$30 and the ‘Nakba’

Recently, an NDP leadership hopeful sent out a fundraising email to constituents asking for $30 or more to help build a movement that would “stand up for peace in the Middle East.” On the surface it sounded promising – we all want peace in the Middle East. However, the hopeful expressed how honoured she was to “stand with many (at a rally) in remembering the Nakba….”

Really? Did she actually say THE N-a-k-b-a – the Palestinian day that calls the creation of the State of Israel a catastrophe? How unfortunate for a notable political party that seeks social justice and in which the word “democratic” is in its very name to be moving against the only democracy in the Middle East – Israel. How sad that the cause du jour to raise funds and inspire followers is the bashing of Israel.

This very “movement” against Israel was countered this week by Councillor Sandy Annunziata of Niagara Region. In a heated council meeting as described in the St. Catherines Standard, Annunziata criticized an NDP MPP for a March motion passed by the Welland NDP riding association to support the antisemitic boycott of Israel. “How egregious it is when public policy, public hate speech was crafted right here in Niagara,” said Annunziata. In a personal note to me, he expressed, “It is a pleasure…to stand in defence of our Jewish friends, condemn the BDS movement in its entirety and hold those responsible for bringing it forward in Niagara to account.”

It has been a challenging spring to say the least. Several weeks ago, Ontario’s NDP party led by Andrea Horwath included a strong resolution supporting the boycott in the party’s convention resolution book. While the resolution was never addressed or debated, the fact that it made it to print in the first place confirms an internal campaign against Israel within the NDP party. Quite similarly, a BDS resolution was introduced at the convention for the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), but did not get accepted by the resolutions committee. However, the CLC did manage to pass an emergency resolution to condemn Israel over a Palestinian hunger strike. That the CLC resolution was passed, even while most Palestinian prisoners have committed heinous crimes against civilians, is telling about the state of affairs in these organizations.

The good news is that there are many political leaders like Annunziata who are speaking out, especially against the political pursuit of antisemitism. Even French President Emmanuel Macron dropped a candidate from National Assembly elections over his support of the antisemitic BDS movement. And last week, at FSWC’s Spirit of Hope, former British Prime Minister David Cameron and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney both denounced the movement and antisemitism.

In many circles, however, condemnation of Israel is a right of passage – a necessity as much as any previous social change movement. The problem with this approach is its grounding in a false narrative inspired by a Palestinian campaign that has managed to galvanize the so-called left. The movement consciously turns away from Palestinian incitement of hatred and the funding of terrorism in support of an antisemitic campaign that seeks to destroy the Jewish homeland. The dichotomy is strange enough – that a movement that professes human rights, democracy and freedom actually inspires the opposite.

This thought is especially disconcerting given this week’s horrific attack in Manchester in which 22 people were murdered and 60 injured from a suicide bomber. Israeli civilians were first to experience this horror from Palestinians nearly two decades ago. Who could forget those poor Israeli teenagers who were murdered by a suicide bomber at a Tel Aviv nightclub – the Dolphinarium?

Palestinian transgressions are whitewashed by unions and political groups who obsess over Israel and its Jews. Some believe it is fueled by antisemitism. Others argue that it provides great talking points, helps inspire and galvanize their movement and raises lots of money – and especially if you support the Nakba.

About the Author
Avi Benlolo is the President and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC), a Jewish non-profit human rights organization. Avi is a prominent Canadian human rights activist dedicated to promoting tolerance, freedom, democracy and human rights.
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