The tolerant NDP

Libby Davies voices her opinion on Israel:

This drew strong condemnation from Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper,

and from Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae,

“The comments of Ms. Davies are more than just a ‘serious mistake,’ as the Leader of the NDP now maintains. To deny the State of Israel’s right to exist and to propose an international campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against a legitimate member of the world community for over sixty years is to reveal a level of hostility and ignorance that is truly breathtaking.

“These are not the off-the-cuff ramblings of any ill-informed or biased person. Ms. Davies is the Deputy Leader of a political party that aspires to reflect and represent the views of Canada on the international stage. In this role, fully cognizant of her responsibilities, she stated that Israel has been occupying territories since 1948, the year of its independence. The logical implication of these comments is that Israel has no right to exist.

“She called this ‘the longest occupation in the world.’ That is simply untrue, and reflects a complete disregard for the facts.

“This is a position that is more than just ‘unacceptable.’ This rhetoric is responsible for more than ‘confusion,’ and an ‘inadvertent error,” as Ms. Davies now suggests.

“The appropriate decision, given her stature and responsibilities with the NDP, is for Mr. Layton to ask for her resignation as Deputy Leader and for Ms. Davies to issue an apology to all Canadians. Nothing short of that will do.”

The referenced “Helen Thomas moment”:

In related NDP tolerance news, NDP MP calls a Catholic denomination “creepy”,

UPDATE: B’nai Brith unsurprisingly calls for Davies to be sacked.

“B’nai Brith Canada is calling on NDP leader Jack Layton to take action against Libby Davies for her outrageous remarks against the Jewish State, and by extension the Jewish people,” said Frank Dimant, Executive Vice President of B’nai Brith Canada. “The fact that Davies made her comments at an anti-Israel rally held in front of a Jewish-owned business speaks volumes to the fact that anti-Israel agitators in Canada are blurring the lines between criticism of Israeli policies and antisemitism.

“Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Party foreign affairs critic Bob Rae have justifiably called for the resignation of Ms. Davies. NDP leader Jack Layton has gone on the record today stating that her remarks are not the policy of his party – if that is the case, then Mr. Layton should take the next step and relieve Davies of her leadership positions in the party.”

Why political comms staffers exist

Today, a press release from the department of foreign affairs – received via email from dept:

Oops, the content of the press release didn’t seem to match the headline did it?

It is likely that two people with two different views wrote the release (one the headline, the other the body) stating what was supposed to be the position of DFAIT.

A corrected version was then sent out:

Good thing the error was caught.

A process story you’ll probably only hear about in the blogs…

NDP convention — Saturday summary

Today, the NDP got down to business and discussed policy, policy and more policy. In fact, the difference with Liberal policy conventions and NDP policy conventions, is that at NDP policy conventions, policy is discussed.

I started following the day with interest as delegates debated building an oil pipeline from Alberta to Eastern Canada. The advantages — according to the delegates — would be that such a move would create hundreds if not thousands of jobs and it would maintain sovereignty over Canadian energy distribution as distribution channels now run through the US. The clear disadvantage? That would be a nod to the reality that Canadians consume oil and export oil from the oil sands — a sticky point to a party that ran on a moratorium on future oil sands development in the previous election. In the face of recognizing economic realities and lofty dreams, the party faithful sided with the latter firmly saying “no” to our own oil production and transport.

From there, delegates went onto women in “peace-building” (is this the same as Conservative “peacemaking” — or closer to Liberal “peacekeeping”?) The resolution carried as no controversy could be found in a feel good resolution for everyone. Then foreign aid came up and Libby Davies took the microphone to describe the conditions of the people in the Gaza strip after she had returned from… the West Bank. No mention of Israel, though one delegate found the Canada-Israel Committee’s presence at the conference “interesting”. There was some other drama as some delegates debated the highly generalized language of the foreign aid resolution which described aid to “countries”. One delegate moved to discuss aid on a case-by-case bilateral basis. There were also some procedural debates. One French-language resolution was discussed which may well have been lifted by the Bloc Quebecois mandating the use of the French-language by all Quebeckers. Further, a policy resolution on EI firmed up the party’s position closer to the 360 hour mark similarly being proposed by the Liberals.

Leo Gerard was one of the showcase speakers of the day. The president of the United Steelworkers certainly gave the best crowd-pleasing speech of the day but appealed to the worst elements of partisanship as he, at different times, called both Harper and Ignatieff “the prince of darkness” and called ideological opponents in the US healthcare debate “redneck jerkoffs”. Frankly, if the NDP is to ever be taken seriously, this sort of language is unacceptable from a showcase speaker during the convention of a mainstream political party. In fact, to emphasize the fact that the NDP is still not taken seriously, there will be little to no critical coverage of this language in the MSM tomorrow, as there would have been screaming headlines if this had occurred at a Conservative or Liberal convention.

Next, the results of the party executive elections were announced. Peggy Nash replaces Anne McGrath as president of the NDP while Rebecca Blaikie was elected treasurer. A motion was made to destroy recycle the ballots. Nash served as an MP for the NDP in the 39th parliament and then most recently as an adviser to the CAW. Blaikie is daughter of the former NDP MP and Dean of the House of Commons Bill Blaikie.

Next, Marshall Ganz — a Harvard lecturer and labour organizer — spoke to the crowd about his experience as a community organizer and as a campaign organizer for the Obama campaign. Ganz gave the most informative speech of day for assembled delegates. Though Ganz spoke about the “politics of hope”, the NDP would be better served going negative against Michael Ignatieff as the Liberal leader has left them a lot of room to maneuver on the centre-left. To stake out their place there, the NDP will have to define Ignatieff more aggressively than recent Conservative efforts did with the now famous Just Visiting ads. Particularly notable moments of culture shock were apparent from Obama speakers in their use of biblical parables to illustrate “teachable moments” at this convention. The party of prairie preacher Tommy Douglas has taken a long road eschewing social justice drawn from religious inclination to one taken from a more atheistic worldview and Obama campaigners seemed to be out-of-place making religious analogies to a largely secular party.

After Ganz, the party went back to policy debate and discussed a state-focused nuclear disarmament resolution in a “hey, remember the 80s/something happened on 9/11?” moment. As conflict has moved from cold-war area politics to one with asymmetrical non-state actors post 9/11, the NDP still seems bent on having the same “world without (US) nukes” policy discussion instead of addressing the real and present danger of global terrorism. Another striking moment came during the international policy discussion portion when NDP MP Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) suggested that Tamil actions in blocking traffic in Ottawa and occupying a highway in Toronto were legitimate methods for Tamils to get the attention of the Canadian government.

The keynote of the day was Betsy Myers, the COO for the Obama campaign. According to her agency website, Myers banks between $15-20k per speaking arrangement. Myers talk was relatively light and uninspiring for delegates, but involved a Q&A session hosted by NDP national campaign manager Brian Topp. During Myers speech to party faithful, union delegates were notably absent from the speech. While union organizers make up an important part of the NDP field operation, they may have been upset by the party brass importing some expensive American talent to tell delegates about the shiniest new campaign techniques.


Union delegates absent from Myers speech and Q&A

After the Myers segment, Dippers poured out to hospitality events including a Keith’s brewery tour hosted by the NDP Nova Scotia Provincial caucus, that despite just forming government in that province, only managed to bring out five MLAs to the reception. Another big event of the evening was the Charlie Angus-sponsored Canadian Private Copying Collective gathering at the Delta. Of the federal caucus, only Angus and Bruce Hyer were present (a reader writes to inform that Claude Gravelle, Carol Hughes, Malcom Allen, Glen Thibault, Brian Masse, John Rafferty, Andrea Horwath, Ken Neuman, Leo Gerrard, and Andrew Cash also showed up during the event). They were joined by Canadian artists Eva Avila of Idol fame, Chris Cummings, Teresa Ennis, and Marie Denise Pelletier. The other free event was the NDP “tweetup” on Argyle street attended by Paul Dewar, Niki Ashton, Megan Leslie and Brian Masse. The VIPs, not at the brewery tour, copyright party or tweetup, must have been gathered at the Delta for a closed-door $300 “winner’s circle” meet-and-greet with Betsy Myers where MP Olivia Chow reported that Myers said that the NDP “[gives] voice to the voiceless”. Indeed.

Despite an initial setback after the party banned one of their leading activists, the eNDProhibition movement is making its voice heard at the NDP convention and is reportedly being more shrewd than the members of the Socialist caucus who are bluntly and clumsily pushing to nationalize everything. Dana Larsen, the NDP candidate who was fired during the last campaign for being pro-drug, was similarly barred from attending the NDP convention. The advocates for marijuana are looking for any small victory for their cause such as having the resolution on psychoactive substances debated on the floor. The eNDProhibition activists were seen lobbying GLBT delegates making the argument that they too once faced discrimination within their own party (Tommy Douglas’ views on homosexuality).


Some eNDProhibition buttons seen at the convention

Tomorrow will be an interesting day as the convention closes and the NDP debates their convention-headlining moment: the possible rebranding of the party. Observers will note a blue colour has washed over the NDP website and former party communications guru Ian Capstick noted to me that orange is simply terrible on camera. During the keynote, Myers spoke against a blue backdrop complete with “Jack Layton” in large letters overtop a barely visible “NDP-NPD” sitting next to large Obama logo. The party of Layton seems dedicated to embracing the success of the new American president who is for everything from the death penalty, to nukes, to civil unions over same-sex marriage, to two-tier healthcare, to increased troop presence in Afghanistan, to free trade with Colombia, to keeping Omar Khadr locked up. Layton may be embracing the blue colour in a nod to the US Democrats who turned red states into blue states for Obama in the 2008 election. The NDP slogan “it can be done” is somewhat similar to “yes we can” but seems to be more “convincing a disbeliever” in tone rather than a collective and affirmative call to action.

If Marshall Ganz could have given one lesson to delegates it would have been that without a personal story from each and every person about why they believe in your candidate enough to work on your team, the slickest political package and most sophisticated social media operation will never win a campaign. You can fly in the top-paid political talent, but without a strong field team you’ll be spending more time convincing people that “it can be done” rather than everyone believing that “yes, we can”. This weekend, the NDP may yet illustrate that it will fail at its own expensive imported lesson.

UDPATE: The NDP will not change its name. But not for a lack of trying. The delegates were only given an hour to debate an omnibus resolution on party constitution matters. No time was left to discuss the name change. As James Moore says, “everything old is new again”.

Obama, Harper and Ignatieff

Extraordinary Rendition:
The extrajudicial transfer of terror suspects from one state to another, usually to states with lower standards on human rights in their treatment of prisoners.

Barack Obama on extraordinary rendition:

“Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.” — LA Times

Michael Ignatieff on extraordinary rendition:

Arar is a case of rendition: the Torture Convention –Canada is a signator — forbids the rendition of anyone to confinement in a country where there is a reasonable chance that the person will be tortured. Arar claims he was tortured in Syria. But that’s not the only violation: the Americans can turn back a Canadian citizen to Canada, but surely have no right to deport him to a third country.

Stephen Harper on extraordinary rendition:

What I would like to see is obviously the United States government come clean with its version of events [Arar rendition], to acknowledge … the deficiencies and inappropriate conduct that occurred in this case, particularly vis-a-vis its relationship with the Canadian government [Canada wants to hear that] these kinds of incidents will not be repeated in the future.”

Same-sex marriage:
Stephen Harper on same-sex marriage:

“I have no difficulty with the recognition of civil unions for non-traditional relationships but I believe in law we should protect the traditional definition of marriage.” — Stephen Harper interviewed by the CBC

“We made a promise to have a free vote on this issue, we kept that promise, and obviously the vote was decisive and obviously we’ll accept the democratic result of the people’s representatives … I don’t see reopening this question in the future.” — Stephen Harper after MPs reject to re-open same-sex marriage debate

Michael Ignatieff on same-sex marriage:

For Liberals gay marriage is an equality issue. The [Liberal] government’s position gets the balance right. We will not compel religious communities to perform ceremonies that go against their beliefs, but we will not deny marriage rights to Canadians on grounds of sexual orientation.

Barack Obama on same-sex marriage:

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. For me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix. … I am not somebody that promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions.

Enhanced interrogation:
Michael Ignatieff on enhanced interrogation:

“As Posner and others have tartly pointed outif torture and coercion are both as useless as critics pretend, why are they used so much? While some abuse and outright torture can be attributed to individual sadism, poor supervision and so on, it must be the case that other acts of torture occur because interrogators believe, in good faith, that torture is the only way to extract information in a timely fashion. It must also be the case that if experienced interrogators come to this conclusion, they do so on the basis of experience. The argument that torture and coercion do not work is contradicted by the dire frequency with which both practices occur. I submit that we would not be “waterboarding” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — immersing him in water until he experiences the torment of nearly drowning — if our intelligence operatives did not believe it was necessary to crack open the al Qaeda network that he commanded. . Indeed, Mark Bowden points to a Time report in March 2003 that Sheikh Mohammed had “given US interrogators the names and descriptions of about a dozen key al Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting terrorist attacks.” We must at least entertain the possibility that the operatives working on Sheikh Mohammed in our name are engaging not in gratuitous sadism but in the genuine belief that this form of torture—and it does qualify as such—makes all the difference.”

The Globe and Mail infers Stephen Harper’s government’s stance on enhanced interrogation by other governments aided by Canada:

“The Harper government knew prison conditions were appalling long before The Globe and Mail published a series of stories last April detailing the abuse and torture of prisoners turned over by Canadian soldiers to Afghanistan’s notorious secret police, documents released this week show.” — The Globe and Mail

Israel:
Michael Ignatieff on Israel:

“I was a professor of human rights, and I am also a professor of the laws of war, and what happened in Qana was a war crime, and I should have said that.” — Michael Ignatieff on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict

“Canada has to support the right of a democratic country to defend itself … Hamas is to blame for organizing and instigating these rocket attacks and then for sheltering among civilian populations.” — Michael Ignatieff on the Israel-Hamas conflict

Barack Obama on Israel:

“My view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction”

Stephen Harper on Israel:
[The] source of Israel’s strength and success, in my view, is its commitment to the universal values of all civilized peoples: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. …

… Our government believes that those who threaten Israel also threaten Canada, because, as the last world war showed, hate-fuelled bigotry against some is ultimately a threat to us all, and must be resisted wherever it may lurk.

In this ongoing battle, Canada stands side-by-side with the State of Israel, our friend and ally in the democratic family of nations. We have stood with Israel even when it has not been popular to do so, and we will continue to stand with Israel, just as I have always said we would.

I know that we all hope and pray that someday freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law will be a reality for all the peoples of the Middle East.

Abortion:
Stephen Harper on abortion:

“I will tell you that, as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion” — Speech at 2005 CPC Policy Convention

Michael Ignatieff on abortion:

Strong majorities of Canadians believe that while abortion should be rare, it should be a protected right for all women. … I am in politics to defend and develop this progressive achievement.”

Barack Obama on abortion:

“I trust women to make these decisions in conjunction with their doctors, and their families and their clergy… When you describe a specific procedure [partial-birth abortion] that accounts for less than one percent of abortions that take place then naturally people get concerned, and I think legitimately so.” — Barack Obama

Iraq:
Stephen Harper on Iraq:

On Iraq, while I support the removal of Saddam Hussein and applaud the efforts to establish democracy and freedom in Iraq, I would not commit Canadian troops to that country. I must admit great disappointment at the failure to substantiate pre-war intelligence information regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Michael Ignatieff on Iraq:

The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president … But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion.

Barack Obama on Iraq:

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars. — Barack Obama, October 2nd, 2002

On capital punishment:
Stephen Harper’s government on capital punishment:

Citing the “wrong signal” it would send to Canadians to plead for mercy for convicted killers, the Conservatives said they would no longer attempt to convince the United States or other democratic countries to commute death sentences meted out to Canadians.

The government later said it would review such situations on a “case-by-case basis.” — Montreal Gazette

Michael Ignatieff on capital punishment:

Canadians do not support capital punishment… I am in politics to defend and develop this progressive achievement.

Barack Obama on capital punishment:

“While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes — mass murder, the rape and murder of a child — so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment” — Barack Obama from The Audacity of Hope

Stephane Dion fails leadership test on Lesley Hughes

Much is being written and said about former Liberal candidate Lesley Hughes and her bizarre conspiracy theories that are more appropriately scrawled on the front of newspaper boxes rather than enunciated by a mainstream contender for Parliament.

As the story progressed from the unearthing of Hughes’ quote, to the firestorm that erupted, all the way to Dion’s delayed disposal of Hughes’ from the Liberal Party, the easy conclusion is that Hughes’ views are not only divergent but dumb but the looming question that we should ask is what does this say about Mr. Dion’s leadership?

Former Liberal candidate Lesley Hughes in her own words,

“German Intelligence (BND) claims to have warned the U.S. last June, the Israeli Mossad and Russian Intelligence in August. Israeli businesses, which had offices in the Towers, vacated the premises a week before the attacks, breaking their lease to do it. About 3000 Americans working there were not so lucky.”

And then this release from the Liberal war-room while Hughes is under fire from Conservatives for her anti-semitic remarks (h/t Janke):

From: Media@liberal.ca

Sent: Sep 25, 2008 6:51 PM
Subject: STATEMENT – DÉCLARATION [LE FRANÇAIS SUIT L’ANGLAIS]

For Immediate Release

September 25, 2008

Statement from Lesley Hughes, the Liberal candidate for Kildonan-St. Paul

As a journalist I have spoken and written passionately about the Holocaust. I am a lifelong friend and supporter of the Jewish community in Winnipeg and I am deeply distressed by any suggestion to the contrary. I find any interpretation of my journalism as anti-Semitic personally offensive and I heartily apologize for that perception.

-30-

Contact:
Liberal Party of Canada Press Office

Note that this release comes from the Liberal Press Office, not directly from Ms. Hughes herself. The Liberal Party would like you to know that Ms. Hughes is “offended” by her critics. This sort of apology is good enough for Stephane Dion.

Then when this non-apology is worked over by reporters, Liberal supporters start yelling at them. Look at the leadership Stephane Dion shows when faced by further questions by reporters on an issue un-resolved. Remember, Hughes said that “Israelis” had advance knowledge of 9/11. What would you do if you were the leader of a political party?

A Liberal supporter takes over the press conference and pushes back on journalists for the Liberal leader. CTV quoted Liberal supporters as saying that questions were “trivial and irrelevant”.

When it became clear for Dion that Ms. Hughes was turning into a political liability, Dion still wouldn’t dump Hughes from the campaign. Instead, he sought the advice of the Canadian Jewish Congress as to what is right or wrong. Of course, like anyone with any sense the CJC said the comments were wrong. Mr. Dion didn’t need to outsource his decision making here. What to do about a nutty conspiracy theorist that suggests the Americans and Israelis orchestrated their own mass-murder in order to build a case for war is about the easiest test of leadership there is; it’s Leadership 101, this person has no place in any serious political party.

Mr. Dion did the right thing in the end, but only after facing embarrassing questions and only after delegating his judgment to an outside group. This incident speaks to the disturbing presumed acceptance of these views in some of the parties on the left but more importantly, it show that when faced with perhaps the easiest test of leadership, Mr. Dion failed.

Liberal boulevard lined by glass houses

while a boy named Iggy throws stones.

CTV (May 25th, 2008):

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier has embarrassed this country and it should be for the last time, says Deputy Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

The House of Commons resumes Monday after a week-long break. The official opposition is expected to ask Bernier to resign from his cabinet post after the minister made an empty-handed promise to an aid agency.

How soon Michael Ignatieff forgets.

National Post (October 11th, 2006):

MONTREAL – Michael Ignatieff, the front-runner in the race for the federal Liberal leadership, has accused Israel of committing “a war crime” during its conflict with Hezbollah last summer.In an interview on a widely watched Quebec talk show, Mr. Ignatieff apologized for comments in August when he told a newspaper he was “not losing sleep” over an Israeli bombing that killed dozens of civilians in the Lebanese village of Qana.

It was a mistake. I showed a lack of compassion. It was a mistake and when you make a mistake like that, you have to admit it,” he told the French-language Radio-Canada program Tout le monde en parle.

Louise Arbour commits to eradicating “Zionism”?

Jason Kenney responds, see update

Louise Arbour responds, see update

Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has voiced her support of the Pan-Arab human rights charter, which among other things, commits to “rejecting all forms of racism and Zionism.” Critics have argued that rejecting “all forms” of Zionism is in effect an effort to delegitimize the state of Israel.

Arab Charter of Human Rights:

The Canadian government rejected sending delegates to a UN Conference against racism because it argues that the conference paradoxically promotes racism in the form of anti-antisemitism, questioning the validity of an Israeli state and because of the postering of conference walls with Hitler imagery by invited NGOs and activists protesting Israel at the original “anti-racism” UN conference in the fall of 2001.

Arbour is out of step with Amnesty International which has stated:

The draft Charter includes provisions rejecting Zionism as”a violation of human rights and threat to international peace and security”(preamble and article 2 (c)). Amnesty International believes that states and non-state entities should be held accountable for human rights violations under international human rights standards. For this to be done, Amnesty International believes that the reference should be international human rights standards rather than focussing on a particular ideology or ideologies.– Amnesty International

Furthermore, the International Commission of Jurists has expressed its view on the Arab Charter:

The ICJ invites the authors of the Arab Charter to remove the condemnation of Zionism in the preamble and in its article 1 in order to devote the Charter exclusively to protection of human rights in the Arab region, without digressions of a political nature liable to obscure the Charter’s basic purpose.– International Commission of Jurists

As a member state of the UN, Arbour is seen to represent Canada at that organization. As Canadians, we stand for human rights and ought to reject the language of the Arab Charter and its support by the UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour.

UPDATE: Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity Jason Kenney has written a letter to Arbour and calls her statements troubling and asks for her to clarify her remarks.

UPDATE: Arbour clarifies her support for the Arab Charter:

To the extent that (the charter) equates Zionism with racism, we reiterated that (it) is not in conformity with (the 1991) General Assembly resolution, which rejects that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination … OHCHR does not endorse these inconsistencies. We continue to work with all stakeholders in the region to ensure the implementation of universal human rights norms. — Louise Arbour

CBC jumps into the sandbox

You know that there’s something wrong with your line of thinking when you tread in territory where even the Canadian Federation of Students won’t go.

The radical left wing activists at the Ryerson Student Union (RSU) were to table a motion at the annual congress of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which the CFS voted to not even consider. That, of course, won’t stop the RSU from their mission.

Consider this event, posted on the RSU website:

ACADEMIC BOYCOTT & ACADEMIC FREEDOM

A Ryerson Community Forum

Wednesday November 28th 2007 @ 6pm

Ted Rogers School of Management, Rm 1-067 (1st Floor) 575 Bay Street @ Dundas “Student-led university academic boycott movements were deployed trans-nationally in resistance to South African apartheid. Today, in response to a statement against academic boycotts, issued by President Sheldon Levy, the debate continues in the contemporary context about the Middle east.

This forum will explore the role of academic boycotts as a tool of resistance and their relationship to academic freedom.

The panel will include:
* Salim Valley South African anti-apartheid activist
* Alan Sears Ryerson Sociology Professor
* Stuart Murray Ryerson English Professor
* John Caruana Ryerson Philosophy Professor

Moderated by SUHANA MEHARCHAND Award-Winning CBC News Anchor

This is a historic debate, seating will be limited, come early.

This event is brought to you by: RSU & Ryerson University Presidents’ Office”

Name: Heather Kere, Vice-President of Education Phone Number: 416.979.5255 ext. 2318 Email Address: vp.education@rsuonline.ca

Let’s summarize:

  • According to the student representatives at Ryerson, Israel is an apartheid state, much like South Africa used to be.

    Heather Kere, vice-president education of the Ryerson Students’ Union, is calling on the Canadian Federation of Students – Canada’s largest student lobby group – to “research the feasibility of a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign” against the “Apartheid State” of Israel.

  • Given this, a discussion/debate will be had as to the effectiveness of academic boycotts as a tool against Israel.
  • The premise, according to this group, is clear: Israel is an “apartheid state”. The finer points of a solution are what is under consideration.
  • Suhana Meharchand, a CBC News Anchor is, in effect, validating the RSU’s premise by moderating a debate about academic boycott as a tool for “resistance”

Questions

  • Is CBC an impartial news organization when it comes to reporting on Middle-Eastern affairs? How it labels terrorism?

  • News anchors should not endorse political views (and Meharchand is by validating a debate based on a premise that is itself debatable (if not absurd), but is instead accepted as fact by the RSU and as the basis of subsequent debates, including this one!). News anchors aren’t even allowed to endorse toothpaste, why is Meharchand endorsing a debate involving these radical views?
  • Is there something wrong with the corporate and philosophical culture at CBC that this sort of thing is considered acceptable?
  • As a Canadian, you are a stakeholder of the CBC. Is this what you’ve come to expect from representatives of an organization that claims to represent you?

UPDATE: It’s worse. Not at all apparent from the event’s press release on the RSU website, is that the “debate” on academic boycott as a tool for “resistance” is co-sponsored by the Ryerson Faculty Association and the University itself. I fear that these groups, and the involvement of a reporter from CBC will add an air of legitimacy to a discussion which would be deemed indefensible outside of the loopy arena of student politics.

My friends in the Jewish community forwarded a particularly troubling account of “debate” on the campus at York University. From an article titled “Jewish York Students Flee From Mob” in the Jewish Tribune:

York University saw the worst antisemitic display ever on that campus last week, said Ben Feferman, senior campus coordinator for the Canadian region of Hasbara Fellowships, an Israel advocacy organization spearheaded by Aish Hatorah.

The Betar-supported Campus Coalition of Zionists (CCZ), together with Hasbarah, manned a table in Vari Hall, with permission from the university, with pamphlets and brochures about the danger emanating from Iran.

However, the situation became very difficult for the students who participated. They were vastly outnumbered by pro-Arab students who surrounded them, and eventually the pro-Israel activists fled. As they left, there was cheering by the pro-Arab mob.

According to Feferman, “I’ve never seen anything like this at York. We weren’t even discussing the issues anymore. It was pure Jew hatred. That’s what
it’s come to.”

In fact, Feferman noticed an acquaintance there and said hello, but received no acknowledgement.

She emailed him later that day to apologize, explaining that she didn’t want everyone to know she was Jewish. To Feferman, this episode is a red light.

“We know there’s a crisis when a student on campus is afraid to reveal she’s Jewish and feels unsafe,” he said.

The following day, Palestinian Media Watch’s Itamar Marcus addressed York students on the daily indoctrination of children living under the Palestinian Authority to hate Jews. “It was absolute chaos,” Hollander declared. “It was impossible to moderate. People would
ask loaded questions. Marcus wasn’t given an opportunity to respond. He refused to get into a screaming match. One girl, raised in Canada, said she herself would gladly become a suicide bomber and would have no qualms raising her daughter to be a shahid.”

A couple of weeks ago, when US-based anti-Israel professor of linguistics Noam Chomsky was scheduled to address York students via satellite, CCZ and Hasbarah joined forces to provide information about what Chomsky stands for. “We wanted to do a protest,”

Feferman said, “but the university administration wouldn’t allow it, saying they didn’t want a lot of noise and they were afraid that signs could be used as weapons.”

The RSU is free to publish their positions labeling Israel as an “apartheid state”, but we are also free to condemn their position. When the Faculty Association, the University and a CBC reporter get involved to foster debate on the issue, they are legitimizing the RSU’s indefensible position. By labeling Israel as an apartheid state, in effect, the RSU is arguing that Israel is illegitimate under international law.

Contrast this with the academic freedom afforded to those that defend Israel’s right to exist and the rights of activists that wish to educate people that anti-semitism is still a problem.

Canadian Federation of Students wisely rejects Israel boycott

Yesterday, B’nai Brith emailed me their press release concerning a Ryerson Student Union motion to be tabled at the Annual congress of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). CFS is a student organization that collectively represents many student governments at Universities across Canada. Critics say that it is largely an incubator for NDP and radical left-wing activists. Here is the release:

TORONTO, November 20, 2007 � B’nai Brith Canada has voiced its strong opposition to an anti-Israel motion calling for “boycott, divestment and sanctions” that is expected to be introduced by Ryerson University students at tomorrow’s meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students.

“The very flawed notion that Israel is an apartheid state is an assault on history and truth,” said Frank Dimant, Executive Vice President of B’nai Brith Canada. “The fact that this motion is proceeding in the name of the Ryerson Students’ Union when it was neither put to a vote, nor backed by the student body, is a further affront to due process in order to advance a vehemently anti-Israel agenda.

“We urge the Federation to categorically reject this motion on the grounds that it lacks the most basic of democratic underpinnings and more importantly to signal that it will not allow its forum to be hijacked by those who seek to demonize and delegitimize the democratic State of Israel.”

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Late last night, the Canadian Federation of Students voted to reject consideration of the motion. This comes as welcome news. The motion to reject consideration of the anti-Israel motion was endorsed by two-thirds of the voting plenary.

In September of this year, I wrote about the rejection of my Alma Mater of similarly absurd calls to boycott Israel proposed by the Britain’s University and College Union.