Category Archives: Canada

Canadian censorship: Palestinian ‘disappearing land’ bus ads, Le Mood bans Jewish Birthright critics

by Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark

Canada’s Jewish population is relatively small — some 370,000. About half live in Toronto and a quarter in Montreal.  But what it lacks in numbers, it possesses in the ferocity of its organized community’s defense of what they see as Israel’s interests.

For example, the organized Jewish community has tried to keep Queers Against Israeli Apartheid out of the city’s annual Gay Pride parade since the group was founded in 2008. Although it sometimes came up to the wire, so far the group has marched in every Parade.

400_300_DisappearingAd_ censIn the latest effort to muzzle critics of Israel, as the Electronic Intifada reports, “The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has rejected a group’s bus ad showing Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian land over time, claiming the ad could incite anti-Jewish discrimination and violence,” as if it is the information rather than the practice itself that’s the problem.

Not to be left behind, Canada’s second city, Montreal, has ramped up censorship of Israel’s critics. Two panels scheduled for the November 3rd Le Mood, “an annual festival aimed at engaging Jewish youth in Montreal” were peremptorily cancelled because the festival’s major funder, Federation CJA (Combined Jewish Appeal), objected to the panel hosts. Le Mood festival director, Mike Savatovsky, is reported to have told one of the hosts that “You have a specific instance when you did go against a program that our funders support; we’re not willing to create a platform for people whose mission goes against the beliefs of our funders.”  According to a press release from Aaron Lakoff, one of the banned hosts:

“The ‘specific instance’ to which Savatovsky is likely referring is an article, co-written by Woolf, critiquing the Taglit-Birthright Israel program. Lakoff was not told why he had been banned from speaking, but we have been led to believe that Woolf and Lakoff’s respective engagements with Palestine solidarity activism and writing were underscored as a reason for the ban and panel cancellation. It should be noted that neither panel was planned to focus on the Birthright program or Palestine, though, in principle, we do not believe that either of these topics should be off limits.”

British Mandate mini-series The Promise not showing in Ontario

I haven’t watched The Promise yet, the acclaimed UK mini-series about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the British Mandate, but only because I just haven’t had a chance–though now I will. (At least American viewers) can watch it on Hulu.

But apparently viewers of TV Ontario can’t watch it, despite the fact that it was previously on the schedule. It is not clear why they cancelled, but one can surmise from the detailed communication in Citizen Action Monitor that closed door talks must have gone nowhere and TV Ontario folded without, as is often the case, the decency to tell the truth.

That should come as no surprise. In many countries in which The Promise appeared, it was the subject of extensive letter-writing campaigns from Jewish organizations who complained that it was anti-Semitic and trafficked in anti-Jewish stereotypes while making Palestinians overly sympathetic. Continue reading

Under pressure, Pride Toronto reverses censorship of “Israeli apartheid”

We’ve written extensively about the pressure campaign led in part by Canada’s B’nai Brith to ban the group Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) from all Pride Toronto events including the LGBTQI pride parade, the Dyke and Trans marches.

B’nai Brith boasted in a May press release:

B’nai Brith Canada has contacted the organizers of Toronto’s Pride Parade to urge them ensure that the agenda of the annual Pride Parade is not allowed to be hijacked by the propaganda of anti-Israel agitators. The Jewish human rights organization has also contacted the Prime Minister of Canada, the Premier of Ontario, and the Mayor of Toronto, all contributors to the Pride Parade, asking for a review of the funding in light of the stated agenda of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

And after Pride Toronto remarkably agreed to censor the two words “Israeli apartheid” from the parades (while it’s perfectly legal to utter the phrase in Israel or write it in Israel’s most prestigious newspaper), it seemed as though B’nai Brith and friends won. But after a massive backlash, Pride Toronto has just announced it has overturned the ridiculous decision. Xtra reports:

Pride Toronto (PT) has reversed its May board resolution banning the term “Israeli apartheid” and will instead require all participants to sign and abide by the City of Toronto’s non-discrimination policy.

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) — the target of the ban — has declared a victory and congratulated the queer community for pushing PT to reverse its censorship decision.

“This is a victory for the Palestine solidarity movement, which has faced censorship and bullying tactics from the Israel lobby for far too long,” said QuAIA member Tim McCaskell in the release.

Of course, QuAIA now owes a debt of thanks to their opponents who have done more than anyone to make sure the phrase “Israeli apartheid” would be on the lips of just about everyone in Canada following the story. Plus, before the ban was rescinded, QuAIA didn’t waste any time in offering an alternative free speech track for pride events. This is creative organizing: