Media Complicity in Demonizing Palestinians

York University Update

“The damage has been done, the smear was repeated and repeated, and a half-hearted revision five days after the first story will not undue the harm that has been caused.”

This quote is from the article posted on the CPA website yesterday, entitled “Jerusalem Post admits to printing false info about York University protest”. That article detailed how false and dangerous accusations against pro-Palestinian supporters in a Jerusalem Post story had lacked any credible evidence and were eventually revised in updated versions.

But indeed, the smear becomes accepted fact. Just today, November 28, 2019, the Toronto Sun carried an inflammatory article by Joe Warmington, entitled “Did York University protestors commit a hate crime?” repeating the same false accusation, again referencing the Jerusalem Post and its quote from Shar Leyb. The original Sun article declared: “One person they may want to talk with is Calgary-born Shar Leyb, a Reservists on Duty speaker who — according to the Jerusalem Post — said “there were hundreds of posters that read ‘stop the IDF killers on campus,’ and ‘we do not let Zionists on York University campus” and we heard some outside chanting “Intifada, Intifada, go back to the ovens, you belong in Europe.’ I have never felt so much hate in my life.”

However, after we pointed out to them in an email exchange that even the Jerusalem Post had revised that quote and removed the second part of it, the Sun has now also revised their story. Mind you, they did not feel compelled to alter the misleading title.

Following the original exchange with the Jerusalem Post and a further query by Dimitri Lascaris, the paper is now on the 5th version of this particular article. FIVE versions in less than a week. Surely that points to the lack of any credibility of the one biased source for this information. Nonetheless, JPost still insists on repeating it in their introductory paragraph, although attributing it to only “several” protestors.

Even the right-wing FrontPage Mag has revised its story on who alleges to have heard this “chant” and the exact wording involved, but they also are still insisting on leading with this claim in their article and even in their title. Their source is also Shar Leyb, not surprisingly the same source as the Jerusalem Post.

This is how media works to demonize Palestinians and their struggle. First, its an angry mob of 600 who chanted this offensive slogan, then it was downgraded to a handful or several protestors. Then the actual quote from the one source is completely removed from the Jerusalem Post. But the seed has been planted and the tags of racist and anti-Semitic have been loosely thrown around, with even the spectre of “hate crimes” brought up. Will anyone, including PM Justin Trudeau, bother to review all of these developments and admit they were wrong to issue their dangerous accusations of anti-Semitism? And recognize the harm caused by their rush to embrace such fabrications and deceptions?

Boycott HP, Mark Int’l Day of Solidarity with Palestinians

Boycott HP, Mark International Day of Solidarity
Saturday, December 7, 2 pm
Best Buy, 798 Granville (at Robson), Vancouver
Join the FB event

Nov. 29 marks the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This year, join with us and show our solidarity with the Palestinians to say #BoycottHP, Technology of Israeli Apartheid!

Hewlett Packard branded companies play a key role in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. They provide equipment and services to the Israeli military, prison system and government, including the ID card system that underpin Israel’s apartheid policies and its movement restrictions for Palestinians.
Along with providing technology to the Israeli military that maintains Israel’s illegal occupation and the aggression and siege on Gaza, HP provides Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority with the exclusive Itanium servers for its Aviv System. This system enables the government to control and enforce its system of racial segregation and apartheid against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and is directly involved in Israel’s settler colonialism through its “Yesha database”, which compiles information on Israeli citizens in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

There are over 5000 Palestinian political prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails, 460 of them held under administrative detention without charge or trial. Hewlett Packard Enterprise holds the current contract for maintenance of the Israel Prison Services data systems.
Boycott HP!
End the Siege on Gaza!
Free All Palestinian Political Prisoners!

Organized by Canada Palestine Association-Vancouver and BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish Territories

#RaptorsDontGo Campaign Declares Victory

Update from Canadian BDS Coalition

Statement of Canadian BDS Coalition
October 22, 2019

The Canadian BDS Coalition is pleased to announce that the #RaptorsDontGo campaign has been successful. Our campaign was launched in June 2019, immediately following the Raptors victory in the NBA championship; and after team co-owner Larry Tanenbaum received extensive coverage in the Israeli media stating he would bring the team to visit Israel if they won the championship. The Israeli Embassy in Ottawa highlighted the issue, and tweeted the Raptors promising “we’ll call you…to help with the arrangements”.
However, the 2019-20 NBA new season has now begun and there has been no reported public team visit; and continued silence from all of the team owners on this issue.
The campaign from the onset seemed to strike a chord with many people, both in Canada and globally. Although the Israeli lobby has engaged in other sportswashing events, this particular attempt struck many as an incredibly blatant and crude exploitation of a popular victory for an overt political agenda.

#RaptorsDontGo took off on social media and the Coalition would like to thank all of the individuals and groups who helped the campaign become so popular so quickly. Our petition gathered over 6500 signatures, a parallel petition in the U.S., started by CodePink, had over 2700 people sign on, and Jewish Voice for Peace also picked up the campaign on social media.
The Chair of BDS Vancouver, Aiyanas Ormond, stated in an open letter: “Around the world poor and oppressed people have embraced basketball as a sport of the people, and basketball players, many of whom come from poor and struggling backgrounds, have an important history of taking progressive positions and giving back to their communities. From Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Bill Russel’s stand with Mohammed Ali against the draft and the Vietnam War to public and collective statements against police brutality against Black people in America, NBA players have stood on the side of social and racial justice.”
Why exactly the Raptors team never went on the “promised trip” may have been the result of several factors, not the least of which was the quick and overwhelmingly negative response by so many basketball fans. This must surely have been noticed by the team’s owners – Bell 37.5%, Rogers 37.5% and Tanenbaum’s company Kilmer Sports 25%. Although Tanenbaum’s entity may not be impacted by public opinion on this issue, Bell and Rogers certainly are and have their broader business agenda to consider. Also, the protests that happened in Israel after the police shooting of an Ethiopian teenager on June 30, 2019, some referencing slogans of the Black Lives Matter movement, would have been a politically damaging backdrop for such a team visit.

The Canadian BDS Coalition is grateful that this visit did not materialize, as it would have given legitimacy to Israel’s war crimes. We feel the #RaptorsDontGo campaign also demonstrated the strength of popular grassroots campaigns that can mobilize to achieve justice for Palestinians. As with the Boycott Puma campaign, that calls out that company’s sponsorship of the Israeli Football Association which includes teams from the illegal settlements, the push-back on sportswashing of Israel’s dispossession of a whole nation and people is a critical part of the struggle for Palestinian rights.

Check out the new articles in Mondoweiss and Palestine Chronicle

Liberal Party Position on Palestine

Oct. 18, 2019
Since the Liberal Party chose to not respond to I Vote Palestine questions, we have summarized their position in their response to the Zionist organization, the B’nai Brith. Highlights were:
BDS is anti-Semitic, Yes to IHRA, No to “Singling-out Israel”, and the Gaza March of Return is an Iranian conspiracy!

More details:

“the Prime Minister and Liberal Caucus supported a resolution in the House of Commons condemning the BDS movement … rejecting “the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel.”

..earlier this year the Liberal Government adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as Government policy.”

On “Singling out Israel”
“As the only true democracy in the Middle East, it is the Liberal Party’s position to oppose efforts that unfairly and unjustly single-out Israel for condemnation through demonization, delegitimization, and holding Israel to a double-standard.”

On the “unshakable friendship”
“we have always been clear: Canada’s friendship with Israel is unshakeable.”

On voting at the UN:
“As promised in the 2015 election, for the past four years Canada has an unbroken record of voting against the annual slate of unjust UN General Assembly resolutions that vilify Israel.”

On UN Human Rights Council:
“While Canada is not a member of the UN Human Rights Council, and cannot vote on its agenda items, the Liberal Party opposes all efforts that unfairly single-out Israel, at this and other international fora.”

On “democratic values”:
“As Prime Minister Trudeau said during Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s state visit to Canada in April 2019: ‘Canada and Israel are close friends and steadfast allies united by democratic values and deep people-to-people bonds. We are proud to stand with Israel’.”

On Israel’s right to defend itself:
“As Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in 2018, ‘We know Israel is a democratic state in a dangerous neighbourhood. And … we fully support Israel’s right to defend itself against aggression – whether it is from Iran or from terrorist groups such as Hamas’.”

On Iran’s support for the resistance organizations:
“As Prime Minister Trudeau stated in 2018, ‘we deeply oppose Iran’s support for terrorist organizations, its threats toward Israel, its ballistic missile program, and its support for the murderous Assad regime [in Syria]. We will always defend human rights and hold Iran to account for its actions’.”

On Gaza’s march of return:
That is why the Liberal Party supported a House of Commons motion in June 2018 that “strongly condemns the current regime in Iran for its ongoing sponsorship of terrorism around the world, including instigating violent attacks on the Gaza border”

The NDP responds to I Vote Palestine questions

Text version of the New Democratic Party NDP response to the I Vote Palestine letter with the nine questions sent by CPA (in the name of 21 organizations) to all party leaders.

Oct. 8, 2019
NDP Response: Canada Palestine Association

We stand for freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people, and
we ask you to clarify where you and your party stand on the following:

* Do you support Palestinian human and national rights including the inalienable right to self-determination?
A. Yes, we are committed to the protection of Palestinian human rights, including the inalienable right to self-determination.

* Do you oppose Israeli ethnic cleansing, war crimes and apartheid?
A. We oppose all human-rights abuses committed by Israel, including killings, arbitrary and abusive detention, forced displacement, restrictions on movement, the expansion of illegal settlements, and all other human-rights abuses.

* Do you recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality?
A. Yes, we stand for full equality of Arab Israelis and against the discrimination that exists against them in Israel today.

* Do you respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194?
A. We fully support UN resolutions with respect to Israel and Palestine, including UN General Assembly resolution 194.

* Do you support ending Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall?
A. Yes. Canada should play a more active role in calling for the end of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

* Do you oppose Canadian tax-deductible status for the Jewish National Fund JNF, HESEG Foundation and all Zionist organizations that are disguised as charities while supporting the Israeli military and settlements?
A. These are matters for the CRA to determine. Having said that, NDP MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault sponsored a parliamentary petition calling on the Minister of National Revenue to revoke JNF Canada’s charitable status if found to be in violation of the Income Tax Act and CRA guidelines and policies.

* Do you recognize the rights of Canadians to support the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions BDS movement as a non-violent strategy to force Israel to abide by UN resolutions and all international humanitarian laws?
A. Yes.

* Do you oppose condemning or criminalizing people or organizations who support the BDS Movement?
A. Yes.

* Do you oppose the anti-Palestinian, anti-democratic and politically charged IHRA definition of anti-Semitism?
A. We believe the government of Canada must have a clear definition of anti-Semitism so we can better gauge, report, and work towards ending it. We have some concerns that the IHRA definition and its associated examples could undermine those who wish to speak out in favour of the human rights of Palestinians.

No photo description available.

Resisting Attacks on Palestinian Rights

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 at 7 PM – 9 PM
SFU Harbour Centre Campus Vancouver (Room 7000)

Facebook Event

nullWednesday, October 2, 2019 at 7 PM – 9 PM
SFU Harbour Centre Campus Vancouver (Room 7000)

Facebook Event


Hanna Kawas, Canada Palestine Association
Charlotte Kates, SAMIDOUN Palestinian Prisoner Support Network
Neil Naiman, Independent Jewish Voices-Vancouver
Sara Sagaii, COPE Organizer
Marion Kawas, BDS Vancouver

Presentations will analyse recent measures taken by governments outside of Israel to repress Palestinian voices and criminalize Palestinian political activity and Palestine solidarity under the guise of ‘combating antisemitism’. Two cases will be highlighted. First, the recent motion at Vancouver City Council which would have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) of antisemitism which in its examples and guide very explicitly equates criticism of Israel with antisemitism. Second, the move by the German government to ban Palestinian journalist Khaled Barakat, an advocate for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, from speaking at any political event or being in a group of more than 10 people.

Following the presentations will be a facilitated discussion on how Palestinians and Palestine solidarity organizations can resist these moves which attempt to erase the Palestinian narrative, suppress the growing BDS movement, and isolate Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, the Gaza Strip and inside the borders of the Israel from international solidarity and support.

Organized by BDS Vancouver, Canada Palestine Association, Independent Jewish Voices-Vancouver, International League of Peoples’ Struggle Canada, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Support Network
Thanks to the SFU Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) Solidarity and Social Justice Committee for their support.

Bruce Katz: “On the False Notion of anti-Semitism”

This is the presentation given by Bruce Katz at the CISO (Centre International de Solidarité Ouvrière) at the Symposium on Palestinian Self-Determination held in Montreal from November 29th to December 1st, 2018. Translated from the original French.
CISO Symposium on Palestinian Self-Determination

‘On the false notion of anti-Semitism’
Bruce Katz
Palestinian and Jewish Unity

My presentation is divided into three parts: first, a brief overview of the dialectic formed by Zionism and anti-Semitism, because far from being opposing forces, the two have traveled together since the beginning of Zionism. European anti-Semitism, sometimes institutionalized, underpins the creation of Zionism. The second part deals with the Canadian source of the manipulation of the notion of anti-Semitism under the epithet “The New Anti-Semitism” as established by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition Against Anti-Semitism. The third part deals briefly with the conceptual basis on which Zionism (or Israelism, the worship of the State) is based.

The Dialectic
Zionist leaders at the beginning of the twentieth century understood that anti-Semitism was a prerequisite for the realization of their colonial project. Theodore Herzl was unequivocal concerning this. In his early writings he stated that governments affected by the phenomenon of anti-Semitism would be “keenly interested in helping us obtain the sovereignty we want”. Herzl concluded in his diary that “the anti-Semites will become our most trusted friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies.” This is not a short-term but rather long-term strategy that the Zionist movement and the State of Israel continue to practice.
Thus, we understand better the fact that the far-right Israeli government is rubbing shoulders with neo-fascist European governments and groups to such an extent that the chief rabbi of Europe, Pinchas Goldschmidt, has called on the Israeli government to put an end to its engagement with extreme right parties in Europe. Goldschmidt warned Israeli officials that a rapprochement with nationalist groups in Europe endangers the local Jewish community. “If a party is intrinsically racist, bigoted against large parts of society and intolerant of minorities, if Jews are not the target now, they will be in the near future,” Goldschmidt said. (“Top European rabbi urges Israel to end engagement with far right-parties.”)
This same phenomenon had previously manifested itself in the relations between the Zionist leaders and Arthur Balfour, author of the Balfour Declaration. The fact that Balfour was a known anti-Semite who, in 1905, sponsored a bill (The Aliens Act) to prevent European Jews fleeing pogroms from settling in Great Britain, did not prevent Zionists from soliciting him nor did it prevent Balfour from supporting the Zionist project by way of the Balfour Declaration which, he hoped, would divert Jews from Britain to Palestine. In short, Balfour acted exactly as Herzl had foreseen: as the most reliable anti-Semitic friend!
In the 1960s, Israeli agents seized Adolph Eichmann, high-ranking member of the Third Reich who was executed by the State of Israel after being tried for his crimes. It was this same Adolph Eichmann who in 1937 was the guest of honor of the Zionist emissary Feivel Polkes who took him to Mount Carmel to visit a Jewish colony. This, of course is never mentioned by the Zionists and their supporters.
“In 1933, Labour Zionism signed the Transfer “Ha’avara” Agreement with the Nazis, breaking the international boycott against the regime: Nazi Germany would compensate German Jews who emigrated to Palestine for their lost property by exporting German goods to the Zionists in the country thus breaking the boycott. Between 1933 and 1939, 60 percent of all capital invested in Jewish Palestine came from German Jewish money through the Transfer Agreement. Thus, Nazism was a boon to Zionism throughout the 1930s.” (1)
How ironic is it, then, that organizations like the B’nai Brith and the Anti-Defamation League associate boycott with anti-Semitism, given that the Zionist leadership worked to defuse the anti-Nazi boycott meant to combat anti-Semitism!

The Canadian Source
Let’s begin with what has traditionally been accepted as the definition of anti-Semitism : hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or collective group. The attempt to include in the definition of anti-Semitism criticism of the State of Israel is a phenomenon which has followed on the heels of the call to a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel by 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005 and the Goldstone report condemning Israel’s December 2008 to January 2009 attack on Gaza and the murderous attack on Gaza in 2014.

Indeed, the greater the momentum gained by the BDS campaign against Israel’s apartheid system – now having acquired the critical mass which makes it irreversible, as was the case for the BDS campaign against South African apartheid – the more stringent the campaign to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism has become. The so-called “New Anti-Semitism” is a term coined by former Liberal MP and Minister, Irwin Cotler whose defense of human rights does not include Palestinian rights.
The campaign to amend the definition of anti-Semitism to include any and all critiques of Israeli policy toward the besieged Palestinian population living under Israeli occupation has among its sources a Canadian one: The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism. This parliamentary committee was put together in 2009 at the behest of Jason Kenney, then Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism in the Harper government and the aforementioned Irwin Cotler, a former Justice Minister in the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. Mr. Cotler is credited with coining the term the ‘New Anti-Semitism’ to include in that much broadened definition the critique of Israel’s institutionalized system of discrimination as being that of apartheid. Indeed, Mr. Cotler described Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank, illegal under international law, as “disputed territories” rather than occupied territories, a curious sophistry for a law professor at McGill University, whom Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called his “mentor” a few short years ago.
In the introduction to the book entitled ‘Anti-Semitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism,’ Michael Keefer, editor of the book which includes organizational responses from groups such as Independent Jewish Voices, Faculty for Palestine, the Canadian Arab Federation, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East among others, Keefer offers a succinct analysis of what the attempt to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is really about, which I now quote:
The rhetorical tactics being deployed in this attack on free speech are familiar enough. They consist in leveling a charge of anti-Semitism against anyone who draws attention to the State of Israel’s violent, degrading and (under international law) flagrantly illegal treatment of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza, or who points to the fact that this treatment is motivated by a systematic and likewise flagrantly illegal project of colonization, apartheid treatment of a subject population, and ethnic cleansing. (2)
I take exception to the idea that Zionism- the nationalist movement- and the religion of Judaism are one and the same, so that consequently to criticize Israel and the Zionist project is to be anti-Semitic. This is a mechanism meant to intimidate and silence critics of Israel’s apartheid regime. The list of Jewish intellectuals who have been critical of the nature of Zionism is as long as one’s arm and include such thinkers as Albert Einstein and Martin Buber. Are they therefore anti-Semitic?
Are Israel’s Rabbis for Human Rights anti-Semitic because they criticize their own government and defend Palestinian human rights? What about the other Israeli human rights groups who do the same? What about the many Jews who are active in the BDS movement? All anti-Semitic?
No, this is simply sophistry of the worst kind practiced openly by a self-serving political class and a supine ‘mainstream’ media who parrot the same falsehood. Let us recall the words of the late distinguished American journalist Edward R. Murrow who, during the McCarthy period, warned his fellow journalists that the fear is already in the room. In terms of consciously averting the Palestinian narrative, the fear has been in Quebec and Canadian newsrooms for some time now.

The Conceptual Basis
Yoav Litvin presents the conceptual underpinning of Zionism in concise terms:
The linkage between Zionism and Judaism is maintained by consistent historical revisionism and manipulation of the trauma produced by European anti-Semitism, which culminated in the Jewish Holocaust. It sustains support for Israel and serves to stifle effective resistance by attributing “anti-Semitism” to any critique of Israeli policies. Notably, this abuse of the term “anti-Semitism” has watered down and trivialized the real phenomenon of bigotry against Jews and thus further demonstrates the ongoing collusion between Zionism and white supremacy.(3)
Zionism succeeded in absorbing Judaism into the idea of the State, thereby secularizing and ethnicizing Judaism while emptying it of its transcendent nature and strict moral code, which issues from precepts of the Torah and Mosaic code. In other words, in order to create the New Hebrew Man as Yakov Rabkin coins the term in his book, A Threat from Within: a Century of Jewish opposition to Zionism, it was first necessary to evacuate the transcendent nature of Judaic normative principles in order to substitute the State for the God of the Israelites.
The State, however, cannot itself be conflated with Judaism or with Jews as a collectivity and no amount of sophistry will change that. In the case of the State of Israel, its worship should be called Israelism and not Judaism. To claim that the State of Israel is the embodiment of all the world’s Jews is not only a falsehood but a dangerous one, for if the State of Israel is guilty of crimes inflicted upon a neighboring people, and if the extrapolation is made that this State also embodies world Jewry, then all Jews are made to share a collective guilt with this same State, though many Jews oppose that State’s actions. This results in refurbishing old prejudices and stereotypes and stokes the fires of anti-Jewish sentiment, this especially at a moment in time when we are witnessing the rise of fascist movements reminiscent of the 1920s and 30s.
Given the actual social and political context of our times, it is necessary that those progressive elements of society that defend human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression stand firmly against all forms of racism including anti-Semitic acts of hatred against Jews both as a religious and collective group, but also make the necessary distinction between protecting the religious and civil rights of Jews and the false worship of Zionism-Israelism.

1. Joseph Massad. «Zionism, anti-Semitism and colonialism».
See also Edwin Black. “The Transfer Agreement: The Untold Story of the Secret Pact Between the Third Reich & Jewish Palestine.” New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1984. 430 pages
Lenni Brenner, editor. 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration With the Nazis. New Jersey, Barricade Books , 2002. 342 pages.
Lenni Brenner. Zionism in the Age of the Dictators: A Reappraisal. (1983)
2. Michael Keefer, editor. Antisemitism Real and Imagined:Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism. Waterloo, Ontario: published by The Canadian Charger, 2010.
3. Yoav Litvin. «Ethical Jews Reject Zionism».

Bruce Katz is a retired language teacher. He is a founding member and current co-president of Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU)*, a Palestinian solidarity organization founded in the year 2000. PAJU is both a member-organization of BDS-Québec and the Canadian BDS Coalition. Bruce has given numerous interviews in English, French and Spanish on the Palestinian question over the past two decades.

Is Cuba normalizing settler colonialism in Palestine?

CPA letter sent to Cuban officials on January 31, 2018 under the title “Expanding Cuba-Israel Relations”.

New articles in Mondoweiss and Palestine Chronicle
“Cuba Should Not Normalize with Israeli Settler Colonialism”
By Hanna Kawas & Marion Kawas

With sadness and outrage, we recently learnt from the Israeli press about the visit of the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) delegation to Cuba.
At the beginning of 2018, we became aware of some incidents indicating that Cuba might be on the road of normalizing relations with Israeli apartheid. Out of respect for Cuba’s image, and the rift this might cause with the progressive Palestinian struggle for liberation and its supporters, we pursued our concerns privately with a letter addressed to Cuban officials. Although we did not receive even an acknowledgment of our letter, we were not aware of any further normalization actions since that time. Until now.
With this latest news about Cuba normalizing with the most racist Zionist institution, the JNF, that was responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the theft of their land and destruction of their habitat and environment, we feel compelled to release the letter we sent on January 31, 2018 under the title “Expanding Cuba-Israel Relations”.

Dear Friends:

As long-time supporters of Cuban-Palestinian relations and admirers of the example and spirit of the Cuban people and their revolution, it is with a heavy heart that we are forced to write this letter. We are approaching you privately about this issue, rather than publicly, out of concern for the wellbeing of the progressive movement and our common struggles. In October, 2017 Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev (who is a documented neofascist) was reported as travelling to Cuba, the first Israeli cabinet minister to do so since 1973. This strange news forced us to do more research which revealed a distressing and disturbing trend in the last few months of new expanding Cuban-Israeli cultural and business relations. Along with Regev’s trip, most of these fall into the category of being “the first of its kind” in four decades or longer.

For example on the cultural front:
In early November, Cuba’s famed Lizt Alfonso Dance Company gave four sellout performances at the Tel Aviv Opera House, followed by concerts in Ashdod, Jerusalem, and Haifa. It was the first cultural visit of its kind to Israel in four decades. Cuba’s famous Buena Vista Social Club also made a tour of Israel in late December, 2017.

And on the business front:
On Nov. 9, the Israel-Latin America Chamber of Commerce held a “Doing Business in Cuba” seminar in Tel Aviv. Attended by 40 or so Israeli business executives, the three-hour briefing, presented in Hebrew, was a prelude to the planned visit to Cuba of an Israeli trade delegation this December. And indeed the Israeli trade delegation made their trip to Cuba Dec. 5-7, 2017 where according to CamaraIsrael:
“The Israel-Latin America Chamber of Commerce, for the first time in its history, sent a delegation of businessmen to Cuba. The delegation was received by the Cuban official bureau at a festive ceremony and a business seminar with the government officials at the National Hotel.”
We are also aware that former Israeli general and war criminal Rafael Eitan, who has had private business interests in Cuba for over 20 years, has been credited with helping to facilitate this new state-to-state Cuban-Israeli exchange.

We are sure you know about the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement that calls for both a cultural and business boycott of Israel. We know that the Oslo accords and the behaviour of the current “Palestinian Authority”, that dropped the anti-colonialist struggle from its agenda, has set the bar low, very low, regarding what kind of support is needed. And we realize that the impact of the economic blockade on Cuba, as well as the recent damage from Hurricane Irma, has been devastating. But we also know that Cuba and its people have a long history of principled positions even when such decisions are difficult or carry a pricetag.
The picture at the top of this letter is from the December 2017 trade delegation visit and is a chilling visual for all progressives. We are aware that Cuba’s position on the political front is always supportive of the Palestinian cause, but as the beacon of progressive action in Latin America, we urge you to ensure that Cuba’s deeds on all fronts line up with your political support as it did with the anti colonialist struggles in Southern Africa. We beseech you, in the name of the Palestinian struggle, in the name of the unity of two steadfast peoples, to investigate these recent actions and take steps to ensure that such exchanges are not repeated and go no further. Please do not develop any ties with what the late and beloved Fidel Castro in 2014, when referencing Israel, called a “new, repugnant form of fascism”.

In Solidarity,
Hanna Kawas, Chairperson
Canada Palestine Association

Open Letter to Toronto Raptors

“Please take this opportunity to stand with Palestinians in their struggle for freedom and liberation, and do not travel to Israel.”

Articles on the Raptors campaign:
Please #SkipTheTrip to Israel, Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors: Please #SkipTheTrip to Israel
Sports-washing and the Toronto Raptors

Open Letter to Toronto Raptors:
“Please take this opportunity to stand with Palestinians in their struggle for freedom..”

June 15, 2019
Dear Toronto Raptors,

We are writing to you as long-time fans to urge you to uphold Palestinian human rights and not to travel to Israel. Since 2004 Palestinian civil society organizations have called for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel until such a time as Israel recognizes the Right of Return of over 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants displaced in the process of Israeli colonization and occupation of Palestine; ends its occupation and colonization of the West Bank and its siege of Gaza; and dismantles the Apartheid system of racial discrimination and segregation for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Around the world poor and oppressed people have embraced basketball as a sport of the people, and basketball players, many of whom come from poor and struggling backgrounds, have an important history of taking progressive positions and giving back to their communities. From Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Bill Russel’s stand with Mohammed Ali against the draft and the Vietnam War to public and collective statements against police brutality against Black people in America, NBA players have stood on the side of social and racial justice.

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, its settlements and its Apartheid Wall are a war crime. The siege of Gaza, and the death and misery meted out on an effectively jailed civilian population, is a crime against humanity. And its system of racial discrimination and segregation is a form of Apartheid, as articulated by survivors of South African Apartheid including Desmond Tutu and Mandla Mandela (grandson of the great freedom fighter Nelson Mandela).

As NBA Champions, you have the opportunity to use your stature and influence to make the world a better place for the young people all over the world who admire you. Please take this opportunity to stand with Palestinians in their struggle for freedom and liberation, and do not travel to Israel.

Aiyanas Ormond,
Coordinator, BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish Territories
Add your voice to the over 6400 people that signed the petition calling on the Raptors to #SayNO.

Ohad Naharin…Real Solidarity starts with BDS!

Mr. Gaga, get off the stage and let more genuine voices speak about solidarity with Palestinians.

Ohad Naharin – Charity is not Solidarity!

By Marion Kawas

Recent articles in the Israeli media have highlighted a controversy surrounding renowned Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, former artistic director of Batsheva and recently also connected with Ballet BC in Canada.
He made comments on Israeli military radio leading up to a fundraiser for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which he was promoting. And although his comments are not new, the reaction to them by current Culture Minister Miri Regev and other right-wing Israelis was more virulent than in the past. So, this new brouhaha might be based more on the growing dichotomy within Israeli politics, and between liberal Zionists and the more extremist Zionists. (And a quick note to Miri Regev, who is threatening to withdraw Israeli state funding for presumably the Batsheva dance company and others who don’t pass the “cultural loyalty” test, please go ahead.)
Ohad Naharin, to sum up, criticizes the occupation and says he WOULD support BDS if he felt it would help Palestinians or end the occupation. But before the Haaretz headline of “Israeli top dancer accused of supporting BDS..” gives one renewed hope, read what the article also quoted him saying on May 26, 2019:
“The Batsheva Dance Company often faces BDS protests and demonstrations when it performs abroad. I’ve always said and I’ll continue saying that this doesn’t help the Palestinians and won’t result in anything,” Naharin said.
“I explicitly said I don’t support BDS, but I can relate to its agenda against the occupation. It’s pretty sad, a lot of energy is invested in a boycott that doesn’t help promote a solution to ending the occupation,” Naharin said.
“I didn’t voice support for BDS, but rather against the occupation. I’ve said that many times before and in even harsher terms,” Naharin added.
So lets unpack this trend of liberal Zionists (and other artists) who claim to support Palestinians but refuse to honour the one request Palestinian civil society has made of them. But of course, like all good liberals, they know better than the oppressed indigenous people what is needed and what is the right tactics and strategies. Mandatory to this approach is also to pledge money to an organization that gives one the cover of not just talking the talk but in this case, allegedly dancing the dance.
Two years ago, leading activist groups in North America called out Naharin on precisely these points in a statement issued by Adalah NY, regarding the tour of the Israeli Batsheva Ballet Company. They told him that his comments originally gave people hope but then his actions did not follow through. They told him that as an international figure, he could make a difference. They noted: “Brand Israel is an effort to show ‘Israel’s prettier face,’ as stated by Arye Mekel of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Unfortunately, your inaction is part of what has allowed for the most right-wing government in Israel, now supported by the most right-wing government in the United States. With the oppression of the Palestinian people growing even worse than before, it is time to take a principled position by no longer allowing your government to use your name to whitewash occupation.”
And then recently he became involved with Ballet BC and is one of several Israeli choreographers connected with that dance company. Is it just a coincidence that in January of this year, for the first time ever, Ballet BC went to Israel and performed in Tel Aviv? If one really believed in helping the Palestinians, could his influence not have been used to dissuade other performers from going on inaugural trips to Israel at this critical juncture? Could he not have spoken out about what a dangerous precedent this was? Or like all good liberals, he would tell us this “building bridges” through music and dance is somehow going to benefit the most vulnerable Palestinians?
Here are a few simple points for such famous artists who could actually do something significant and take a stand for Palestinian rights. One, charity is not solidarity. Two, you do not know better than the people living under the boot of Israeli oppression what is needed for their liberation. This is the worst kind of supremacism. You are not entitled to tell even the smallest child in Gaza or Khan al-Amar or a refugee camp what is good (or not good) for them. If you can’t support the one non-violent tactic of BDS that has been requested of you, then step aside and don’t tell us how you want to help the Palestinians. As a person of privilege and resources, the minimum needed is to honour the Palestinian picket line. Otherwise, Mr. Gaga, get off the stage and let more genuine voices speak about solidarity with Palestinians.