rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Independent Jewish Voices Canada condemns NDP removal of federal candidate for tweets criticizing Israel

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

The federal New Democratic Party has removed noted Halifax activist Rana Zaman from the party's candidacy in the Dartmouth-Cole Harbour riding, which she won on May 1 by a vote of party members. The ostensible reason for her removal is several tweets that Zaman made in August 2018 when Israeli forces were shooting thousands of unarmed Gazans during the "Great March of Return."

Although Ms. Zaman's tweets did contain comparisons to the Holocaust that Independent Jewish Voices Canada does not condone, her statement of apology, sent within less than 24 hours, acknowledged the inappropriateness of those comparisons and showed her commitment to learning from her Jewish allies.

Jewish theology and religious jurisprudence distinguish between "Yetzer HaTov" (the inclination to do good) and "Yetzer HaRa" (the inclination to evil-doing, something like the western legal notion of "mens rea" or "malice aforethought".) An act motivated by Yetzer HaRa should be treated much more severely. But an act motivated by Yetzer HaTov should be treated with mercy, understanding and education. The concept of restorative justice is appropriate.

Ultimately, the controversy around these tweets distracts from the murderous and illegal Israeli activities in Gaza. Those atrocities speak for themselves and require no embellishment by crude analogies.

According to Amnesty International, by August 2018 Israeli forces had killed almost 150 Palestinians. At least 10,000 others had been injured, including 1,800 children, 400 women, 100 paramedics, 100 journalists and Canadian emergency room physician Tarek Loubani. 

Knowing Ms. Zaman as a social activist who cares deeply about and works against injustice, we are confident that neither her intentions nor her actions were anti-Semitic. And we will work with her, not against her.

But that is not the way the Israel lobby views these matters. They are embracing the International Holocaust Remembrance Association-Working Definition of Antisemitism (IHRA-WDA). Independent Jewish Voices Canada has a rigorous critique of that weak, vague, and dangerous document. It has also been condemned by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Ontario Civil Liberties Association.

Seven of the 11 "examples" in the IHRA-WDA involve not hatred of Jews but criticism of Israel. Its author, American legal scholar Kenneth Stern, has disavowed the document. It is clearly meant as a cudgel to beat critics of Israeli policy over the head. The IHRA document says that "drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis" is nothing less than full-blown anti-Semitism. Full stop. The IHRA-WDA, to which representatives of the mainstream Jewish community directed Ms. Zaman in response to her tweets, becomes judge, jury and executioner. The Israel lobby is demanding that the highly-flawed IHRA definition be adopted by all Canadian governments, universities and other such institutions.

As for the NDP, now that Ms. Zaman has posted her statement, why is that apology not good enough for the party to re-instate her to the candidacy? In the 2015 federal election campaign, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair blocked four candidates found to be critics of Israeli policy. We had thought that under Jagmeet Singh the party would be more even-handed on the question of Israel/Palestine. But at its convention in March 2018, its apparatchiks conspired to keep a very mild resolution on the issue from even reaching the floor.

Shame on the NDP for betraying its progressive roots by allowing itself to be manipulated by the Israel lobby and throwing a progressive woman of colour under the bus.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.