Trudeau ignores anti-Muslim video, attacks pro-Palestinian activist

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO

We've become accustomed to the up-is-down, black-is-white nature of U.S. politics -- such as when Republican Senator Lindsey Graham suggested that Christine Blasey Ford's claim of being sexually assaulted amounted to a "drive-by shooting" of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Canadian politics usually seem less crazy. But then there's this.

Last month, two Toronto women posted a 20-minute video in which they denounce the "sewage, garbage" coming into the country, and call for the death of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, several Liberal MPs with Muslim and racial identities, as well as NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

The video is alarming, possibly qualifying as hate speech.

But instead of Trudeau denouncing such racial vitriol, he ended up smearing pro-Palestinian activist Dimitri Lascaris who brought the video to public attention.

The episode highlights the extent to which debate over Palestinian rights has been all but shut down by our political leaders. Indeed, one advocates for Palestine at one's peril. 

Lascaris, a lawyer and former Green Party candidate, participated in a protest last month after the pro-Israel organization B'nai Brith criticized the Canadian Union of Postal Workers for siding with Palestinian postal workers.

A counter-protest was staged by the Jewish Defence League, and attended by high-profile white nationalist Faith Goldy. 

Two female supporters of B'nai Brith who attended the counter-protest later posted the video in which they openly denounce Palestinians, and call for them to "go home."

"We're traumatized by the kind of sewage, garbage, whatever, coming into our country," say the women, who seem middle-class, and declare themselves supporters of Doug Ford. 

"I just think we should bring in the death penalty … start with some of our politicians… Justin Trudeau, he'd be the first one to go. And [Maryam] Monsef. And Iqra Khalid. And Ahmed Hussen. And Omar Alghabra…And Singh, Singh, let's make him sing, you know, as he walks toward the guillotine!"

Let's just stop right there. Imagine the reaction if two Muslims made a video calling for the death of our prime minister and Jewish MPs. They'd be denounced, placed under surveillance or arrested. 

But nothing happened here. Instead, it was Lascaris who soon found himself under attack after he posted the video in a tweet and called on B'nai Brith and two leading pro-Israel Liberal MPs, Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt, to denounce calls for the death of their Liberal colleagues. 

When there was no denunciation, Lascaris tweeted that the MPs seem "more devoted to apartheid Israel than to their own prime minister and colleagues in the Liberal caucus."

While the attacks on Muslims didn't provoke any reaction from our prime minister, that tweet did. Trudeau responded:

"Vile anti-Semitic smears like this are completely unacceptable, and should always be called out. Thank you @LevittMichael and @AHousefather for standing up to this, and for everything you do for your communities and our country."

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh joined in:

"Antisemitism has no place in Canada. I know what it's like to experience racism and discrimination, and to have my loyalty to Canada questioned. @LevittMichael and @AHousefather, I stand with you today."

Not a word from these party leaders about the anti-Muslim venom from the two B'nai Brith supporters.  

These reactions show how our political leaders have fallen in line behind the pro-Israel lobby in its attempt to stifle critics with charges of "anti-semitism."

Lascaris is a controversial figure because he -- along with groups like Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East -- are trying to encourage a public debate over Ottawa's refusal to pressure Israel to stop its illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

They point out that Ottawa applies sanctions to 19 nations but not Israel, even though Canada acknowledges that Israel's settlements violate international law.

Interestingly, some 66 per cent of Canadians support sanctions against Israel, according to an EKOS poll, but the pro-Israel lobby has effectively banned this topic from political discourse in Canada. 

Maybe there's a good reason not to sanction Israel -- despite its violation of international law -- but then let's hear our political leaders articulate that reason, rather than simply smacking down anyone who dares to question their silence on the issue.

Linda McQuaig is a journalist and author. Her book Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Myths was among the books selected by the Literary Review of Canada as the "25 most influential Canadian books of the past 25 years." This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO

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