Confronting Anti-Palestinianism in Canada’s NDP

This is the final article in a four-part series on the NDP leadership’s suppression of debate on the Palestine Resolution. Here are the first, second and third instalments on the topic.

To effect change people need to know what and who they are up against. By nakedly suppressing debate on the Palestine Resolution at its recent convention the NDP leadership did internationalist minded party members the favour of clarifying that. They demonstrated the need to directly confront anti-Palestinianism within the party.

Over the next year NDPers who support Palestinian rights and care about party democracy should hound the leadership over their suppression of the Palestine Resolution. Every single elected representative, staffer, riding association executive and party activist needs to be prodded into deciding whether they side with Palestinian rights and party democracy or suppressing the Palestine Resolution and enabling ongoing Canadian complicity in Palestinian dispossession.

The best way to channel disgust with suppression of the Palestine Resolution is by forcing the party to sever its ties with Israel lobby organizations. NDP officials must stop participating in expenses-paid Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) lobbying trips to Israel and reject requests from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to speak at its conferences. They also need to remove their MPs from the Canada–Israel Parliamentary Group, stop inviting Israeli Labor Party MPs to their convention and refrain from events put on by the explicitly racist and colonial Jewish National Fund.

Any MP who takes a CIJA-funded lobbying trip to Israel should receive a deluge of emails from across the country, visits to their office by local activists and the withdrawal of any form of activist support until they apologize. MPs and party representatives need to understand that these lobbying tours may be free, but they have a political cost.

Palestine solidarity activists in Victoria should immediately launch a campaign to force Randall Garrison and Murray Rankin to withdraw from the Canada–Israel Parliamentary Group. If emails don’t do the trick, visiting their offices, questioning them at community events or occupying their offices might.

At an individual level anti-Palestinian comments should be socially stigmatized. Just like members making openly sexist or homophobic statements, individuals espousing anti-Palestinian views need to feel isolated in NDP circles.

An example of the wild anti-Palestinianism accepted in the party, the president of an NDP riding association sits on the board of the explicitly racist and colonialist Jewish National Fund. President of the Windsor-Tecumseh federal NDP, Noah Tepperman is a board member of the Windsor JNF and has funded the organization’s events in other cities. Before the party convention Tepperman sent an email to all riding associations calling on them to oppose Palestine resolutions and he has tweeted that “BDS = Racism” and “Distressed to hear Canada’s Green Party endorsed the anti-free speech/anti-Zionist/anti-Semitic BDS movement.” Heir to the southern Ontario Tepperman furniture, appliance and electronics business, Noah Tepperman should be removed from his position, just as a supporter of a White nationalist group or Christian anti-abortion activist would be.

At the convention, representatives of the NDP-aligned Broadbent Institute supported the party establishment’s move to suppress debate on the Palestine Resolution. Any donor or supporter of that organization who believes Palestinians are human beings or cares about party democracy should ask if those supporting suppression of debate were acting on behalf of the Broadbent Institute. During his time as federal party leader Ed Broadbent (1975 – 89) took a number of anti-Palestinian positions. He should be prodded to apologize and distance himself from suppression of the Palestine Resolution.

Ditto for former Ontario leader (1970-78) Stephen Lewis. Probably the loudest anti-Palestinian at the NDP convention, Janet Solberg works at the Stephen Lewis Foundation and has long worked for her brother. Does Stephen Lewis agree with his sister and will he apologize for his previous anti-Palestinian statements?

While it is essential to challenge various personal and institutional ties to Palestinian dispossession, NDP officialdom’s connections to Israel lobby groups wasn’t what drove their suppression of the Palestine Resolution. Rather, as I detailed, the party establishment’s overriding concern was media backlash. But, silencing and driving out extreme anti-Palestinian voices and disrupting the party leadership’s ties to Israel lobby groups is a more achievable medium-term objective than shifting the dominant media. Additionally, getting the NDP — a powerful political institution — to forthrightly criticize Canada’s complicity in Palestinian dispossession is necessary in order to force open space within the dominant media to challenge Israeli policy.

Confronting suppression of the Palestine Resolution and the party establishment’s ties to Israel lobby groups is also essential to constrain their capacity to repeat the same anti-democratic practices at the next convention. Putting the party leadership on the defensive over the Palestine Resolution and its ties to Israel lobby organizations also increases the likelihood that they will criticize the federal government’s indifference to Israel’s killings in Gaza, detention of Palestinian children, Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and opposition to proper labeling of Israeli settlement wine (issues the NDP foreign critic has recently criticized). The party leadership has taken these basic steps partly as a way to head off activist pressure. Of course, a party serious about opposing Canadian complicity in Palestinian dispossession would also challenge Canada-Israel military ties, a free trade agreement that allows settlement products to enter Canada duty-free, registered charities that channel tens of millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel’s powerful military, racist institutions and illegal settlements, etc.

At a certain level the question is which ideology and individuals are at home in the NDP: Those in favor of suppressing debate on the Palestine Resolution and Canadian complicity in Palestinian dispossession or those who support Palestinian rights and party democracy.

It is necessary, for justice and democracy’s sake, that those who thwarted the Palestine Resolution come to regret their decision. They must realize that while not in control of the party machinery or dominant media, Palestine solidarity activists have righteousness on their side and wind in their sails.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation . To help organize an event as part of the fall tour for my forthcoming book Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada please get in touch at yvesengler [at] hotmail.com Read other articles by Yves.