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.
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: