Prime minister owes human rights activist an apology

[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 ›

In the Great March of Return, Israel Commits Severe Violations of International Humanitarian Law

At a recent symposium in Winnipeg on Israel/Palestine, I and Michael Lynk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories, made presentations on the legality of Israel’s settlements and Israel’s obligations in respect of protesters in Gaza’s Great March of Return.

In my presentation, I argued that there is overwhelming evidence that Israel’s is committing severe violations of international humanitarian law by killing and maiming thousands of unarmed protesters, including children, medics and journalists.

Professor Lynk explained that there is an overwhelming legal consensus internationally that Israel’s settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, and that apologists for Israel who claim otherwise are making the legal equivalent of the claim that the earth is flat.

My and Professor Lynk’s presentations can be seen here:






Canada Is Violating its Obligations Under the Fourth Geneva Convention

At a recent symposium in Winnipeg on Israel/Palestine, I made a presentation on Canada’s obligations under Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

I argued that, by engaging in arms and other forms of trade with Israel, by allowing products from Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements to be falsely labelled as “product of Israel”, and by opposing U.N. measures that are designed to constrain Israel’s violations of international law, Canada is flagrantly violating Article 1 of the Convention.

A video of my presentation can be seen here:




The Vast Disparity Between Rhetoric and Reality in Western Government Human Rights Discourse

At a recent symposium on Israel/Palestine in Winnipeg, Canada, I delivered a presentation on the vast disparity between rhetoric and reality in the human rights policies and practices of Western states.

By comparing the approach of Western governments, including Canada’s, to the human rights records of Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela and Honduras, I argue that Western governments generally condemn human rights violations only when they consider it politically advantageous to do so, and that they routinely sacrifice human rights in order to pursue their own crass political interests. 

You can watch and listen to my presentation here.


After Alt-Right March for Israel in Toronto, Justin Trudeau Smears Human Rights Activist as Anti-Semitic

This week, I talked with Marc Steiner​ of The Real News Network about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent Twitter attack on me.

The genesis of Trudeau’s attack was a deceptive campaign launched by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) in which CIJA omitted crucial information about the working definition of antisemitism adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Based on CIJA’s misleading campaign, Trudeau and other politicians elected to attack me rather than to denounce racist, Islamophobic and white supremacist supporters of Israel who gathered on August 29 in Toronto to show their support for B’nai Brith Canada. One of those B’nai Brith supporters was Toronto mayoral candidate Faith Goldy, who has promoted a fascist book calling for the elimination of the “Jewish menace” and who has praised the Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn.

My discussion with Marc can be watched and heard here:

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:

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: