Here is a powerful letter my friend, the poet Nyla Matuk, wrote recently to candidates vying for the leadership of Canada’s New Democratic Party. Formerly the country’s progressive option, the NDP has followed other such parties across most Western nations in the rightward creep that began under Reagan and Thatcher.

The leadership vote takes place in October, but the issues are already exposing deep moral divides among the candidates, not least on Israel-Palestine. The NDP’s previous leader, Tom Mulcair, was a virtually unconditional supporter of Israel, a military superpower, expressing shamefully equivocal concern about that country’s savage 51-day blitz of Gaza, while ruthlessly punishing party members who broke ranks to stand up for Palestinian rights.

Sadly, shameful equivocation was as good as it got in Canada during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge and since, with barely a cigarette paper between the country’s then PM, the Teflon-haired and -hearted Stephen Harper, and his photogenic replacement, Justin Trudeau, who consistently alleges that non-violent advocacy of Palestinian human rights runs contrary to Canadian values.

This is Nyla’s letter:

‘I am writing to you all today as a Canadian of Palestinian descent, born in Winnipeg and living in Toronto. I work in the field of multiculturalism.
Given the NDP’s statement on International Human Rights Day, that “every person has the fundamental right to freedom, equality, justice and dignity,”
it’s simply beyond my understanding how it might be commensurate with Helene Lariviere’s reported recent attendance at a conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee and her subsequent support for the apartheid-endorsing Jewish National Fund.

Please read the report I’ve linked here, on the NDP activities that are supporting the dispossession and continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their own land, and change the party behaviour so that you will all be seen on the right side of history. Do this immediately and show yourselves to be a truly progressive political party.

In addition, I might direct your attention to the ongoing brutalization, political detention and imprisonment, illegal home searches, extra-judicial killings, trials of children in military courts, and home demolitions and evictions, among other contraventions of the Geneva conventions, that Israel continues to perpetrate on non-Jews who are indigenous to the region.

Do you believe Palestinians do not deserve human rights? That is what your party is saying when your representative attends AIPAC and supports the JNF.

Sincerely,

Nyla Matuk

Toronto

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Some of you might recall a few pieces I posted about the Modern Language Association’s debate about an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. Not only did the resolution fail at the organisation’s conference in January, some MLA members put forward an astonishing ‘counter-resolution’ effectively barring the academic group from ever criticising Israel in the future. Below is a must-read from one of the many critics of that counter-resolution.

Here is an excerpt:

The resolution itself, that we refrain from endorsing “the boycott,” is a nonsense. As things currently stand, the MLA endorses no boycott. Within the framework of the MLA, therefore, there is nothing from which to refrain. Why are we having a vote at all on something non-existent?…

Israel and all too many of its academic institutions proudly participate in such denial of Palestinian rights and academic activities. Does the MLA really wish to go on record as promoting Israeli academics’ freedoms while denying those of Palestinian academics?’

The rest is here: “Misleading or Flatly False”: Tim Reiss’s Statement Against MLA Resolution 2017-1

Some of you might have heard that a UN agency, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, which is based in Beirut, published a report last week entitled ‘Israeli Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid.’

The fact-based document lays out the systematic racism – from different court systems to different roads and schools – experienced by Palestinians living under Israeli control, and urges the UN to restore the Special Committee against Apartheid, and the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid. It also calls on member states to support the BDS movement. The report was written by Richard Falk, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights, and Virginia Tilley, a Political Science Professor at Southern Illinois University.

Predictably, the ink wasn’t dry before the shit hit the fan: within hours, Israeli politicians and their shameful band of apologists began slamming both the report and the ‘anti Israel’ UN. On Friday, after the new UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres signalled the spinelessness that will undoubtedly characterise his tenure by ordering ESCWA to remove the report from its website, the Commission’s Executive Secretary, Rima Khalaf, resigned.

In a world of lousy choices, it was the least worst one. Indeed, Khalaf’s decision to quit brought to mind a talk I attended last year with a middle aged Palestinian date farmer from the West Bank. He recounted how he’d been offered a scholarship to study in Germany in his late teens. When the Israeli authorities made it clear that it was they – not he – who would decide whether he could accept it, he tore up his passport in their faces. Another least worst choice.

It’s bad enough that the UN routinely fails to live up to its own Charter, which claims as its purpose ‘to maintain international peace and security…based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.’ What’s inexcusable is that where the Palestinians are concerned, it routinely does precisely the opposite, providing moral and political cover for the very breaches of human rights and international law it is entrusted to police. It makes you wonder exactly what the organisation is for.

Moreover, as Saree Makdisi wrote in an LA Times Op-Ed entitled ‘Does the term apartheid fit Israel? Of course it does’, ‘”Apartheid” isn’t just a term of insult; it’s a word with a very specific legal meaning, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and ratified by most United Nations member states (Israel and the United States are exceptions, to their shame).’

Indeed, the word ‘apartheid’ has been used to describe Israel by many people including Desmond Tutu, John Kerry and Sir Alan Duncan MP, and the ESCWA report does not use it lightly. Perhaps this explains why, as Khalaf writes in her dignified and unapologetic resignation letter below, ‘The evidence provided by this report drafted by renowned experts is overwhelming. Suffice it to say that none of those who attacked the report had a word to say about its content‘ (my emphasis).

Here is the full text of Khalaf’s letter which was published by Jadaliyya. Jadaliyya have also published the report in full here. You can find it on The Electronic Intifada, too. Welcome to the internet, Mr Secretary-General.

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

I have carefully considered your message conveyed through the Chef de Cabinet and assure you that at no point have I questioned your right to order the withdrawal of the report from our website or the fact that all of us working in the Secretariat are subject to the authority of its Secretary-General. Nor do I have any doubts regarding your commitment to human rights in general, or your firm position regarding the rights of the Palestinian people. I also understand the concerns that you have, particularly in these difficult times that leave you little choice.

I am not oblivious to the vicious attacks and threats the UN and you personally were subjected to from powerful Member States as a result of the publication of the ESCWA report ‘Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid’.

I do not find it surprising that such Member States, who now have governments with little regard for international norms and values of human rights, will resort to intimidation when they find it hard to defend their unlawful policies and practices. It is only normal for criminals to pressure and attack those who advocate the cause of their victims. I cannot submit to such pressure.

Not by virtue of my being an international official, but simply by virtue of being a decent human being, I believe, like you, in the universal values and principles that have always been the driving force for good in human history, and on which this organization of ours, the United Nations is founded. Like you, I believe that discrimination against anyone due to their religion, skin color, sex or ethnic origin is unacceptable, and that such discrimination cannot be rendered acceptable by the calculations of political expediency or power politics. I also believe people should not only have the freedom to speak truth to power, but they have the duty to do so.

In the space of two months you have instructed me to withdraw two reports produced by ESCWA, not due to any fault found in the reports and probably not because you disagreed with their content, but due to the political pressure by member states who gravely violate the rights of the people of the region.

You have seen first hand that the people of this region are going through a period of suffering unparalleled in their modern history; and that the overwhelming flood of catastrophes today is the result of a stream of injustices that were either ignored, plastered over, or openly endorsed by powerful governments inside and outside the region. Those same governments are the ones pressuring you to silence the voice of truth and the call for justice represented in these reports.

Given the above, I cannot but stand by the findings of ESCWA’s report that Israel has established an apartheid regime that seeks the domination of one racial group over another. The evidence provided by this report drafted by renowned experts is overwhelming. Suffice it to say that none of those who attacked the report had a word to say about its content. I feel it my duty to shed light on the legally inadmissible and morally indefensible fact that an apartheid regime still exists in the 21st century rather than suppressing the evidence. In saying this I claim no moral superiority nor ownership of a more prescient vision. My position might be informed by a lifetime of experiencing the dire consequences of blocking peaceful channels to addressing people’s grievances in our region.

After giving the matter due consideration, I realized that I too have little choice.

I cannot withdraw yet another well-researched, well-documented UN work on grave violations of human rights, yet I know that clear instructions by the Secretary-General will have to be implemented promptly. A dilemma that can only be resolved by my stepping down to allow someone else to deliver what I am unable to deliver in good conscience.

I know that I have only two more weeks to serve; my resignation is therefore not intended for political pressure. It is simply because I feel it my duty towards the people we serve, towards the UN and towards myself, not to withdraw an honest testimony about an ongoing crime that is at the root of so much human suffering. Therefore, I hereby submit to you my resignation from the United Nations.

Respectfully

Rima Khalaf

Here’s an important piece from Peter Larson’s blog which reports on recent research into Canadians’ attitudes towards the Israeli state, and Canadian foreign policy on Israel/Palestine. It includes an interview with the the Green Party’s Dimitri Lascaris, a political hero of mine who is a relentless and committed advocate of Palestinian rights.

In short, a huge majority of Canadians think boycotts are a ‘reasonable’ response to Israel’s unapologetic contempt for international law, and two-thirds also regard government sanctions as reasonable. This is despite an aggressive anti-BDS campaign by Canadian politicians from both main parties, and the Greens’ own leader Elizabeth May attempting to distance herself from her party’s overwhelming support for Palestinian rights, backed up by the usual well-funded smear campaigns orchestrated by B’nai Brith et al.

Naturally, there has been a virtual media blackout on this data in the Canadian press, which remains as willfully out of sync with Canadians as their politicians appear to be. (The only two mentions I could find were on Global News, and in an op-ed by Linda McQuaig in the Toronto Star.)

After the embarrassment of the Harper years during which Canada lost its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council for the first time in our history, a few dreamers held out hope that things would change under Justin Trudeau. Turns out Trudeau’s shameful silence over the Gaza blitz in 2014 was no aberration. On the contrary, it set the stage for his prime ministerial fawning over Benjamin Netanyahu, alongside Canada’s stubborn alliance with a small clutch of international outliers who vote against the most basic rights for Palestinians at the UN, and its dead air on Israel ‘regularising’ its land theft in the West Bank.

Against this sickening display, these research findings will reassure those of us who’d like to believe Canadians’ sense of decency and fair play runs deeper than that of our photogenic prime minister.

Here’s the intro to Peter’s piece:

A few months ago, the UN security council unanimously condemned ALL of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank (including in East Jerusalem) as flagrant violations of international law. So far Canada has done nothing about it.

And here’s the rest: Most Canadians think its “reasonable” to boycott Israel: survey

It’s a gloomy day where I am: a stubborn grey sky glowers while thick snow flurries periodically make driving impossible, and the air is saturated with a damp cold whose only antidote is a roaring fire. Still, I’m certain my mood reflects my own gloomy despair and gnawing anxiety as Executive Orders worthy of any cartoonish Caudillo pile up on President Trump’s desk, and embarrassed bewilderment as the UK Prime Minister heads to Washington to rekindle the country’s ‘special relationship’ with the US which saw its heyday under Mrs Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

You might be wondering, as I am, what common values would underpin the global leadership to which Mrs May aspires to elevate herself and the former TV star turned tin pot dictator. To that end, I invite readers of my blog to contact their MPs with some specific queries about the values and related policies we’re told we share with Mr Trump.

I’m sure you can design your own questionnaire, but I would suggest a standard list with boxes. Rather than MPs simply ticking them, however, you could ask them to rank these values by their importance to themselves and to the UK as a whole, with an additional box for free-form comments at the bottom.

Here is my list of the values and attitudes of which Mr Trump and his odious acolytes boast, but do add as you see fit.

☐ Institutionalised Islamophobia

☐ White supremacy

☐ Misogyny

☐ Support for torture

☐ Climate science denial

☐ Ethno-nationalist colonialism

Denial of healthcare

☐ Suppression of press freedom

☐ Inciting hatred

Building ‘immigration’ walls (an unfair question, I suppose, as we’re lucky enough to have our very own Channel whereby nature itself protects us from the hordes of criminals and rapists)

☐ Reckless military escalation

And in case you missed it, here’s a shot of the UK’s new BFF signing away women’s reproductive rights, surrounded by a cabal of white men. This isn’t the world I want for my daughter, and I’m confident most Britons would agree.

Jonathan Greenblatt, Anti-Defamation League CEO: “We need to speak out wherever we see anti-Semitism and bigotry, whether it’s a publicly traded company or high ranking official. No one has an excuse for excusing intolerance,” he added. “We must stand with our fellow Americans who may be singled out for how they look, where they’re from, who they love or how they pray.”

Source: ADL Leader Slams Trump for Planned Ban on Mideast Immigration

And this comes from a Facebook post by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

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Today is the funeral of Yacoub Abu Qian, the Palestinian schoolteacher murdered by Israeli police during the demolition of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran last week.

Meantime, this: Sir Desmond Swayne accuses Government of ‘significant shift’ on Israel after silence on Bedouin village demolition

Swayne, a decorated former soldier, asked the Government’s spokesperson about the Backbench Business Committee’s decision not to schedule a debate on settlements “and the destruction of Umm al-Hiran,” a Bedouin village.

He said: “Is there a possibility of a Government statement on what appears to be a significant shift in Government policy over recent days as we cosy up to the incoming American Administration in granting complete impunity to Israel?”

Source: Senior Tory accuses May of giving Israel ‘impunity’