In Human Rights, International, Media Critique

In the past two weeks, I was invited twice onto Radio 640 AM Toronto to debate two high-profile supporters of Israel’s war on Gaza. The experience was surreal.

The first of my opponents was Ontario lawyer Howard Levitt. Levitt writes a twice-weekly column for the National Post.

My second debate opponent was Laryssa Waler. Waler started her career at Health Canada under arch-neocon Stephen Harper, and then served for two years as Executive Director of Communications for Ontario’s right-wing Premier, Doug Ford. Waler is now a communications consultant with public relations firm GT & Co.

Radio 640 AM is part of the Global News Network, a major Canadian media corporation. Global’s editorial posture is decidedly pro-Israel.

In 2020, at the height of Green Party of Canada leadership contest (in which I finished a close second to eventual winner Annamie Paul), Global News published a hit-piece on me.  The invitation from Radio 640 AM therefore came as a surprise to me. I ultimately accepted it, but with some trepidation.

From the beginning, I expected that 640 AM talk show host Greg Brady would exhibit a pro-Israel bias and do little, if anything, to rein in the dishonest theatrics generally employed by advocates for Israel. Ultimately, Greg did exhibit a pro-Israel bias, but he moderated the debates reasonably well. For this, I commend him.

Howard Levitt’s witch-hunt against pro-Palestinian law students

Before the October 7 attacks by Palestinian militants, I was vaguely familiar with Howard Levitt. I knew him to be one of Ontario’s leading lawyers in employment law, but I knew nothing of his views regarding Israel and Palestine.

That changed on October 20 of last year, when some seventy students at Toronto Metropolitan University’s Lincoln Alexander Law School signed a letter expressing their “unequivocal solidarity with Palestine”. When that letter came to Levitt’s attention, he erupted with fury.

In a November 3 op-ed in the fanatically pro-Israel National Post, Levitt used his platform to besmirch the letter’s signatories as anti-Semites. He also urged law firms to treat the signatories as pariahs, writing “what law firm would want to hire a racist”?

In response, I joined with more than 700 lawyers in signing an open letter defending the signatories of the TMU solidarity letter.

Levitt’s reaction to our open letter was apoplectic. In a November 10 op-ed in the National Post, Levitt condemned our open letter as “outrageous” and declared “I have just added 700 names to our law firm’s never-hire list.”

When the TMU administration subsequently established an external review to determine if the signatories of the October 20 solidarity statement had violated the university’s student Code of Conduct, I agreed to represent one of the signatories on a pro bono basis.

My client and I have since met with the retired judge whom TMU hired to conduct that external review. We’re now awaiting his final report.

Levitt’s unhinged concept of a ‘moral war’

When I debated Levitt on January 12, Levitt predictably employed the tried and true hasbara tactic of shooting the messenger. First, he accused me of ‘defending Hamas’ – even though I had condemned Hamas’s attacks on civilians only seconds earlier. Then, he falsely claimed that I had participated in “hate rallies” and had expressed support for Hezbollah.

Levitt’s lies did not stop there. He shamelessly proclaimed that “no army in the history of the world has done as much to protect the civilian population” as Israel’s army has done in Gaza. For good measure, Levitt added that there was “never a more moral war in the history of the world than the one Israel is committing right now”.

Here’s what Howard Levitt’s idea of the ‘most moral war in human history’ looks like:

  • Since October 7, 2023, Israel’s military has massacred nearly 13,000 Palestinian children and nearly 7,000 Palestinian women;
  • Israel’s attacks have so devastated Gaza’s hospital system that doctors have had to perform many amputations on children with no anaesthetic;
  • Israel’s military has killed more than 100 journalists (as well as family members of numerous journalists), prompting the Committee to Protect Journalists to condemn Israel’s war as the deadliest war for journalists in modern history;
  • Israeli forces have slaughtered more than 140 staffers of the United Nations Relief Works Agency, making Israel’s war on Gaza the deadliest conflict for U.N. staff in the history of the United Nations;
  • Israel’s relentless attacks have displaced nearly 1.9 million Gazans, constituting more than 85 percent of the enclave’s population;
  • A New York Times investigation concluded that Israeli forces “routinely” dropped their most destructive munitions (2000-pound bunker-buster bombs) on parts of Gaza where they had told the civilian population to seek safety;
  • At the outset of the war, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant described the inhabitants of Gaza as “human animals”, declared a “complete siege” on Gaza that has deprived its civilian population (including approximately 1 million children) of adequate food and water, and proclaimed that he had “removed every restriction” on how Israeli soldiers could conduct their ground offensive into Gaza.

The horrifying catalogue above is by no means an exhaustive list of Israel’s barbaric crimes in Gaza.

Describing this savagery as the ‘most moral war in human history’ requires a level of delusion and depravity that boggles the mind. How can it be that Howard Levitt is deemed fit to practice law in this country? What qualifies this unhinged lunatic to pronounce – in a national newspaper, no less – that the signatories of the TMU solidarity letter should be deprived of gainful employment?

You can listen to my entire debate with Levitt here:


You can also listen to my January 19 debate with Laryssa Walker here:

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Showing 12 comments
  • John-Albert Eadue

    Dimitri, some contests are beneath you.
    Bravo, regardless ..

    • Dimitri Lascaris

      Thank you. My goal was not to persuade my opponent (an impossible challenge) but to impart important information to the audience.

  • John-Albert Eadue

    What those particular Jews are doing, is vilifying themselves. Relentlessly.

  • subhuti37

    I just go back to Einstein and Hannah Arendt’s 1948 ketter to the NYT, which unequivocally documents the origins of the current fascist racist leadership of Israel, including their massacres of Palestinians and attacks on Jews who favored conciliation with Palestine. Just read the letter to these psychopaths and ask them, one question: “Is this what you call “Moral”?

  • Richard Gaza surgeon being consoled by friend after he operated to amputate his son’s leg with no anesthesia and he died. Gazan doctor amputates what is left of his daughter’s leg without anesthesia
    Canadian Parliament honors Ukraine SS guard
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    Thank god for their MAPLE SYRUP or Canada would be ….

  • John Grant

    Contrary to the myth–to the prevailing narrative–the Western imperial project in Israel is not even remotely about the fight against world-wide anti-Semitism. It’s about control and ultimately about corporate profits. Any ME proxy will do in the pursuit of this fundamental purpose: many US allies in the region are headed by virulently anti-Semitic elites. Israel, not surprisingly, has no qualms about working closely with these elites. This seems to me a fundamental presupposition that Levitt fails to acknowledge or is completely unable to acknowledge. And it’s important to note that you don’t have to be a raving “Marxist” to understand this. Ronald Storrs (British Military Governor in the ME) was explicit about it: Israel would be the UK’s “Jewish Ulster.” The struggle against anti-Semitism implies (of necessity) adherence to equality and everything that this difficult (much-abused) word implies. That struggle is INCOMPATABLE with any imperial project. Oil and water.

  • Gregory Gillis

    Thank you Dimitri for taking on these ignorant fools. Regardless of their status or education regrettably they both speak for the old militari$t, imperial, and colonial mentality. They divide the world into good and evil and are unable to acknowledge our own Western evil and how our state sponsored terrorism is actually far worse than anything Hamas has done. We justify everything because our leaders and fools like this give unquestioning loyalty to the empire!

  • David Gutnick

    Dear reader you decide if Dimitri lied:

    “First, he accused me of ‘defending Hamas’ – even though I had condemned Hamas’s attacks on civilians….”
    (Dimitri, January 20th)

    “ Most of us, including yours truly, were stunned today by the speed and success of the Palestinian offensive.”

    Dimitri, October 7

    • Dimitri Lascaris

      As I’m sure you know, Palestinian militants attacked and overran numerous Israeli military bases on October 7. Referring to those attacks as a “success” simply means that they achieved significant military objectives – which is undeniable, based upon the evidence. This is in no way an approval of attacks on civilians.

      Now that we are on the subject of terrorism, fifteen of seventeen ICJ judges – including ALL of the Western judges of the ICJ – just ruled that Israel is plausibly committing genocide in Gaza. By any rational definition of “terrorism”, what Israel is doing to the civilian population of Gaza unquestionably constitutes terrorism. Do you condemn this? If not, *you* are the supporter of terrorism, not me.

  • David Gutnick

    Dimitri, that you define rape, killing civilians in cold blood and the taking of children as hostages a   « success » of « military objectives » even though all of those acts are war crimes is simply craziness.

    Truly crazy. And you know that and I suspect (we pray) are now ashamed.

    But ever lawyer who plays with subtly you want to twist what you said in order to backtrack, in order to slide away from your initial approval of rape, of stabbing peace activists to death, of kidnapping children.

    Disgusting. Dimitei your house of cards has crashed.
    Your opponent is right: in black and white you supported the actions of Hamas.

    To point this out is not to agree with all of your (many) opponents; it is not to approve Israel’s illegal actions that international courts will be dealing with for years, nor the actions of western or middle eastern governments, it is simply to point out that you are a part of the problem, not the solution.

    • Rahul Majumdar

      You’re back? Of course, you realize that your “departure” letter a few months ago hasn’t aged very well. Sometimes, it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie…

    • Dimitri Lascaris

      No one lies as audaciously as supporters of Israel’s genocidal regime. I never defined rape, the killing of civilians or the taking of children as hostages as “success”. In fact, I condemn all of those things.

      Here’s a suggestion, David, try not to lie. Try to come to grips with the reality that you’re a supporter of a genocidal regime. As such, you have zero moral authority to condemn anyone about anything.

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