March 18, 2009
By Regan Boychuk
Support for Israeli crimes by the Canadian government is reflected in our ideological institutions, universities and the media. In recent years, both have increased considerably.
To draw on personal experience as an undergraduate, organizing events and hosting speakers during the Second Intifada met obstacles from university administration and attacks in the media.
Though there had never been anything resembling an incident, our group was required to have security guards posted outside even the smallest events – at our expense.
When we brought in a major expert on the Israel-Palestine conflict in April 2004, we and our guest were viciously smeared in the media, who lamented that our group might somehow be tax-subsidized.
At the last minute, we were also forced to pay the costs of having a number of city police perform security for our guest speaker’s talk. The bill came to over a $1000, enough to cripple the average student group – no doubt the objective.
Such tactics have long been familiar but, as Ottawa’s apologetics for Israel have risen to new heights, so has university repression and media demonization of Palestine activism.
A few recent examples illustrate the lengths to which Ottawa is prepared to go for its relationship with Israel:
In parallel, Canada’s ideological institutions have sunk to new depths to quell debate on the Israel/Palestine conflict.
Access to Information Act requests have produced a series of internal emails demonstrating “Canada’s top academics, Interim Vice President and Provost, and the Vice Provost of the University of Toronto – people who are expected to be ardent defenders of freedom of expression – conspired, and knowingly used a false excuse, to shut down a simple conference for students about Palestine solidarity organizing” in 2008. The same internal emails reveal administration collaboration with ‘pro’-Israel groups and make “It is clear that the people in charge of security in various universities are putting together ‘plans and strategies’ for Israeli Apartheid Week” in 2009.
Ottawa’s staunch support for Israel’s recent slaughter in Gaza and apologists’ need to avoid those facts at all cost have resulted in intense media demonization and university administration opposition to protests over Gaza and this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week.
Student groups have been fined and suspended at York University and posters advertising related events were banned by a number of universities and widely (and absurdly) denounced as anti-Semitic.
The hysteria reached comical hyperbole with Liberal appointed Senator Yoine Goldstein: “The frenzy of hate that is going on at Canadian campuses this week is, in fact, a terrible, terrifying and vicious anti-Semitism never before seen in our country.”
The panic extends to the current Liberal Party leadership too. Still trying to establish his ‘pro’-Israel credentials after an inadvertent moment of honesty when he attributed war crimes to Israel in 2006, Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatief did not miss the opportunity to denounce Israel Apartheid Week events:
Attempting to describe [Israel’s] very existence as a crime against humanity… [IAW] goes beyond the values of mutual respect that Canada has always promoted… [and] goes beyond reasonable criticism into demonization. …Israel Apartheid Week… exploit[s] academic freedom, and they should be condemned by all who value civil and respectful debate about the tragic conflict in the Middle East.
Small wonder Ignatieff’s “moral clarity” and “smart politics” were applauded during the Gaza slaughter by the shamelessly ‘pro’-Israel National Post when he declared that “Canada has to support the right of a democratic country to defend itself” and that “Hamas is to blame for organizing and instigating these rocket attacks and then for sheltering among civilian populations.”
And, while just a few years ago even the most rabid apologists could only lament the possibility that groups criticizing Israeli crimes might be tax-subsidized, now a federal cabinet minister threatened to cut funding to such groups.
Speaking at a conference on the ‘new anti-Semitism” in London, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney singled out the Canadian Islamic Congress and the Canadian Arab Federation:
Our government takes a zero-tolerance approach to expressions of anti-Semitism in the public square. There are organizations in Canada that express hateful sentiments, but expect to be treated as respectable interlocutors in the public discourse. …These and other organizations are free within the confines of our law, and consistent with our traditions of freedom of expression, to speak their mind, but they should not expect to receive resources from the state, support from taxpayers or any other form of official respect from the government.
The prime minister’s office was “very supportive and proud” of the Kenney’s threat to cut funding to CAF’s program helping integrate new immigrants and has met a chorus of praise from the Canadian media and ‘pro’-Israel groups.
As all this makes perfectly clear, when it comes to freedom of speech, Canada remains at the level of 18th century England. As Sir William Blackstone (1723-80) explained, we should be free to speak out minds and free to suffer the consequences when we disturb the powerful:
Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this, is to deny [the freedom of the press]: but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.
According to Kenney’s spokesman, “Groups that promote hatred and anti-Semitism don’t deserve a single red cent of tax-payer support. End of story.”
Demonstrating the hypocritical nature of their attacks on groups criticizing Israel, B’nai Brith Canada and the federal government have no problem with tax-payer support for the Canadian branch of the Jewish National Fund, which has fraudulently raised millions of dollars to help cover up Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages in 1948 and 1967.
The birthplace of John the Baptist, Ein Kerem was a small village on the hills southwest of Jerusalem. During the 1948 war, there were severe food shortages and Jewish forces had captured the two dominating hilltops and shelled the Palestinian village, driving the remaining civilians from their homes. Four months later, 150 Jewish families were settled in the Palestinians’ place.
In 1956, when the Jewish National Fund decided to create a Canada Forest at Ein Kerem, Canadian Jewry responded enthusiastically. Initial plans for a quarter million trees were soon increased to half a million and, later, one million trees. The premiers of each of Canada’s provinces gave their official approval to place the coat of arms of the province on one of the columns at the entrance to the forest and Canada’s ambassador to Israel took part in the formal dedication.
In the course of the June 1967 war, Israel occupied the Latrun area, 15 kilometers west of Jerusalem. Despite the fact no fighting took place in the area, the Palestinian residents of Imwas and Yalu were forcibly expelled and every one of the villages’ 914 homes were destroyed by Israeli forces in an effort to prevent Palestinians from returning.
Over the ruins of these ethnically cleansed villages, the Jewish National Fund of Canada funded the creation of “Canada Park” in the early 1970s. Among the long list of prominent contributors who gave money to the project were the city of Ottawa, former prime minister Paul Martin, and former Ontario premier Bill Davis.
Ein Kerem, Imwas, and Yalu are but three of the 86 Palestinian villages buried beneath JNF parks, but JNF Canada continues to enjoy charitable tax status – effectively subsidizing the covering up of Israeli ethnic cleansing and the illegal annexation of occupied Palestinian land.
JNF Canada recently attracted the ire of Palestine activists when it sought to raise $7 million to spruce up Canada Park. Canadian officials dismissed complaints that such projects should not be subsidized, however, arguing there is no legislation baring charitable activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Whatever the merit of the accusations against groups criticizing Israel (and there is a good deal to be skeptical about), they do not approach the level of JNF Canada’s well-documented crimes.
Either the Canadian government, the National Post, the Globe and Mail, and B’nai Brith can call for JNF Canada to be stripped of its charitable status or their attacks on groups criticizing Israel are nothing more than a cynical ploy to silence their opponents.
Clearly, freedom of speech can be added to the list of a human rights worker, a vacationing family, and a UN observer that Canadian elites are willing to sacrifice to bolster their relationship with the US and its Israeli client.