Chevron Arbitration Ruling Against Ecuador ‘Completely Off Base’

In 2011, Ecuador’s courts rendered a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron, one of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies.

The Ecuadorian plaintiffs persuaded the Ecuadorian court that, from 1964 to 1992, Texaco, which was later purchased by Chevron, dumped polluted wastewater into open pits across vast swaths of Lago Agrio in the Ecuadorian jungle, contaminating the water used by locals. Locals call the area the ‘Amazon Chernobyl’.

On September 7, 2018, a non-public, arbitral tribunal staffed by corporate lawyers found that Ecuador violated a treaty with the United States by allowing its court system to issue this historic judgment.

For The Real News, I discuss the ruling of this tribunal with Steven Donziger, an American lawyer who has represented the Ecuadorean plaintiffs for two decades in one of the most contentious legal battles of the modern era.

My conversation with Mr. Donziger can be watched and heard here:

https://therealnews.com/stories/chevron-arbitration-ruling-against-ecuador-completely-off-base.

Canada’s Yemeni Community Calls on Justin Trudeau’s Government to End Arms Sales to Saudis

For The Real News, I speak with Hamza Shaiban, founder of the Yemeni Community in Canada, about Canadian arms sales to the brutal Saudi autocracy.

After describing the appalling conditions in Yemen, currently the site of the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe, Mr. Shaiban says that these arms sales cannot be reconciled with the Trudeau Government’s oft-stated commitment to ‘stand up for human rights.’

My discussion with Mr. Shaiban can be watched and heard here:

https://therealnews.com/stories/canadas-yemeni-community-calls-on-trudeau-government-to-end-arms-sales-to-saudis.

My Response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Smear: Sir, I Will Not Be Deterred From Defending Human Rights

I am a proud, anti-racist advocate for human rights, yet I now find myself in a situation familiar to so many defenders of the human rights of Palestinians: I am being defamed as an anti-Semite by pro-Israel organizations and pro-Israel politicians, including Canada’s own Prime Minister.

Let me state unequivocally that I oppose and condemn antisemitism. Indeed, I oppose and condemn all forms of racism. I am humbled to belong to a principled global solidarity movement against the occupation of Palestine. That wonderful and growing movement includes many brothers and sisters from the Jewish community. We are resolute that fighting all racism is necessary to realize any hope for a just peace in Israel and Palestine.

I have visited and reported on Israel and occupied Palestine. I have borne witness to Palestinian suffering. This has moved me to seek an end to the oppression of Palestinians, which the Canadian government tries to sweep under the carpet.

Over the last decade, pro-Israel organizations in Western nations have attempted methodically to expand the definition of antisemitism to include criticism of Israel and of its advocates. Previously, antisemitism was understood as prejudice and hatred of Jews, their religion, their culture and their religious institutions. The nation-state of Israel was not part of the equation.

Canada just signed on to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. In 2016, the Western-dominated IHRA adopted a “working definition” of antisemitism that is “non-legally binding.” That definition includes vague language that “manifestations [of antisemitism] might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.” The IHRA definition also states that “contemporary examples of antisemitism… could, taking into account the overall context, include… accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.” [My emphasis.]

This sweeping language has become a weapon in the hands of pro-Israel groups and individuals: deploying it enables them to denounce any critic of Israel as anti-Semitic in order to disrupt, deter, marginalize and even criminalize Palestinian rights activism.

We must not allow such campaigns to diminish our determination to end Israel’s illegal, violent and deeply oppressive occupation and treatment of Palestinians, which has endured for over half a century.

Because international support for the Israeli government is rapidly waning – including among Jews in the United States – Israel’s government and pro-Israel organizations around the world have built new alliances with influential people who support Israel as a Jewish state, including figures who dislike or even hate Jews as a people. They have changed the definition of antisemitism to reflect these new alliances.

These disreputable Israeli supporters include Christian Zionist evangelicals who pray for the day that Christ returns and Christianity rules the earth – resulting in the disappearance of Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians. Two such prominent Christian evangelical leaders were invited to speak at the recent opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Some pro-Israel groups now welcome flat-out racists and neo-Nazis who admire the hyper-militarized, racist regime Israel has become, because these racists see apartheid Israel as a model nation to be emulated elsewhere. In Canada, one such figure is Faith Goldy, a white supremacist who recently promoted a fascist book calling for the “elimination of Jews.” Goldy nevertheless professes to be pro-Israel.

The new IHRA definition of antisemitism has been used viciously against prominent figures such as Britain’s Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn — not because Corbyn bears any hostility toward the Jewish people, but because he openly supports Palestinian rights. That same definition is now being used against me.

Let’s return to August 29th and the events that sparked this libelous charge against me. I helped organize a pro-Palestinian rights demonstration at the head office of B’nai Brith Canada because of B’nai Brith’s attack on the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). B’nai Brith targeted CUPW because CUPW supports the BDS movement and has also expressed support for the Palestinian Postal Services Workers Union.

The Jewish Defence League Canada (JDL), a violent, anti-Arab and Islamophobic hate group, organized a counter-protest in support of B’nai Brith. Faith Goldy showed up at the JDL counter-protest and was greeted warmly by a number of the counter-protesters, including JDL boss Meir Weinstein.

Immediately following our demonstration and the JDL counter-protest, two B’nai Brith supporters recorded and posted on Facebook a video gushing over Faith Goldy. In that video, they called for the death penalty to be imposed on Prime Minister Trudeau, certain Liberal MPs who are Muslim and/or persons of colour, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, stating:

“I just think we should bring in the death penalty. And that would resolve a lot of problems… Justin Trudeau, be the first one to go. I’d love to see him. And Monsef. And Iqra Khalid. And Ahmed Hussein. And Omar Alghabra… And Singh, Singh, let’s make him sing, you know, as he walks toward the gullotine!”

After I publicly exposed this heinous, racist, death-wish video, I called on B’nai Brith, the Center for Israel & Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and Liberal MPs Michael Levitt and Anthony Housefather to denounce the video’s authors and Faith Goldy. They failed to do so.

After days of their silence, I tweeted “Apparently, Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt are more devoted to apartheid Israel than to their own prime minister and colleagues in the Liberal caucus.”

The ferocious reaction, in hindsight, was predictable, but I was admittedly naïve. CIJA and B’nai Brith deflected attention from the death threats against the Prime Minister and other MPs and from the racism of supporters of Israel, and screamed “antisemitism” at me because the MPs I tweeted about were Jewish.

To be sure, there are other Canadian MPs who are supportive of Israel, but Levitt and Housefather are Israel’s most outspoken defenders in Canada’s Parliament, and they do not hesitate to advertise themselves as such. They are also major supporters of B’nai Brith. In addition, promptly following the conclusion of our protest at B’nai Brith’s offices, Levitt had specifically condemned our rally in support of CUPW without once mentioning the presence of Faith Goldy or other hate-mongers at the JDL-organized counter-protest. Shamefully, in May of this year, Levitt and Housefather criticized their own party leader, Justin Trudeau, for his mild rebuke of Israel after an Israeli sniper shot Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani while Loubani was attempting to treat unarmed Gazans being shot by Israeli snipers. These snipers have now murdered over 160 unarmed Gazans in the past six months, including children, medics and journalists.

I readily acknowledge that allegations of divided loyalties have been hurled against Jewish persons by real anti-Semites. I certainly agree that false and racist claims of divided loyalties that are made against Jewish persons must be denounced and opposed. But as the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism makes clear, not all such claims are anti-Semitic, and when evaluating such claims for potential antisemitism, one must take into account the overall context. As the context here makes abundantly clear, my criticism of Levitt and Housefather has nothing to do with their ethnicity or religion, and everything to do with their extensive record of unqualified and enthusiastic support for Israel’s murderous, racist regime.

Ultimately, this case raises deeply disturbing questions about what our country has become, and what it is becoming. How does the Trudeau government claim with a straight face that it will ‘always stand up for human rights’ even as it lavishes support on Israel’s killing machine? How can it claim that Canada is a land of free speech and tolerance when Trudeau smears a Palestinian rights defender as a racist while remaining silent about real racists like Faith Goldy and the JDL? How can the individual who drew attention to a death wish targeting the Prime Minister become the target of the Prime Minister’s slanderous accusation?  And perhaps most importantly, how can it be in Canada’s interests for its elected officials to side – again and again — with injustice and oppression?

What is happening to me demonstrates why all good Canadians should demand that human rights be applied universally. We must recognize that the fight against antisemitism and other forms of racism is undermined when critics of Israel become the targets of official condemnation. This case is yet another stark lesson that the weaponization of the definition of antisemitism is leading us down a dark tunnel.

I will nonetheless continue to advocate vigorously for justice for the Palestinian people, and for all victims of racism.

Not even a Prime Minister’s smear will deter me from doing so.

 

UPDATE

On September 14, 2018, Independent Jewish Voices Canada issued the following statement in regard to the accusation of anti-Semitism that has been levelled against me:
https://ijvcanada.org/2018/statement-dimitri-lascaris/.

On September 13, 2018, Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters issued the following tweet on his Twitter account:

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 6.51.55 PM

Roger Waters on Lionel Messi, Lana Del Rey and the BDS Movement

For The Real News, I speak to Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, a leading proponent of the BDS movement, about the movement’s recent major victories.

Those victories include the decision earlier this summer of Lionel Messi and the Argentinian national football team not to play a friendly match in Israel, and Lana Del Rey’s announcement last week that she was pulling out of the Meteor Music Festival in Israel.

According to Roger, the BDS movement has grown enormously since he first became involved in it over a decade ago.

My discussion with Roger can be seen and heard here:

https://therealnews.com/stories/roger-waters-on-lionel-messi-lana-del-rey-and-the-bds-movement

 

B’nai Brith Canada Supporters Call for the Death Penalty for Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh and Liberal Muslim MPs

B’nai Brith Canada is apoplectic, but for all the wrong reasons.

On August 29, 2018, dozens of supporters of Palestinian human rights gathered across the street from B’nai Brith’s head office to protest its smear campaign against the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).

Like many unions around the world, CUPW has resolved to support Palestinians’ call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

In its smear campaign, B’nai Brith accused CUPW of having aligned itself with the Palestinian Postal Services Workers Union (PPSWU), which B’nai Brith claims is ‘pro-terrorist’.

In response, the PPSWU issued a statement in which it categorically denied B’nai Brith’s accusations and condemned its attack as part of an “aggressive defamation campaign which is being led by Israel’s far-right government and lobby groups… with the aim of demonizing the Palestinian people, suppressing solidarity with the our struggle for freedom, justice and equality, restricting freedom of expression, and shielding Israel’s illegal occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheidfrom being held accountable to international law.”

Other trade union groups, including Brazil’s CSP-Conlutas and the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggles, also issued statements in which they expressed solidarity with CUPW and the PPSWU in the face of B’nai Brith’s smear campaign.

Before the August 29 rally, the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) issued a press release falsely claiming that the rally had been organized without CUPW’s knowledge or consent. In fact, organizers of the rally (of which I am one) had already made senior CUPW officials aware of the rally, following which CUPW issued a statement expressing gratitude to its allies for opposing the smear campaign.

Shortly after the rally’s organizers publicized their intention to hold a demonstration in support of CUPW, the Jewish Defence League (JDL) announced that it would hold a counter-protest at the same time and place. The JDL’s inflammatory and outlandish announcement described the rally as a “pro terror march in the middle of the Jewish community.”

announcement

As I have written previously, the JDL is a motley collection of violent, racist, Islamophobic hate-mongers. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has categorized the JDL as a “violent extremist Jewish organization,” while the Southern Poverty Law Center describes the JDL as “a radical organization that preaches a violent form of anti-Arab, Jewish nationalism.” Within the past year, two members of JDL Canada have been charged with a hate crime by police in Washington D.C.  The charges arose from the savage mob-beating of a defenceless and elderly Palestinian man. In May 2018, one of the accused failed to appear for a court hearing in Washington. A warrant was then issued for his arrest. Continue Reading ›

Freedom Flotilla Activist Emerges from an Israeli Jail, Accuses Trudeau Government of Complicity in “Slow Genocide”

Last week, after being kidnapped by Israel’s navy in international waters and spending six days in an Israeli prison, Canadian human rights defender John Turnbull was released from Israel’s Givon prison and then deported to France.

During the past two months, John has travelled from Scandinavia to the waters off of Gaza as a crew member of the Freedom Flotilla. During the final leg of this humanitarian expedition, John served as the captain of The Freedom, one of the two Freedom Flotilla vessels confiscated by Israel’s navy on the high seas.

For the Real News, I spoke to John yesterday about the hijacking of The Freedom, the incarceration of its passengers and crew, and the devastating conditions in Gaza.

According to John, the Canadian government of Justin Trudeau is enthusiastically supporting a rogue Israeli regime that is committing a “slow genocide” in Gaza.

My conversation with John can be seen and heard here:

https://therealnews.com/stories/after-emerging-from-an-israeli-prison-freedom-flotilla-captain-accuses-canadas-government-of-complicity-in-a-slow-genocide.

Israeli Commandos Brutally Attack Freedom Flotilla Activists in International Waters

Several days ago, indigenous activist Larry Commodore, who is from British Columbia, returned to Canada after being deported from Israel. Larry was a participant in the Freedom Flotilla, whose lead vessel, Al Awda, was hijacked in international waters on July 29. Larry and the other passengers and crew of Al Awda were violently attacked by Israeli commandos and then forced to enter Israel, where they spent several days in an Israeli jail before deportation.

For the Real News, I spoke to Larry on the day after his return to Canada about his ordeal. Larry describes how he was injured by Israeli soldiers and denied timely medical treatment. He also recounts that the Israeli commando who led the assault on Al Awda identified himself to Larry as “Field Marshal Rommel.”

Larry and I were joined in our discussion by Professor David Heap of Western University, the media coordinator of the Freedom Flotilla. In 2011, Professor Heap was himself kidnapped by Israeli forces in international waters, during a prior humanitarian mission to break Israel’s suffocating blockade of Gaza. Professor Heap says that, under the government of Justin Trudeau, Canadian consular officials have become “more aggressively tools of the Israeli state and the Israeli occupation.” He also reveals that a Canadian consular official told Larry that Israel’s blockade of Gaza – a cruel act of collective punishment against 2 million trapped Palestinians, one-half of whom are children – is ‘legal’, and that Larry had violated Israeli law by attempting peacefully to break this blockade.

Our discussion can be seen and heard here:

https://therealnews.com/stories/israeli-commandos-brutally-attack-freedom-flotilla-activists-in-international-waters