This article extends from AIPAC North: “Israel Advocacy” in Canada (June 26, 2006)
Flanked by armed Israeli soldiers and other supportive delegates, Yossi Tanuri, the United Israel Appeal Federations Canada (UIAFC) representative to Israel, addressed the Toronto crowd. Tanuri had an audience of nearly 2,000 people in the auditorium of the Toronto Centre for the Arts, and an overflow crowd of thousands more gathered in Mel Lastman Square. The rally, held on July 26 under the slogan “Stand with Israel,” was organized jointly by the Canada-Israel Committee (CIC), the Ontario Region of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), and the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Federation of Greater Toronto – all of which operate under the UIAFC umbrella. It was therefore with a sense of self-congratulations that Tanuri declared to the rally that “the UJA Federation has long been the air force of the Jewish world.”
Tanuri was speaking to the crowd by live video feed from a northern Israeli military outpost near the border settlement of Metula. Speeches from the Israeli side were punctuated by the sound of explosions. This, explained Tanuri, was the noise of artillery fire coming from a nearby Israeli battalion, helping to bring the bombardment of southern Lebanon into its 14th day. In a comment about the military situation which was rare in its honesty, Tanuri remarked that “this is what people here are going through.”
From the Toronto side, local tycoon Julia Koschitzky announced that the city’s Zionist community had taken the occasion of Israel’s expanding war to reinvigorate its fundraising for the state. An initial “Israel Emergency Campaign” meeting had already raised $6 million, all classified as “charitable” under Canadian law, the prelude to a funding drive that would be launched in earnest on August 8. Koschitzky declared that “this is our way of enlisting in the struggle.” The crowd waved Israeli and Canadian flags, sang the two national anthems, and provided an eery echo of the praise for unity and military strength heard over event loudspeakers.
The extreme, militarist tone that carried this rally is particularly disturbing in light of official Canadian endorsement of the event. The featured speakers included one after another Canadian government official. A Toronto police chaplain – who publicly shook hands with uniformed representatives from the Israeli military at last summer’s “Walk with Israel,” a march led by Toronto police chief Bill Blair (this year alongside Mayor David Miller) – directed a prayer “for the welfare of the State of Israel,” asking God “to grant [Israeli forces] salvation and crown them with victory.” “On behalf of McGuinty,” Ontario’s minister of citizenship and immigration added, “I would like to say that we stand with Israel.” Likewise, the industry minister for the Harper Conservatives conveyed greetings and support to the rally “on behalf of the Government of Canada.”
As the people of Gaza are starved and bombed, as thousands of Palestinians fall victim to Israeli policies of political imprisonment, and as Israeli aggression expands into Lebanon, already adding more than a thousand Lebanese to the death count from recent Israeli attacks (with a quarter of Lebanon’s population displaced by the assault), Canadian support for Israel is more unabashed than ever. To be sure, opposition is growing. It is important to recall the decision of the Ontario wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE-Ontario) to identify the Israeli state system as Apartheid and to call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against it until Apartheid is dismantled; to keep in mind the momentum of recent demonstrations against the Canadian-Israeli alliance; and to build upon these strengths, responding with solidarity and commitment to the call from the Palestinian national movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, in support of the struggle for genuine democracy in Israel-Palestine.
At the same time, it is necessary to recognize the further degeneration of Canadian foreign policy into outright support for Israeli aggression, and to pay attention to those who are working to encourage and sustain this shift. These developments represent a very worrying threat, harmful to the people of Palestine and Lebanon, and ominous in terms of the general direction of Canadian foreign policy.
An evaluation of the rally of July 26, and of some of the issues and developments it points to, is therefore worthwhile.
A public display of chauvinism and racism
Toronto’s “Stand with Israel” rally of July 26 was organized as the Canadian-Israeli alliance which has been building for years was becoming the object of unprecedented public attention. The groups which organized the event are component parts of Canada’s dominant “Israel advocacy” structure, the United Israel Appeal Federations Canada, which has done much to cultivate this alliance. Toronto’s UJA Federation is a leading constituent group of UIAFC, while both the Canada-Israel Committee and Canadian Jewish Congress function, as UIAFC’s outgoing president put it, as the structure’s subordinate “agents.”
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper described the Israeli invasion of Lebanon as a “measured” exercise of Israel’s “right to defend itself,” setting the tone of Canadian support for Israeli aggression in the coming weeks, he capped off a trend towards Canadian support for Israel that has been building for years. In this context, it was only natural that UIAFC would organize to simultaneously showcase and encourage a policy it had long called for.
This rally, indicative of UIAFC’s current orientation, was intended to do precisely that. It centred on a stage with a podium featuring the “Stand with Israel” slogan in large, bold letters, from which speakers addressed the crowd. Next to the podium, an Israeli flag was positioned between the flags of Ontario and Canada, increasing the air of official endorsement provided by the string of Canadian government speakers.
The event’s overriding message was one of complete, uncritical identification with Israel in its war against the people of Palestine and Lebanon. The essential call, addressed to the mostly Jewish crowd as well as to Canadian society at large, was summarized by the slogan of the brief propaganda film which began the event (this is also the slogan for UJA Toronto’s ongoing ‘Emergency Campaign’): “Together with Israel; Together as One.”
Given the nature of Israeli operations, identification with them requires a good deal of chauvinism and contempt for those being targeted by Israeli state violence. Notwithstanding the participation of leading Canadian politicians in the event, few attempts were made to sugar-coat this message.
Ya’acov Brosh, Israeli Consul General to Toronto, was largely representative in his efforts to whip up support for Israeli military attacks on the state’s opponents. Brosh explained that the Palestinians and Lebanese resisting Israel do not understand Israeli power, a force which, by “their nature” as “dictator terrorists,” they can never comprehend. But Israeli forces would show them anyway, Brosh explained, striking a tone of militarist unity that was a recurring theme throughout the event, coexisting uneasily with tributes to Israeli “democracy” and “pluralism”: “This society will stand as one person and cut the arm that would try to hit it.”
To hammer home just how democratic this message was, Brosh went on to speak with pride of Israeli attempts to deal with the opposing political leadership through policies of extrajudicial assassination. He made specific reference to Lebanese resistance figure Sheik Hassan Nasrullah, the leader of Hizbu’llah – an organization which, Western perceptions notwithstanding, is a major Lebanese political force whose resistance to Israel is supported by some 87% of the Lebanese population (according to recent polls). In so doing, Brosh resorted to a rhetorical device that would be shocking to hear from the representative of a self-proclaimed “Jewish state,” were the Israeli track-record on racism not so well-established. Israeli forces were putting their high-tech, U.S.-supplied weaponry to good use, Brosh bragged, forcing Nasrullah to move from “bunker to bunker” like “a chased mouse.”
This sort of dehumanizing rhetoric is a pillar of modern racism. And on Palestine/Lebanon as otherwise, its association with Canadian policy is steadily becoming more direct.
Israel and Canada’s “shared values”
The rally of July 26, and the anti-Palestinian, anti-Lebanese Canadian political shifts that its points to, are not isolated. The Canadian-Israeli alliance is only able to move forward with its present force as a result of its deep compatibility with existing shifts in Canadian foreign policy. These shifts are bringing about an increasingly aggressive, militarist foreign policy, ever more closely aligned with the agenda set by the United States.
UIAFC is aware of this, and has long staked its hopes for a pro-Israel Canadian foreign policy on what its literature describes as a “shared values” strategy. According to this approach, existing similarities between Canadian and Israeli policy should be highlighted, promoted and built upon, encouraging the shift to the right in Canadian foreign policy while ensuring that support for Israel is centrally included within it.
The backdrop for the current success of the UIAFC strategy, or at least for the realization of its intended goals, is therefore existing trends in Canadian policy. De facto government endorsement of a rally in which a popular Lebanese political leader was described as a rodent did not come out of the blue. Rhetorical moves in this direction have long been underway in description of official enemies. A particularly important example is Canadian Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier’s comments last summer about the forces engaging Canadian troops in Afghanistan, although he chose “detestable murders and scumbags” rather than an animal analogy to make his point.
More recently, the Canadian-Israeli alliance has helped to open a new front for Canadian officials’ hard-line offensive, both in policy and in rhetoric. This fits an established trend in Canadian politics, and is moving forward with the specific encouragement of UIAFC’s well-placed apparatus (as directly allied with the governments of Israel and the United States).
The lines of communication that facilitate this encouragement are relatively public. On August 2, for example, a number of key figures from the July 26 rally – including Consul General Brosh; Mira Shemtov, one of the representatives who spoke to the rally from the northern Israeli military outpost; and Josh Cooper, head of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, CJPAC (UIAFC’s lobby wing and the only formation whose website address was announced from the rally’s stage) – helped to host an “Israel Crisis Response” information meeting at the Park Hyatt Hotel. Among those in attendance was foreign affairs minister Peter Mackay. UIAFC’s corporate base and links to the U.S. establishment are grounds for real influence, and there is good reason to believe that such sessions have an impact.
It was around this time that Mackay raised the pitch of Canadian rhetoric to new levels. In explaining why it was necessary to support Israel in its destruction of southern Lebanon, Mackay declared that Hizbu’llah was “a terrorist army intent on death and destruction,” an organization of “cold-blooded killers” (never mind that Hizbu’llah has killed only a fraction of the number of people that Israeli forces have during the recent conflict, or that a strong majority of those Israelis who have died have been military personnel). Mackay then went further still in passing judgement on Lebanese politics, attacking Hizbu’llah as “a cancer on Lebanon.” The cure, he has suggested, is continued support for the Israeli military effort to purge by force the sickly Lebanese resistance to Israel.
Canadian political support for Israeli military aggression carries a price that is being paid most directly by Palestinians and Lebanese. It also works to enforce a dangerous narrative that Canadian officials are trying to construct around those military operations which they oversee directly. As Toronto “Stand with Israel” rally emcee Robert Lantos was eager to point out, “Canada and Israel are both facing a war on terror,” and whether regarding Afghanistan, Palestine or Lebanon, both countries need to uphold “the shared right to self-defense.” We have seen what is meant by Israeli “defense.” And with Canadian troops in Afghanistan operating in increasing accord with Israeli tactics, it is interesting to see Israel’s local allies helping to politically package this reality. (Harper appears to appreciate the help, and used the occasion of his August 6 interview with CTV to justify Israeli and Canadian military operations in the same breath.)
Of course, according to official logic, the right to self-defense is only shared so far. It is certainly not shared with the Palestinian people, who are expected to quietly submit to starvation and aerial attacks. When they fight back – as in the June 25 operation against an Israeli military outpost, following a month in which more than 50 Palestinians had been killed, with thousands languishing in Israeli prisons and millions more under economic siege – their resistance is described as “aggression.” Nor can it be shared with the Lebanese, who stand charged as “terrorists” for resisting the Israeli state, even when their operations target hostile military forces. For the likes of UIAFC and Lantos, the notion of defense against Israel is out of the question, Israeli attacks disappear from the picture, and it becomes the duty of “all peace-loving Canadians to support Israel as it defends itself from unprovoked attacks by Hamas and Hizbu’llah,” as the emcee put it.
The creeping adoption of this political model by Canadian policy-makers is quite ominous.
Since the rally was in effect a celebration of the U.S.-Israeli alliance, the night could not have been complete without a heavy injection of fundamentalist rhetoric. Some of this was provided by the Toronto police chaplain, with his homage to Jewish ancestral-biblical rights to Palestinian land and his prayer for “the soldiers of the Canadian armed forces [who] protect our way of life.” But lest the style of U.S. evangelical politics be left out, Charles McVety, president of the Canada Christian College and an associate of such figures as the wholesome Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, took the stage to prompt a standing ovation.
Straying somewhat from the typical UIAFC line, McVety rallied support for Israel as the historic force which gave Christians Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Bible. The crowd cheered uproariously. McVety then moved back to the recurring message of sharing the right to self-defense. What would happen, McVety asked, if Europe, the United States or Canada were attacked directly? By selection and omission, McVety made the rally’s half-veiled call for a solidarity of Western powers against the rest of the world slightly more explicit. If people don’t understand this, he went on, they have no place near any position of Canadian leadership: “support for Israel should be a litmus test for all politicians in Canada.”
For those challenging prevailing Canadian policy, speakers applied the rhetoric reserved for official enemies. Predictably, while it was Brosh making the human/rodent analogies, it was the Palestine solidarity movement that was condemned for underhanded bigotry – for “anti-Semitism guised as anti-Zionism,” in emcee Robert Lantos’s words. A ritual gesture in the direction of anti-racism aside, the Palestine solidarity movement found its real place in the narrative of “Israel advocacy.” If Israel should stand as one person to stab at southern Lebanon, what could be said of those preventing a united Canadian stand in support? In familiar terms, Lantos declared these elements to be political “cancer.” (He referred specifically to students at Concordia University who organized to confront Israeli state officials on their campus, and to CUPE-Ontario, with its call for isolation of the Israeli system as Apartheid and its defense of the Palestinian Right of Return.)
It was soon after this that the crowd was directed in the singing of “Oh Canada,” which in turn merged into the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva.” The crowd was heavily peppered with Canadian and Israeli flags, and within it stood a number of notables ranging from Ontario Minister of Public Safety and Correctional Services Monte Quinter to Toronto City Councillor Howard Moscoe, from MPP Tony Ruprecht to MP Mario Silva: “Together with Israel; Together as One.”
Official Canadian endorsement of this political atmosphere should not be taken lightly.
Canadian foreign policy, UIAFC’s tycoons and partisan politics
In accord with the “shared values” strategy, the keynote speaker for the rally was retired Canadian Major-General Lewis Mackenzie. Mackenzie has long been at the forefront of linking Canadian operations in Afghanistan to Israeli policy, particularly from the pages of the Globe and Mail, and is one of the leading proponents of Canadian militarism. The very presence at this rally of the Canadian military’s senior (if retired) public face is interesting, and his remarks merit attention.
In addition to his ritual call for increasing Canadian military intervention capabilities, Mackenzie spoke to the shift in Canadian foreign policy towards overt support for Israel. For Mackenzie, the increasing degree of support is welcome, but should not be seen as a real break from traditional Canadian politics: “We have never been even-handed in the Middle East. We’ve always supported Israel and we don’t support terrorists having the rights of a nation.” As Canadian pro-Israel partisanship becomes ever more blatant, this is an argument that is worth reflecting upon.
It is true that Canadian policy, first within the orbit of British imperial policy and more recently within that of the United States, has through the 20th century been fundamentally tilted in favour of the Zionist project and, after 1948, the Israeli state. But official reactions to such major outbursts of Israeli violence as we are presently witnessing have not always been so warm. As recently as the 1980s, these sometimes provoked real criticism.
When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, for example, the Trudeau government was immediately and sharply critical. Half a decade later, when Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza rose in revolt, the Israeli repression that met this uprising was also denounced. Conservative foreign (then “external”) affairs minister Joe Clark – speaking, no less, to an assembly of the Canada-Israel Committee – condemned Israeli repression as “totally unacceptable,” specifically denouncing “[t]he use of live ammunition to restore civilian order, the withholding of food supplies to control and collectively penalize civilian populations, the use of tear gas to intimidate families in their homes, of beatings to maim so as to neutralize youngsters and pre-empt further demonstrations,” and a range of other abuses against Palestinians. This criticism was not backed by an official consensus, but did have a place that it has since lost within governing Canadian circles.
A thorough examination of how this came about is well beyond the scope of this article. Part of the shift was determined by the relationship set in motion with the launching of preferential trade negotiations between Canada and Israel in the early 1990s, under the political cover of the Oslo accords and in an atmosphere shaped by the emerging North American Free Trade Agreement. Encouraged by the U.S., these negotiations culminated in the signing in 1997 of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA). This trade relationship, deepened by government subsidies through the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Fund (CIIRDF) and other mechanisms, both expressed and facilitated the development of Canadian-Israeli alliance. The trend towards Canadian support for Israel was further intensified by the onset of the so-called “war on terror,” with the Canadian establishment falling in behind this U.S.-led campaign and with Israel at its forefront.
This context provided the potential for a dramatic escalation of Canadian support for Israel in its fight against the people of Palestine and the broader region. Domestic Canadian advocates of alliance with Israel, most notably those associated with UIAFC, were central to making this potential reality. In 2002, UIAFC initiated an “Israel Emergency Cabinet” that evolved into a formation called the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, CIJA. Through CIJA, UIAFC aggressively stepped up pursuit of its “Israel advocacy” agenda. The coming years would see this initiative take on real force. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Canadian policy-makers were left scrambling to make it up to the U.S. for breaking diplomatic ranks, and Israel advocates found a warm official reception. In both political and personal terms, UIAFC’s operatives found a particularly good friend in the Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin.
In late 2004, the Martin government shifted its diplomacy at the United Nations further against the Palestinians, drawing increasing attention to this policy dynamic. The Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson reported the change under the headline “In case you missed it, our Mideast policy has shifted.” The change, Ibbitson reported, had much to do with Canadian-U.S. relations and the impending visit of President George W. Bush. But the day-to-day advocacy for this shift, the sustained presentation of the case for support for Israel and its benefits, came from domestic groups. Ibbitson singled out in particular the lobbying efforts of Paul Martin’s close personal friend and lead campaign contributor, Onex Corporation CEO Gerry Schwartz – “a financial backer of the powerful new Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy.” UIAFC federal lobbying during this period did indeed appear to centre on the Martin Liberals, and was quite effective through point-people like Schwartz. This period also saw CIJA-allied formations like the Liberal Parliamentarians for Israel secure a strengthening hold over the governing cabinet.
Since then, things have shifted. Under what one leading UIAFC member has called the “advisement and mentoring” of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – the organizational centrepiece of U.S.-Israeli alliance – UIAFC’s lobbying efforts have moved towards direct “multi-partisan” participation in the Canadian electoral process. This participation is coordinated through the so-called Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC), founded just in time for the federal election of January 2006. Circumstances have shifted, and the Harper Conservatives have an opportunity to win over a well-organized base of corporate support that has long been dominated by Liberal partisanship.
The Tories appear to be actively pursuing this opportunity. Certainly, they have many other reasons to shift Canadian policy in favour of Israel. Such support flows from their ideology of Western solidarity against the Arab and Muslim world, and more specifically from their commitment to harmonize foreign policy with the United States and its closest allies. That said, encouragement from UIAFC constitutes both an added incentive and a message of reassurance, a sort of political safety measure that ensures probable returns from the risky political manoeuvre of outright support for Israeli attacks. It seems that the party is indeed looking in this direction. In late July, for example, Conservative executive director Michael Donison sent out a fundraising appeal to prospective donors with a reminder that it was important to encourage and defend the Harper government’s policy on Palestine/Lebanon. Harper’s reign has done away with “the endless equivocation we found with our previous government,” Donison declared, but since “not everyone is grateful,” “I must turn to you to ask you for your support.”
UIAFC, for their part, are playing this up. Less than a week into the current invasion of Lebanon, CIJA issued a press release expressing “gratitude” for the Conservatives’ unequivocal support for Israel, and quoting Gerry Schwartz in praise of the Harper government’s “great courage” in playing a “leadership role” in international pro-Israel diplomacy. Some days later, a range of UIAFC notables took the occasion of the Conservative caucus meeting in Cornwall to take out an advertisement in a Cornwall paper. The ad praised Harper and Mackay’s foreign policy, and included among its signatories such leading UIAFC tycoons as Heather Reisman, her husband Gerry Schwartz, Sylvain Abitbol, Brent Belzberg and Steven Cummings. (Many of these have long-time connections to the Liberals; Cummings, for example, was appointed head of Via Rail by the Martin government.)
This dynamic came out dramatically in Toronto’s “Stand with Israel” rally of July 26. Emcee Robert Lantos sent the message clearly: “I, for one, hereby take off my life-long federal Liberal hat to you. Symbolically, I toss it away, if there were anyone willing to catch it.” About a week later, the Globe and Mail ran a story quoting Heather Reisman (CEO of Chapters-Indigo) as saying that “I [am] right there alongside Robert . . . after a lifetime of being a Liberal, I have made the switch.” As this front-page article in “Canada’s national newspaper” explained in its opening line, “Liberal power couple Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz have publicly broken with the Liberal Party line on the Middle East crisis and are turning to Prime Minister Stephen Harper because of his support of Israel.”
This state of affairs is provoking a strategic and policy split within the Liberal Party. Even the Martin government was far ahead of the Canadian population in its support for Israel, as polls conducted for UIAFC showed, and with the Harper Conservatives still further over-extended, some Liberals are eager to position themselves as voices of moderation. Under Bill Graham’s interim leadership, the Liberals moved, for instance, to join the Bloc Quebecois and NDP in an early August call for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hizbu’llah, pushed through the Commons foreign affairs committee despite objections from the Conservative minority government. The position is, to be sure, half-hearted. Bob Rae, the most prominent “critic” of support for Israel in the Liberal leadership race, has shown no concern for the killing of Palestinians. With respect to the northern Israeli invasion, Rae has made sure to stress that “Hizbu’llah started the conflict between Israel and Lebanon,” adding: “There is no question about that.” This is an interesting position since Israeli forces were occupying Lebanon and killing Lebanese well before Hizbu’llah existed. In any case, certain Liberals’ limited criticism of Israeli excesses, and their refusal to openly provide a diplomatic green light for Israeli atrocities, has publicly split the party.
Liberal Senator Grafstein, who attended the July 26 rally, has criticized Graham’s purported “even-handedness” and echoed Major-General Mackenzie’s line: “We’ve never been neutralist” – the implication being that we should side with Israel in its wars. The Liberal Parliamentarians for Israel and others within the party have echoed this criticism. Within the Liberal leadership race, Michael Ignatieff has done his best to match Harper’s tone, defending the Israeli onslaught on the grounds that “it was important for Israel to send Hizbu’llah a very clear message,” and that it was correct for the attacks to continue until they produced “a diminishing set of returns in Israel’s legitimate pursuit of security.” With specific reference to the July 30 massacre of scores of Lebanese children and other civilians in an Israeli air strike on Qana, Ignatieff arrogantly dismissed the issue: “This is the kind of dirty war you’re in when you have to do this and I’m not losing sleep about that.”
How these political shifts will evolve is unclear. What is clear is that those working to encourage the further degeneration of Canadian foreign policy should not be able to function in the absence of critical attention and organized opposition.
Regarding Canadian policy on Israel-Palestine (and Lebanon), the primary priority for people of conscience in this country should remain education about the nature of Israel as an Apartheid state and strengthening of the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until its Apartheid policies are dismantled. It has become more necessary than ever to secure broadening formal support for this movement from anti-war groups, unions, churches, pension plans, universities, and any other institutions potentially subject to popular control. Defending and acting upon the position forwarded by CUPE-Ontario, encouraging and extending the moves made by the United Church, and merging anti-war and Palestine solidarity efforts with the greatest momentum possible are all crucial ways to move forward.
Nothing should distract from these priorities. But their pursuit can be complemented by sustained, critical and coherent scrutiny of those, like UIAFC, who seek to worsen an already destructive Canadian foreign policy. Unfortunately, these “Israel advocates” have become too influential and dangerous to ignore. And for those working to affect Canadian governement policy and political culture for the better, these groups’ opposition must be carefully and vigorously confronted.
Toronto’s charitable air force and the need for boycott, divestment and sanctions
On August 8, Toronto’s UJA Federation, the local chapter of Tanuri’s “air force of the Jewish world,” formally launched its Israel Emergency Campaign. The campaign was opened with a posh event at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel, which featured the likes of Consul General Brosh and Conservative finance minister James Flaherty standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Campaign lawn-signs and massive billboards have now been set up throughout Toronto, facilitating the flow of financial encouragement for Israel’s wars.
The projected sum that will be raised in Toronto is $20 million, part of a North-America-wide campaign aimed at raising $300 million – “a floor, not a ceiling,” according to one official spokesperson. The purpose of the effort is spelled out in an Israel Emergency Campaign ad printed in the August 10 issue of the Canadian Jewish News. The ad includes a personal note from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert writes that he is confident that Toronto’s UIAFC powerhouses will come through with support for his government, since “United Israel Appeal of Canada and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto have long been staunch partners in the Zionist enterprise.” Regarding the need for funds around this particular military deployment, Olmert explains that “unexpected conflict has led to a major increase in defence spending,” and those loyal to Israeli operations need to step up to defray the costs. Rabbi Michael Lerner of the U.S. Jewish Magazine Tikkun was understating the point when he remarked that “Donations to the [UJA] federation at this point are simply a ‘yes’ vote to continued Israeli militarism.”
Tanuri’s “air force” – through which supporters can directly “enlist in the struggle,” as Julia Koschitzky put it – is conducting fundraising that is classified as “charitable” under Canadian law. Meanwhile, fundraising for a wide range of Palestinian and Lebanese institutions has been criminalized and subject to harsh legal penalty. The Palestinian Authority and Hizbu’llah-affiliated social structures are “terrorist,” we are told, in contrast to the Israeli forces responsible for inestimably higher civilian body counts. Not only can Israeli society call on its international supporters to defray the costs of its military conflicts, then, but the responding donations are deemed charitable.
This skewed, racist and utterly incoherent argument is set in Canadian policy and legislation. There are those who support it and wish to see it extended. At the same time, there is no denying its moral and logical bankruptcy. For all UIAFC’s “Israel advocacy,” for all the Canadian government’s public relations and its echoes in the mainstream press, this fundamental weakness cannot be easily glossed over. And the potential for dissidents in this country to expose, confront and undermine the set of policies that relies upon it remains very real.