The Israel lobby has been very active in this election, attacking candidates who are critical of Israel by claiming they are “anti-Semitic” and demanding that parties drop them. In some cases, it worked and parties flinched. But not always. Its campaign against NDP candidate Miranda Gallo (above) failed. Has the Israel lobby gone to the well too many times? Read more.
Anti-Semitism is a real phenomenon in Canada. It is a fear of, or a dislike of, Jews. It is a form of racism, and like other racisms, it deserves to be actively opposed.
All political parties are fearful of appearing racist (witness Trudeau’s recent embarrassing blackface scandal), and during election time they are especially fearful of being labelled as anti-Semitic. They know that most Canadians rightly oppose anti-Semitism.
This sensitivity has been successfully exploited by the Israel lobby, including Bnai Brith Canada, CIJA and other organizations, to scare political parties away from nominating candidates who actively support Palestinian rights, and are therefore critical of Israel. During this election campaign, the “anti-Semite” accusation has already been successfully used on at least FOUR occasions to try to intimidate the NDP, the Liberals and the Green Party of Canada, attempting to get them to dump candidates or force them to recant. The results have been mixed.
Rana Zaman – NDP candidate – Halifax Nova Scotia
In June, Bnai Brith attacked Rana Zaman, a candidate in Nova Scotia, after a number of tweets emerged in which the social activist accused Israel of committing genocide, acting like Nazis and using money to influence Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Despite her protestations, and those of her supporters, that she was not in any way anti-Semitic, the NDP hurriedly dumped her for her “unacceptable” tweets. She later wrote an apology to the media for her choice of words while denying that she had any anti-Semitic intent. ““I now appreciate that my tweets comparing Israeli actions to those of Nazi Germany were inappropriate, hurtful and sadly may be viewed as anti-Semitic,” she tweeted.
Imam Hassan Guillet – Liberal candidate – Montreal
In August, Bnai Brith went after Liberal candidate Hassan Guillet. Mr Guillet was a very well known moderate Muslim cleric and had been considered a “catch” for the Liberals. Nonetheless, after Bnai Brith scoured his old Facebook posts, they found comments by him criticizing Israel and Zionism.
“The antisemitic tropes of ‘Zionists controlling governments’ and of ‘dual loyalty’ are two of the more abhorrent expressions of paranoid anti-Jewish conspiracy theories,” claimed Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada.
A panicky Liberal party, confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, quickly withdrew his candidacy, even though his nomination had already been officialised.
Dale Dewar – Green Party candidate – Regina
On September 12th, the lobby struck again. The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC) called on the Green party to dismiss Dale Dewar, a physician running in Regina as a candidate. FSWC cited a series of tweets which had been highly critical of Israel, including supporting BDS, the movement to boycott Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.
Dewar defended herself, saying that because of her dedication to human rights and progressive values, “I have been critical of the State of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinian people.” While sticking to her basic position, however, Dewar did apologize for the language she had used. “I am deeply sorry for the use of inflammatory language when describing the Middle East situation; it was unacceptable and I regret doing so, she said in a tweet.
“I utterly and completely condemn anti-Semitism.” she added. “I support a two-state solution and condemn violent behaviour on both sides. I support the right of the State of Israel to exist.”
Ignoring the demands from the lobby for her dismissal, The Green Party accepted her apology and she remains a candidate.
Miranda Gallo – NDP -Montreal
Only a few weeks later, the lobby launched another strong attack this time against Miranda Gallo, an NDP Candidate in Montreal. Gallo is well known as an activist for Palestinian human rights, and a voluble supporter of the movement to boycott Israel called BDS.
Bnai Brith thought they had caught Gallo “red handed” as an old Facebook post showed Gallo putting “Boycott Israel” stickers on goods in a grocery store and on Tuesday, Sept. 17, B’nai Brith demanded that the NDP drop Gallo as its candidate.
“Not only do Ms. Gallo’s actions demonstrate her anti-Israel bigotry, but they also reveal a profound disrespect for the rule of law,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada.
But Mostyn and Bnai Brith miscalculated. An active push back campaign both inside and outside the NDP, orchestrated in part by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) (where Gallo is listed as an employee) and Independent Jewish Voices Canada gathered many signatures challenging the Bnai Brith accusation of anti-Semitism and calling the organization out for trying to use the anti-Semitism label to sideline a candidate critical of Israeli actions.
This time, the NDP stood its ground. Two days later, the NDP responded to B’nai Brith, declining to drop Gallo as a candidate, adding that the NDP’s policy is “to work towards a just and lasting two-state solution between Israel and Palestine that respects human rights and international law.” The Party also said that Gallo was made aware of this policy and has agreed to support it.
There may well have been other cases which have not been so high profile where various elements of the Israel lobby have tried desperately to keep candidates critical of Israel sidelined. But it seems that there are at least 4 lessons that can be drawn from these four examples.
- The Canadian public is rightfully concerned about racism, including anti-Semitism. Political parties are concerned about being tarred with this label.
- The lobby is not “all powerful”. If used recklessly or excessively, the Israel lobby may find the using “anti-Semitism” card to scare the leaders of political parties is diminishing in effectiveness. In fact, it could backfire when used to besmirch the personal reputations of people already well known in the community – such as the Montreal Imam, or the Regina doctor.
- Language is important. Several of the candidates agreed that it was their use of strong language (“inflammatory”, two said), that had given the lobby a stick to beat them with. This suggests that candidates who have a principled critique of Israel, but who use measured language in expressing their opinions, will be more difficult to attack in the future.
- Public confusion over “anti-Zionism” and “anti-Semitism” remains significant. All political parties know that Canadians are not very clear on the difference between “anti-Zionism” and “anti-Semitism”. (Of course the Lobby actively equates the two, and this confusion has even been promoted by Prime Minister Trudeau himself.) In the face of this, and given the justifiable concern Canadians have over anti-Semitism itself, candidates are probably on safer ground emphasizing their support for equality and human rights for all, instead of directly attacking the discriminatory nature of Zionism.
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