Palestinian flags in Toronto protest Toronto protests against Israeli attacks on Gaza, January 2009. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As the Toronto community stands firm against Zionist attacks, John Clarke reminds us that our solidarity with the Palestinian cause mustn’t be apologised for 

On August 29, a rally was held at the Toronto offices the Zionist organisation, B’nai Brith Canada, by an ad hoc community alliance pulled together in response to their latest false accusations against those who are in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. In this case, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) had been targeted for the unpardonable sin of building an alliance with the Palestinian Postal Service Workers Union (PPSWU). This action and the attack that led to it must be placed in an international context that includes the present manufactured ‘antisemitism crisis’ in the British Labour Party and there are some lessons to be drawn.

B’nai Brith, an ardent supporter of Israel and an apologist for its crimes, has a long and infamous history of using false charges of terrorist links and antisemitism to try to silence those who take the Palestinian side. In this case, their audacious slanders were responded to quite brilliantly by the PPWSU.

The allegations came down to this. A member of their union had posted a picture on the union’s Facebook page of a man who had been charged by Israeli occupation authorities. He was murdered, along with two others, by IDF forces during a raid on his refugee camp, before the charges could be brought to court. The other ‘evidence’ was that the PPSWU issued a poster on the Nakba, thereby, according to B’nai Brith, denying the right of Israel to exist. On this absurd basis, CUPW was accused of supporting terrorism.

There was a strong feeling among supporters of the Palestinian struggle that the time had come to directly confront the accusers and a rally at the B’nai Brith offices was decided upon. Once the call went out, the infamous hard right Jewish Defence League (JDL) issued a statement labelling the action ‘a radical Islamic pro-terror march in the middle of the Jewish community’ and declared it would stage a counter action. True to their word, they were there in force but the rally proceeded over their futile and enraged efforts to drown it out. Though well attended, with a range of speakers that included a CUPW representative, postal worker participation was impacted by the use of a shabby trick. Someone called the CUPW Toronto local (branch) posing as one of the rally’s organisers and informed them that it had been cancelled. Still, the rally was powerful and inspiring and drove home some vital messages with regard to building solidarity with Palestinian struggle in the face of slander and intimidation.

Looking with expectation to Corbyn’s Labour

As was pointed out at our rally, the lies from the defenders of Israel are escalating precisely at a time when the Zionist State and its enablers in Washington are dispensing with the polite fictions of the past. The pretence of a liberal democracy in the Middle East is being replaced with overt apartheid. The mythical ‘peace process’ has been pushed aside. The US is preparing to officially repudiate the right of return and deny that millions of Palestinians live as refugees.  This is all far too ugly for any fake liberal apologetics to do any good. The only weapons left with which to try and silence critics are lies and intimidation. The false accusation of antisemitism is being resorted to with growing frequency and increased intensity.

The same smear tactics that postal workers and others here have faced are being employed to try and undermine the Corbyn leadership in the Labour Party. I can’t overstate how serious and hugely unfortunate it will be if the NEC, when it meets on September 4, decides to capitulate in the face of such ugly pressure. It would, of course, be a terrible miscalculation for the Labour left, in that it would only embolden the anti-Corbyn forces and provide them with a means to escalate their attacks. However, the implications for the fight of the Palestinians and for international solidarity with it must also be considered.

If acknowledging the racist essence of Zionism, the settler colonialist nature of Israel and calling for a free Palestine are labelled as ‘antisemitism’, then all principled and effective solidarity stands accused. If the Corbyn led Labour Party, so respected and looked to with such hope internationally, capitulates to such demands, it will be a bitter blow indeed.

At the rally in Toronto, there was a strong feeling that retreat and apologies in the face of slanderous attacks can only weaken us and embolden the attackers. If Palestinians have the courage to march to the Gaza fence and face the Israeli murder machine, if people can grow old in refugee camps with the keys of the homes they lost round their necks and still pass on the spirit of resistance to the next generation, surely we can defy and refute the lies of their oppressors. Surely, we can work proudly and without apology for a free Palestine.

John Clarke

John Clarke became an organiser with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty when it was formed in 1990 and has been involved in mobilising poor communities under attack ever since.