Canada’s left has turned its back on Israel

Tom Mulcair, the leader of the New Democratic Party (Canada’s social democrats), is facing a party vote on his leadership in April. The poor record of the NDP in the last election has led some in the party to drop their support for him; consequently, his ability to hold on to the leadership is in question.

Mulcair does not often speak about Israel because he knows that it is a divisive issue within his party, but on the few occasions during which Mulcair has done that, his support for Israel and against the BDS movement have been clear. It seems now that under pressure to please the grassroots of his party, he has chosen to turn his back on Israel.

In a vote in parliament on a Conservative resolution condemning the BDS movement, the NDP is the only of the three major parties to declare its intention to vote against the resolution. Mulcair justified that decision on the basis of supporting freedom of speech, but the resolution does not deny anyone the right to free speech. It simply condemns the anti-Semitism of the BDS movement, which the parliament of Canada has every right to do.

Two to three decades ago, I supported the NDP, and I volunteered my time in party associations and election campaigns, but my support waned over the years because of the NDP’s hostility towards Israel. In the last election, I decided to support the NDP again because of a strong initiative by the party to move to a more balanced approach on Israel. Yet, a few months later, the decision of the NDP to give a hypocritical nod to the BDS movement does not surprise me. Since I made the decision to re-join, I have been exposed to the party’s grassroots, and I found a party plagued with anti-Semitism, very much in tune with other left-wing movements around the world.

In NDP groups on social media, anti-Israel bigots play a commanding role; any overt support for Israel is shunned, and supporters of Israel are gagged. Quoting leader Tom Mulcair’s statements in support of Israel is grounds for being removed from those groups. At the same time, openly anti-Semitic speech is ignored and does not result in any disciplinary actions. In one example, someone asked why the NDP was forced to support Israel just because the leader’s wife is Jewish. In another example, someone lamented that the NDP is appeasing Jews because of the Holocaust. Those individuals remained in the group while members who dared defend Israel’s right to exist were unceremoniously removed.

The control of anti-Semites over much of the party grassroots has been clear to me for a while, but until now, it seemed that the NDP leadership was able to contain them; however, the NDP’s decision to oppose an anti-BDS resolution in parliament has exposed the leadership’s weakness. If Mulcair is unable to steer the party away from anti-Israel hysteria then it matters little that he and a few other members of the party are pro-Israel. Instead of kowtowing to the party’s bigots, he should have supported the bill like the Liberals did and taken his chance with the leadership review vote, or he should have quit the party.

If Mulcair is serious about ridding the party of anti-Semites, he and other NDP members of parliament should stop being scared of discussing the topic of the Israel-Arab conflict, and they should make the NDP’s support for Israel much more visible. They should make the party unlivable for anti-Semites rather than allowing them to rule and terrorize the party’s grassroots. Let them join the unelectable Communist party or the discredited Green party (which forced its former President, Paul Estrin, to resign over his criticism of Hamas).

During the election, Mulcair claimed that he was the only one of the three major party leaders to choose policy based on principle rather than expediency. That is how he justified his opposition to banning the niqab at citizenship ceremonies despite the cost to the party. Yet, when it came to taking a principled stand against the BDS movement, Mulcair stumbled.

This moral weakness has been exposed a few days before the thirtieth anniversary of the passing of Tommy Douglas, the NDP leader who volunteered in the army to fight the Nazis. Whether Mulcair remains leader or is replaced by someone of the ilk of Jeremy Corbyn (the anti-Israel leader of the British Labor party), it is now clear that the NDP is no longer able to stand up to anti-Semites.


February 20, 2016: I posted this article in the only Facebook NDP group from which I have not yet been removed (I won’t name the group out of respect for the administrators since it is a “closed” group). To the credit of the group, they have not yet removed me, and in fact seven people indicated that they “liked” the article; however, even in this relatively less anti-Israel group, it is very clear from comments that most of the party grassroots support the BDS movement (which belies the official NDP line that they are voting against the bill because they support free speech). The most disappointing part however is that several group members wrote blatantly hateful comments and those comments were not removed by group administrators, even though they are abusive, they are diametrically opposed to party policy, and they border on anti-Semitic. Some examples (reproduced as-is but without names out of respect for the privacy of the group):

  • “People of isreal are not evil but the government is! The psychopaths in power won’t stop till they destroy the world. Their Palestinian holocaust won’t end until the people of isreal stand up against Thier own leader whom are the real terrorist!”
  • “Well …… yeah. Israel hasn’t been the victim since the early 70’s and they’re currently led by a lunatic baby killer with a cartoon bomb”
  • “Zionism (as it exists today), or any other pro-colonization ideology, should have no place in the NDP. I hope you leave the party Fred Maroun; that is the nicest way I can say it”
  • “One side uses bottle rockets and the other bombs cities. The death toll isn’t lopsided, it’s genocidal”
  • “you mean the zionists who have surrouned the palistinians are are shooting them like fish ib a barrel”
  • “The government of Israel acts just like the Nazis of Germany”
  • “I am a proud anti-Zionist”
  • “Israel is committing state terrorism”
  • “I don’t like Israelis. Let this be known. I think Israelis are racist assholes”

February 22, 2015: I was removed from the last Facebook NDP group that I had not yet been removed from. Again, like the other groups, no explanation was given. Dissenting voices are not welcome in the NDP, especially when those voices remind them how far the grassroots are from the sanitized position that the NDP leadership portrays publicly.

About the Author
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere. Fred Maroun writes for Gatestone Institute.
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