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The Israel Obsession

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Israel apologists often complain about leftists “singling Israel out” or “obsessing” over that country, inferring a motivation of anti-Semitism. Putting aside the obvious truth that “obsessing” over the plight of an oppressed people ought to be considered a compliment and campaigning on any issue amounts to “singling” it out, the accusation often represents what a Freudian analyst would call a “projection”.

It is the Israeli nationalists themselves who single out and obsess over that country.

In Understanding the Zionist Religion National Post columnist and Walrus Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Kay explains: “At a recent large speaking event at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, for instance, a middle-aged woman proudly told the crowd that she spent eight hours a day on Facebook groups devoted to the subject. Other crowd members seemed to regard this as an admirable lifestyle choice. … Many Jewish retirees I know have quite literally made online Israel advocacy a full-time calling… In some cases I have observed, it is not an exaggeration to say that Zionism is not just the dominant factor in Jews’ political lives—but also in their spiritual lives.”

Beyond the psychological aspect, the argument Israel is treated unfairly by leftists collapses upon historical inspection. In fact, one could better argue that the Canadian left remains in debt to Palestinians and must make up for all the one-sided support it gave to the Zionist project over the decades. For example:

*At its inaugural convention in 1956 the Canadian Labour Congress called on the “government to lend sympathetic support to Israel’s request for defensive armaments, in order that Israel may match, in quality if not in quantity, the constant flow of Soviet bloc armaments into the Arab countries, and further appeals to our government to use its good offices in urging other free Western countries to do likewise.” The resolution was passed just before Israel invaded Egypt alongside former colonial powers France and Britain. What is especially disturbing about this resolution is that Canada had been selling Israel weapons for a number of years and was under (private) pressure from Washington to send Israel advanced fighter jets. I’m unfamiliar with the CLC ever calling for weaponry to be sent to another country.

*Anger at decades of unwavering support of Israeli expansionism prompted a resolution to the CLC’s 1988 convention, which never made the floor, noting: “whereas in the past both the Federation and Congress have often been reluctant to allow debate on resolutions critical of Israel, often scheduling them so that they will not reach the floor. Therefore be it resolved that in light of the extensive killing and violation of Palestinian human rights by Israel, that the resolutions committee for the Canadian Labour Congress convention schedule resolutions so that the delegates can have the opportunity to debate this issue.”

*Labour unions have also offered Israel unique financial support. With the new state having difficulty raising money on Wall Street, Israel Bonds were launched in 1951 to pay for infrastructure. According to a 2005 estimate, Canadian unions purchased $20 million worth of Israel Bonds annually. Economics was the main motivation for acquiring Israel Bonds but there was also “a historical bond between Israel and the unions,” explained Lawrence Waller, executive vice president of State of Israel Bonds Canada, which to this day has a Canadian labour division that organizes annual dinners.

*In 2000 Hamilton’s Jewish National Fund dedicated its Negev Dinner to Enrico and Joe Mancinelli from the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). The union’s pension fund began investing in Israel Bonds in the early 1980s and in 1999 Joe Mancinelli visited Israel to see construction and infrastructure projects financed by Israel Bonds. “They have a longstanding relationship with and support for the state of Israel,” explained Jewish National Fund Hamilton chairperson Tom Weisz to the Hamilton Spectator.

*The Jewish National Fund reveals another way in which Israel is “singled out”. To the best of my knowledge it is the only openly racist organization ‘leftists’ continue to associate with. Manitoba NDP Premier Gary Doer was honoured at a 2006 JNF Negev Dinner, as was cabinet minister Christine Melnick in 2011. During a 2010 trip to Israel subsequent NDP Premier Greg Selinger signed an accord with the JNF to jointly develop two bird conservation sites while water stewardship minister Melnick spoke at the opening ceremony for a park built in Jaffa by the JNF, Tel Aviv Foundation and Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable.

*In 2013 Green Party leader Elizabeth May attended a JNF fundraiser in Ottawa. In an interview afterwards she lauded “the great work that’s [the JNF] done in making the desert bloom.”
An organization that explicitly discriminates in land use policies, the JNF is but one of hundreds of charities the Canada Revenue Agency authorizes tax credits for donations to a wealthy, far away, country. A mid-1990s survey found there were more than 300 registered Canadian charities with ties to Israel and in 1991 the Ottawa Citizen estimated Canadian Jews sent more than $100 million a year to Israel and possibly as much as $200 million. How many registered Canadian charities funnel money to France or Sweden?

When leftists speak out on the issue, they are often ‘singled out’ for abuse even by purported left organizations. A month ago Elizabeth May expelled three members of the party’s shadow cabinet for publicly defending the Greens’ recent vote for “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories].” Similarly, during the 2015 federal election the NDP blocked or removed a half-dozen individuals from running as candidates after it came to light they criticized Israeli violence. Not since Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis purged the leftist Waffle in the early 1970s has the party done anything similar.

The truth is that if Canada, the US and Britain had never “singled out” Israel for special treatment, Palestinians would have long had their homeland and the entire region would be more stable. Canadians blinded by the “Zionist religion” need to seek treatment before accusing others of what they do.

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Yves Engler’s latest book is ‪Canada in Africa: 300 years of Aid and Exploitation.

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