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I knew Michael Lynk some time ago when he was practising labour law in Ottawa, before he went on to become a professor of law at the University of Western Ontario. He has enjoyed a distinguished career since, specializing in labour and human rights.

Our country should be proud that such an eminently qualified Canadian jurist has just been appointed by the United Nations as a special rapporteur on human rights in occupied Palestine.

But there’s a problem.

Lynk is “pro-Palestinian,” according to the Jerusalem Post. That is apparently an unforgivable sin. Needless to say, once the appointment was announced, the heavy guns of the New McCarthyism were quickly swung around in his direction.

The pro-Israel lobby group UN Watch said that Lynk had tried to explain the 9/11 attacks on “global inequalities” and “disregard by Western nations for the international rule of law.” Such events, as we all should know, have no causes whatsoever. They simply erupt into history.

U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq might have led to the deaths of up to half a million Iraqi children by 2001 — but this sort of thing should not be expected to have consequences. We do to them. They do not do to us. That’s the way of the world. How dare Michael Lynk suggest otherwise?

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, B’nai Brith and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal responded vocally as well. Why, Lynk has had the temerity to be deeply critical of Israel, particularly of the slaughter of Gazans. He’s been on their blacklist for some time.

Unsurprisingly — because when these groups make noise, our politicians jump into action — this has now reached the House of Commons. Tony Clement, the sleazy ex-minister best known for spending $50 million of border security money on feathering his own political nest, is unhappy about the appointment. We are expected to take due note of his unhappiness.

Liberal Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion has done just that. This empty vessel, who has vigorously defended selling $15 billion of armoured vehicles to the vile Saudi Arabian regime, cares nothing about human rights when there is money to be made or a powerful lobby to be placated. So he now bravely stands up to oppose Lynk’s appointment, demanding that the UN reconsider. One expects the UN to give that impudent suggestion toute l’attention qu’elle merite.

In Canada, critics of Israel are currently being hounded and harassed, on university campuses, in the media, and in Parliament. The recent Liberal-Conservative motion against the BDS movement may signal, in fact, the intent to criminalize criticism of Israel, which has already happened in France.

Those of us who support human rights need to be just as loud as the pro-Israel lobby — in fact, much louder. The invective now being directed against Michael Lynk is only a symptom of a deeper political malaise. A person of his accomplishments needs no defence, but there is much more at stake here. The old McCarthyism flourished because people were afraid they would be targeted if they spoke out. Can we find the courage to put an end to the new one?

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