Harper’s effort to criminalize legitimate Canadian criticism of Israel is diabolical

Harper’s effort to criminalize legitimate Canadian criticism of Israel is diabolical

by: Obert Madondo  | May 13, 2015

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper listens while Israeli PM Netanyahu speaks. (Photo: Stephen Harper/Flickr/cc)
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper listens while Israeli PM Netanyahu speaks. (Photo: Stephen Harper/Flickr/cc)

Canadians have a moral and democratic obligation to revolt against Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ongoing diabolical efforts to criminalize both legitimate criticism of Israel and support for Palestinians.

During his historic Knesset address in January, 2014, Harper told the Israelis that “through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.” According to Haaretz, Harper said anti-Zionism is “the new face of anti-Semitism”. He stated that “Canada won’t tolerate delegitimization of Israel.”

This year, the Conservatives’ effort to criminalize Canadian revulsion with Israel’s disagreeable actions and policies shifted into high gear.

Before stepping down early this year, former foreign affairs minister John Baird signed the so-called Canada-Israel “Memorandum of Understanding” with hard-line former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. The MOU identified the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement as “the new face of anti-Semitism.” Shortly after the MOU was signed, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney informed the UN General Assembly that the Conservatives would respond with “zero tolerance” to “all forms of discrimination including rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”

This week, the CBC News uncovered a few more details about Harper’s attack on Canadian dissent with this mind-boggling story:

The Harper government is signalling its intention to use hate crime laws against Canadian advocacy groups that encourage boycotts of Israel.

Such a move could target a range of civil society organizations, from the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Quakers to campus protest groups and labour unions.

If carried out, it would be a remarkably aggressive tactic, and another measure of the Conservative government’s lockstep support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu…

The government’s intention was made clear in a response to inquiries from CBC News about statements by federal ministers of a “zero tolerance” approach to groups participating in a loose coalition called Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS), which was begun in 2006 at the request of Palestinian non-governmental organizations.

Asked to explain what zero tolerance means, and what is being done to enforce it, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney replied, four days later, with a detailed list of Canada’s updated hate laws, noting that Canada has one of the most comprehensive sets of such laws “anywhere in the world.”

The Montreal-based Independent Jewish Voices – Canada clarified Harper’s attack on our freedoms in a recent strong statement signed by a coalition of over 81 rights organizations. The statement stated:

It is not yet clear how the Canadian government intends to implement a policy of “zero tolerance” to those who exercise their freedom of speech by advocating and participating in boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns to pressure Israel to respect the rights of Palestinians. What is clear, however, is that the Canadian government is determined to target people who expose and oppose Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians. Such efforts by the government can only put a chill on Canadian democracy and may lead to the criminalization of such dissent down the road.

In a nutshell, all legitimate boycotts or criticisms of Israel now qualify for anti-Semitic hate speech, “delegitimization of Israel,” “hate propaganda,” and “attempts to delegitimize Israel”.

What happened to Canada? Our country is ruled by an elected tyrant and political elite that’s been captured by a foreign country. The official opposition NDP and 3rd-placed Liberals are aligned with the Harper government on the issue of Israel.

But Harper’s effort to suppress anti-Israeli sentiment in Canada smacks of double standards. Reacting to the recent Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in France, the prime minister extolled the virtues of free speech. He characterized the attack as an assault on Canadian values.

“When a trio of hooded men struck at some of our most cherished democratic principles, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, they assaulted democracy everywhere,” said Harper, according to Macleans magazine. “They have declared war and are already executing it on a massive scale on a whole range of countries with which they are in contact, and they have declared war on any country, like ourselves, that values freedom, openness and tolerance.”

For Harper, celebrating cartoons mocking Islam is free speech, but exposing and sanctioning Israel’s rights abuses is a crime. Meanwhile, Canada is opening its doors to alleged Jewish terrorist groups. Earlier this year, I blogged about the Jewish Defence League’s plan to open offices in Montreal and other major Canadian cities.

In its 2000-01 report on terrorism, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) labelled the JDL a “violent extremist Jewish organization” and a “right-wing terrorist group.” The report linked the organization to a thwarted plot to blow up a California mosque. And, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, in the U.S., the JDL was once “a militant groups that promoted Jewish vigilantism and urged American Jews to arm themselves under the slogan ‘every Jew a .22.’”

The JDL has stated that the Montreal office will be dedicated to delivering the 2015 federal election to Harper. Meir Weinstein, the JDL’s national director in Canada, told The Canadian Press: “Israel and the Jewish community have no greater ally than Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada.”

As far as I know, the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement is a form of passive resistance. It’s nonviolent civil disobedience. Every Canadian critic of Israeli policies I know unequivocally condemns all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. So do I.

Either we succumb to fear, just as Harper expects us to, or we revolt and defend the freedoms guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Those freedoms include the freedom to criticize the policies and actions of foreign countries when they violate international law. We should be free to criticize the policies and actions of foreign countries favoured by our political elites without risking threats and punishment by our own government and its security apparatus.

Should we keep quiet when Israel expands illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories or engage in what Henry Siegman, the prominent American Jewish leader and former executive director of the American Jewish Congress, once called “a slaughter of innocents,” we would have participated in a gross violation of the very rights we enjoy here at home. Most importantly, it is not anti-Semitic to criticize Benjamin Netanyahu or the state of Israel.

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Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow me on Twitter: @Obiemad

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5 thoughts on “Harper’s effort to criminalize legitimate Canadian criticism of Israel is diabolical

  1. You have every right to criticise harper… WHAT YOU HAVE NO RIGHT to do is to encourage your stupid “boycott” Israel movement to encourage people to hate JEWS… which you are doing, and you KNOW you are doing that… Israel is the ONLY place in the middle east where you can openly be Gay, where there is WORK, where you get PENSIONS (OH REALLY, are you telling me that Saudi Arabia can’t afford to have a social netwiork… yeah, right! You say NOTHING about Syria murdering 500,000 of it’s own people in the last 4 years, NOTHING about Egypt killing and jailing Palestinians… but harping on Israel which has enemies of all 4 of it’s borders who VOW to destroy the state of israel… and Israel is supposed to sit there and let that happen…YOU are all racists and Jew haters… because you turn your backs on the atrocities of every other middle eastern country, but want Israel to sit there and let idiots like YOU destroy it… Do you know that this “boycott” movement has threatend Jewish kids on university campuses in Canada AND the US with bodily harm, do you know that your “boycott” movement has threatened the LIVES of performers who want to go to Israel to perform there… but many have resisted those threats… do you see crazed bands of lunatic jews running all over the planet murdering innocent citizens of other countries, like in France, the UK, Belgium, Greece… behind signs which say “kill the Jews… hate harper all you want you racist hypocrites, but boycott Israel at your peril, because you are boycotting yourself… the technology that allowed you to post this notice in the first place, was DEVELOPED IN ISRAEL!

    1. It isn’t hatred of Jews; it’s opposition to over-zealous fundamentalist Jews within a far-right conservative movement that’s overtaking Israel’s government. They’re Zionists wanting to get as many Jews inside Israel and as many non-Jews out; trying to fulfill prophecy so that their true messiah will come since Jesus Christ did not meet the requirements.
      They’re also being aided by American conservative/fundie Christians in the US government, who instead want to fulfill THEIR Biblical version of the Armageddon prophecies and use the Jews to bring about the return of Christ under the belief that only they, the true believers in Jesus, will be raptured into heaven while the rest of humanity faces a hellfire-and-brimstone apocalypse. Just like with radical Islam, this Zionist movement is extreme fundamental theology interfering in what should be a secular government.

  2. I am VERY worried about this development. As I know many others are around the country. And I’m just a private citizen who has warned his relatives for years about Harper, and the Israel thing. All you said about yourself is true of many others, like myself — and we can be peaceful and peaceful and peaceful. But when someone takes the **force** of the state and use it **against** innocents like us, we might be compelled to rethink our own reactions to the violence directed at us.

    If Harper is correct, and all his actions scream that he believes the majority of Canadians are too stupid or too preoccupied or too complacent or too negligent to concern themselves with a gross erosion of democracy here at home, then we that recognize and oppose in principle his authoritarian power grab, need **truly** to rethink how we respond. And as I said, I am VERY worried about what that means. For no other reason than that I’m not programmed to be on the receiving end of violence to my basic rights, from anyone.

    No doubt, our spy agency is forming up a list. Since the NDP and Liberals are on side for this, I think we are going to need a new national party. The Green Party has already been successfully slimed by the right wing media, over a long period of time. What think others ?

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