Pro-Israel and Ukraine Groups Use Identity Politics to Attack Free Speech

Questioning Canada’s contribution to NATO’s proxy war is “hate” that must be shut down according to some Ukrainian groups mimicking Zionist organizations by promoting an identity politics laced cancel culture.

A Ukrainian student group sought to cancel my talk at Kings College in London, Ontario, on Thursday. In “Western Ukrainian Students’ Association Statement on The King’s University College Yves Engler Event”, they called me an “apologist to a bloodthirsty regime … who spreads disinformation and uses Russian propaganda talking points.” They also argued that I “endanger victims of colonialism everywhere” and my speaking “may also incite violence on campus.” The statement boldly concluded, “we cannot allow a proponent of hateful disinformation and Russian propaganda on our campuses in any capacity.”

I have referred to the Russian invasion as “illegal” and “brutal” in dozens of articles and interviews. But I’ve also challenged Canada’s role in provoking and escalating the conflict. In a sign of their fanaticism, the event at Western wasn’t even about Ukraine but rather Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

A few days before the Western Ukrainian Students’ Association released their statement a master’s student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs published a similar attack on a January event I did with Tamara Lorincz and Miguel Figueroa. The Chair of the Carleton University Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and Model NATO, Matthew Selinger, labelled me a “master of historical revisionism that runs in line with Russian propaganda.” The former Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) intern concluded with a call to defund Carleton’s Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) for simply having booked the room used for the Ottawa Peace Council event titled “The War in Ukraine: What is the Path to Peace?”

In the Charlatan student paper Selinger wrote that OPIRG needed to be held “accountable for exploiting its campus status for malignant purposes. Should OPIRG refuse to condemn the speakers’ messages and halt sponsorship of future events that trot out Kremlin disinformation as a rational perspective, then defunding must be pursued. This panel should’ve never taken place on campus. Carleton’s deafening silence on the hateful and vilifying rhetoric towards Ukrainian students can be corrected, among other recommendations, by drafting an official policy on combating disinformation in non-departmental events.”

Immediately after the event the Charlatan published “Carleton student groups address anti-Ukrainian hate on campus” about the Carleton Ukrainian Students’ Club bid to have our event canceled.

An even more intense campaign of vilifying antiwar voices as “hate” has taken place in recent months at the University of Victoria.

On March 14 the parent organization of the campus groups demanded the federal government take action against “anti-Ukrainian hate”. In “UCC calls on Government of Canada to address rising tide of anti-Ukrainian hate”, the right-wing lobby group demanded Ottawa “issue a public statement unequivocally condemning the rising pattern of hate-motivated attacks against the Ukrainian Canadian community and supporters of Ukraine; Develop and deliver programs to educate the public and counter disinformation that incites hatred against Ukrainians.” (Notwithstanding the claims, there’s likely never been greater sympathy for Ukrainian Canadians, a community that’s faced its share of discrimination, including large-scale internment during and after World War I.)

Where have you heard this type of rhetoric before? The UCC and its campus affiliates are taking a page from the Zionist playbook. (In fact, a day after the Western Ukrainian Students’ Association denounced me, three anti-Palestinian Jewish groups released a statement that demanded “King’s University College should not provide a podium for Engler to use to spread his hateful views.”)

Well-resourced, US empire aligned, Israel lobby groups constantly smear activists and demand events be shut down or individuals be cancelled. The recent attacks against Hamilton Centre NDP candidate (now Ontario MPP) Sarah Jama are an egregious example. They smeared the 29-year-old wheelchair bound Black female activist as anti-Jewish for having stood against apartheid. From smearing individuals to promoting an anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism, the Israel lobby promotes an identity politics infused cancel culture.

Ironically, right-wingers who normally bash cancel culture and identity politics stay mum about the Zionist or NATO proxy warriors’ tactics.

Groups aligned with powerful forces who seek to suppress discussion of important international issues on the grounds of their “hurt feelings” deserve criticism and contempt. Just don’t expect it to come from the usual sources in the mainstream media. They’re too busy promoting war and defending an apartheid state.

Yves Engler is the author of 12 books. His latest book is Stand on Guard for Whom?: A People's History of the Canadian Military . Read other articles by Yves.