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October 4, 2018

Reactions to anti-Muslim video highlight political double standard

Linda McQuaig

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We've become accustomed to the up-is-down, black-is-white nature of U.S. politics - such as when Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested that Christine Blasey Ford's claim of being sexually assaulted amounted to a "drive-by shooting" of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Canadian politics usually seems less crazy. But then there’s this:

An alarming video by two women who called for the death penalty for Liberal and NDP politicians has caused a political storm.  (YOUTUBE)

Last month, two Toronto women posted a 20-minute video in which they denounce the “sewage, garbage” coming into the country, and call for the death of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, several Liberal MPs with Muslim and racial identities, as well as NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

The video is alarming, possibly qualifying as hate speech.

But instead of Trudeau denouncing such racial vitriol, he ended up smearing pro-Palestinian activist Dimitri Lascaris, who brought the video to public attention.

The episode highlights the extent to which debate over Palestinian rights has been all but shut down by our political leaders. Indeed, one advocates for Palestine at one’s peril.

Lascaris, a lawyer and former Green Party candidate, participated in a protest last month after the pro-Israel organization B’nai Brith criticized the Canadian Union of Postal Workers for siding with Palestinian postal workers.

A counterprotest was staged by the Jewish Defense League. Two female supporters of B’nai Brith, who attended the counterprotest, later posted the video in which they openly denounce Palestinians, and call for them to “go home.”

“We’re traumatized by the kind of sewage, garbage, whatever, coming into our country,” say the women, who seem middle-class, and declare themselves supporters of Doug Ford.

“I just think we should bring in the death penalty … start with some of our politicians … Justin Trudeau, he’d be the first one to go. And (Maryam) Monsef. And Iqra Khalid. And Ahmed Hussen. And Omar Alghabra … And Singh, Singh, let’s make him sing, you know, as he walks toward the guillotine!”

Let’s just stop right there. Imagine the reaction if two Muslims made a video calling for the death of our prime minister and Jewish MPs. They’d be denounced, placed under surveillance or arrested.

But nothing happened here. Instead, it was Lascaris who soon found himself under attack after he posted the video in a tweet and called on B’nai Brith and two leading pro-Israel Liberal MPs, Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt, to denounce calls for the death of their Liberal colleagues.

When there was no denunciation, Lascaris tweeted that the MPs seem “more devoted to apartheid Israel than to their own prime minister and colleagues in the Liberal caucus.”

While the attacks on Muslims didn’t provoke any reaction from our prime minister, that tweet did. Trudeau responded: “Vile anti-Semitic smears like this are completely unacceptable, and should always be called out. Thank you @LevittMichael and @AHousefather for standing up to this, and for everything you do for your communities and our country.”

Singh joined in: “Anti-Semitism has no place in Canada. I know what it’s like to experience racism and discrimination, and to have my loyalty to Canada questioned. @LevittMichael and @AHousefather, I stand with you today.”

Not a word from these party leaders about the anti-Muslim venom from the two B’nai Brith supporters.

These reactions show how our political leaders have fallen in line behind the pro-Israel lobby in its attempt to stifle critics with charges of “anti-Semitism.”

Lascaris is a controversial figure because he — along with groups like Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East — are trying to encourage a public debate over Ottawa’s refusal to pressure Israel to stop its illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

They point out that Ottawa applies sanctions to 19 nations but not Israel, even though Canada acknowledges that Israel’s settlements violate international law.

Interestingly, some 66 per cent of Canadians support sanctions against Israel, according to an EKOS poll last year, but the pro-Israel lobby has effectively banned this topic from political discourse in Canada.

Maybe there’s a good reason not to sanction Israel — despite its violation of international law — but then let’s hear our political leaders articulate that reason, rather than simply smacking down anyone who dares to question their silence on the issue.

Linda McQuaig is a Toronto-based freelance contributing columnist for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @LindaMcQuaig

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On July 7, 2024 in Toronto, Canada, Dimitri Lascaris delivered a speech on the right to resist oppression.

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