporting non-Israelis who join the IDF, Chapters Indigo carries books that call the West Bank “Judea and Samaria” or deny Palestinian existence in various ways.
Zionists have sought to suppress Palestinian identity and discussion in Canada’s largest school system. The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has been under intense pressure to fire educators that respect Palestinians. When students at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute held a rally last month to protest anti-Palestinian racism within the TDSB former head of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Avi Benlolo denounced their “hate”. In the National Post, Benlolo concluded that “our future as a nation is at stake” if we don’t suppress high school students protesting anti-Palestinian racism.
At the federal government level, Canadian diplomats make all kinds of absurd statements to favor Zionist policy. Two weeks ago Canada’s representative to the Palestinian Authority angrily criticized Electronic Intifada editor Ali Abunimah for tweeting that Canada “arms and funds the apartheid state to murder Palestinians and steal their land.” Robin Wettlaufer responded by writing “we neither arm nor fund Israel.” After Abunimah and others provided evidence of Canada “arming and funding Israel” the Canadian diplomat blocked Abunimah on Twitter.
Recently Canada’s new ambassador to Israel, Lisa Stadelbauer praised that country for supporting a Canadian initiative against arbitrary detention. But 500 Palestinians are locked up without charge or trial by Israel in contravention of the fourth Geneva Convention (more than 4,000 Palestinian political prisoners are in Israeli jails).
Over the past month, Canadian officials have isolated themselves against the vast majority of the world in voting against a dozen UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights. They voted against a series of resolutions that reflect official Canadian policy on the grounds, noted foreign affairs minister Mélanie Joly, “we are opposed to any initiative, within the United Nations and other multilateral forums, that is specifically aimed at criticizing only Israel.” But what other country should be cited for denying Palestinian rights?
Notwithstanding their absurd arguments, proponents of Israeli apartheid dominate Canadian political culture and thus win most of the skirmishes. Still, the forces of justice are victorious in some battles and are increasing their ability to push back.
This month both the University of Toronto and Canadian Association of University Teachers rejected the IHRA’s anti-Palestinian definition of anti-Semitism. Also a TDSB report called for a Zionist trustee, Alexandra Lulka, to be censured for perpetuating negative stereotypes about Palestinians and Muslims. For her part, Canada’s representative to the Palestinian Authority Robin Wettlaufer was pilloried online for her ridiculous statement to Abunimah.
Even within the Liberal party MPs Salma Zaid and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith have sponsored recent parliamentary petitions supporting Palestinian rights. On December 22 new NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson released a statement urging the federal government to “end all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine”.
It concluded, “by failing to call out Israel for breaching international law and violating the human rights of the Palestinian people, Canada is contributing to the problem.”
The first step is knowledge. Following that comes action. That is why supporters try to shut down all criticism of Israel.
– 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: yvesengler.com.