Bill 62: Colonialism 101

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This article was originally published on November 10, 2017 on Huffington Post.

Quebec recently passed Bill 62, a discriminatory law that restricts individuals from covering their faces when receiving government services. While many Quebeckers and Canadians across the country have expressed outrage at the blatantly Islamophobic nature of this bill, this Islamophobia is inherently connected to a much larger, disturbing phenomenon – that of colonialism. 

Bill 62 does not exist in a vacuum. Yes, polarizing “Clash of Civilizations” theories and our “War on Terror” political climate have, in recent decades, seemingly sparked an increase in Islamophobia. However, Islamophobia, the racial and religious prejudice directed toward the Muslim “Other”, has deeper roots in colonial practices and discourses that have existed for centuries. 

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Canada Must Learn From Past Arms Sales Folly

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This article was originally published on November 14, 2017 on Rabble.ca and on November 17, 2017 on Huffington Post.

With each passing day, Canada’s sale to Saudi Arabia of $15 billion of light armoured vehicles looks more and more indefensible.  A damning Globe and Mail survey in September confirmed what the media and political opponents had been saying for years: 64 percent of Canadians “opposed” or “somewhat opposed” the sale of arms to a country notorious for its human rights abuses. 

Most Canadians know intuitively the deal was wrong despite government claims that Canada’s export controls are among the most stringent in the world.  Canadians opposed this deal despite being repeatedly reminded that thousands of well-paying jobs in London Ontario would be lost if Canada reneged.  While ex-Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion couldn’t make the connection between light armoured vehicles being used by the Saudis to violently suppress minority Shia protestors, Canadians being surveyed could. 

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Israel is Being Singled Out – For Favouritism

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This article was originally published on September 15, 2017 on Rabble.ca and on September 18, 2017 on The Huffington Post.

This past June, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley slammed the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for “singling out Israel” for criticism.  This is not a new line: the “singling out Israel” accusation is a decades-old tactic that Israel’s proponents use almost any time that Israel is challenged on its human rights record. The rise of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement calling for economic pressure on Israel for its human rights violations has only amplified the use of this evasive tactic.

At best, critics of Israeli government policies can expect to be accused of imposing an unfair standard on Israel; at worst they can face allegations of anti-Semitism for supposedly singling out the country for criticism. For example, during Parliament’s 2016 debate over a motion to condemn BDS, about a dozen Liberal and Conservative MPs toed this fictitious line when they declared, “Israel is singled out from the rest of the world.” In addition, a few MPs actually suggested that BDS supporters are the new face of anti-Semitism because they “selectively condemn Israel.”

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Roger Waters' support For BDS strengthens his anti-war credibility

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This article was originally published on September 11, 2017 on Rabble.ca and on September 12, 2017 on Huffington Post.

Most old popstars end their careers playing arenas in front of aging fans, milking old hits for every cent they're worth.  Long past are the days when their politics were meaningful or relevant.  But Roger Waters, the former front-man for Pink Floyd, is no ordinary musician.  Waters' politics, in fact, still strike fear among some of the strongest political organizations in the world.  All because Waters supports the international boycott of Israel. 

Waters is due to give a series of concerts in Canada next month, and right on cue, Canada's pro-Israel lobby groups have mobilized aggressively to badmouth him.  The hyperbole in these campaigns is astounding.  According to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), for example, Waters "promotes vile discrimination" in a "bigoted campaign" targeting Israel.  It sounds really nasty, until you look at what Waters is actually saying.

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Israel's War Of Textbooks Comes to Canada

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This article was originally published on September 4, 2017 on Rabble.ca.

For years, Israel's apologists have made headlines accusing the Palestinians of using anti-Semitic textbooks.  Recently, the battle came to Canada when B'nai Brith attacked the government's decision to fund the UN aid organization for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), suggesting UNRWA school textbooks demonized Israel.  It is a cynical strategy which grabs headlines when announced, but fails to make the news when such allegations are debunked

When exploring the most recent incarnation of these accusations, it's important to mention a few realities conveniently omitted by Israel's champions.  First, UNRWA has never been in the business of producing textbooks.  Instead, UNRWA schools use the textbooks and curricula of the countries which host the refugees, i.e. the textbooks of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Gaza; and the textbooks of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon in those countries.  This is because students who advance in their studies must inevitably sit for local exams.

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Give The Anti-Palestinian Rhetoric A Rest

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This article was originally published on August 31, 2017 on Rabble.ca.

Whatever its other failings, the Liberal government should be praised for its recent decision to contribute $25 million to help millions of Palestinian refugees scattered throughout the Middle East.  The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees is the recipient of the government's magnanimous gift.  Canada's contribution will make up about 1.5 percent of UNRWA's overall budget: of which 54 percent is spent on education, 17 percent on health care, and 9 percent on relief and social services.

A no brainer you might think: no one could possibly oppose such a humanitarian gesture.  Wrong!  

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Canada Must Do More Than Just Throw Money At Palestinian Refugees

This article was originally published on August 28, 2017 on Huffington Post Canada.

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Last Thursday, the Trudeau government announced another $25 million in aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees. Within hours, Canadian pro-Israel lobby groups had criticized the decision, dredging up spurious arguments to subvert any potential public sympathy for Palestinians, refugees or otherwise. But average Canadians can reasonably be excused for asking, "Why should Canada support Palestinian refugees?"

Believe it or not, Canada is partly to blame for the fact that there are over five millionPalestinian refugees today. The refugees today are the descendants of Palestinians who became refugees over several months between 1947 and 1948. Canada was one of the countries at the UN which voted in 1947 to partition historic Palestine, which ultimately resulted in 700,000 Palestinians losing their homes in the territory of what became the state of Israel.
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UWO Rejects Pressure From Israeli Lobby Group Over UN Special Rapporteur

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This article was originally published on August 8, 2017 on Canada Talks Israel Palestine.

On July 20 an Israel lobby organization named UN Watch wrote to Amit Chakma, President of the University of Western Ontario saying it was “shocked” to discover that Western has been providing Professor Michael Lynk with support for his “prejudicial mandate.” (According to the UN that mandate is “to assess the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (and) report publicly about it”.)

UN Watch is a Geneva based organization which describes itself as “concerned with the just application of UN Charter principles”. It is specially focussed on Israel and what it calls “the disproportionate attention and unfair treatment applied by the UN toward Israel.” Former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler, a strong advocate of Israel, is on the UN Watch board of directors.

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Whats Up With Treyf a Debatably Jewish Podcast

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This article was originally published on August 1, 2017 on Canada Talks Israel Palestine.

A couple of years ago, two young Canadian Jews had a provocative idea: a series of critical podcasts about Jewish media and politics in Canada.  They called it  Treyf Podcast. (Apparently ‘ Treyf’ is a Yiddish word for non-kosher food, or for not kosher in the more metaphorical sense, as in not legitimate.”)

Since then, Sam Bick and David Zinman have produced dozens of podcasts ranging from 20 to 40 minutes covering projects and perspectives otherwise sidelined by Jewish media.

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Canada's Flip-flop On West Bank Wines Betrays Canadian Consumers' Interests

This article was originally published on July 14, 2017 on Huffington Post Canada.

This article was also published on July 14, 2017 on Rabble.ca.

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With the recent flip-flop of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on the labelling and sale of West Bank wines in Canada, it's easy to wonder whose interest the agency serves.  On July 6, CFIA issued a directive to all Canadian liquor boards which some interpreted as necessitating a ban on the sale of two wines that CFIA considered falsely labelled as "Made in Israel."  CFIA made a compelling argument, citing Canada's Food and Drugs Act, and the Government of Canada's official policy on the status of the West Bank.

This decision was triggered by a formal complaint launched by Dr. David Kattenburg of Winnipeg, and affected wines from Psȃgot Winery Ltd. and Shiloh Winery Ltd.  In his complaint, Kattenburg demonstrated that both wineries are operating in the West Bank, and not in Israel proper, and neither winery uses grapes harvested in Israel, in violation of CFIA labelling regulations.    

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