This article was originally published on May 28, 2017 on Canada Talks Israel-Palestine.
According to the Canadian Parliament’s recently released disclosure of members’ sponsored travel, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) paid for the New Democratic Party’s foreign affairs spokesperson Hélène Laverdière to speak on a panel at its conference last year.
In a searing article in the digital publication Electronic Intifada, Canadian researcher/author Yves Engler asks “Why is NDP foreign affairs spokesperson Hélène Laverdière legitimizing anti-Palestinian organizations?”
Montreal based researcher/author Yves Engler asks some pointed questions of NDP leadership about its apparent support for Zionism
In the article, Engler argues that the AIPAC appearance does not seem to be a simple oversight on her part. According to the researcher, Laverdière has also shown a sympathy for other Zionist institutions, including the Jewish National Fund (JNF).
The JNF controls 13 percent of Israel’s land, some of which was purchased while the British were in control, and the rest seized from Palestinians who were forced from their homes by Zionist militias during the 1947-1948 ethnic cleansing known to Palestinians as the Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe.
As evidence, Engler points to the fact that “during a recent visit to Israel with Canada’s governor general, Laverdière attended a tree planting ceremony with the (JNF’s) world chairman Danny Atar and a number of other top officials.” Of course, Laverdière participated in the ceremony as part of the Canadian delegation, but had she wanted to skip the event, it would probably not have been difficult for her to find another meeting to attend on that day.
Laverdière’s apparent support for Zionist organizations like AIPAC and the JNF could seem surprising. In the past, she has made many pro-Palestinian statements, including showing strong support for Palestinians suffering under Israel’s murderous attack on Gaza in 2014, and calling for renewed Canadian contribution to the Palestinian refugee relief organization UNRWA.
It is possible that she, and the NDP, are cynically playing both sides of the issue, in an effort to gain votes from Jewish (and pro Israel) voters on the one hand, and voters who are more concerned about human rights for Palestinians on the other.
However, another possibility is that Laverdière, like many other Canadians, basically agrees with Liberal Zionism. Liberal Zionism combines opposition to some of Israel’s most violent and unfair actions toward the Palestinians (settlements, the wall, the war on Gaza, etc.), while at the same time supporting Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, in which Jews have a permanent majority.
One way to test this would be to ask Laverdière whether she supports equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the right of Palestinian refugees expelled from Israel in 1947/48, to return to their lands. Liberal Zionists prefer to avoid these issues, because they challenge the very foundations of a state based on racial/ethnic privilege. These would also be a good questions to ask other NDP leadership hopefuls.