“…je suis un ardent supporter de toutes les instances et de toutes les circonstances d’Israël.” [“I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances.”] – Thomas Mulcair, quoted in Canadian Jewish News, May 1st, 2008
By Sid Shniad and Fabienne Presentey
Independent Jewish Voices promotes the application of international law and respect for human rights as the basis for the resolution of the ongoing conflict in Israel/Palestine. While IJV is politically non-partisan, we seek to ensure that our analysis is shared with those who are in a position to influence Canadian public policy. To that end, we are expressing our perspective on the positions taken by one of the candidates for leader of the federal New Democratic Party with respect to this conflict.
Thomas Mulcair is well known in Quebec. But except for readers of pro-Israel newspapers like the Canadian Jewish News and the Jewish Tribune, people in Quebec and English Canada are not familiar with his unquestioning support for Israel.
It is Mulcair’s single-minded support of Israel that has been a major factor behind the NDP’s equivocation when it comes to supporting Palestinian human rights and applying international law to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Since his bye-election victory in 2007 in Outremont and his subsequent appointment as deputy NDP leader, he has used his influence in the NDP caucus to stymie Members of Parliament who wanted to support initiatives like the 2006 NDP Policy Resolution on Israel/Palestine, which spoke out against Israeli injustices.
In 2008 Mulcair led a caucus revolt against Jack Layton when Layton criticized the Harper government’s decision not to participate in the United Nations Conference on Racism. Mulcair agreed with the Conservatives’ declaration, echoing Israeli government statements, that the conference was “anti-semitic” because of it made mention of certain Israeli injustices.
Mulcair was later successful in muting NDP criticism of the January 2009 Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which killed 1400 civilians, as well as the subsequent Israeli attack on the Gaza Flotilla, which killed 9.
In 2010, Mulcair took the extraordinary step of publicly criticizing Libby Davies, the BC MP who is the conscience of the federal NDP caucus on Palestinian rights, and joined with Stephen Harper and Bob Rae of the Liberals in calling for her resignation as NDP House Leader when she commented in response to a reporter’s question that the occupation of Palestine had begun in 1948.
In November 2010 Mulcair, together with Conservative Jason Kenney and Liberal Michael Ignatieff, condemned Israeli Apartheid Week activities organized on university campuses across Canada as “anti-semitic”. These politicians’ characterization of this widely supported campaign, which is designed to draw attention to ongoing Israeli transgressions against international law and human rights, fits right in with a range of attacks on freedom of speech that have been mounted by Israel and its unquestioning supporters.
Independent Jewish Voices believes that at a time when the Conservatives and Liberals are vying to see who can be more pro-Israeli and when Stephen Harper is tarnishing Canada’s reputation by defending every Israeli outrage on the international stage, it is vitally important for the NDP to choose a leader who will support peace, international law and human rights in Israel/Palestine. In our view, Thomas Mulcair’s kneejerk support for Israel, regardless of how it behaves, demonstrates that he is not such a leader.
Thomas Mulcair’s uncritical support for Israel does not reflect the fundamental values of NDP members in Quebec or in English Canada. We are confident that they will send him that message once they become fully aware of his position.
Fabienne Presentey and Sid Shniad are members of the steering committee of Independent Jewish Voices Canada ↩