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.”
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.