Palestinians condemn Canada’s repression of boycott movement, free speech

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, 19 January.

Canada Department of Foreign Affairs

The largest Palestinian civil society coalition has condemned Canada’s escalating “disinformation campaign and repressive measures against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.”

“Rather than seeking to hold Israel to account for its war crimes during the recent military assault on Gaza and its intensified colonization of the occupied West Bank,” the Canadian government “is further deepening its collaboration with Israel’s occupation and launching a shameful, propagandistic attack on free speech in the process,” Rafeef Ziadah, a member of the Boycott National Commitee (BNC) secretariat, said in statement.

The BNC, the steering group for the international BDS campaign, cited a recent speech by Canadian public safety minister Steven Blaney vowing that Canada would continue to combat “anti-Semitism including attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

The government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper also recently signed a series of cooperation agreements with Israel.

In one, Canada and Israel vow to “work together to oppose efforts to single out or isolate Israel by developing a coordinated public diplomacy initiative to oppose boycotts of Israel, to oppose those who call into question the Jewish state’s right to exist and to work to counter the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

“The Canadian government’s continued unconditional support for Israel’s colonial policies and its smear campaign against BDS highlight the deeply ideological and reactionary character of this government,” the BNC’s Ziadah continued.

“Canada is sending Israel the message that it can act with total impunity in violating human rights and international law.”

Infringing free speech

Ziadah also pointed out that Canada, “while claiming to defend free speech,” has been “among the most repressive in the west; it has gone farther than most in suppressing free speech and infringing the rights of its own civil society, including trade unions, community and faith groups, to participate in human rights campaigning, as in boycotts against Israel’s injustices.”

She noted that as “a matter of principle, the BDS movement has consistently and categorically opposed all forms of racism, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia.”

French leaders too have recently threatened harsher repression of Palestine solidarity activism under the guise of combating anti-Semitism.

Retaliation against MIFTAH

On Wednesday, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), accused Canada of “indulging in political blackmail at the expense of our civil society institutions.”

According to a PLO statement, Ashrawi’s remarks were issued in response to a Canadian government “decision to terminate a contribution agreement it had between MIFTAH and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs.”

MIFTAH is a nongovernmental organization chaired by Ashrawi that runs projects related to “reform,” women and youth. According to its 2013 financial statement, much of MIFTAH’s funding comes from the governments of Norway, US, UK and other European foundations.

“The project was terminated shortly following Dr. Ashrawi’s response to Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird’s insistence that the Palestinians are making a ‘huge mistake’” by going to the International Criminal Court, the statement says.

Ashrawi had said “the huge mistake is allowing Israel to persist in its violations and war crimes … Israel is enabled by apologists like John Baird to persist with the support of self-appointed advocates who become complicit in these war crimes.”

According to the PLO statement, the Representative Office of Canada in Israeli-occupied Ramallah “had requested that Dr. Ashrawi accompany the Canadian Representative on a visit to the project, and later, she was asked to write a letter expressing gratitude for this specific Canadian project.”

She apparently refused on the grounds that as “head of the Board of Directors, Dr. Ashrawi has no executive authority nor has she ever issued such statements or carried out such visits in relation to MIFTAH’s projects.”

The breakdown in Canada’s relations even with Ashrawi, a figure close to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas, is one measure of how extreme Canada’s anti-Palestinian policies have become.

Tags

Comments

picture

Harper is a George Bush wannabe. He's a Christian zionist and repressive in many ways not compatible with democracy. I have no idea why Canadians elected such a disreputable warmonger but he will not be satisfied until he puts Canada's military in a big war in the Middle East.

picture

Canada's track record on indigenous people has never really been that good. In fact it has been quite horrible. Doubt that? Just ask anyone of the First Nations.

Harper and Baird are just more out in the open about their racist and supremacist views.

picture

One cannot help but wonder whose lead the Canadian Government is following
in its endorsement of Israeli oppression? Was it pressure from the US, an ally
of Israel to the south of Canada? Was it influencial Zionists within Canada?
Was it Israel itself and its agents (such as AIPAC in the US)? What financial
relationships are in back of this?

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

picture

I have to disagree that all Canadians agree with Harper's right wing zionism. I am an American but I understand the Canadian political system to some extent. The conservative Tory government of Harper is able to get elected because the liberal parties, consisting of the Liberals and the NDP (New Democratic Party) split the vote, allowing the minority conservative Tories to win elections. Most Canadians do not agree with Harper's zionism and do not wish to engage in Middle East wars.

picture

I have to disagree that all Canadians support Harper's Christian Zionism. His right-wing Evangelical Christianity is foreign to most Canadians, and the idea of our foreign policy being determined by its End-Of-The-World doctrines would be as bizarre to most Canadians as ISIS's Caliphate and its Apocalyptic theology. Although the Conservative Party of Canada government has a majority of seats in Parliament right now, they did get convicted by Elections Canada for fraud, and turnout was the lowest for any federal election so far. Only about 40% of eligible citizens of voting age cast ballots, so by no means can one say a majority of Canadians support him, even without the fraud.

picture

The problem in Canada is that the Liberal Party and the NDP split the vote of the majority of sensible, decent Canadians which allows the nutters in the Harper conservative party to win elections. I agree with you that most Canadians are offended by the Harper hard line. I am an American but I find most Canadian to be decent and accepting of multiculturalism.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.