The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) condemns in the strongest terms the recent actions of the Canadian government to defund and slander various pro-Palestinian organizations. In what looks like a full-fledged war that the Harper Government has declared on everything and everyone related to Palestine, the Harper Government continues to cut funding and restrict the limits of legitimate speech about human rights especially when it come to Palestinian human rights. This government campaign began in March 2009 when the government cut funding to the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) explicitly because of CAF members” support for Palestinian human rights. This case, which is being pursued by CAF in the courts, was only the first of many such attacks on pro-Palestinian groups.
In December 2009, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) denied funding to KAIROS, a major faith-based human rights organization which has received funding from CIDA for the past 35 years. Bev Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, stated that CIDA turned down the KAIROS” funding proposal because it did not fit with the priorities of CIDA. However, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, at the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem explained: “We [the Canadian government] have articulated and implemented a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism. What does this mean? It means that we eliminated the government funding relationship with organizations . . . who promote hatred, in particular anti-Semitism. We have defunded organizations, most recently like KAIROS.” This slanderous allegation of anti-Semitism within KAIROS, is based on Kenney”s cynical definition of criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. He has made it clear – in both his statements and actions – that the Canadian government will not tolerate criticism of Israel.
Following the defunding of KAIROS, it was revealed that Rights and Democracy – a supposedly at arms-length government agency – was cutting its funding to two Palestinian human rights organizations – Al Haq and Al Mezan, and an Israeli NGO that monitors the human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, B”Tselem. This defunding came after the Conservative government orchestrated a coup in the organization by stacking the board with right-wing, pro-Israel members. Aurel Braun, the Conservative appointed Chair of the Board of Directors criticized both Al Haq and Al Mezan for being two “of the most vitriolic anti-Israeli organizations”. He criticized them for being “active in the lawfare movement, which is a strategy of abusing law to achieve military objectives – in this case, to punish Israel for anti-terror operations.” It is clear that the defunding of Al Haq and Al Mezan is part of Canadian”s zero-tolerance policy for criticism of Israel.
The cuts to pro-Palestinian organizations continued into the New Year. In January 2010, the government cut Canadian funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Money previously given to the UN agency responsible for providing assistance to the nearly 5 million Palestinian refugees scattered across the Middle East has now been shifted to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to be used for law enforcement. PA police, working on behalf of the Israeli government, have committed human rights abuses that are well documented by Al Haq and Al Mezan. It is no coincidence that just as Canada shifts more funding to the PA for law enforcement the government cuts funding to groups that would monitor the human rights violations of the Canadian-funded, PA police. The implications of this withdrawal of funds go beyond the immediate effect on the refugees that UNRWA supports. The Canadian Government seems to have blindly adopted the position put forward by Israel and other pro-Israel neo liberal think-tanks suggesting that the elimination of UNRWA will resolve the Palestinian refugee problem in way which is favorable to Israel (although in breach of international law). This position is of course unfounded and will only result in creating more suffering for the refugees. The refugee problem was created as a result of the displacement by Israel, and allowing the refugees to return to their homeland, as prescribed by resolution 194 of the General Assembly in 1948, is the key to resolve the refugee problem.
CAIA is not surprised by the recent actions of the federal government. The Conservative government has certainly demonstrated its support for Israel in more brazen ways than previous governments, but we cannot view these actions as a change in policy. Canada”s support for Israeli Apartheid cuts across all party lines and it existed long before Harper, Kenney and Oda. We are heartened by the growing outcry against the cuts to CAF, KAIROS, Al Haq, Al Mezan and UNRWA. These cuts have been a wake-up call to many in Canada who understand that penalizing criticism of Israel is only the first step in broader plans to punish dissent in this country. We call on all people of conscience to stand up to government repression by joining us in the fight against Israeli Apartheid. This fight must begin here in Canada where many have taken up the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli Apartheid. In Canada, people can support BDS by endorsing and attending events like Israeli Apartheid Week (March 1-7, 2010, www.apartheidweek.org) and by staying informed about upcoming actions by visiting our website www.caiaweb.org or by emailing endapartheid[at]riseup.net to join our listserv.