The Trudeau government has been campaigning aggressively for a seat on the Security Council, but its bid to win a place on the United Nations’ most powerful decision-making body later this month will be hampered by Canada’s decidedly anti-Palestinian voting record.
Despite claiming to support the “international rules based order,” the Trudeau government has voted against more than 50 resolutions upholding Palestinian rights. The extent to which the Liberals have mimicked the Stephen Harper Conservative’s position regarding General Assembly resolutions, which are little more than symbolic acts of solidarity with the long-beleaguered Palestinians, highlights the power of the Israeli lobby in Canada.
Together the United Jewish Appeal/Combined Jewish Appeal of Toronto, Montréal, Winnipeg, Windsor, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Vancouver and Atlantic Canada raise over $100 million annually and have about $1 billion in assets. For half a century UJA Toronto has organized an annual Walk with Israel and the Montréal branch organizes an annual Israel Day march. Many thousands march each year. The lobbying arm of the UJA/CJA, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has over 40 staff and a $10 million budget. In addition, B’nai B’rith has a handful of offices across the country. For its part, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Canada’s budget is $7 to 10 million annually.
These groups work closely with StandWithUs Canada, CAMERA, Honest Reporting Canada and other (often extreme right wing) Israeli nationalist political organizations. Dozens of registered Canadian charities, ranging from the Jewish National Fund to Christians United for Israel also engage in at least some pro-Israel campaigning.
Since 2013 the chief fundraiser for the Trudeau Liberals has been Stephen Bronfman, scion of a Canadian-American family who built their fortunes off of Seagram’s liquor. Bronfman has millions invested in Israeli technology companies. Over the years the Bronfman clan has secured arms for Israeli forces and supported its military in other ways.
Other notable Canadian moguls have long histories of ensuring ties between Israel and Canada.
Worth more than $3 billion prior to his death, David Azrieli was the ninth richest person in Canada. In his youth he served in the paramilitary Haganah group during the 1948 war in the Seventh Brigade. His unit is responsible for the Battle of Jerusalem, including forcibly displacing around 10,000 Palestinians. He was also a real estate developer in Israel, and built the largest residential towers in the country. In 2011 Azrielis made a controversial donation to Im Tirtzu, a hardline Israeli-nationalist organization (deemed a “fascist” group by an Israeli court).
Canadian-Israeli Sylvan Adams in recent years has plowed tens of millions of dollars into various sports and cultural initiatives to rebrand Israel.
In “A story of failed re-engagement: Canada and Iran, 2015–2018” University of Ottawa professor Thomas Juneau highlighted the Israel lobby’s role in deterring the government from re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran:
“Initially, Cabinet and most caucus supported re-engagement. Dion, who was actively lobbied by Bombardier (whose headquarters were in his riding) and the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, was especially keen. Other senior ministers such as Freeland (International Trade) and Harjit Sajjan (Defence) also supported. With time, however, opposition within caucus grew. It was led by Michael Levitt, the influential MP for York-Center and chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group, and also included Anthony Housefather (MP for Mount-Royal). These MPs had support from former minister Irwin Cotler, who had long argued for harsher policies towards Iran.”
“other interviewees also highlighted the differences in organization among pressure groups. Between the tabling of the motion [to oppose reengaging with Iran] and the vote four days later, groups opposing reengagement, such as the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, rapidly launched an effective campaign to pressure MPs. Groups favoring reengagement, however, such as the Iranian Canadian Congress, were unable to match these lobbying efforts.”
In 2019 Trudeau’s Liberal party ousted high-profile Imam Hassan Guillet as a candidate after B’nai B’rith attacked him for challenging Israeli expansionism. The winner of the Saint-Leonard-Saint-Michel riding nomination gained global notoriety for his sermon at the memorial for the victims of the 2017 Québec City mosque attack, but when B’nai B’rith twisted his pro-Palestinian statements to imply he was antisemitic the Liberals dumped their star candidate.
Similarly, when members of the extremist Jewish Defence League attacked peaceful pro-Palestinian activists protesting a presentation by Israeli military reservists at York University Trudeau sided with the thugs. Following a statement by B’nai B’rith, CIJA and the Israel lobby’s point person in the Liberal government, Michael Levitt, Trudeau denounced “antisemitism” by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
The influence of CIJA, B’nai B’rith, Bronfman, Adams, etc. sets a backdrop to the Trudeau government’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN. Whether that will scuttle Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council is to be determined.
But, we should hope so. Please join over 100 organizations and dozens of prominent individuals that have signed an open letter calling on UN member states to vote for Canada’s competitors, Norway and Ireland, for the two non-permanent Security Council spots open for Western countries.
Yves Engler is the author of ten books, including his latest, Left, Right – Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada. Reprinted from MondoWeiss with the author’s permission.