We can now add going to the grocery store to the long list of seemingly mundane activities that rampant Zionist repression makes difficult for Palestinians.
Earlier this year, on 30 April, leftist Palestinian writer and activist Khaled Barakat walked into a local grocery store in Vancouver, Canada.
Whatever Barakat expected to find that evening did not include a prominent picture of his face on the front page of the conservative Canadian National Post. Yet there it was all the same: an article titled “The Curious Case of Khaled Barakat” written by Terry Glavin with a large photo of Barakat, sitting on the newspaper stand.
The National Post also published the article online under the altered title, “Is Khaled Barakat part of a terrorist group or a victim of Israeli intimidation?”
Barakat told The Electronic Intifada that upon seeing the article, he felt angry that such harassment was possible, and at the anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia that it reflected.
“I felt anger that they could do this with such impunity. If I had been a white person – or even a Jewish person, even with the same politics – they would definitely have thought twice. And they were also trying to portray this as breaking a huge story and using our faces in a way that creates fear in the community – especially when you see ‘Khaled Barakat’ in capital letters with the picture,” he said.
Barakat said the article, which described him as “a high-ranking member of a Palestinian terrorist organization,” was a clear attempt to “criminalize” his writing and activism, as well as broader support for Palestinian and Lebanese armed resistance to Israeli state violence.
Barakat also discussed the absurdity of the situation. The overall character of the article made it seem as though someone had paid money to take it out rather than an organic attempt at journalism.
And the article does seem to rely on sensationalism rather than substance. Glavin spends the entire piece stringing together tenuous claims about Barakat’s supposed connections to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and allegations targeting Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, an international organization that advocates for the liberation of imprisoned Palestinians.
He offers literally no proof of these assertions other than the Israeli war criminal Benny Gantz’s egregious designation of Samidoun as a terrorist organization and various unsubstantiated allegations offered by Israeli intelligence officials.
Other Canadian activist organizations such as Independent Jewish Voices were quick to point out the total lack of support for the claims.
As a sweeping decree, Gantz’s designation was by its very nature unsubstantiated, as are the quotes Glavin peppers throughout his recent piece. The quotes offer no evidence, no smoking gun, no direct corroboration of anything other than the fact that Canadian and Israeli intelligence and “Jewish advocacy” groups (really, Israeli nationalist organizations) like B’nai B’rith don’t like what Barakat has to say.
B’nai Brith previously issued a petition to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging him to deport Barakat, while The National Post ran another piece earlier this year quoting a senior Canadian legislator demanding an explanation for why the Trudeau government permitted Barakat to live in Canada despite alleged ties to the PFLP. Canada’s “terrorist” list and official anti-Palestinian bias are used to persecute Palestinians in the country.
(Davide Mastracci, an editor of the website Passage, argues that the bulk of Canadian media, following the country’s official government line, adopt a pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian stance. Critiques of Israel are downplayed or omitted entirely, while the erasure and dehumanization of Palestinians become commonplace.)
In effect, this translates to a repetitive, redundant and bullying chorus of harassment meant to target and silence an unabashed supporter of Palestinian liberation.
** “Security mystique”
This is also the broader pattern by which the so-called “anti-terrorism” protocol has resulted in the sole reliance on unsubstantiated, “intelligence insider” opinion to pad an unproven accusation of “connection” with a criminalized organization.
Shoddy journalistic practices are a cultural extension of the targeted, racialized harassment with little to no due process practiced by government agencies. This has already reflected in various US cases such as those of the LA Eight, the Holy Land Five, the deportation of resistance icon Rasmea Odeh, and so many more.
The flipside to all of this is a kind of “security mystique” produced by nationalist, conservative and even liberal writers that portrays intelligence agencies as cutting-edge, infallible specialists whose methods should be spared questioning but whose vaguest inclination of suspicion should be unthinkingly translated into rights-depriving policy and action.
This “security mystique” legitimizes rogue governmental harassment of individuals and organizations with anti-Zionist politics when there is little to no evidence whatsoever for these assertions, as was the case with the Holy Land Five.
It is crucial to understand the Glavin article as just the latest part of a wider censorship campaign directed at Barakat by Zionist organizations and publications and imperialist governments.
On 13 June, The Jerusalem Post published an article on Barakat’s position that Canada’s terrorism list should be abolished. The article, which also cites Glavin as a source, did not, however, explore Barakat’s argument, but merely cited individuals smearing Barakat for his political beliefs and made an unsubstantiated case for his affiliation with the PFLP.
The article uses the unsubstantiated opinions of pro-Israel “experts” – Glavin’s, those of the Israeli embassy and those of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs – who express outrage at how Barakat was able to speak at an International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS) event in Ottawa that took place on 5 June.
It is yet another call to enforce censorship based on political opinion via unsubstantiated claims of connection to Palestinian resistance organizations and political parties, often listed as “terrorist” by Canada, the United States or the European Union.
This speaks to the broader recyclability of such claims and efforts. As Palestinian activist and blogger Rima Najjar told The Electronic Intifada: “On first coming across [The Jerusalem Post] smear piece on Khaled Barakat, I was struck by how similar in tone, style and approach it is to Canary Mission’s hack-job on numerous activists.”
Najjar said both Canary Mission and The Jerusalem Post want “to pass themselves off as legitimate journalism ‘investigating hatred’ but they are essentially muckraking” and want to slander anyone they perceive to be “a threat to Israel’s legitimacy.”
Najjar elaborated further on how choice of words revealed its political bias, pointing to the title – which describes Barakat as a “PFLP-tied Canadian” and only in the body qualifying this with “alleged.”
“Barakat is ‘tied’ to the PFLP, an organization on the terror list of Canada; ergo Barakat himself is a terrorist and must not speak about struggles for liberation. The paper indicts Barakat for having the temerity to question the principle on which the Canadian terror list is drawn, which makes no sense in terms of safeguarding Canada and Canadians and is rather an expression of Canada’s alliance with Israel and other regimes of oppression.”
Barakat remains undeterred.
“They messed with the wrong person,” he told The Electronic Intifada.
He said he would not be intimidated as others have been.
“I’ve spent the last 20 years fighting the so-called terrorist list and the deportation of refugees and immigrants. So when you say ‘you’re a terrorist, we’re going to deport you,’ it doesn’t work with me.”
Omar Zahzah is the education and advocacy coordinator for Eyewitness Palestine, as well as a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement and the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.