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Libby Davies - forced to apologize - anti-Israel

E.Tamaran
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Joined: Oct 17 2009

By Mike De Souza

OTTAWA - New Democratic Party deputy leader Libby Davies is in hot water in her own caucus over controversial comments she made this month at an anti-Israeli protest when she appeared to question the Jewish state's right to exist, while also suggesting that she believes it should face a boycott and sanctions.

The remarks, made in Vancouver and captured on the above video, which is circulating rapidly on the Internet, have provoked an angry backlash among members of the NDP caucus, including Leader Jack Layton - who quickly distanced himself from Ms. Davies. "I have spoken to the [Israeli] ambassador [to Canada], to indicate very clearly that those comments were not the position of our party and Ms. Davies has sent a letter indicating that she made a very serious mistake," Mr. Layton said. "I told her it was a serious mistake."

The video shows Ms. Davies answering a series of questions about the situation in the Middle East, starting with comments suggesting that Israel has been occupying territories since 1948, which is the year of its independence.

"[The occupation started in] '48. It's the longest occupation in the world," she said in the video. "People are suffering. I've been to the West Bank and Gaza twice, so I see what's going on."

Ms. Davies also expressed her personal support for an international campaign for a boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, breaking ranks with her party's official position.

Thomas Mulcair, the NDP's other deputy leader, said he found the video online last week and "was very quick to point it out" to some of his colleagues to clarify the party's support of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

"No member of our caucus, whatever other title they have, is allowed to invent their own policy," said Mr. Mulcair. "We take decisions together, parties formulate policies together, and to say that you're personally in favour of boycott, divestment and sanctions for the only democracy in the Middle East is, as far as I'm concerned, grossly unacceptable."

In a letter to the Ottawa Citizen that published an editorial last week criticizing Ms. Davies' comments, the Vancouver-area MP apologized for causing "confusion."

"My reference to the year 1948 as the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory was a serious and completely inadvertent error," she said in the letter, which was also posted on her personal website at libbydavies.ca.

"I have always supported a two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have never questioned Israel's right to exist and the Palestinian's right to a viable state ... I reject the allegation that I hate Israel, and I reject the assertion that I said that Israel is illegitimate or an abomination. Neither are true."

But Mr. Mulcair said that Ms. Davies, who could not immediately be reached for comment, should also apologize and retract her comments supporting a boycott. He said it is particularly "egregious" since she is a deputy leader of the party.

"As much as it's difficult, if any individual member of Parliament goes off-script on any issue of policy that is well-defined by the party, it would be a problem," said Mr. Mulcair. "But that problem is of course compounded in the case of someone who putatively, with the title that she holds, would give more weight to these views that are not the views of the party."

Steve McDonald, a spokesman for the Canada-Israel Committee, a non-profit group that focuses on raising awareness about relations between the two countries, said he was skeptical about whether it was an inadvertent error by Ms. Davies - and noted she didn't apologize for supporting the boycott campaign.

"She is a senior parliamentarian in that party. She's obviously concerned or passionate about that issue," said Mr. McDonald. "I don't think someone in that position can hide behind a defence of confusion in this case. Especially when we're talking about something as fundamental as referring to 1948 as when the occupation began."

But Mr. McDonald added that Mr. Mulcair was not the only one upset about Ms. Davies' comments, explaining that the committee's government relations representative, former Bloc Quebecois MP Richard Marceau, has spoken to "a number of caucus members who thought the video was disgusting."

"It's particularly disturbing to see a parliamentarian, who does claim to be educated on the issue, come out and say something that is so far outside the Canadian mainstream," said Mr. McDonald. "It's so far beyond Canada's historical position. It's so far beyond the international consensus of the two-state solution which we all support at this point. These are the types of comments that hurt the two-state solution."

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utXDAha_vGg&feature=player_embedded

 

 


Comments

Papal Bull
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Joined: Oct 7 2004

So, a small opposition party in Canada can put into jeopardy the two-state solution and over rule the entire international community? Interesting.


Chester Drawers
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Joined: Oct 17 2008

Some one who makes these types of comments often is speaking their true feelings no matter what apology they give.  Doesn't matter what political stripe, every party has diverse members that often speak non-party mantra.  I do commend the leadership for their response, however because of the racist flavor of this, she should resign as deputy leader.  To bad, she is often one of the most honest speakers when she is not being partisan.


Stargazer
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Joined: Jun 9 2004

I can't watch the video but let me get this straight - Libby Davies is getting chastised by Jack Layton for saying she supports boycotting Israel while Cheri DiNovo gets no talking to at all for her unquestioning support of Israel?

Chester Drawers, are you saying that Libby Davies wishes to see Israel disappear? Did she say those exact words?


Papal Bull
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Chester Drawers wrote:
racist flavor of this

 

How so?

 

 


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Could I kindly ask you folks to not engage Chester in this discussion? This is a very serious development which progressive people should mull over. We don't need to start right off by dealing with his kind of stuff.

I'm surprised I heard nothing about this since it originally happened. Did anyone else?

More importantly - how do we defend Libby Davies against this McCarthyism before they get rid of one of the few people of conscience left in that caucus?

 


skdadl
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Joined: May 5 2001

E. Tamaran, do you have a link for the full text of your OP? Thanks very much.

Stargazer, it's a shame you couldn't watch the YouTube because Libby is very reasonable in that conversation. She's arguing more for public space to debate the idea of BDS, and at one point she becomes uncomfortable being pressed on the issue.

This comment made me laugh:

Quote:
"It's particularly disturbing to see a parliamentarian, who does claim to be educated on the issue, come out and say something that is so far outside the Canadian mainstream," said Mr. McDonald. "It's so far beyond Canada's historical position.

Since when does any basically decent and intelligent citizen worry about being "mainstream"? You cannot be a moral being while tailoring your morals to the "mainstream" at the same time -- it just cannot be done. And Canada's "historical position" on Israel/Palestine has certainly been shuggled by the Harper government, very much to the right, although again, that shouldn't be what determines the views of responsible citizens now.

I'm shocked by Mulcair's attack and Layton's flaccid acquiescence in it. I'm a member of the NDP -- both the feds and the ONDP get monthly donations from me. Great gawd ... how many times over the last forty-plus years have I had to retract that commitment for a time?

 


remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

Hopefully Muclair loses his seat, and I will be writing a letter to the NDP and Jack Layton over this BS.

 

In fact I will be visualizing  the Liberals getting Muclair's seat......fucker.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Remind, let me know when you realize that this is Layton and the whole party leadership doing this. Mulcair just happens to be one of the many unabashed supporters of Israel in that caucus. You think this is Mulcair's doing? As I said, let me know when reality hits, then we can talk.

About Libby.

And Mable Elmore.

And Cheri DiNovo.

And Pat Martin and Judy Wasylicia-Leis (or whoever replaces her now) on the CPCCA.

Starting to see a pattern?

 


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

I don't see anything wrong with anything she said.


remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

Muclair started it and has been the driving force. POS that he has shown himself to be.


epaulo13
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Joined: Dec 13 2009

Unionist wrote:

More importantly - how do we defend Libby Davies against this McCarthyism before they get rid of one of the few people of conscience left in that caucus?

..yes, how can we defend her? something beyond the usual emails maybe.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

No kidding, Michelle. I didn't see anything wrong with what Mable Elmore said either. In fact, I didn't see anything wrong with what Leslie Hughes said, for that matter. Not even Helen Thomas!

But you and I aren't worthy to judge those things. We're not in Stephen Harper's "Israel's best friend in the world" camp. And we're not spineless cowards. So we're disqualified from the judging.

 


-=+=-
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Joined: Oct 10 2004

I know Mulcair is the big NPD hope in Quebec, but who is he to lecture Libby Davies?  And Davies can't give her personal opinion on Israel, but it's okay for Mulcair to say that policies like a boycott are "as far as I'm concerned, grossly unacceptable"?  Hypocrisy, thy name is Mulcair.  Very, very, very disappointed.  The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  I will keep voting NDP, but only because my MP is Davies.

(And if this is what we get with a Liberal merger/coalition -- the right side of the party bad-mouthing the left, who must remain silent, in the press -- no thank you).

Layton's response, on the other hand, is disappointing, but acceptable.  He calls it a "serious mistake" -- which technically it is in relation to the party's official position.  An adequate response that doesn't get personal like Mulcair's does.

As for Mr. Macdonald of the Canada-Israel Committee:  the two-state solution is already dead, it doesn't need Libby Davies to hasten its demise.


-=+=-
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Joined: Oct 10 2004

double post


-=+=-
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Joined: Oct 10 2004

double post


bagkitty
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Joined: Aug 27 2008

Well I could watch the video (terrible sound quality mind you) and Libby went to quite great lengths to qualify her remarks as personal, was concerned that it be understood that she was anti-occupation and then went on to point out that the current political climate in Canada was stifling debate because anyone who was anti-occupation was opening themselves up to acccusations of being anti-semitic or anti-Israeli (and we know how often those two are conflated). As to the weird question about 1948/1967... it was kind of obvious to me that it was convoluted and intentionally a "gotcha" question - had I been asked, I would have asserted 1948 somewhat strenuously and would say that Israel has been in violation of U.N. resolution 181 since the very beginning of its existence as a state.


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

She did the right thing - she spoke honestly and with compassion about a situation where there is a very clear aggressor and oppressed.  God forbid anyone else in the caucus should do something like that, huh?


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

When I wrote to Mulcair (my soon-to-be-ex-MP) and asked him to urge the NDP to leave the CPCCA - he never replied. I had several discussions with two BQ MPs who maintain particularly close relations with our union. I couldn't find anyone in the NDP to discuss the matter with, unfortunately. I'm glad to say the Bloc was a lot more open to those discussions, and they finally did the right thing (though they're still nervous about it because of the power of the Israel lobby).

Anyway, I'm obviously done with Mulcair. I knew about his pro-Israel sympathies right from day one, and expressed my hesitations about him on that basis here on babble. But I was prepared to ignore that and support him for lots of other reasons. We can't dictate people's opinions on a host of matters. But when he decided to become a filthy little stoolpigeon dictating to better people than he will ever be, it's no longer a matter of opinions. It's a matter of which side are you on. He's on the wrong side of history.

As for Layton, he has a simple choice - and unfortunately it appears he has already made it. Next step will be dumping Libby as deputy leader.


radiorahim
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Joined: Jun 17 2002

Libby is very clearly trying to open up some space for debate within the NDP and within Parliament on the Palestine issue.

And then of course we see the "National (Israel can do no wrong) Post" leading the McCarthyite witchhunt against her.

The problem is that the NDP has a completely wimpy position on Palestine...not much better than the other parties.   And the NDP's response to the massacre on the Mediterranean was totally pathetic. 

The NDP seldom leads on controversial issues.   Instead it has to be pushed kicking and screaming by activist movements.

 


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

This is shades of 2002. Alexa McDonough fired Svend Robinson from his foreign affairs critic role after he tried to visit Arafat in his confinement and criticized the Israeli government.

Too many similarities for comfort.

I wouldn't mind the NDP not leading, if they just didn't suppress people of conscience.

 


skdadl
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Joined: May 5 2001

Does the OP come from the Notional Pest?


Frustrated Mess
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Joined: Feb 23 2005

The response of Layton was as despicable as that of Muclair.

This is truly disheartening. If the NDP is far too cowardly to stand with the children of Gaza and against the racist ideological equivalent of the mouse that roared, why should anyone believe the NDP would stand with workers and people against truly powerful corporate and industrial forces when it comes to labour, environment, rights, and the economy?

They are just another Liberal party standing for nothing but bending for every slight breeze.

ETA: I too will be sending a message but I'm certain I will vomit at the smarmy form email I will get in reply.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

skdadl wrote:

Does the OP come from the Notional Pest?

Canwest. It's on the Montreal Gazette website too. Here.


remind
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Joined: Jun 25 2004

Personally, I think 'the NDP' is those in the activist movements, where the "leaders" go wrong is thinking they are the NDP, once they are elected.

 


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

I don't think the NDP leaders are cowardly at all. This is colder war stuff. And I think it's cowardly to ignore this fact. And what was the cold war part one all about? It was a lot of bullshit. I don't blame the NDP for not wanting to step in the bullshit in another one of Uncle Sam's front line states.

If the two dirty old line parties can avoid discussing social democracy and democracy in general here at home, then why should the NDP take on our vicious toadies over what's happening thousands of miles away on the other side of the planet? N-no, let's attack our vicious toadies where they are weak, which is right here at home where it counts for most Canadians.


Frustrated Mess
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Joined: Feb 23 2005

For God sakes.


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

You just don't like the way the NDP is forced to play old line party politicking around an obsolete electoral system, we can tell.


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

I haven't been following this because I've been so busy, but wanted to chime in with my support for Libby.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005
Excuse me while I go take a shower.

skdadl
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Joined: May 5 2001

Actually, Fidel, parts of the CCF/NDP (not Tommy, but Lewis Sr) have quite the Cold Warrior history, maybe not McCarthyite but tippy-toeing in that direction, partly for practical reasons. Sorry: this is drift, but I think we should keep our history careful.


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