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Israel lobby tries again to disrupt Canadian Palestinian solidarity

The disquieting case of Palestinian-Canadian activist Khaled Barakat

Canadian PoliticsMiddle East

Palestinian-Canadian activist Khaled Barakat. Image courtesy Al Mayadeen.

The Israel lobby has launched yet another odious and hypocritical attack. They are calling on the federal government to expel Palestinian-Canadian activist Khaled Barakat and criminalize the Canadian branch of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, a registered not-for-profit corporation in Canada with which Barakat is assocaited.

On Saturday, April 30, the front page of the National Post was largely covered with Barakat’s face. Columnist Terry Glavin reported that Barakat is believed to be a leader of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is the second-largest constituent arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Glavin wrote that the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) provided him the information for the story. CIJA and B’nai B’rith shared Glavin’s column and tweeted out statements calling for Samidoun to be listed as a terrorist organization and for Barakat to be expelled from Canada, where he has lived on and off for nearly two decades. They are reinvigorating a campaign against Samidoun that was launched over a year ago after Israel labeled the organization a terrorist group.

On Tuesday, May 3, Conservative Senator Leo Housakos asked why Barakat was allowed to remain in Canada. The National Post decided the question warranted front-page coverage.

The campaign against Barakat and Samidoun rests on the unproven claim that he is part of the PFLP, which Canada has also listed as a terrorist organization. Canada already criminalizes a great deal of Palestinian political life and the domestic pro-Israel lobby would like to see more pro-Palestine groups added to the terrorist list, making it illegal for Canadians to offer any assistance them.

At the time of writing, eight Palestinian organizations are listed including the elected Hamas ‘government’ in Gaza. In fact, over 10 percent of Canada’s terrorist list is made up of organizations headquartered in a long-occupied land representing one-tenth of one percent of the world’s population.

In 2014 the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN) was the first ever Canadian-based group added to the list. It was designated a terrorist organization for engaging in the ghastly act of supporting orphans and a hospital in the Gaza Strip through official (Hamas-controlled) channels.

While Palestinian groups are criminalized, Canada has close ties to the main terrorist organization in historic Palestine. Canada sells weapons to the Israeli military and the two countries’ armed forces work together on various fronts. Additionally, Canadian officials turn a blind eye to illegal recruitment for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) while the Canada Revenue Agency takes a soft approach to registered charities that defy its rules by financially assisting the IDF.

Measured by the number maimed or killed, the Israeli army is responsible for far more violence than any Palestinian group (and they are doing so on behalf of a European colonial project).

Both National Post articles on Barakat mentioned an attack some blamed on the PFLP in 2014 that left Toronto-born rabbi Howie Rothman dead. Yet, the IDF has killed or hurt far more Canadians. In recent year, IDF snipers have shot at least two Canadians, including Dr. Tarek Loubani in 2018. A decade earlier, in 2009, the Israeli military killed Canadian doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish’s three daughters and a niece in Gaza, and in 2006 they wiped out an entire Lebanese-Canadian family, including four children. Canadian Forces Major Paeta Hess-Von Krudener was also killed in 2006 when Israel bombed his United Nations post in Lebanon.

Since it was established in the wake of 9/11, the terrorist list has been wielded by the Israel lobby to great effect. This is how it works: they lobby the federal government to place Palestinian groups on the list and then use a listing to target other groups by (correctly or incorrectly) claiming they have ties to a group on the list. IRFAN, for instance, was listed because Hamas was listed. If they were to succeed in getting Samidoun listed, it would be because they previously pushed for the PFLP to be listed. It’s a virtuous cycle from the standpoint of the apartheid state and its Canadian lobby.

The terrorist list is a way to disrupt solidarity with Palestinians under occupation. It also instills fear among Canadians, particularly those of Palestinian and Muslim descent.

Underpinning CIJA and B’nai B’rith’s campaign against Khaled Barakat and Samidoun is a stark double standard in Canada’s disproportionate treatment of the colonized and colonizer. Unless the federal government severs its ties to the Israeli military, no one should support any effort to further criminalize Palestinians within this country.

Yves Engler has been dubbed “one of the most important voices on the Canadian Left today” (Briarpatch), “in the mould of I.F. Stone” (Globe and Mail), and “part of that rare but growing group of social critics unafraid to confront Canada’s self-satisfied myths” (Quill & Quire). He has published nine books.

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