Since 2008, Thomas Woodley has been president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), a Canadian non-profit whose mission is to empower Canadians of all backgrounds to promote justice, development and peace in the Middle East. Tom holds an MPA from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, as well as a BSEE and MSEE from Carnegie-Mellon University and Stevens Institute of Technology respectively. Tom has worked both in the public sector - in a Federal budgeting capacity – as well as in the non-profit sector. Tom has been involved for years with different international NGO’s in Africa and the Middle East.
See Thomas Woodley's articles below:
This article was originally published on March 7, 2019 on Rabble Canada.
The Trudeau government’s emphasis on a feminist foreign policy was first articulatedin a speech by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland in June 2016. A year later, the Trudeau government announced its Feminist International Assistance Policy, intended to allocate 15% of Canada’s $2.6 billion development assistance to support gender equality, women and girls by 2022.
As International Women’s Day 2019 rolls around, pundits continue to debate the effectiveness of Trudeau’s vision for international development, whether it has sufficient funding, and whether it is properly conceived. But such considerations may be moot if the government continues a “business as usual” approach in other sectors....
This article was originally published on March 5, 2019 on Rabble Canada.
Invocations of the "rule of law" are reassuring to many Canadians. Implicit is the sense that, young or old, weak or powerful, we are all equal before the law. A rich person who has committed a crime will be punished; a poor person who is wronged will have restitution.
If only it were so....
This article was originally published on March 27, 2018 on Huffington Post Canada.
This article was originally published on March 24, 2018 on Rabble Canada.
It’s hard not to feel disappointed that the government’s response to last month’s M-103 report is, ironically, more consultations. The M-103 report itself was the result of hearings with 77 witnesses. And despite being mandated to finish within six months, the M-103 report took almost a year to complete. For the religious communities involved, it’s fair to question whether the government really cares to concretely address the problem of Islamophobia and religious discrimination in Canada.
Lest we forget, Parliament’s recent report on religious discrimination was launched as a result of motion M-103, debated one year ago in Parliament. M-103 itself was motivated largely by an attack on a Quebec City mosque on Jan. 29, 2017 which left six Muslim Canadians dead. Motion M-103 and its resulting report were not some sort of “academic exercise” to assess a hypothetical problem. Rather, Islamophobia and religious discrimination were real problems which clearly were resulting in death, lost job opportunities, exclusion and division in Canadian society....
This article was originally published on March 04, 2018 on Rabble Canada.
This article was originally published on March 05, 2018 on Huffington Post Canada.
Given the brouhaha last year around Parliament’s Islamophobia motion M-103, the quasi indifference to its resulting report seems perplexing. The motion itself repeatedly topped the news last year after initial Parliamentary debates in mid-February. Yet when the motion’s summary report was issued last month – almost a year later – the most striking upshot was the general apathy.
The media and public ignored the fact that the report recommended that January 29th – the anniversary of the horrific 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting – be designated as a national day of remembrance and action on islamophobia. This, just weeks after Liberal Quebec premier Philippe Couillard made headlines after siding with Quebec’s sovereigntist and conservative parties in opposing such a move....
Is Singh’s NDP Prepared to Distinguish Itself? (Feb 21, 2018)
This article was originally published on February 21, 2018 on Huffington Post Canada.
Coming out of its first policy convention under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh, there are mixed signals about whether the NDP has the will to distinguish itself in Canada’s political landscape. Squeezed by Trudeau’s charm offensive from the political centre, Singh and his party will need to act decisively if they’re ever going to have the electoral impact of Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn or the US’ Bernie Sanders.
As many have suggested, Corbyn and Sanders garnered massive popular support because their ideas were radical enough to inspire new hope. Becky Bond, an adviser to Sanders in 2016, argues, “When you can actually vote for the things you really believe in, then that really changes everything.” By comparison, voters can be left flat when politicians suggest incremental solutions to vast global or national crises. ...
Canada Must Learn From Past Arms Sales Folly (Nov 15, 2017)
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. ...
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....
Israel's War Of Textbooks Comes to Canada (Sep 06, 2017)
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. ...
Give The Anti-Palestinian Rhetoric A Rest (Sep 05, 2017)
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....
This article was originally published on August 28, 2017 on Huffington Post Canada.
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?"
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.
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. ...
Canada Now a Hawk On Nuclear Arms (Jul 13, 2017)
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.
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. ...
Trudeau Government Blocks Direct Flights to Beirut (Jul 12, 2017)
This article was originally published on July 11, 2017 on Huffington Post Canada.
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.” ...
Niki Ashton represents new breed of Canadian leader (May 26, 2017)
This article was originally published on May 26, 2017 in the Toronto Sun.
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. ...
This article was originally published on May 23, 2017 in the Huffington Post.
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. ...
Liberals Largely Insincere On Arms Trade Treaty Bill (May 12, 2017)
This article was originally published on April 25, 2017 on Ricochet.
When the Trudeau government introduced Bill C-47 earlier this month to accede to the international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), it was one of those situations where you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. You could be thankful that the government is finally stepping up to international standards for arms control. But then you could cry too, as the Trudeau government seems intent on maintaining existing loopholes in Canada’s international arms dealings.
Looking at the positive side, Canada is finally taking steps to align its existing arms export control mechanisms with a higher UN standard. Despite Canadians’ mythological self-image as a peace-loving nation, Canadawill be the last of its G7 and NATO allies to sign on to the ATT. ...
This article was originally published on April 18, 2017 on Ricochet.
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....
This article was originally published on May 3, 2017 in Ricochet.
The UN has once again managed to dumbfound the world: last week the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was elected to the organization’s Commission on the Status of Women. In Canada, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel led the parade of outraged politicians – and rightfully so. With its laws circumscribing the rights of its women, Saudi Arabia is in no position to lead a UN organization “dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
The rights of Saudi women are inevitably subordinated to the men in their lives. Among other things, Saudi men have dominant rights in regards to marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance. Under Saudi Arabia’s guardianship laws, women cannot seek higher education, take a job or travel without permission from their male guardian. Read Ensaf Haidar’s biography Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom for a vivid example of how such laws engender hopelessness, depression and fear among the Kingdom’s women. Suffice it to say that Saudi Arabia is not in a position to promote women’s rights or shape global standards on gender equality, as the Commission intends....
50 Years Of Israeli Occupation Is Far Too Long (Apr 24, 2017)
This article was originally published on April 24, 2017 in the Huffington Post.
In just a few weeks, the world will witness a remarkable and sobering milestone. By June, 2017, Israel will have been a military occupying power in the Palestinian territories for 50 years. Given the West’s blasé attitude, you might think this anniversary were inconsequential, but for millions in the Middle East, their hope and future depend on a shift from the status quo.
Some Canadians take a fatalistic attitude to the occupation and associated strife, making comments like, “the conflict will never end,” or, “they’ve been fighting for thousands of years” – neither of which is true. But regardless of the myths and the cynicism, 50 years of military occupation is far too long, and international players – including Canada – need to get serious about bringing it to an end. This crippling standoff between Israelis and Palestinians represents a ongoing failure in international diplomacy, and remains a source of ongoing strife in the broader Middle East....
Trudeau’s Simplistic Approach Won’t Work In Syria (Apr 17, 2017)
This article was originally published on April 17, 2017 in the Huffington Post.
If only it were so easy. The leader of a war-torn Middle Eastern country commits an atrocity; the West removes him; problem solved. At least, that’s the way Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to see the future in Syria. Last week, Trudeau asserted that Syrian president Bachar al-Assad must be excluded from any final peace agreement for that worn torn country. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland put it more bluntly, “Assad must go.”
The only problem is, in addition to the support that al-Assad enjoys among certain groups within Syria, Trudeau has also forgotten about Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Kurds, and the many other players who have a stake in what happens in Syria. What began with a boy writing anti-government graffiti in Daraa in 2011 is a full blown global crisis today....
Trudeau Must Not Rubber Stamp Trump’s Military Interventions (Apr 10, 2017)
This article was originally published on April 10, 2017 in the Huffington Post.
Nobody would argue that the gas attack last week on the Syrian town of Khan Sheykhoun was anything but horrific and inhumane. But it’s hard to see how Trump’s recent missile strikes on an airfield of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad will do anything but aggravate an already intractable situation. Worse, the Trudeau government’s acquiescence to Trump’s belligerence weakens our own position as a country, and the checks and balances of the UN system. Some proponents of Trump’s strike argue that it will handicap al-Assad’s ability to carry out more strikes. Others argue that the strike has symbolic value, demonstrating to al-Assad and his opponents that the international community is watching, and has the will to act. But far more sustained intervention will be required before there will be any real dent in al-Assad’s military capability, as evidenced by yet another strike on Khan Sheykhun on Saturday....
NDP Leaders Race Should Be About Who Can Beat Trudeau (Apr 05, 2017)
This article was originally published on May 4, 2017 in the Huffington Post.
Three things are clear coming out of the second NDP leadership debate in Montreal. First, there’s a clear sense of where the party is headed. Second, the field of leadership candidates is extremely strong. And finally, the candidates will need to try harder to distinguish themselves.
This is in strong contrast to 2012, when last the NDP had to choose a leader. The task of replacing Jack Layton in 2012 forced the party to make many tough decisions, foremost over whether to bring the party closer to the political centre under Thomas Mulcair. But the current race has four candidates all of whom push a strong social democrat vision. They each refer frequently and favourably to Jack Layton’s legacy, but rarely to Thomas Mulcair’s. Regardless of which candidate prevails in the end, the party will be pushing a solidly progressive vision....
How To Move Forward From The M-103 Islamophobia Debate (Mar 28, 2017)
This article was originally published on March 28, 2017 in the Huffington Post.
If you’re like me, Canada’s debate around Islamophobia has left you drained and disillusioned. Both the Liberals and Conservatives treated this important social issue as if it were political football, seeking to gain cheap yardage with seemingly little concern for the lives involved. Muslim Canadians deserve better.
Many Canadians might be surprised to learn that back in October, Canada passed an anti-Islamophobia motion by unanimous consent. House of Common petition e411, sponsored by Liberal MP Frank Baylis was the basis for this motion. Sadly, at the time, Liberals didn’t have the political courage to propose a motion on Islamophobia before the House. Instead, it was NDP leader Thomas Mulcair who showed the sensitivity and political resolve to present this motion, and did so successfully on October 26. ...
To Sanction or Not To Sanction (Mar 07, 2017)
This article was originally published on March 7, 2017 in the Huffington Post.
Most Canadians have no idea, but our government currently sanctions 21 different countries around the world. Perhaps most well-known, Canada maintains sanctions against Iran because of Canadian government suspicions around Iran’s nuclear weapons intents. But Canada also has a general export ban on Belarus for the abuses of President Alexander Lukashenko, as well as various sanctions on 19 other countries.
Government leaders might be reassured by the results of an EKOS poll last week which indicated that 91 percent of Canadians believe that sanctions are a reasonable way for Canada to censure countries for violations of international law or human rights. But such “support” for sanctions may also obfuscate some problematic aspects of Canada’s sanctions policies....
Survey Results Dispel Notion of “New Anti-Semitism” (Feb 23, 2017)
This article was originally published on Feb. 23, 2017 in the Huffington Post.
The jury is in. According to a new survey, the vast majority of Canadians do not consider criticism of the government of Israel to be “anti-Semitic.” This finding flatly contradicts those who have been warning of a “new anti-Semitism” in Canada, where criticism of Israel is a veiled form of this despicable historic ideology.
Of those who offered an opinion, 91 percent of Canadians did not believe that criticism of Israeli government policy is necessarily anti-Semitic. For those respondents who identified with the Liberal party, the number was 97 percent; for those with in NDP, literally 100% said that criticism of Israel is like criticism of any other country. ...
This article was originally published on Feb. 17, 2017 in the Huffington Post.
New survey results indicate that on the question of Israel-Palestine politics, the Trudeau government is grossly out of step with the Canadian electorate. New survey results indicate that while Canadians were far more likely to have a negative opinion of Israeli government, most Canadians believe their government is biased in favour of Israel.
In a survey co-sponsored by my organization and conducted by EKOS, 46 percent of Canadians who expressed an opinion had a negative or somewhat negative view of the government of Israel. Only 28 percent had a positive or mostly positive view of Israel. On the other hand, 61 percent believed that their government held a pro-Israel Middle East policy, while only 16 percent thought Canada was pro-Palestinian....
Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s Message a Challenge to All Canadians (Feb 08, 2017)
The contrast could not have been more jarring. Outside, a small group of rabid protesters, shouting threateningly, carrying megaphones, signs, and cameras. Inside, a rapt crowd of 600 listening quietly to a message of civic engagement delivered by one of the Muslim world’s most articulate writers and thinkers, Dr. Tariq Ramadan.
It’s a shame that the protestors came to disrupt rather than to listen to Dr. Ramadan. It’s likely that they would have been both encouraged and challenged by Ramadan’s talk. Encouraged because he calls citizens to be involved and express themselves through our democratic mechanisms – exactly as the protesters were. Challenged because he calls citizens to think deeply about the issues facing our divided societies, and to face our fears with rationality – precisely where our protesters fell short. ...
This article was originally published on Jan. 30, 2017 on the Huffington Post.
While details are still unfolding on the Quebec City mosque attack Sunday night, there is little question that the shooters were motivated by hate for Muslims. As such, Quebec and Canadian political leaders should take a long hard look at how their statements and actions may exacerbate such hate.
Quebec Muslims rightly see the Quebec City mosque killings as just the latest escalation in a trend of growing harassment against Canada’s Muslims. “The Muslim community in Quebec is suffering from a flood of hate attacks, […] and now the attacks are escalating and bringing […] the death of innocent people,” lamented Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum....
Security Council Censure of Israel Is Highly Significant (Jan 06, 2017)
This article was originally published on Dec. 28, 2017 in the Huffington Post.
Friday’s UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution censuring Israel will not resurrect dead Palestinians or Israelis from wars past, nor will it change the near-term prospect for peace. But despite cynical criticism from the left, the UNSC resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlements (a.k.a. colonies) is still very significant.
One cannot discount the symbolic importance of such a resolution – foremost for Israel. Israel’s right-wing government can have virtually everything it wants via military might… except legitimacy for its actions. Netanyahu is furious, not because the resolution will slow the construction and expansion of Israel’s provocative settlements, but because the legitimacy of Israel’s actions has been rejected by the world’s community of nations....
Greens Finally Agree on Economic Sanctions on Israel (Dec 21, 2016)
This article was originally published on December 8, 2016 on Rabble.
The Green Party convention this past weekend offered a win for everyone. Sort of. The convention was held to clarify the Greens’ position vis-à-vis economic pressure on Israel for its human rights abuses. Green leader Elizabeth May was so opposed to an August resolution condemning Israel’s human rights abuses that she had threatened to resign. Influential party activists sought to preserve their August win while maintaining party unity.
A “compromise” resolution endorsed in advance by both party brass and influential grassroots activists suggested that everyone could have what they wanted. Green leader Elizabeth May got her wish to remove reference to the international “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, while human rights activists were able to retain strong language censuring Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians....
Green Party Finds Compromise Position on Boycott of Israel (Nov 16, 2016)
This article was originally published on Nov. 16, 2016 on the Huffington Post.
The naysayers on both sides of the issue have been proven wrong. When the Green Party passed a motion in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on Israel in August, conservative voices felt Elizabeth May would be justified in stepping down as party leader. Progressive voices, however, urged her to stay on, and not to disavow the BDS movement.
May and the federal Greens may do both. ...
Let’s Enable a Real Canadian Debate on Israel-Palestine (Nov 10, 2016)
This article was also published on Nov. 24, 2016 on Rabble.
Last week, the Vancouver Sun printed a remarkable apology to Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) Canada. The Sun editorial board had published a piece in August claiming that IJV – a Jewish organization – had denied the Holocaust and encouraged terrorism against Israelis. The only problem was, they were dead wrong.
The Vancouver Sun produced the apology after IJV contacted Postmedia through its lawyer. In its retraction and statement of apology, the Sun suggested it had been influenced by certain “advocacy groups,” and indeed, their false accusations did resemble allegations made on an undated pro-Israel lobby Website. The Sun’s remorse seemed short lived, however, as the apology came off their Website after only about a week....
Canadians can’t be blamed for missing the anti-Islamophobia motion that passed in parliament last week. If you Read more
This article was originally published on Oct. 26, 2016 on the Huffington Post.
The appearance of B’Tselem Director Hagai El-Ad at the UN last week caused a healthy furor. While European and other politicians supported his testimony, Israel’s right-wing leaders went so far as to accuse El-Ad of treason. Yet this tiny Israeli human rights organization did what international diplomacy has failed to do for years: it held Israel to account – just briefly – for important violations of international law.
El-Ad argued something that most Canadian politicians have thus far been unwilling to accept: that you can like Israel, yet still criticize it. More importantly, El-Ad clearly implicated the international community in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The occupation isn’t an internal Israeli issue, but a major international issue. There’s no such thing as a democratic occupation. This can’t be an [Israeli] internal matter.”...
What is Trudeau’s Long-Term Plan for Syrian Refugees? (Oct 21, 2016)
This article was originally published on Oct. 21, 2016 on Rabble.
My organization has joined in the sponsorship of 9 different Syrian refugee families. Some of the files were submitted as early as 2015; all have been approved; yet not a single refugee has arrived. There are thousands of sponsoring groups in Canada in a position identical to ours.
In case the Trudeau government didn’t notice, the Syrian civil war is far from over; ditto for the Syrian refugee crisis. Many of these sponsored families struggle in hardship and uncertainty – some still in refugee camps – as they await word on their resettlement. Canadians are justified in asking: What is Canada’s long-term plan for Syrian refugees?...
When Government Concern Becomes Paranoia (Oct 12, 2016)
This article was originally published on Oct. 12, 2016 on the Huffington Post.
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. ...
This article was originally published on Sep. 28, 2016 on the Huffington Post.
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. ...
Will Elizabeth May Tear Apart the Federal Greens? (Sep 16, 2016)
This article was originally published on Sep. 16, 2016 on the Huffington Post.
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....
Illegal Israeli “Settlements”: Silence is acquiescence (Sep 02, 2016)
This article was originally published on Sep. 6, 2016 on the Huffington Post.
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.”...
May’s Behaviour unbecoming for a Federal Leader (Aug 20, 2016)
This article was originally published on Aug. 31, 2016 on Rabble.
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....
Awaiting the Trudeau Government's Condemnation (Feb 23, 2016)
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. ...
Reality check: Economic pressure on Israel (Jun 10, 2015)
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....
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]...
Let’s talk rationally about human rights in Israel-Palestine (May 19, 2015)
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....
Gideon Levy: When a Leader’s Persona and Person Align (Apr 05, 2015)
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....
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....
Seven key insights to the Israeli elections (Mar 19, 2015)
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:...
Jon Stewart, Netanyahu, and a Nuclear Free Middle East (Mar 19, 2015)
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.” ...
Bill C-51, and why Canadians should care about privacy (Mar 12, 2015)
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....