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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Canada Now a Hawk On Nuclear Arms

This article was originally published on July 13, 2017 on Huffington Post Canada.

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

 

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It’s official. Canada is now a hawk when it comes to the proliferation of nuclear arms.  If any additional confirmation were needed, it was Canada’s absence at last week’s UN vote to ban nuclear weapons.  But for those who have been following this file, this is only the latest of Canada’s hawkish gestures.

Canada’s failure to step up for last week’s nuclear weapons ban was criticized from many corners.  “It’s shocking that Canada is not going to participate,” asserted former Canadian ambassador for disarmament, Douglas Roche back in March.  Paul Meyer, another former Canadian ambassador for disarmament described Canada’s absence as “pathetic.”  Project Ploughshares’ executive director Cesar Jaramillo considered it a hypocritical contradiction of the Trudeau government’s stated commitment to multilateralism.  

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Trudeau Government Blocks Direct Flights to Beirut

This article was originally published on July 11, 2017 on Huffington Post Canada.

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For years, Lebanese Canadians flying to Beirut have had to endure exhausting layovers in Europe.  But recent hopes that the Trudeau government would approve direct flights to Beirut were dashed with a tweet from an Air Canada executive early Monday.  Duncan Bureau, VP Global Sales for Air Canada tweeted that the government had rejected their application, commenting, “Huge disappointment for us and [the] Lebanese community here.” 

Bureau’s comments were echoed by the Lebanese community on social media.  Comments to a post about the refusal on Facebook were both sceptical and critical.  One individual wrote, “Trudeau will not be re elected in the next election. […] Pathetic decision Justin.”  On Twitter another wrote, “Shame on @JustinTrudeau & @liberal_party for discriminating against the Lebanese-Canadian community.” 

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Niki Ashton represents new breed of Canadian leader

This article was originally published on May 26, 2017 in the Toronto Sun.

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Earlier this week, the Toronto Sun published an op-ed entitled, “NDP MP Niki Ashton has made her priorities clear.”  While I disagree with virtually everything the op-ed sought to assert, I do agree with the title, as indeed, it is clear that the rights of the oppressed are the priority in Ms. Ashton’s distinguished political career. 

Since she won her seat in Parliament in 2008, Ms. Ashton has been a champion for a broad variety of social issues.  She has spoken out repeatedly for the rights of women, and how women suffer wage discrimination and other systemic obstacles in Canada.  She has also long been a proponent of LGBTQ rights, supporting same-sex marriage and other social rights for such groups since the beginning of her political career.  

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Abuse of Prisoners Is Intolerable, Whether in Palestine or Northern Ireland

This article was originally published on May 23, 2017 in the Huffington Post.

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In my final year of high school in the spring of 1981, headlines in North America chronicled the long decline of Irish Republican hunger striker, Bobby Sands.  It was my first introduction to “The Troubles” of Northern Ireland, but I came through that period with a better understanding of the two sides of that conflict.

While many Canadians might not realize it, there is a hunger strike going on today that is just as significant as that of Bobby Sands and the other Irish Republicans in 1981.  Led by Marwan Barghouti, hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails are five weeks into a hunger strike.  Yet because North American media are ignoring the strike, Canadians are hardly wiser to the plight of the Palestinian prisoners.  Unfortunately, any time Israel is involved, it is nearly impossible to get North Americans to address the realities of the situation.  

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Canadian Politicians Can’t Cherry Pick Malala Yousafzai’s Message

This article was originally published on April 18, 2017 on Ricochet.

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Canadians should be proud to have hosted Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai last week.  She is an inspiration not only for what she has accomplished in her brief 19 years on earth, but for the causes she represents and defends: foremost the right for all girls around the world to have access to education.  Her wisdom, humility and poise before Canada’s Parliament should be an inspiration to all: men and women, young and old alike.

But hosting someone such as Yousafzai is about more than just photo ops, and “feel good” press statements.  It should be cause for reflection on our own action – or inaction – on the issues she raises.  And for all practical purposes, Canada’s political leaders are worlds apart from Yousafzai.

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