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Canadian politicians lead unprecedented smear campaign against advocate for Palestinian rights

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On Thursday lawyer Dimitri Lascaris called on two Liberal MPs to denounce death threats made by B’nai B’rith supporters against a number of other Liberal MPs and the Prime Minister. But instead of condemning those who called for racialized politicians to face the “guillotine” or “stoning”, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and Canadian politicians smeared the individual drawing attention to the death threats.

And on the weekend NDP leaders participated in this unprecedented multi-party smear campaign against one of Canada’s most effective advocates for Palestinian rights. At the behest of CIJA, MP Hélène Laverdière called Lascaris “anti-Semitic” while Jagmeet Singh inferred as much.

Here’s the background: After an August 29 demonstration opposing B’nai B’rith’s smears against the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Lascaris called on Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt, CIJA, and others who have recently defended B’nai B’rith, to publicly repudiate two of that group’s supporters who called for a number of Muslim and brown politicians to be killed in a video detailing their participation in a counter protest to the rally against B’nai B’rith. On Thursday Lascaris tweeted about the two B’nai Brith supporters who “called for the death penalty to be imposed on Justin Trudeau & Liberal MPs Iqra Khalid, Omar Alghabra & Maryam Monsef” and asked Levitt and Housefather to “to denounce” the threats “but shamefully, they’ve said nothing.” Then Lascaris tweeted: “Apparently Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt are more devoted to apartheid Israel than to their own prime minister and colleagues in the Liberal caucus.”

In this tweet about Housefather and Levitt prioritizing the defence of Israeli crimes above their own party, Lascaris could also have cited the two Liberal MPs’ response to Trudeau questioning whether Israeli forces should have shot Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani in Gaza. The day after Trudeau’s May 16 comment Housefather and Levitt issued a joint statement  dissociating themselves from the Prime Minister’s mealy-mouthed criticism of Israeli actions. Conservative Senator Linda Frum described it as “distancing themselves from their own government”, Globe and Mail reporter Robert Fife said they “broke with Mr. Trudeau’s criticism of Israel”and Housefather himself noted in July that he was “disappointed… with the recent statement on Gaza … [so] Levitt and I released our own statement.” The Housefather/Levitt statement claimed “the terrorist organisation Hamas bears direct moral responsibility and culpability” when Israeli troops shoot peaceful protesters, including Canadian doctors.

So, clearly the tweet by Lascaris was a fair comment/criticism of the action/inaction of two MPs and their apparent disloyalty to the own political party. Regardless, in our upside down world where those who defend racist policies in another country are supported even when they cry “racism” against those fighting that discrimination, CIJA saw Lascaris’ innocuous tweet as an opportunity to attack him and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). In response CIJA tweeted:

Soon thereafter a slew of MPs, Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer and Prime Minister Trudeau jumped to Housefather and Levitt’s defence or directly smeared Lascaris. NDP foreign critic Laverdière tweeted: “I consider  Michael Levitt and Anthony Housefather to be my friends as well as colleagues, & I condemn the anti-Semitic comments directed against them by Dimitri Lascaris. We can have legitimate disagreements on Canadian foreign policy without questioning anyone’s loyalty to Canada.”

Employing slightly more restrained language, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh also joined the anti-Palestinian lunacy. He tweeted:

But, it’s worse than that. While Laverdière, Singh and others found time to label Lascaris racist, they’ve never seen fit to question Levitt and Housefather’s ties to an explicitly racist institution. The York Centre MP is a former board member of the Jewish National Fund and participated in an event with that organization in Israel last year while Housefather did an event with the JNF in May. The JNF systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up a fifth of the population. According to a UN report, Jewish National Fund lands are “chartered to benefitJews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” (During a visit to Israel in 2016 Laverdière participated in a ceremony put on by the head of the JNF.)

Even if Lascaris had written what Trudeau, Laverdière, etc. claim, it shouldn’t be particularly controversial. Leavitt and Housefather are fairly open about the centrality of Israel to their politics. In July, Housefather described himself as a “huge supporter of Israel” and “one of the foremost advocates on behalf of support for Israel.” On August 28 he wrote in a Canadian Jewish News article that “like many in our community, there is nothing more upsetting to me than when the UN unfairly singles out Israel for condemnation.” In that same piece Housefather noted how he “works tirelessly to have Israel’s back” and boasted that the current Liberal government has the most anti-Palestinian voting record of any recent Canadian government at the UN. The Montréal MP wrote, “we have voted against 87% of the resolutions singling out Israel for condemnation at the General Assembly versus 61% for the Harper government, 19% for the Martin and Mulroney governments and 3% for the Chrétien government. We have also supported 0% of these resolutions, compared to 23% support under Harper, 52% under Mulroney, 71% under Martin and 79% under Chretien.”

For his part, Levitt chairs the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group, has by far the most official  parliamentary contact with Israel lobby group CIJA, travels regularly to Israel, attends events with the Israeli AmbassadorConsul  General, Tel Aviv Mayor, etc., attends “walks with Israel”, says he “stands  with Israel”, lobbied Canada to withdraw its logo from the 2016 World Social Forum in Montréal because of criticism of Israel, lobbied  to have the Canadian Food Inspection Agency improperly label wines from illegal Israeli settlements, co-founded the Canadian Jewish Public Affairs Committee “to engage  Jewish and pro-Israel Canadians”, etc.

Since 2016 Lascaris has been repeatedly smeared by Israel lobby groups. In August of that year he led a push within the Green Party to support elements of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. A resolution he proposed at their convention sparked a backlash that saw party leader Elizabeth May demand a convention redo to rescind the resolution, which Lascaris successfully defended.

Lascaris’ effective activism is a problem for the Israel lobby. So are his credentials. Lascaris was named one of the 25 most influential lawyers by Canadian Lawyer Magazine in 2012 and the next year Canadian Business Magazine dubbed him one of the 50 most influential people in Canadian business, labelling him the “fiercest legal advocate for shareholder rights.” In 2016 he quit  a lucrative law career to devote himself to activism and journalism on issues ranging from climate change to Canadian foreign policy.

Singh and Laverdière should apologize for participating in CIJA’s scurrilous attack on a leading social justice campaigner. And shame on all the Canadian politicians who have fallen for this sickening smear campaign!

Yves Engler
About Yves Engler

Yves Engler’s latest book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. He’s also the author of Canada and Israel: building apartheid.

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17 Responses

  1. eljay
    eljay
    September 10, 2018, 12:10 pm

    There is seemingly no limit to the hypocrisy of Zionists and their supporters.

  2. oldgeezer
    oldgeezer
    September 10, 2018, 1:52 pm

    Questioning the loyalty of sitting MP’s was asking for trouble and the response to what is considered stereotypical antisemitism should have been expected.

    An additional troubling aspect to this story which isn’t covered was attempts by the risibly self described human rights organization B’nai B’rith to smear CUPW (CanadianUnion of Postal Workers) and label them as terrorist supporters. That our leaders did not respond to that malicious smear is saddening

    • eljay
      eljay
      September 10, 2018, 3:16 pm

      || oldgeezer: … An additional troubling aspect to this story which isn’t covered was attempts by the risibly self described human rights organization B’nai Brith to smear CUPW (CanadianUnion of Postal Workers) and label them as terrorist supporters. That our leaders did not respond to that malicious smear is saddening ||

      Our leaders didn’t respond because it would be anti-Semitic to “single out” B’nai Brith with accusations of B’nai Brith smears against CUPW.

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        September 10, 2018, 3:48 pm

        @eljay

        Yeah pretty much that no doubt.

        That this guy Levitt is chair of the human rights committee is an abomination. I have said so to him and the PM.

  3. JWalters
    JWalters
    September 10, 2018, 7:42 pm

    Kudos to Dimitri Lascaris for standing up for Justice. The scripted, empty, slanderous indignation of Laverdière and Singh is all they’ve got, which is why Zionists NEVER DEBATE the actual facts and issues. Put simply, they’re intellectually dishonest cowards. Why not go on CBC and discuss the issues in front of the Canadian people? That would be appropriate for a democracy. Why not? Because obviously Zionists EMPHATICALLY TO NOT WANT DEMOCRACY.

  4. Vera Gottlieb
    Vera Gottlieb
    September 11, 2018, 11:28 am

    Time to knock israel’s knees out. With this racist behaviour, is it any wonder anti Semitism is on the rise???

  5. MHughes976
    MHughes976
    September 12, 2018, 5:48 pm

    ‘They called him anti-Semitic’ – that is tidau’s least surprising news.

  6. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    September 15, 2018, 12:53 am

    That is a nice looking graphic of the dove on the stucco. A bold dove with hawk like wings for sure but a beautiful powerful simple image. Bravo

    odd though how doves are not really all that peaceful. Starlings are peaceful but noisy.

  7. gamal
    gamal
    September 15, 2018, 5:24 pm

    “a lucrative law career to devote himself to activism and journalism on issues ranging from climate change to Canadian foreign policy”

    very impressive

    “Singh and Laverdière should apologize for participating in CIJA’s scurrilous attack on a leading social justice campaigner. And shame on all the Canadian politicians who have fallen for this sickening smear campaign!”

    you ever heard Keith Hudson “Class and Subject”, it’s a music of the revolution, did his own thing too.

    “you keep on reaching for my mind”

    https://youtu.be/OdKRTalPGMM

  8. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    September 16, 2018, 6:20 am

    So is this p piece about publicity for the cause or truth and justice? Don’t think the two conveniently go together and winning so-called ‘hearts and minds’ is paramount. Is it a win or loss’ …. Still a half decent simplistic graphic.

    It is shame to me personally, as an artist trained in israel, acadamie philadelphia and on hardscrabble walls of NYC billboard building canyons in the 80s that more Israelis don’t paint interesting murals on the barriers. We should inquire about Christo and how much he would charge to beautify and sanitize the barrier while extracting maximum political benefit?

    • annie
      annie
      September 16, 2018, 7:06 am

      We should inquire about Christo and how much he would charge to beautify and sanitize the barrier while extracting maximum political benefit?

      reminds me of “work sets you free”.

      as i recall (and i lived in sonoma at the time) christo’s fence was only up for a week http://christojeanneclaude.net/projects/running-fence

  9. Marnie
    Marnie
    September 18, 2018, 7:20 am

    ‘B’nai Brith Canada Supporters Call for the Death Penalty for Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh and Liberal Muslim MPs’

    Incitement to commit murder – what is the canadian govt response to this?

    • oldgeezer
      oldgeezer
      September 18, 2018, 10:08 am

      @Marnie

      I’ve been holding judgement on this one and only time will tell.

      There hasn’t been any public response but that is not unusual. What would be unusual is if there was a public comment on issues referred to the police or active within the justice system.

      I suspect that they will get a free pass. zionist racism and violence always seems to. No matter how vile or repugnant they behave. Hopefully they will face the courts over this though.

      • Marnie
        Marnie
        September 18, 2018, 11:36 am

        @oldgeezer

        ‘Hopefully they will face the courts over this though.’

        That’s a start.

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