Israel’s Ambassador Pushes to shut Down Pro-Palestinian Activism

by Yves Engler, published on The Canada Files,  October 20, 2023

Israel wants Canada to criminalize growing displays of solidarity with Palestinians.

In a bid to amplify calls to ban Palestine solidarity marches, Israel’s ambassador Iddo Moed told the Canadian Press on Thursday, “I don’t think that democracies allow people to hate and to incite, and I think that that is something that is looked at very carefully in many places, including Canada.” He added, “when is a line crossed that is between supporting a cause and between changing our values in a way that incites hatred and violence and even glorification of horrendous terrorist attacks.”

As a purported example of the “hatred” Moed is referring to, the CP story reported “One sign spotted at the Oct. 9 protest outside Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square read: ‘Occupation is a crime, resistance is a response.’”

Moed is seeking to boost a push to change Canada’s criminal code. Last week the Globe and Mail published “Rallies raise question of whether Canada should have a law against public cheering of terrorism” and the National Post’s John Ivison called for federal legislation to criminalize the protests in “Tolerating the glorification of terror and slaughter is societal suicide”. Similarly, the host of CBC’s Power & Politics David Cochrane asked foreign affairs minister Melanie Joly whether Canadians participating in Palestine solidarity rallies should be prosecuted for supporting terrorism while National Post reporter Tristin Hopper mused about banning the Palestinian flag. On Twitter Hopper noted, “So when do we declare the Palestinian flag a hate symbol? I’m not seeing a lot of them being waved by people who *don’t* support mass-murder.”

Taking a page from Hopper’s line of thinking, a principal at an Ottawa elementary school recently asked a student to remove the Palestinian flag as their profile picture. “We will follow up with your family because we want to keep all students feeling safe, welcome and included in our classrooms,” the principal is recorded saying.

This isn’t an isolated case. On Thursday prominent Toronto teacher Javier DaVila tweeted, “I’ve received dozens of reports from parents of children in Ontario education who’ve been targeted, attacked or suspended for wearing Keffiyehs, displaying Palestinian flags, expressing solidarity with or even saying Palestine.”

In a bid to blunt opposition to Israel’s genocidal policies, the media and politicians have hounded CUPE Ontario leader Fred Hahn and Hamilton NDP MPP Sarah Jama. They’ve also vilified student unions standing for Palestinian rights and called for them to be defunded.

While they obsess about ‘one-sided’ student union statements, the media has all but ignored racism spouted by more influential pro-Israel actors. They are uninterested that the head of Montreal’s Federation CJA told an audience, which included multiple elected officials, that “the barbarians are at the gate” or that Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs hosted a speaker days after he tweeted an image of an Israeli military boot crushing a Palestinian cockroach. The leaders of the four main political parties spoke at the same CIJA conference, which blocked the co-founder of Independent Jewish Voices from covering it for The Canada Files.

Without a hint of awareness of the irony, organizations that proclaim Israel as “the only democracy in the Middle East” and condemn anyone who draws parallels between Nazi behaviour and Israel’s, as well as newspaper columnists who decry leftists when they “de-platform” right wingers, target the jobs of Palestine’s supporters.

Zionist campaigners have targeted multiple individuals’ livelihoods. Under outside pressure, a number of public servants are being “probed for anti-Israel posts” while a doctor who has done humanitarian work in Gaza and elsewhere, Ben Thomson, was suspended by Mackenzie Health for his Palestine advocacy. Air Canada even fired a pilot for posting Palestine protest photos on social media.

In response to the witch-hunt, Labour 4 Palestine has launched an action campaign titled “Defend free speech. Stop the attack on Palestine solidarity.” For its part, Scholar Strike Canada released a statement condemning “University Administrators and the Western media for their ongoing Threats against Scholars and Students in Solidarity with Palestinian People in Gaza.” In response to the Ontario premier’s smears, Jama formally threatened a defamation suit against Doug Ford.

Notwithstanding the witch-hunt, tens of thousands of Canadians have taken to the streets in recent days. On Tuesday night multiple thousands rallied and marched in emergency protests in Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Toronto against Israel killing hundreds at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza. A few days earlier more than 5,000 marched in Montréal against Canada’s complicity with Israel’s genocidal violence in Gaza.

More protests are planned Friday and this weekend. The best way to respond to repression of solidarity is to amplify Palestine solidarity work.

Yves Engler is a Montréal-based activist and author who has published 12 books including his latest Stand on Guard For Whom? A People’s History of the Canadian Military.

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