Canada’s Pro-Israel Lobby Have Launched a New Attack… Can They Hit the Target?

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Hussein Hoballah, Montreal


I was appalled by the silence in Canada concerning news that circulated everywhere via social media: a fight broke out between an unarmed Palestinian young man and an armed Israeli soldier on November the 2nd. Once some passers-by tried to interfere to release the man, the soldier threatened them with his weapon. And once the man tried to defend himself against the soldier who kept assaulting him, the soldier shot him from a very close distance, piercing the torso of the 22-year-old man, Ammar Moflih, with bullets. So instead of firing a warning shot to ‘neutralise’ the man, the soldier had decided to execute him. No medics were allowed to near the young man until he bled to death.

The Israeli-occupation military later claimed that the man had been trying to stab the soldier – something which the video doesn’t show.

The Arab/Muslim community have been dismayed by more unspeakable news, to which Canada’s officials have turned a blind eye: senior Conservative officials have received extreme far-right Israeli leaders, including Founder & Chairman of “Keep Jerusalem”, Chaim Silberstein, who sees that there ‘are too many Arabs’ in Jerusalem and that this ‘utterly unacceptable’, as Keep Jerusalem’s website, videos and interviews show.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims has expressed disappointment with the reception, saying, “Silberstein is rabidly pro-illegal settlement, as he has championed illegal settlements in places like Sheikh Jarrah. Canada has officially condemned those illegal settlements... Silberstein views the taking away of property from Arabs in Jerusalem as a moral good, and has even criticised Jews who enter into commercial agreements with Arabs.”

The silence of Canadian politicians while such reprehensible events unfold is intolerable. What’s been aforementioned, however, is only a lead-up to what I have to say next concerning injustice and double-standards:

A ruthless campaign has been launched against an event held by the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group in collaboration with the Canadian Palestinian Organisations’ Coalition. The event was held to mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (declared so by the UN in 1977) on November 29th in one of Parliament Hill halls. The Ottawa event was attended by several Canadian MPs, as well as diplomats, ambassadors and representatives of Arab and Palestinian organisations in Canada. No mainstream media covered the occasion, however, raising questions among the groups concerned.   

The event was marked by the venue, attendance and the standpoints made by speakers, who, in brief, emphasised that the Palestinian people are treated unjustly, that Canada’s applying double-standards when it comes to human rights, that it’s important to pressure the government to stay true to the Canadian values and that the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories must end.

The speakers reminded everyone that Palestinian children are targeted and killed, and that this has been on the rise lately. It was also said that “the hypocrisy of some who claim to stand human rights but don’t is hard to stand,” and that it’s an “atrocity to steal land and place a mass of infrastructure that is in its essence very racist, as the Separation Barrier.” Furthermore, the Israelis’ attacks against civil-society groups was denounced, and it was affirmed that “Canada would continue to be pushed to recognise ICC jurisdiction over Palestine, so that an independent investigation that can impose accountability for the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh be conducted.”

It was announced, too, that olive trees would be planted in Palestine, and the right of return for the Palestinian people was reiterated by speakers who confirmed they are not anti-Semitic. Parallels were drawn “between the Palestinian struggle and the oppression experienced by Indigenous and Black peoples in Canada,” and a “message of unequivocal Canadian Jewish solidarity with the Palestinian people” was delivered. It was also recalled that families in Sheikh Jarrah are being forced out of their homes, and noted that “some consider Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as the last gasp of the colonial era.” Canadian MPs as well said they stood by the Palestinian people and community.

The event, therefore, has been a huge failure with respect to Israel and has created a loud voice in support of the Palestinian people against the occupiers. That’s why the pro-Israel lobby with far-reaching influence have been infuriated. After all, the lobby’s job is to keep an eye on any critics of Israel and to do all they can to prevent the Israeli-occupation forces’ aggression against the Palestinians from being exposed, even when those aggressions have been being committed for decades.

That’s why the lobby’s various facades and proxies have been trying to strike at the event, which was a success. The lobbyers have found no other way but to exploit the attendance of Nazih Katatba, the Editor-in-Chief of “Al-Meshwar”, a newspaper published in Toronto. They have accused him of being anti-Semitic and a holocaust denier, asking how ‘such a person’ could be invited there and adding that “it is as ignorant as it is repugnant to have a Holocaust denier at a parliamentary gathering.”

All media outlets that hadn’t earlier covered the event were now flurried, joining others in condemning the event because Mr Nazih Katatba had been there. Accusations were made against MPs who had attended, and some demanded that Transport Minister Omar Alghabra apologise for the ‘unforgivable offence against Canadian Jews,’ as a well-known official tweeted. In another tweet, it was said that Katatba’s presence ‘aggravated’ Canada’s Jewish community.

Claims made in the deliberate campaign, which has exploited Katatba’s presence to attack the event, lack proof. In a Facebook post, Katatba said “the condemners are trying to terrorise others by depicting him as anti-Semitic, and to impose the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which targets any criticiser of Israel/supporter of Palestine”.  

Katatba then said that the “success of the solidarity day and the declaration of over 18 MPs belonging to the group of supporting Palestine has outraged the Zionist lobby, who are trying their best to silence those voices by taking advantage of my being there as a journalist.”

Katatba as well confirmed, “We’re not anti-Semitic, and we haven’t spoken ill of Canadian Jews or any others. We simply criticise the policies of the Israeli occupation and stand by the Palestinian people. Those who accuse us of anti-Semitism without proof are just trying to support and protect the Israeli occupation that’s murdering Palestinians every day.”

Speaking to CBC, Katatba said that the organisations accusing him of anti-Semitism are just trying to suppress the freedom of expression in Canada as concerns different perspectives on the struggle in the Middle East.

He then challenged anyone with proof of such claims to present that to court for judgement.

So might the pro-Israel lobby silence the voices that spoke on Tuesday in favour of the Palestinian people? Might those voices be withdrawn?

Observers have confirmed to us that “this campaign might partially hit its target, but things depend, above all, on the Palestinian/Arab community’s reaction. They’ll need to stand by the supporters of the Palestinian cause, who are always targeted as soon as they show solidarity.” The observers have called on “our community to work on making a well-planned response to face this campaign before it’s too late.”