[This open letter, signed by Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, Chris Hedges, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and hundreds of other human rights activists, lawyers, academics and journalists, was first published by Ricochet Media on October 11, 2018.]
We, the undersigned community leaders, academics, writers, lawyers, unionists, anti-racist and human rights activists are greatly disturbed that Prime Minister Trudeau and prominent members of opposition parties, including Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, and NDP Foreign Affairs critic Hélène Laverdière, have smeared prominent lawyer, human rights activist and journalist Dimitri Lascaris as an anti-Semite. Mr. Lascaris has a long and admirable record of defending human rights, including the rights of Palestinians. We stand shoulder to shoulder with him against these malicious and baseless attacks.
On Thursday September 6, 2018, Mr. Lascaris called Liberal MPs to denounce death threats made by B’nai Brith supporters against the prime minister and several other MPs seemingly targeted purely because of their Muslim and/or racialized identities. A video posted online by Mr. Lascaris shows the B’nai Brith supporters saying:
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 [MP Maryam] Monsef . And Iqra Khalid. And Ahmed Hussen. And Omar Alghabra… And Singh, Singh, let’s make him sing, you know, as he walks toward the guillotine!
Instead of condemning those who called for the prime minister and other politicians to face the “guillotine,” B’nai Brith, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and our Canadian political leaders smeared the individual who was attempting to draw attention to the death threats. They have accused Mr. Lascaris of anti-Semitism for sending a tweet questioning the failure of two prominent Liberal MP supporters of B’nai Brith to denounce the video. In that tweet, Lascaris said, “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.” He was clearly criticizing the MPs for their political records of unequivocal support for Israel, not their religious identities.
We unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms. But the use of the charge of anti-Semitism to silence critics of Israel’s policies endangers vitally important freedom of expression. As a joint statement released in July 2018 by 40 Jewish organizations from 15 countries states, “it is more important than ever to distinguish between the hostility to or prejudice against Jews on the one hand and legitimate critiques of Israeli policies and system of injustice on the other.”
Israel’s violations of international law and the rights of the Palestinian people are flagrant and severe. They are well documented by international institutions and organizations, including the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. It is bad enough that these violations have been permitted to continue with barely any condemnation from the Canadian government; it is even worse that government officials have now chosen to actively participate in the denigration of the defenders of Palestinian rights and international law.
We call on Prime Minister Trudeau, Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh to retract their slanderous statements and to commit themselves to investigating the circumstances bearing on Mr. Lascaris’s important tweet of September 6, 2018.
We also call on the Canadian government to immediately impose both an arms embargo and economic sanctions on the State of Israel until such time as it brings itself into compliance with international legal norms bearing on human rights.
Noam Chomsky, University of Arizona, MIT Emeritus
Roger Waters, songwriter, singer and Pink Floyd co-founder
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, Northern Ireland
Leo Panitch, Professor Emeritus, York University
Christopher Lynn Hedges, journalist and visiting Princeton University lecturer
Yonatan Shapira, former Israeli Airforce rescue pilot
Canadian Union of Postal Workers – Syndicate des travailleurs et travailleuses
Colonel Ann Wright, Gaza Freedom Flotilla and Veterans for Peace
David Heap, People for Peace, London, Ontario
Yves Engler, writer and political activist
Yudit Ilany, Parliamentary Consultant and Photographer, Israel
Bruce Katz, Palestinian and Jewish Unity
Bernie Hammond, Professor Emeritus, King’s University College, Western University
Sid Shniad, Member, National Steering Committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Rev. Steve Berube, Chair, United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Isreal
Scott Weinstein, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Canadian Peace Congress
Mike Treen, National Director, Unite Union, Aucklund, New Zealand
John Clarke, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty Continue Reading ›