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June 10, 2010

Harper leads a new McCarthyism in Canada

Scott Stockdale

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A new McCarthyism is escalating in Canada, and a lot of Canadians are not aware of it.

This was the message from a panel of NGO representatives, at Marxism 2010 Conference, at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Guest speakers included Rafeef Ziadah, a founding member of Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, Khaled Mouammar, president of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF), and Dylan Penner, founding member of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) expressed alarm at the Harper governments' method of silencing, or making things very difficult for its critics, especially when Israel is the target of their criticism.

Mr. Mouammar said the Harper government's neo-con ideology has resulted in Christian fundamentalist agenda at home and a Zionist agenda internationally, with little room for dissent.

“They're got a neo-con ideology. Their policies demand conformity. Debate is out. They smear and demonize opponents by saying they support terrorists...They called Richard Colvin a Taliban dupe.”

As well as cutting funding for organizations such as Kairos  - a social justice organization comprised of several Christian churches - and CAF, which many think was for political reasons, Mr. Mouammar said Canadian government employees are participating in community organizations in order to play one faction against another, to change its leadership to more agreeable, though often marginalized, members of various ethnic and religious communities.

He said before the government cut the CFA funding the organization was offered a deal whereby it could maintain its funding if it got rid of two people in its leadership, dropped a lawsuit it had against the government and stopped talking about international issues.

“They're undermining democracy in Canada. They attack any Canadian organization that does human rights work outside of Canada.”

He added that the government continues to follow and implement these policies because it has powerful supporters who encourage it.

“They're becoming more vicious, more reactionary because they still have the support of the media; the Liberals go along and the NDP are silent.”

While the anti-Semitism epithet has become a common response to criticism of Israel, Mr. Penner, a member of IJV, said even members of a Jewish organization such his are labeled anti-Semitic when they criticize Israel. He said this has resulted in a growing number in the Jewish community questioning Israel.

“There's a boycott from within Israel and they have refuseniks, who refuse to join the Israeli military.”

After pointing out that Israeli supporters often claim anti-Semitism in response to criticism, rather than address the issues being criticized, Mr. Penner said he believes there is a more insidious process going on in Canada to silence criticism of Israel.

“The Canadian Parliamentary Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) has been holding hearings for the last two months. Their ultimate objective is to introduce legislation that would make it a crime to criticize Israel.”

One has to wonder how many parliamentary committees have been held to examine hate against other religious communities in Canada.

While the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, launched in 2005 by a number of community organizations, to protest the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, is gaining traction, Mr. Penner said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty recently visited Israel to cement business relations.

Rafeef Ziadah, a founding member of Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA), said the BDS campaign, supported by 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, is a way for people around the world to show solidarity with Palestinian people as well as outing the corporate and Canadian government connection with Israel.

“Before the Oslo Agreement, there was international solidarity with Palestine. After Oslo, it collapsed, but we've rebuilt it with the BDS campaign.”

She added that any criticism of Israel is characterized as anti-Semitic.

“They've coined it the new anti-Semitism. It's (Israel) an apartheid state. They say calling Israel apartheid is offensive and it creates a bad atmosphere, but every year Israeli soldiers are paraded around Canadian campuses. These are people who bomb villages, but this is not offensive. They're parading around war criminals.”

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