Reality check: Economic pressure on Israel
This article was originally published on June 8, 2016 in the Hill Times.
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.Read more
Canada’s Syrian refugee debacle highlights broader anti-refugee policies
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]Read more
Let’s talk rationally about human rights in Israel-Palestine
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.Read more
Gideon Levy: When a Leader’s Persona and Person Align
With any well-known personality, I suppose it would be easy to confuse the celebrated public persona with the actual person. But having recently wrapped up a 10-day cross-Canada trip with Gideon Levy, it is heartening to see that the impressive persona and the real person actually align.
Over the past six years, CJPME has hosted quite a number of respected thinkers with important things to say about justice in the Middle East: Robert Fisk, John Mearsheimer, Tarek Ramadan, Amira Hass, Mustapha Barghouti, and others. At a personal level, the relationship we develop with each is unique. Various words come to mind when thinking over our various experiences. “Professional” describes our relationship with some; “warm and friendly” describes our relationship with others. “Passionate” describes our impression of quite a number; while “aloof” captures our impression of a few others.Read more
Saudi Arabia, the Swedish example, and what Canada could learn
Earlier this month, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström had planned to deliver a speech on democracy and women’s rights at an Arab League conference in Cairo. Though it appears that her remarks were intended to be quite general in nature, she had planned to condemn the public flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, which has made headlines in recent months. However, Wallström’s speech was quickly and effectively blocked by the delegation from Saudi Arabia who felt that the speech was “incompatible with the fact that the constitution of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on Sharia [law].”
What followed was a series of political and diplomatic retaliations by both governments, which included the dissolution of a trade agreement between Sweden in Saudi Arabia. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two countries has existed since 2005 and secures cooperation in issues of intelligence, security, and the trade of Swedish-manufactured weapons.[i] The agreement was up for renewal this May, but has since been abandoned by the Swedish government.Read more
Jon Stewart, Netanyahu, and a Nuclear Free Middle East
If you haven’t seen Jon Stewart’s spoof on Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress this past week, it’s well worth the viewing. Among many other things, Stewart contrasts several different video clips of Netanyahu across the years, and demonstrates how self-contradictory, and flat-out wrong Netanyahu has been concerning Iran, Iraq, and other regional developments.
Indeed, Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress was an exercise in hubris. As Stewart jokes, with Israeli elections less than two weeks away, Netanyahu used the US Congress as “the most elaborate campaign commercial backdrop ever.”
Seven key insights to the Israeli elections
There was no shortage of surprises and last minute twists with the recent Israeli elections. Many on the left were disappointed to see Netanyahu’s Likud party come out on top again, with the likely result that Netanyahu will form the governing coalition. Despite the overall bleak outlook for Palestinian human rights under Netanyahu, there are some otherwise important observations to be made.
1) Netanyahu won, in part, because he formally ditched the two-state solution:
The day before Israelis went to the polls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in an interview that there would be no Palestinian state while he was in office. His statement is in stark contradiction to his supposed support of the two-state solution, which he advocated for very publicly in a 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University. [i]Read more
Bill C-51, and why Canadians should care about privacy
Ever since Edward Snowdon leaked classified National Security Agency (NSA) information in the summer of 2013, the issue of privacy has become an increasingly mainstream one. More specifically, people all over the world have begun to heavily question the relationship between their governments, their rights, and their information.
In recent months, this critical debate has found its way into Canada as the Harper government officially proposed Bill C-51,[i] otherwise known as the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015. The bill has been highly controversial,[ii] with many legal experts expressing concern over the relatively unregulated exchange of information proposed in the bill.Read more