Friday, October 24, 2008

Geographic amnesia

CAMERA has recently pointed out that media outlets habitually refer to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, as if Israel is the only country that borders Gaza. But Egypt lies to the south of Gaza, and where the Egypt-Gaza border runs through the town of Rafah, there is an important border crossing. The CAMERA piece gives a full backgrounder here: http://tinyurl.com/6k7r6b.

Back in February 2008, I wrote a piece for the Jewish Tribune about the bias demonstrated in the media's amnesia about Gaza’s Egyptian border. Too frequently, the media portrays Arabs and Islamists as amoral agents, no more responsible for their actions than polar bears. Thus, for the media, the Egyptian blockade simply doesn’t count. Only Israel’s actions are up for judgement.

I’ve posted by my piece from the Tribune, “Egypt blockades Gaza,” below.

Egypt blockades Gaza

You likely never heard a word about Egypt’s blockade of Gaza. But from June 2007 to January 2008, the Egyptian-Gaza border was continually closed.

The seal wasn’t watertight. The Egyptians opened the border on occasion. Also, so many tunnels go between Rafah in Egypt to Rafah in Gaza that smugglers need a subway map to find their way around. But although guns, explosives and missiles travel readily under the border, food, fuel and medicine didn’t have such an easy time crossing the border up top.

Not a peep from the media. But as soon as Israel sealed its border with Gaza for a couple days, you heard all about it – that is, you heard all about Israel, but still next to nothing about Egypt.

“Israel blocks fuel supply,” said the Toronto Star. “Israel closes Gaza's borders,” reported the BBC. “Israel agrees to ease blockade,” the CBC chimed in a bit later.

The EU declared that Israel was “collectively punishing” Gaza. No mention of Egypt, though the Rafah border had been closed for seven months, not a couple days.

Virtually alone among the world’s media, the Associated Press accurately referred to “Israel’s and Egypt’s blockade of Gaza.” But otherwise the media suffered geographic amnesia. They’d simply forgotten Gaza’s southern border.

In an article on its website, the BBC claimed that although “Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 … it still controls the territory's borders and supplies.” Except for Gaza’s Egyptian border, the BBC should have added, but did not.

The media remembered the Gaza-Egypt border when Hamas blew it up and hundreds of thousands of Gazans flooded into Egypt. But even while reporting on how Hamas broke Egpyt’s blockade, the media refered to Israel’s blockade.

For the media, the Egyptian blockade didn’t count. Only Israel’s actions were up for judgement.
This sort of double-standard isn’t unusual. The media watchdog group, Honest Reporting (HR) recently released an analysis of the BBC’s reporting of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the second half of 2007.

HR found that in stories about Palestinian attacks, the headlines never named the aggressors. The BBC preferred headlines such as “Rocket injures dozens in Israel” (http://tinyurl.com/24xvkq).

That is, BBC headlines report Palestinian attacks in the same way they report the weather: as something that just falls out of the sky.

“On the other hand” Honest Reporting stated, “in 63% of articles addressing Israeli military operations, the headline was much more clear and direct … (e.g.: ‘Israel strikes kill six in Gaza’).”

An unintentional racism is at work here. When it comes to political conflicts, the media often portrays Arabs and Islamists as amoral agents, no more responsible for their actions than polar bears.

On the other side of the double standard, the media judges Israel as hyper-responsible. No one would dream of asking why Canada doesn’t supply fuel to the Taliban. But it’s front-page news when Israel holds up Gaza’s fuel supply.

Israel-haters take the double standard one step further: they hold Israel responsible for Palestinian crimes.

For example, the Guardian newspaper carried a video that allowed 12 seconds to reporting the recent suicide attack in Dimona, gave another 12 seconds to a representative of Abbas’s government, who condemned the attack, but blamed Israel for it. Then, for the benefit of the hardcore anti-Israel faithful, the Guardian got to the meat of the report: a 72-second clip of a Hamas official justifying the attack.

Murdering a 73-year-old woman in a shopping mall and wounding 11 others was a “normal response to this shape of collective punishment,” the Hamas official said. It was a “resistance operation” against the “occupation.” That is, against Jews occupying their own homes in Israel; there are no Israelis in Gaza.

The Dimona suicide bombers are just the latest reminder of why Israel and Egypt need to blockade Gaza. However, the bombers reportedly crossed into Egypt from Gaza, then infiltrated into Israel throught the Sinai, once again illustrating how poorly Egypt guards its border with Gaza.

Perhaps Israel would be smart to create an arms control line just north of the Egypt-Gaza border. Then, if Egypt likes, it can unite Rafah. Put a few trains in the tunnels and Rafah will have a better subway system than Toronto.

In any case, it will have nothing to do with Israel. Whatever the media may imply, the Palestinians and Egyptians aren’t polar bears. They’re responsible for their own crimes, their own failings, and their own futures.

This piece was originally published in the Jewish Tribune here: http://www.jewishtribune.ca/tribune/PDF/jt140208.pdf

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jack Layton endorses Canadian Dementia


On its website, Canadian Dimension quotes New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton praising their magazine as: “Thoughtful, persistent, challenging, unflinching.”

Uh-huh. James Petras regularly contributes to Canadian Dimension and is a member of its editorial collective. He writes about how Jewish bankers and the “Zionist power configuration” control America’s foreign policy. Terry Glavin comments: “Petras will also explain how the culprits behind last year's 'Mohammed cartoons' conniptions, which involved embassy-burnings and riots and at least 139 deaths, were - you guessed it - Mossad agents” (http://tinyurl.com/4xwt2z).

With Petras in mind, Jack might add another word to his description of Canadian Dimension – a word that starts with: "anti".

Conspiracy theorist Prof Michel Chossudovsky of the University of Ottawa is another member of Canadian Dimension's editorial collective. The Ottawa Citizen ran a piece on Chossudovsky that begins thus:

“A Jewish group has filed a complaint to the University of Ottawa against one of its professors after the discovery of content on his website that blames Jews for the terrorist attacks on the United States, and claims the numbers who died at Auschwitz are exaggerated. The website, globalresearch.ca, also reprints articles from other writers that accuse Jews of controlling the U.S. media and masterminding the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."

The neo-Nazi Adelaide Institute has the rest of the article posted here: ttp://tinyurl.com/4lnozr.

Also check out a short piece about Chossudovsky’s nutty conspiracy theories that I wrote for the Jewish Tribune and also published on the Engage website here: http://tinyurl.com/5888d8. And speaking of conspiracy theories, Barrie Zwicker, dean of the Canadian 9/11 Truther movement, is yet another member of Canadian Dimension’s editorial collective.

Hmm, with Chossudovsky and Zwicker in Canadian Dimension’s editorial collective, maybe Jack should consider the term “tinfoil hat.” Indeed, Canadian Dimension goes so low that if Jack has a modicum of decency, the magazine would leave him speechless. The current issue (Sept / Oct 2008) includes an article concerning the attempt by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid to bring their brand of visceral Israel-hatred into Canadian high schools.

CAIA favours the terrorist group Hamas and rejects Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas because he would negotiate peace with Israel. In the CAIA’s peculiar vocabulary, the idea of two states living side by side in peace is “apartheid.” Thus, the CAIA praises:“[the] Palestinian people for decisively rejecting Israeli Apartheid through the election of Hamas” (http://tinyurl.com/4g2o7x).

By setting up a high school division of their group, the CAIA hopes to indoctrinate Canadian kids with their vision of a Middle East without Israel, a project that Canadian Dimension reports on enthusiastically.

Right now, Jack Layton is running to be Canada’s next Prime Minister. He won’t make that goal, but his party will win seats, and with the Liberal Party in freefall, the NDP might possibly form the official opposition.

However, if Jack wants Canadians to take the NDP seriously, he has to stop appealing to the political fringe. You can’t endorse an extremist rag like Canadian Dimension one day, then ask Canadians to make you Prime Minister the next.
This piece is also published on the Engage Forum here: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=2106
And on Dust my Broom, here:
http://dustmybroom.com/content/view/5427/
You can find a collection of my pieces here: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/search.php?search=Brian+Henry

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The lunatic fringe goes mainstream


I will remember the 2008 Canadian election as the one in which three candidates were asked to step down over alleged antisemitic remarks. As the election in which a whole slew of lunatics stood for MP under the banners of supposedly mainstream parties.

First to be forced out was John Shavluck, a Green Party candidate, formerly a member of the Marijuana Party. In the midst of a semi-coherent rant against the United States (the usual stock in trade on his blog) Shavluck referred to: “your governments complicate [i.e., complicity in the] attack on your shoddily built Jewish world bank headquarters. you know 'the 2 towers'" (http://tinyurl.com/4mayn9).

There was never anything especially Jewish about the twin towers of the World Trade Center, except to people who believe Jews – and especially Jewish bankers – rule the world and to people who believe the Jews instigated the 9/11 terrorist attacks for their own nefarious purposes. The Green Party had the good sense to kick Shavluck out as soon as a blogger uncovered this posting and before the mainstream media even picked up on it.

Shavluck wasn’t the only former Marijuana Party member forced to step down during this election. As part of an apparent policy of courting the political fringes, Jack Layton had cultivated the stoner constituency. (See here, for example: http://tinyurl.com/5xx2fr). And this election, two former members of the Marijuana Party ran as NDP candidates.

Dana Larsen was the first to step down after a blogger uncovered shows he’d done for Pot TV, including one that featured him driving while stoned on LSD (http://tinyurl.com/4x2vbl). The other former Marijuana Party candidate stepped down soon after when people realized (a bit slowly on the uptake) that he, too, took drugs.

For myself, I was more concerned about Larsen’s politics. He was campaigning against “deep integration.” Within the sliver of sanity on this issue, some people oppose harmonizing regulations between Canada and the U.S. because they fear it will result in reduced sovereignty for Canada and in greater power for corporations.

Usually though, people who talk about “deep integration” see it as a secret plot for an American take-over of Canada. The NDP official website expresses the paranoia succinctly with a map of North America coloured all over with the stars and stripes of the American flag.

The NDP shares this paranoia with the 9/11 Truthers, another fringe group Jack Layton has cultivated. At a Calgary book signing, a member of the Calgary 9/11 Truth cornered Jack for an impromptu interview. A forthright politician might have said that, while some people may have gravitated toward truther ideas in all innocence, the notion that the September 11 terrorist attacks were an inside job represents the politics of bigotry: it’s a product of virulent anti-Americanism, antisemitism, or both.

Jack said nothing of the kind. Instead he volunteered that Barrie Zwicker – dean of the Canadian Truther movement – is a close friend. “I have all the [Truther] materials, which we study, ” Jack said. He added he was glad that, like the NDP, the 9/11 truth movement opposes deep integration (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=3mw-VhY6a2Q).

Not surprisingly, the NDP had a Truther candidate running in this election: Bev Collins, former president of the paranoid fringe Canadian Action Party. Last year Collins wrote an article predicting that the American take-over of Canada would be complete by 2010. “Are you ready for your children to be drafted under Bush's army?” she asked.

“To bring about this merging of Canada, US and Mexico,” Collins wrote, there may be: “Another false flag terror attack (http://tinyurl.com/3jcqfq).” In Truther talk, the original false flag operation was the attacks of September 11, apparently carried out by Arabs but secretly directed by the Americans themselves or, in the antisemitic version, by the Israelis / Zionists / Jews.

Lesley Hughes, another 9/11 conspiracy enthusiast, ran for the Liberals. She was asked to step down after a blogger discovered an article she’d written repeating the myth that Israeli businesses broke their leases to vacate the World Trade Towers just before the terrorist attack (http://members.shaw.ca/mclachla/page3.htm).

Given that Hughes was a regular contributor to Canadian Dimension Magazine and a member of its editorial collective, nothing that came out of her mouth should have surprised anyone. Canadian Dimension is the magazine of the Canada’s lunatic fringe and publishes people such as James Petras, who believes the “Zionist power structure” directs American foreign policy.

Indeed, the only surprising thing in the whole affair was that Hughes ran for the Liberals and not the NDP, given that Jack Layton had enthusiastically endorsed Canadian Dimension. (See here: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=2106.)

After the Liberals gave Hughes the boot, there were calls for the NDP’s truther candidate Bev Collins to step down, too. But as Collins hadn’t made any antisemitic comments, Jack stood by her.

Jack’s wooing of the political fringes resulted in other questionable candidates running for the NDP, as well, such as El-Farouk Khaki, the NDP candidate for Toronto Centre.

Earlier this month, a young Muslim was convicted of belonging to an Al Qaeda–inspired terror cell that had acquired enough bomb-making material for several truck bombs. Khaki claimed the youth’s conviction just shows that in Canada, “Everybody who is Muslim who is accused of anything terror related is presumed to be guilty until proven innocent."

Khaki was a founding director of the Canadian Muslim Union – not exactly a moderate organization. According to the CMU: “As far as 9/11 and terrorism is concerned, those are well designed illusions, intentionally created to keep the simpletons of the world busy in irrelevant debates while the American imperialists take care of the real business of destroying others.”
The CMU claims the people plotting "the real business" are “Zionists, some Christian and others Jewish” (http://www.muslimunion.ca/20061003.html).

Another NDP candidate was Andrew McKeever. The Liberals demanded he step down after uncovering charming comments he’d made in a facebook group; such as: “Answer a direct f**king question you c*nt…. You are prejudiced and you are ignorant. You are a moron” (http://www.liberal.ca/pdf/docs/080925_facebook_mckeever.pdf).

But the NDP stood by McKeever until his comments on his MySpace page came to light, where among other things, he says: “I like the part in Schindler's List when the guard starts waxing the prisoners” (http://tinyurl.com/3vf36v).

As the prisoners McKeever so enjoyed being waxed in this Holocaust film were Jews, the Liberals labeled McKeever's remark antisemitic and again called for him to step down. This time he did, doubtless after a strong push from the NDP leadership (http://tinyurl.com/4wrewo).

So many certified members of the lunatic fringe ran in this weirdest of all Canadian elections that it would take another 1,000 words to enumerate them all. But in closing I must mention the Liberal candidate David Orchard.

Orchard is a kind of minor cult figure in Canada, particularly among the anti-American crowd. In his zeal to pin crimes on the U.S., Orchard has labelled the invasion of Afghanistan – in which Canada participated – a “supreme international crime,” comparable to the Nazi invasion of Europe. Presumably, then, Orchard considers the Canadian government of the time a bunch of war criminals. But that government included the present leader the Liberal Party, St├ęphane Dion.

Now, the Liberals have always been a big tent party, a party that includes a wide diversity of views, but how Dion could bring himself to sign Orchard’s nomination papers is beyond me. Unlike Layton, Dion hasn’t actively wooed the political fringes, but with people like David Orchard and Lesley Hughes running for the Liberals, it looks like Dion doesn’t understand the difference between a big tent and a circus tent.

Note: You can also find this piece on the Engage website here: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=2158
And you can find a collection of my pieces here: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/search.php?search=Brian+Henry

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Soul of the NDP

When the NDP decided to support the antisemitic Durban II conference, word went out from party headquarters: "Find me some Jews who support Durban!" Which wasn't hard. Dozens of Canadians with a Jew or two in their family history are willing act as character witnesses to anyone who wants to wipe Israel off the map.
Once upon a time progressive politics were about progress – relieving poverty, creating jobs and ensuring universal health care. Now you can favour the whole social welfare program and still be labelled a rightwing neo-con. Why? Because these days, being progressive means looking at America and Israel as the enemy.

Nowhere is this change more apparent than in the New Democratic Party’s flip-flops on the United Nations’ Durban II conference. Billed as an anti-racism conference, Durban I turned into an antisemitic circus. With luminaries of repression such as Libya and Iran organizing the conference, Durban II promises to be even worse. Our Conservative government declared Canada will have nothing to do with it. To their credit, the Liberals concurred and so did the NDP – at first. Then activists within the NDP – the people who stand as candidates, campaign in elections and attend party conferences – revolted.

Yes, the purpose of Durban II is to demonize Israel and that’s exactly why many in the NDP want Canada to attend. Stacy Douglas, who until recently was the NDP candidate for Scarborough-Agincourt, is a good example of the type.*

Douglas wrote an open letter to party leader Jack Layton imploring him to support Durban II. In her letter, Douglas doesn’t even pretend the conference has anything to do with countering racism around the globe. Rather, she sees Durban exclusively as an opportunity to smear Israel as an “apartheid” and “colonial” state.

Possibly, Douglas doesn’t even know that Durban II was meant to have a more legitimate purpose, as she writes that the conference “is about investigating various countries' roles in propping up [Israel’s] apartheid state practices.” (http://tinyurl.com/4wb3h2)

Douglas also supposes that Durban II, (which will be held in Geneva), is to take place in South Africa, and that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are Israeli citizens. (They’re not. That’s why they need a Palestinian state.)

Her idiocy extends to the conference’s problem with Jew-hatred. She asserts: “Some are concerned that by attending the conference they will be branded as anti-semitic.”

That’s wrong of course. At Durban I, people were distributing The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other tracts more commonly found at neo-Nazi book fairs. Durban II promises to feature similar open Jew-hatred. That’s why Canada won’t attend – we don’t want to hold hands with racists. But for Douglas, it seems, if they loathe Israel, that’s good enough for her.

The NDP has a nasty history of anti-Israel invective. In 2002, at the height of the Palestinian terror war against Israel, Svend Robinson, then the NDP foreign policy critic, travelled to the West Bank to show his solidarity with that old murderer, Yasser Arafat.

For her part, Alexa McDonough, the previous leader of the NDP, accused Israel of “terrorism” and smeared it with the “apartheid” label.

Sid Ryan is another prominent Dipper, having run for the NDP in three provincial and two federal election campaigns. Even more importantly for the NDP, Ryan leads the Ontario wing of Canadian Union of Public Employees, the country’s largest union. Ryan may also be Canada’s most promiment Israel-basher. In 2006, he led CUPE, Ontario, to become one of the few organizations in Canada to pass an anti-Israel boycott motion (see: http://tinyurl.com/f6v7e).

In Canada’s just announced federal election, the NDP is running Samira Laouni as its candidate for the Montreal riding of Bourassa. Laouni works with the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), an organization that calls on Canada to remove Hezbollah and Hamas from our list of terrorist organizations. The CIC’s stand is perfectly understandable, given that the organization’s president, Mohammed Elmasry, has in the past endorsed terrorism, saying that all Israelis over the age of 18 are legitimate targets.

The president of Laouni’s riding association was Hayder Moussa. The National Post reports that Moussa is also vice-president of the Association des Jeunes Libanais Museulmans de Montreal, an organization that plays Hezbollah’s war anthem on its web site. According to the National Post, Moussa was asked to resign from his position with the NDP “after the party learned of a controversial poem he had written, in which he was accused of labelling non-Muslim women as promiscuous drunks.” (http://tinyurl.com/498gs4)

Given the prevalence of anti-Israel elements in the NDP, it’s no surprise that the party reversed itself and came out in favour of Canada attending Durban II.“I’m encouraged they finally saw the light,” said Mohamed Boudjenane, executive director of the Canadian Arab Federation and a former NDP candidate (http://tinyurl.com/5yqyx4).

But then eight NDP members of parliament, including deputy leader Thomas Mulcair, staged a counter-revolt and forced party leader Jack Layton to reverse course once more.

The NDP’s latest official stance is that Canada should participate in Durban II, but only if the UN can guarantee that antisemitism won’t be tolerated at the conference. Of course, with Iran helping to plan the conference, no such guarantee can be forthcoming. And in articulating the NDP’s new position, Jack Layton said nothing about the certainty that one of Durban’s main purposes will be to vilify Israel. Why not?

Certainly, some Dippers understand that, like Canada, Israel is a liberal democracy and a force for progress in the world. Unfortunately, a majority of NDP activists see Israel as Satan incarnate.

Consider the resolution passed at the 2006 NDP national convention damning Israel’s actions during the Second Lebanon War. Beyond condemning Israel, the resolution supported Hezbollah’s pretext for war, calling on Israel to immediately quit the Sheba Farms area (which Hezbollah claims for Lebanon, though Israel captured the territory from Syria when Syria invaded Israel in 1967). Passing over Hezbollah’s history of murdering on order from Iran, the NDP resolution touted Hezbollah as a legitimate political organization and called for it to have equal standing with the legal government of Lebanon at a peace conference.

According to the Globe and Mail, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, NDP MP for Winnipeg North, asked: “Is it not important to recognize that Hezbollah is also a terrorist organization?” (http://tinyurl.com/3os257). Other delegates responded with boos, and 90 per cent of them voted for the resolution.

We’ll never see Jack Layton object to Durban II on the grounds that its purpose is to demonize Israel. He can’t. For 90 per cent of NDP activists, opposing the only democracy in the Middle East is what being “progressive” is all about.


The honour role - NDP MPs who forced their party to abandon its support for the antisemitic Durban II conference:

Dawn Black (New Westminster)
Dave Christopherson (Hamilton Centre)
Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Brian Masse (Windsor West)
Thomas Mulcair (Outremont)
Penny Priddy (Surrey North)
Peter Stoffer (Sackville Eastern Shore)
Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North)

*Stacy Douglas stepped down from the NDP candidacy to pursue her doctorate in Britain. Simon Dougherty is the NDP candidate for Scarborough-Agincourt in the current (Oct 2008) federal election.

Other versions of this article appeared in the September 4, 2008, Jewish Tribune, a community paper published weekly by B'nai Brith Canada, and on the Engage website hereYou can find a collection of my pieces on the Engage website here