Pro-Israel politics makes for strange bedfellows.
B'nai Brith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) must be concerned about the furor over Doug Ford's ties to fringe Toronto mayoral candidate Faith Goldy. Last month the prominent white nationalist participated in a B'nai Brith support rally and the two pro-Israel groups smeared Dimitri Lascaris when he called on them to denounce a racist video made by B'nai Brith supporters and to publicly reject Goldy. And in a twist highlighting the anti-Palestinianism in mainstream Canadian politics, Bernie Farber, a vocal critic of Ford's ties to Goldy, expressed support for the smears on Lascaris.
Last week Goldy was photographed with Ontario's new premier at his Ford Festbarbecue. For three days after the photo emerged Ford refused to distance himself from Goldy. In a bizarre bid to deflect criticism, Ford responded to questions about his support for Goldy by telling the Ontario legislature that an NDP MPP supported the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Goldy is a problem for B'nai Brith and CIJA. They likely would prefer not to criticize someone who is supportive of Israel and popular with their most aggressive Israeli nationalist supporters. But Goldy is toxic to the media and most B'nai Brith and CIJA supporters would probably consider her views distasteful. In April, for instance, Goldy promoted a 1937 book by Romanian fascist leader Corneliu Codreanu titled For My Legionaries, which repeatedly attacks Jews and called for eliminating the "Jewish threat."
More immediately, the attention focused on Goldy should embarrass CIJA and B'nai Brith because the smear campaign against pro-Palestinian lawyer Dimitri Lascaris was motivated in part by his criticism of their refusal to denounce Goldy's attendance at a B'nai Brith support rally. On August 29 the white supremacist mayoral candidate was photographed with individuals counter-protesting a rally opposed to B'nai Brith smearing the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). In the wake of that protest, B'nai Brith, CIJA, Liberal MP Michael Levitt and others condemned those rallying in support of CUPW. In response, Lascaris repeatedly called on them to distance themselves from two B'nai Brith supporters who produced a post-rally video praising Goldy and calling for the death penalty for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and several Muslim MPs. In one tweet Lascaris wrote:
"Mary Forrest, one of the B'nai Brith supporters who called for the death penalty to be imposed on Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh and Muslim MPs, poses outside B'nai Brith's office with Faith Goldy, who promoted a fascist book calling for elimination of the 'Jewish menace.'"
In another he stated:
"White supremacist Faith Goldy promoted fascist propaganda calling for eliminating 'the Jewish menace.' Goldy was warmly received by B'nai Brith supporters last week. And B'nai Brith expects us to believe it speaks for Canadian Jewry?"
B'nai Brith, CIJA and Levitt refused to disassociate themselves from Goldy or the two B'nai Brith supporters who made death threats against politicians. As I detail here and here, CIJA and B'nai Brith responded to Lascaris's highlighting their dalliance with racist extremists by distorting an innocuous tweet about two anti-Palestinian Liberal MPs and then called on politicians to denounce his "anti-Semitism."
In a double standard, former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress Bernie Farber, who has been widely quoted criticizing Ford's association with Goldy, jumped full throttle into the smear campaign against Lascaris. Farber re-tweeted statements tarring Lascaris by Liberal MP Marco Mendicino and JSpaceCanada, for which he is a spokesperson. Chair of the newly formed Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Farber added a personalized tweet condemning Lascaris' "antisemitism pure and simple."
Lascaris's rationale for pressing B'nai Brith, CIJA and Levitt to disassociate from Goldy was that they aligned with her supporters by attacking those rallying in defence of CUPW. Lascaris should have added Farber to his list of targets. The longtime pro-Israel lobbyist criticized those who rallied in support of CUPW, but remained silent about the racist Goldy-supporting counter-protest.
After the display of solidarity with CUPW, Farber re-tweeted Levitt's criticism of the protest at B'nai Brith's office. He wrote, "I agree with Michael Levitt. I know a number of elderly Holocaust survivors in this neighbourhood who were taken aback perhaps even traumatized by this protest. It saddens me deeply that dialogue is replaced by perceived intimidation." The next day he followed up his those-levelling-smears-are-the-victims tweet with a declaration on the "unsettling demonstration in front of B'nai Brith Canada." In the 400-word statement he ignores the racist, Goldy-aligned Israeli nationalists and repeatedly describes CUPW supporters as "intimidating."
But in reality, it was the counter-rally of B'nai Brith supporters that was threatening. And a self-proclaimed "anti-racist" like Farber should have been "unsettled" by the barrage of Islamophobic comments made by B'nai Brith supporters, not to mention their embrace of Goldy.
For two decades Farber was a leader in the anti-Palestinian movement. Since the Canadian Jewish Congress disbanded in 2011 Farber has worked to redress Islamophobia, but he continues to take his cues from anti-Palestinian groups.
For their part, B'nai Brith and CIJA failed to criticize Ford's ties to Goldy. Only after the premier finally distanced himself from the white nationalist did they tweet about the furor. B'nai Brith and CIJA are wary of challenging Ford partly because many of their supporters are linked to him (a Canadian Jewish News headline noted, "Ontario Tories win big in ridings with large Jewish populations"). Additionally, they support Ford's anti-Palestinian positions. In one of his first moves after being elected, Ford announced that he would seek to ban the annual Al Quds Palestinian solidarity event.
The Ford-Goldy-B'nai Brith-CIJA dalliance highlights the growing links between racist white nationalist, right-wing politics and Israeli nationalist campaigners. It's a relationship that anti-racist Palestinian solidarity activists should expose whenever possible.
Dubbed "Canada's version of Noam Chomsky" (Georgia Straight), “one of the most important voices on the Canadian Left today” (Briarpatch), "in the mould of I. F. Stone" (Globe and Mail), "ever-insightful" (rabble.ca) and a "Leftist gadfly" (Ottawa Citizen), Yves Engler has published nine books.
Photo: Montecruz Foto/Flickr
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