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New Democratic Party purges candidates over pro-Palestine positions in lead up to Canadian elections

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Canadian governments have a long history of complicity in Palestinian dispossession. As early as 1947, Lester B. Pearson, then Under Secretary of State for External Affairs and future Canadian Prime Minister, played a key role in drafting and passing the United Nations Partition Plan, so much so that Zionist groups dubbed him the “Balfour of Canada”.

Successive governments have carried on this tradition of one-sided support, although often under the pretense of “peacekeeping” and being a “honest broker”. Fast forward to the last decade, which has brought the Conservative government into power under PM Stephen Harper, famous for such comments as “Through Fire and Water, Canada will Stand with You” made during his speech to the Israeli Knesset in January, 2014. Harper has crafted a policy of zero tolerance for everything Palestinian, from BDS to funding for UNRWA, and also upped the ante by trying to make any criticism of Israeli policies “illegal”. Recent examples are the January 18, 2015 Memorandum of Understanding between Canada and Israel that committed to develop  “a coordinated, public diplomacy initiative both bilaterally and in international and multilateral fora to oppose boycotts of Israel, its institutions, and its people within three to six months” and the announcement just last month of the “expansion and modernization” of the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement. Unfortunately, the other two main national parties, the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Liberals, are in a frantic race to see who can reach the bottom line first. All three major parties are currently on record as denouncing BDS, condemning Israeli Apartheid week on university campuses and attempting to stifle debate on this issue.

And now, enter the Canadian federal election campaign. Although certainly short by U.S. standards, it still has another 2 months to go and is becoming increasingly nasty. Palestinian activists are either bullied and targeted by our known adversaries or betrayed by our “friends” and told we’re not even allowed to raise our voices. And the pervasive and bludgeoning reach of the Zionist lobby seems to have reached new heights (or lows). The latest round of the brouhaha was instigated by the NDP leadership (who might form the next government) with the purge of several candidates mildly sympathetic to Palestinian rights. The resulting dissent put them in damage control mode, especially since many supporters of the Palestinian people have also historically been involved in some way with the NDP which paints itself as the “party of change”. (Several people were even deleted from various Facebook groups, including Rabble, for refusing to drop the challenges on this issue.) In the past, some high profile veteran MPs from the NDP had a proud history of supporting Palestinian rights; sadly, no longer.

But the issues of censorship and the need to hear the Palestinian voice have refused to go away. On August 20, the Ontario Civil Liberties Association issued a strongly-worded letter defending the freedom of speech of two of the ex-candidates and noting that what one of them said was common parlance in Israel’s mainstream media and included some terminology even used by former Israeli PM Ben-Gurion. The letter went on to state – “The NDP’s stance in barring any criticism of Israel is undemocratic and wrong. Morgan Wheeldon and Jerry Natanine were not breaking confidence with a democratically-determined party policy platform, or engaged in any such mutiny. They have uttered words critical of Israel, in contexts of democratic discourse. Your actions are incompatible with your claim of seeking a balanced approach. A balanced, informed, and tested approach cannot be found by suppressing free expression among potential and actual law makers.”

Of course Palestine is not the only issue in this national election, and Palestinian and Arab Canadians (contrary to some perceptions) are just like everyone else – parents, workers, seniors, disabled etc. with a myriad of concerns . But for supporters of Palestinian rights, the dilemma here is huge. The Zionist lobby are allowed to be “one issue” and have unlimited resources and time to check candidates’ social media accounts going back many years, making any support for Palestine a “red line” issue. And to ask Palestinian-Canadians and their supporters to vote for any party that is clearly complicit in the trampling of human rights, with the faint hope that after the election things will improve, simply will not cut it. Especially not with the current NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair, who proudly pronounced himself an “ardent supporter of Israel”, even before being elected party leader. Does criticizing the NDP (or considering voting for another party, say the Greens) mean you’re supporting Stephen Harper or you don’t want change? Of course not! And frankly, it is arrogant and insulting to everyone’s intelligence to use such fear-mongering tactics.

Palestinians will not be silenced and after 67 years of dispossession they no longer believe in hollow promises. So if the NDP leadership wants to own up and say they’ve thrown the Palestinians under the bus as have the other two major Canadian political parties, then be honest and do so. And engage in that debate as to why Palestinian rights (and even any discussion of them) are expendable and be judged accordingly. All three major federal parties in Canada need to be sent a loud and clear message that Palestinians and their supporters will not be censored and Palestinian rights will not be trampled on so easily. We must all show that there is zero tolerance for hypocrisy and complicity with Israeli war crimes!

Marion Kawas

Marion Kawas is a long-time pro-Palestinian activist, a member of BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish and cohost of Voice of Palestine.

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14 Responses

  1. pabelmont on August 24, 2015, 4:06 pm

    How ghastly. I never thought the USA would be beaten in the race to the bottom!

    • Hanna Kawas on August 26, 2015, 3:46 pm

      This is not new, here is what the late Israel Shahak said in his book “Open Secrets” published in 1997:
      “Curiously, Canada represents a case where influence of its organized Jewish community upon the country’s policies is even more palpable than in the U.S. The effect is that, although Canada’s interests in the Middle East are quite secondary, its DEDICATION [editor’s emphasis] to Israel surpasses even that of the U.S.”

  2. widowsson on August 24, 2015, 4:27 pm

    Several local Canadian bloggers have now reported on this and I’m quite frankly worried about this development as I was always under the impression that the NDP was sympathetic towards the Palestinian’s plight. I’ve been an NDP voter for a long time now and I have asked my provincial NDP and my riding’s NDP candidate for clarification on this.

  3. Jake on August 24, 2015, 10:52 pm

    I have voted nothing but NDP for over 40 years. But if they do not reinstate the candidate that was forced to resign because of criticism of Israel’s policies, I cannot vote for them. By taking this action, the party has joined forces with those who will silence criticism of Israel. If I vote for them, I will be doing the same.

    This is a huge conundrum for someone like me because we have a right wing government here that is ripping our country to shreds. And just when it looks like the progressive NDP might take power nationally for the first time ever, they go an pull a stupid stunt like this. If I and others turn away from the party, we may be enabling the Conservatives, whose horrible policies re Israel are outlined in the article, to win again.

    • oldgeezer on August 25, 2015, 12:23 pm

      I don’t support or vote any one party but have voted NDP on a federal level through quite a number of federal elections. I will not vote NDP as long as Mulcair and the current leadership remains. I see no space between his style of leadership and Harper’s at this point in time. And harper is someone i despise.

      It is a very sad day when the NDP abandons it’s core values of human rights and social justice.

      At the same time it is interesting to note the rumours that Baird was forced to resign as he was being blackmailed by mossad over some of his activities.

      • Jake on August 25, 2015, 2:32 pm

        I always knew there was more to Baird’s resignation than was reported, and still can’t understand why journalists seemed to just accept the explanan5ion given at the time – that he just decided to step down. He was such a party man. It wasn’t so unusual that he resigned but that after all his time as an MP and with his high profile in the gov’t, he didn’t serve out the six months until the election.

        Why would Mossad blackmail him when he was a true blue, categorical supporter of Israel?

      • DavidDaoud on August 27, 2015, 6:31 am

        O.G., more on Baird’s supposed “activities” please?

    • Memphis on August 28, 2015, 2:28 am

      Or we can vote in the NDP, and once elected, pressure they hell out of them to change their position. Liberals will not win (and their position is almost lock step with Cons). In this election it is a two horse race, and the other choice is a vote for Netanyahu, basically, with regards to I/P. And that vote also has grave repercussions for many other important issues that affect all Canadians. I understand you have to do what you feel is right, and what you feel is just in your heart, and I respect that. But politics is about more than one issue. And it would be a sad day when you sacrificed the good our country for that of another, sadly, that choice has to be made on this occasion. If you vote anyone else your are throwing your vote away and helping elect Harper, which has grave repercussions for 35 million people. He has one of the worst economic records in Canadian history, unemployment is up, wages are stagnant, dollar is losing value, we are in a recession, exports are down, 8 consecutive deficits and He has racked up a debt over 150 billion. Over 90% of our lakes and rivers are now no longer under protection. He has closed hundreds of VAC offices leaving our soldiers to suffer in silence with no adequate resources to help them transition to civilian life or battle PTSD. He has run roughshod over our democracy, he has destroyed our voice in foreign affairs. , he would have sent us to Iraq, and he involved us in bombing missions against IS, he appointed senators, which he said he would not do, who are now mired in scandal and criminal charges. I mean the list goes on and on and on. So you’re going to give up this chance to get rid of Harper, and for the first time our 148 year history to elect a socially democratic government in Canada over one issue? Now is the time to vote NDP. And once they win, then it is time to apply pressure on them to stand on the right side of history. So, please, reconsider, cause otherwise you’re simply allowing Harper to form another government, and further destroy this country. Please don’t think I am diminishing the Palestinian struggle, but I am a Canadian first, and your vote affects me and 35 million other people. I do not want to wake up on Oct 20th and have another 4 years of Harper. Out of the 3 parties that have a chance at forming a government, the NDP receives the highest marks from CJMPE. A crappy D-. By not voting the NDP you are actually doing the Palestinians more harm, as well as 35 million other Canadians.

      • Memphis on August 28, 2015, 2:48 am

        Don’t cut of your nose to spite your face. And I apologize if you think I am being arrogant and amounting to fear mongering tactics. But I am a realist, and my country and my national interests come first. It’s ironic that on here Jewish leaders in congress and other influential positions are excoriated for putting Israel’s interest above the U.S.A’s but when it comes to putting Canadians interests over that of Palestine it amounts to hypocricy and the trampling of human rights. But in this situation I am reminded of what the great realist scholar Hans Morgenthau said,

        Realism maintains that universal moral principles cannot be applied to the actions of states in their abstract universal formulation, but that they must be filtered through the concrete circumstances of time and place. The individual may say for himself: “Fiat justitia, pereat mundus (Let justice be done, even if the world perish),” but the state has no right to say so in the name of those who are in its care. Both individual and state must judge political action by universal moral principles, such as that of liberty. Yet while the individual has a moral right to sacrifice himself in defense of such a moral principle, the state has no right to let its moral disapprobation of the infringement of liberty get in the way of successful political action, itself inspired by the moral principle of national survival. There can be no political morality without prudence; that is, without consideration of the political consequences of seemingly moral action. Realism, then, considers prudence-the weighing of the consequences of alternative political actions-to be the supreme virtue in politics. Ethics in the abstract judges action by its conformity with the moral law; political ethics judges action by its political consequences.”

      • Hanna Kawas on August 28, 2015, 6:01 pm

        Those who vote for candidates and parties that are enabling Israeli war crimes will not hurt the Palestinian struggle, Their actions will only reflect on their morality and humanity. As Bishop Desmond Tutu stated: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

  4. Boo on August 25, 2015, 3:14 pm

    Money talks … justice walks.

  5. nrhunter on August 25, 2015, 6:45 pm

    While the Zionists in Canada (both Jewish and Christian) are less visible and outspoken than those in the USA, they have still profoundly affected the ability to have any discussion of the Zionist Israel – Palestinian issue. This is particularly true during a Federal election campaign when it is absolutely essential for all candidates to ‘toe the party line’. Not one of the three major political parties in Canada dare take a neutral position let alone a pro-Palestinian position. Thus, the Zionist Israel – Palestinian issue will not be raised in the current election campaign. So sad!

  6. DavidDaoud on August 27, 2015, 6:19 am

    I am an elderly Canadian who has lived in Morocco for six years and three months. Muslim country of course. I’ve loved every minute of the time I’ve spent here.

    From 2001-3 I lived and worked in Nablus, Palestine. I can’t go back because I’ve been banned by Israel.

    Marion, thank you for writing this article. It leaves me feeling saddened and confused; I do wish Canadians in general could come to know Palestinians as I do.

    David James Vickery
    (Taroudant, Morocco)

    • Jake on August 27, 2015, 4:16 pm

      Think of how wonderful it would be if everyone could travel and live freely and safely in the Middle East. Such a beautiful place with wonderful food, art, music, landscapes, history, architecture. literature, etc etc. It is the common heritage of mankind and it has been stolen from us by stupid greedy people. To realize that Canada’s three main political parties are all on board with the ongoing destruction of this common heritage (despite their avowals otherwise) is heartbreaking and utterly disgusting.

      I wish you and all of our fellow citizens in the region well David.

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