When Government Concern Becomes Paranoia

This article was originally published on Oct. 12, 2016 on the Huffington Post.

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Over thirteen years ago, the excitement was palpable.  In early June, 2003, Air Canada was about to launch its inaugural non-stop flight from Montreal to Beirut.  Thousands of Lebanese-Canadians had bought their tickets for the summer, delighted to avoid tiresome layovers in Europe on the way to visit friends and family.

But then, inexplicably, the Canadian government pulled the rug out from under Air Canada.  Citing “national security” issues, the government rescinded the airline’s license to fly non-stop to Beirut – a license that it had granted only months before.  In addition to the disappointment and frustration of airline executives, Lebanese-Canadian ticketholders were enraged. 

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World Vision and Israel: Everything You Need to Know About the Occupation

This article was originally published on Sep. 28, 2016 on the Huffington Post.

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The media rollout on August 4th was flawless, and the news story was indeed sensational.  Israel claimed that millions of dollars of World Vision aid money in Gaza had been diverted to Hamas.  The supposed culprit was Mohammad El Halabi, Manager of World Vision’s Gaza operations.  All the major newswires carried the story, and Canadian media – including the National Post, Global News, and CTV News – joined the media wolf pack. 

As Israel’s Ynet News reported the next day, the Israeli Foreign Ministry had left nothing to chance.  Israeli embassies around the world were told to push the story hard to international media, opinion makers and senior officials.  “Religious groups” which were likely to support World Vision were to be specifically targeted in this campaign.  To facilitate the task, government ministries had prepared slick infographics, and a video about the story with ominous music. 

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Lascaris: Green Party’s BDS resolution is common sense

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This article was originally published September 16, 2016 on Ricochet Media.

The resolution passed by the Green Party refers to the tactic of boycott, divestment and sanctions but makes no reference at all to the BDS movement, whose goals and tactics are far broader than those which the Green Party of Canada has now embraced. As stated on the website of the BDS movement, the movement has three goals for Israel:

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Will Elizabeth May Tear Apart the Federal Greens?

This article was originally published on Sep. 16, 2016 on the Huffington Post.

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Normally, political party conventions end with leaders trumpeting their satisfaction with their party’s progress and accomplishments. Not so last month with Canada’s federal Greens.

Barely able to wait for the doors to close on August’s 3-day convention, Green leader Elizabeth May publicly and harshly criticized a key outcome of the convention.  At issue was the passage of a resolution calling for the party to adopt the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  BDS is a tactic to pressure Israel to respect the human rights of Palestinians.

 “As leader, I am disappointed that the membership has adopted a policy in favour of a movement that I believe to be polarizing, ineffective and unhelpful,” May announced on the evening the convention closed. 

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Illegal Israeli “Settlements”: Silence is acquiescence

This article was originally published on Sep. 6, 2016 on the Huffington Post.

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Last week, the world was informed of yet another expansion of Israeli “settlements” by the Netanyahu government.  Israel announced plans for 285 new units in the West Bank, and the retroactive approval of 178 units that were built in the 1980s.  Part of an ongoing series of announcements, Israel has now advanced plans for 1700 new units since July 1.

The UN Mideast Envoy, Nicolay Mladenov, was incensed.  “Israeli settlements in occupied territory have no legal validity and are an obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

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May’s Behaviour unbecoming for a Federal Leader

This article was originally published on Aug. 31, 2016 on Rabble.

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Elizabeth May should apologize to Green Party members.  May’s behaviour since the Green Party convention a few weeks ago has not only left the public deeply confused, but also humiliated party members.

No matter how you turn it, at issue is the passage of a Green resolution supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  At its core, this movement seeks to pressure Israel to respect the human rights of the Palestinians.  The three demands BDS are 100% aligned with international law and with existing Canadian foreign policy.  Despite its non-violent and democratic approach for a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, some like May will have none of it.

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Awaiting the Trudeau Government's Condemnation

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Dear Mr. Trudeau

Given that the House of Commons yesterday passed a motion calling the government “to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad,” I anxiously await your condemnation. 

Although I regret that I have not had the opportunity to promote the BDS movement abroad, I have done my utmost to promote it in Canada.  I note that you are required to condemn “any and all” attempts to promote BDS, so I will list as many of my attempts as I can think of below.


Before I jump into my list of transgressions, however, I thought you might want to know a bit about the BDS movement.  Surprisingly, I don’t believe its official, stated objectives were ever actually mentioned during the parliamentary debate on the motion.  I simple oversight, I suspect.

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Reality check: Economic pressure on Israel

This article was originally published on June 8, 2016 in the Hill Times.

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It’s time to take a reality check on the competing claims about the “boycott Israel” (BDS) movement in Canada.  For starters, let’s be clear on two things.  First, the Harper government doesn’t seem bent on jailing Canadian BDS activists anytime soon, and second, the BDS movement will never bring about the “destruction” of Israel.

The assorted arguments in op-eds by Murray Dobbin for BDS, and by Mike Fegelman against BDS in The Hill Times in recent weeks contain a virtual laundry list of extreme debate devices. Between the two pieces, it’s easy to feel like there’s no middle ground for reasonable-minded Canadians.  But there is.

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Canada’s Syrian refugee debacle highlights broader anti-refugee policies

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For decades, Canada’s will to assist refugees and offer safe haven to people in need of refugee protection from all over the world enhanced the country’s image as a humanitarian leader. In 1986, the UN Nansen Refugee Award went to the people of Canada,[i] the only country to have received the award as a nation. Thirty years later, Canada can only dream of such an honour once again. Long gone are the days when “Canada” went hand in hand with “humanitarian,” “diplomatic,” “non-interventionist” and “environmentalist.” Canadians need a reality check.

According to Geraldine Sadoway and Andrew Brouwer, two refugee lawyers in Toronto, “Canada has been closing every possible avenue of access for refugees,”[ii] often in concert with other wealthy OECD countries. Canada’s actions have been both quiet and systematic, they explain, driving asylum seekers “into the hands of smugglers who are reaping profits at the expense of the lives of desperate people.”[iii]

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Let’s talk rationally about human rights in Israel-Palestine

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On Sunday May 2, a giant billboard calling to “End [the] Israeli Apartheid and Occupation of Palestine” welcomed commuters on Pat Bay highway traveling between Victoria and Sydney, BC. The billboard was erected on reserve land, home to the Tsawout First Nation. By Monday morning, the billboard contracting company began to receive calls, e-mails and even a letter from a BC MLA to take down the sign. The spokesman for the billboard contracting company announced to sponsoring groups that the Tsawout First Nation, after facing similar pressure, ordered the sign be taken down.

When the sponsoring groups decided to contact the Tsawout First Nation office directly and confirm if they had indeed given such order, they found out that the Tsawout office had never issued such a request. Certainly, there must have been a “miscommunication” of some kind, or perhaps, that is what some would like us to believe. Be that as it may, there is much to celebrate. The Tsawout office has confirmed it would honour the two-month contract and keep the billboard up, regardless of mounting pressure.

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