By Bruce Katz — Sep 20, 2022
This summer, Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) confirmed that at its invitation, Ali Abunimah, co-founder and executive director of The Electronic Intifada and one of the leading proponents of the notion of a democratic one-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, would be coming to Concordia University on September 15. Abunimah’s conference would center around concepts presented in his book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine: The Case for a Single Democratic State in Palestine. The Zionist (pro-Israeli apartheid) lobby in Canada would swoop in for a vicious attack against Abunimah and Concordia’s student union after the conference was held.
PAJU’s organizers for the September 15 event booked the DB Clarke auditorium (which has approximately 400 seats) in Concordia University’s Hall Building. The PAJU team subsequently began to advertise and mobilize attendance for the Ali Abunimah conference. A few weeks later, they were informed that the reservation had been canceled without explanation. Upon further inquiry, the PAJU organizers were informed that their reservation for the DB Clarke auditorium was canceled due to an unfortunate ‘double booking’ at that venue. Upon verification, they discovered that there was no double booking: in fact, there was no second reservation at all.
This started a frantic search for alternative venues at Concordia University. Ultimately, organizers were able to secure a student space on the seventh floor of Concordia University, thanks to the efforts of the Concordia Student Union (CSU). However, the university administration added in a demand to let the event move ahead. PAJU would have to accept the presence of two security guards for which it would foot the bill as set by Concordia University. Originally, PAJU organizers were told that a security perimeter would also be erected around the space to segregate attendees from the rest of the building’s seventh floor. This turned out not to be the case on September 15 when the Abunimah conference finally took place. Access to the event was unrestricted.
The conference began with prepared questions by the PAJU host of the event on specific aspects of Abunimah’s book. This was followed by questions from the audience to Abunimah. The conference was well-attended and PAJU was pleased that Concordia University’s Dean of Students, Andrew Woodall, attended the event. Mr. Woodall confirmed that there had been a mix-up regarding the reservation of the DB Clarke auditorium. In principle, future conferences should be able to take place in the auditorium. Despite initial troubles, the event went smoothly.
CIJA smears launched after Abunimah event
Palestinian human rights do not, however, appeal to everyone. Not surprisingly, a smear against Ali Abunimah and the Concordia Student Union by the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) ensued the following day. CIJA misled the public by maintaining that the CSU invited Mr. Abunimah to Concordia University when it was PAJU that sent the invitation and organized the event in collaboration with: Concordia University’s TRAC Union, the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), Canadian Foreign Policy Institute (CFPI), Just Peace Advocates (JPA), the Canadian BDS Coalition and Alternatives.
The CIJA smear begins with the slogan: “Jewish students have the right to feel safe at Concordia,” which implies that an honest discussion regarding Israel’s apartheid regime—which has been shown unequivocally to be an apartheid regime by no less than Israel’s decorated human-rights organization B’Tselem, in a report by Human Rights Watch, in a damning report by Amnesty International, by United Nations Special Rapporteurs for Human Rights, John Duggard and Michael Lynk and by former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter—somehow endangers the security of Jewish students at Concordia University. This is an obvious falsehood used alongside the spurious and weaponizing use of the epithet of antisemitism meant to silence any legitimate criticism of Israel’s institutionalized racism practiced against both Palestinians and Bedouin.
In what can be considered nothing short of a defamatory smear against Ali Abunimah, the CIJA statement goes on to say: “Abunimah’s track record of antisemitic statements and his repeated calls for the erasure of the world’s only Jewish state…” should disqualify him from receiving an invitation to speak.
Ali Abunimah, in contesting the legitimacy of Israel as an apartheid state, offers the alternative of a single democratic state for all of its inhabitants, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Israelis, and Palestinians alike. That is far cry from preaching the “erasure” of the Jewish state. The question of whether or not an exclusively Jewish State is also a democratic state is, of course, not addressed by CIJA.
It is far easier to ignore daily Israeli crimes committed against Palestinians, and smear those who oppose this institutionalized cruelty with the epithet of antisemitism. It is by this means, the weaponization of antisemitism, that elements of the pro-Israel lobby in Canada and elsewhere in the world seek to intimidate critics of Israeli apartheid into silence.
By conflating Zionism, the ultra-nationalist doctrine, with Judaism, the Jewish religion, the Zionist lobby equates the exclusively Jewish state with Judaism and claims that any criticism of the Jewish state, therefore, amounts to antisemitism. Yahveh has been replaced by the Jewish state’s ethnocentric Nation-State Basic Law—where the principle of self-determination is exclusive to Jews but not to non-Jews in Israel—thereby substituting Jewish ‘ethnicity’ for the Jewish religion. Hence, what is essentially idolatry is praised as ‘Jewishness’ by Zionists and those feckless politicians and media mavens who attend them.
Elements of the pro-Israel lobby in Canada such as CIJA and B’nai Brith will make no mention of Israel’s system of administrative detention by means of which any Palestinian on the street can be arrested and imprisoned without charge or evidence and can remain in prison indefinitely, as the administrative detention can be renewed indefinitely every six months. Since Israel began its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, more than 750,000 Palestinians have been detained, representing approximately 20 percent of the current total Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories. We won’t hear CIJA refer to this criminal activity.
Nor will CIJA or B’nai Brith mention that since 1967, Israel has destroyed more than 48,000 Palestinian homes and other buildings in the occupied territories, including agricultural buildings and places of business. Nor will they refer to the fact that Israel has killed 3,000 Palestinian children since the year 2000, or the fact that Israel has killed 37 Palestinian children in 2022 alone.
They will make no mention of the almost daily violence committed by racist, ultra-nationalist Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank against the Palestinian population, including pogroms either ignored or aided explicitly by the Israeli army. They will not blink an eye at videos showing Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem evicting Palestinians from their homes, subsequently moving themselves into the stolen homes and calling it their own.
And on and on it goes, this permanent Nakba. Those who defend the principle of human rights in denouncing racist apartheid are certainly not racists. It is certainly not the case of Ali Abunimah, who is a defender of human rights.
Pro-Israeli apartheid cancel culture across Canada
On July 13, 2020, Larry Haiven—Professor Emeritus at St. Mary’s University in Halifax—published an important article in Mondoweiss entitled “Cancel Culture and the Israel Lobby”. The article details how the pro-Israel lobby in Canada goes about the pursuit of ‘canceling’ pro-Palestinian events or any conference critical of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians in Canadian venues, whether university campuses or public places. The article is a ‘must-read.’
Professor Haiven makes no bones about the Israel lobby’s attack on free speech:
“If we want to identify the real masters of cancel culture, however, we need to follow the modus operandi of the institutional pro-Israel lobby and its adherents, like the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), B’nai Brith Canada (BBC), the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) and other organizations on the Jewish right. They can teach us a thing or two about how to kill free speech, and how cancel culture works to stop an utterance before it is even spoken.”
Haiven goes on to identify more than two dozen instances of the “Canadian pro-Israel lobby’s cancel culture playbook in action.” Professor Haiven’s description of the pro-Israel lobby playbook also applies directly to the unjustified CIJA attack against Ali Abunimah:
The Pro-Israel Cancel Culture Playbook
The minute you hear about an event featuring a critique of Israel, employ the following formula:
Have a number of organizations at work. If the CIJA is squeamish, then get B’nai Brith Canada to do it. If they or the Simon Wiesenthal Center have qualms, then the imprudent and belligerent Jewish Defense League or Herut Canada can rush in.
No matter how distinguished and credible the speaker, try guilt-by-association, however tenuous. Did their uncle belong to a questionable organization? Did their cousin write something critical of Israel? Do they pay dues to a student union that supports Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)? Shut them down!
If the speakers are academics, go after their publications or insist their tenure be denied. If they are students, demand that their degrees be withheld. The Canadian Jewish News recently reported: “Rather than debating them about Israel, Manfred Gerstenfeld, the former chair of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs (JCPA), makes the case for professionally discrediting the enemies [sic] of Israel. ‘Find plagiarism or a wrong footnote and make it public,’ he said at a fundraising event for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, in Montreal on Dec. 1 . ‘Only about 10 percent of academics are hard-core anti-Israel and the rest are not going to risk their careers. Academics are cowards.’”
Absent real evidence of antisemitism, a mere accusation will suffice.
Find out where the event is being held and who are the sponsors. Contact both the venue and the sponsors and tell them that the speaker or the event is antisemitic.
If you don’t want to threaten violence yourself, suggest that there might be violence from some unknown quarter if the event proceeds.
Tell the host or sponsor that they too will be considered antisemitic if they continue involvement.
If any of the venues or sponsors accede to these demands, publicize it to shame the non-acceders.
If an event you don’t like is canceled or postponed, claim credit.
Even if the shut-down attempt is not completely successful, the cost and effort involved in resisting your attack will frighten the organizers and make others think twice about doing something similar in the future.
What I call the “cringe effect” is particularly useful with the media. When a critic of Israel appears, initiate an avalanche of disparaging letters, emails, and phone calls. Even if the preponderance of material in the particular media outlet has been pro-Israel, criticize the “lack of balance.” If all else fails, demand “equal time” of equal prominence for an opposing view. That should scare the media outlet away from the topic.
Professor Haiven goes on to list a number of venues at which the Israel lobby has put the ‘playbook’ into action:
Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver in 2016, where anti-Israeli-occupation activists were slated for a panel conference on genocide. B’nai Brith reached out to SFU to have the panel canceled. “Organizers pushed back, reaching out to a range of supporters at SFU. The panel and conference went ahead”.
“In 2017, the University of British Columbia (UBC) Alma Mater Society (student union) gave notice of a referendum to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.” Hillel, an “organization that purports to represent Jewish university students,” filed a court motion to bar the referendum entirely. That court action failed.
“In 2018, the Canadian Association of Cultural Studies sponsored a conference at SFU entitled “Carceral Culture” including a panel on Israel/Palestine. Again, B’nai Brith attempted to get it canceled. Counter-mobilization defeated the B’nai Brith gambit.”
In 2014 in Calgary, CJPME organized “a photo exhibit entitled ‘Dispossessed, but Defiant: Indigenous Struggles from around the World’” which juxtaposed the Palestinian travails with those of other objects of colonialism, like South African blacks under apartheid and Canadian indigenous peoples…” According to Haiven’s article in Mondoweiss, “The exhibition was meant to travel to venues around Canada, but pro-Israel opponents attempted repeatedly to block those displays. In Calgary, they managed to de-platform the exhibit from a small community center. When the hosts finally found a United Church location, opponents inundated the new venue with calls and emails.”
The following example of added security at the cost of the organization presenting a pro-Palestinian event has a direct relation to what took place at Concordia University on September 15:
“In 2016, local activists booked space at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for a talk by Haider Abu Ghosh of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, about the eradication by the Israelis of three Palestinian villages in 1967. The activists were forced by complaints to switch the event to the Calgary Public Library. Pro-Israel groups put so much pressure on the library that the hosts were forced to provide security, at significant cost.”
In February 2018, Independent Jewish Voices (Winnipeg), the Canadian Arab Association of Manitoba, and the United Jewish Peoples Order-Winnipeg “organized a public meeting at the University of Winnipeg entitled “My Jerusalem” to discuss the US government’s recent decision to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.” Unable to have the meeting canceled, B’nai Brith Canada complained to the university that the speakers were antisemitic and demanded that the university apologize.
The attack by B’nai Brith is similar to the charges made by CIJA regarding Ali Abunimah’s conference at Concordia University: B’nai Brith claimed that one of the speakers accused Israel of committing a “genocide” against Palestinians and that another referred to Israeli Jews as “European settlers.”
The fact of the matter is that the bulk of Jewish pioneer settlers to what was, during the 1920s and 1930s, the then-Jewish part of Palestine, were in fact white European settlers. The Zionist project in Palestine was and is an example of settler colonialism, as Ali Abunimah stated in his conference on September 15. It is to be noted in passing, as per the Haiven article, that Winnipeg University’s Human Rights and Equity officer “investigated the complaint and, claiming to have consulted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism, allowed the smear to stand…” When asked to show exactly where statements made during the meeting were antisemitic, the same officer declined to answer.
There are many similarities between the above-cited examples of pro-Israel cancel-culture in Larry Haiven’s article and the attack against Ali Abunimah and the Concordia Student Union at Concordia University on September 15.
CIJA’s attack, if not an example of an outright smear which is defamatory in nature, certainly borders on being defamatory. Legal action on the part of those who have been unjustifiably attacked by CIJA is something that maybe considered by them. The possibility of a collective lawsuit regarding the numerous instances of cancel culture by pro-Israel lobby groups in Canada is also to be considered by targets of CIJA.
rqorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/rqorinoco/November 26, 2022
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