In Contempt: Zionism and McCarthyism in Canada

In Contempt: Zionism and McCarthyism in Canada

Naomi Binder Wall


It is common practice in solidarity work to draw comparisonslinking different historical periods of political and social transformation. Asan example, the anti-Apartheid movement as it applies to the Israeli state isfocused on boycott, divestment and sanctions and has as its reference pointSouth Africa's anti-Apartheid BDS campaign.

Comparisons have also been drawn between Zionism andMcCarthyism. There is no doubt that the current brand of Zionist demagoguerymust send a chill up the spine of any one who remembers or has learned aboutthe anti-Communist threats of the 1950s, when countless thousands of Americanlives were devastated in a riot of anti-Communist fervor. The most prominentanti-Communist of that time was Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin, whoseinvestigation hearings conducted by the House Committee on Un-AmericanActivities worked in tandem with the FBI's anti-Communist campaign to constructan extreme climate of fear across the United States. Canada played its part andin both countries numbers of progressive Jewish voices were silenced, bythreats, loss of income, prison, and ubiquitous harassment and intimidation.Today, Zionist Jews front the attacks against Israel's critics, using tacticsthat eerily echo McCarthyism.

At the same time, while we can point to McCarthyism and identifysimilarities to Zionist attacks against critics of Israel, any comparison mustbe framed within and informed by the on-the-ground reality of the Israelioccupation of Palestine and the brutal infrastructure that buttresses uncheckedviolations of international humanitarian law. This includes ethnic cleansingand forced removal, construction of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land,control of exports, imports, electricity, water, and telephone lines, housedemolitions, revocation of residency rights, administrative detention withoutcharge or trial, torture, and the use of white phosphorous bombs. It is not thecontent, but the tactics and strategies of repression that link Zionist attacksagainst critics of Israel and McCarthyism.

McCarthyism embodied a virulent anti-Communism that functionedto demonize progressive social and political movements, organizations andindividuals on behalf of colonialism and capitalism. In much the same way,Zionist ideology and practice demonize the Free Palestine movement.


Backgrounding McCarthyism

Prior to 1942, the U.S Department of Justice started keeping alist of domestic organizations that it deemed subversive. Anti-Communistcommittees and "loyalty review boards" in federal, state, and local governmentsand in private agencies carried out investigations for companies concernedabout possible Communist employees. Agencies kept cross-referenced lists oforganizations, publications, rallies, and charities, as well as lists ofindividuals who were suspected Communists. Most victims of loyalty-securityreviews were not allowed to cross-examine or know the identities of those whoaccused them and in many cases they were not told what they were accused of.Thousands of working people lost their jobs.

Joseph McCarthy delivered his first anti-Communist speech onFebruary 9, 1950, to the Republican Women's Club of Wheeling, West Virginia,where he claimed that known Communists were working for the U.S. StateDepartment. Just three weeks earlier, amid international protests, the IsraeliParliament declared Jerusalem the state's capital city. Prime Minister BenGurion announced: "Jerusalem is not only the capital city of Israel and ofworld Jewry, it should also become, according to the word of the prophets, thespiritual capital of the entire world." Israel was effusive in its support ofthe American government's hunt for Communists and progressives- a campaign thattargeted many hundreds of American Jews - while offering itself as a haven for Jews worldwide, citing the wordsof the prophets as affirmation of its inherent right to the "spiritual capitalof the entire world" on behalf of Jews everywhere.


Repressive Measures

"I don't want to dwell on the past but for a few moments tospeak of the future. I feel that unless you remember this sinister epoch andunderstand it, you may be doomed to replay it. Not with the same cast ofcharacters or of the same issues but I see a day perhaps coming in yourlifetime...when a new crisis of conscience will grip this republic." MichaelWilson, screenwriter targeted by HUAC in 1947

Here in Canada we are in the midst of a Zionist propagandacampaign that vilifies solidarity work carried out against Israeli Apartheidand the total abrogation of Palestinian rights. We are seeing increasinglyslanderous attacks against organizations and people advocating for Israel'scompliance with International Law, a basic enough demand but apparently a gravethreat to Zionist ideologues. In the face of an international shift in supportof boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), and significantly increasingnumbers of institutions, organizations and individuals around the globe demandingan end to Israeli impunity, Zionist zealots have come unhinged.

Over the past two years, Canadian-based pro-Israel lobbyistshave escalated their attacks against groups, organizations, and individualsengaged in Palestinian solidarity work. An abbreviated list of examples includes:

  •     demanding that the LGBTQ community not allow "anti-Israel agitators" to march at Pride Toronto;
  •     condemning and demanding the removal of this year's Pride Toronto parade grand marshal for speaking at a public event organized by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid;
  •     demanding the banning of the term "Israeli Apartheid" at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario;
  •     removing Israeli Apartheid Week posters at several universities;
  •     threatening several Canadian-based university faculty with review and dismissal;
  •     censoring and blocking of community videos by Shaw TV because the words "ethnic cleansing", "massacre" and "genocide" were used in presentations;
  •     sponsoring of a motion filed in the Ontario legislature condemning the use of the term "Israeli Apartheid Week";
  •     demanding that the federal government refuse to allow British MP and outspoken advocate of Palestinian human rights George Galloway to enter the country;
  •     demanding the unilateral stripping of federal funding from the Canadian Arab Federation.

In the spring of 2009, Gary Goodyear, the Minister of State forScience and Technology, personally called the president of the main fundingbody for academic research in Canada and demanded they reconsider their fundingof the peer-reviewed conference at York University, "Israel/Palestine:Mapping models of statehood and paths to peace." There was an uproar of protestand the conference proceeded as planned. But interference of this kind frommembers of the federal parliament is not unusual, and in fact infrastructureshave been created to facilitate these interventions, through lobby groups,Israel's representatives in Canada, and "inter-parliamentary committees."


Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism, CPCCA

"We have come to a point in the 21st century where at least inthe halls of government and I think very much in the mainstream of Canadianlife, we are viewed as part and parcel of Canadian polity." Bernie Farber CEO,Canadian Jewish Congress, Toronto Star

Around the same time that Farber acknowledged that Jews "areviewed as part and parcel of Canadian polity", in August 2009 the Toron

to Starreported that, under a federal program providing security for groups at risk ofbeing attacked in hate crimes, 46 of the 85 projects funded by Ottawa sinceFebruary 2008 belonged to Jewish community groups. Over the same period, fiveMuslim organizations received funding, one Sikh group, a Portugueseorganization, an Aboriginal organization and a Hindu organization. 


Interparliamentary Conference on Combating anti-Semitism (ICCA)Founding Convention

In February, 2009, over 125 international delegates gathered inLondon for two days of presentations and discussions on the "increasing problemof anti-Semitism globally" and called on all governments "to face the problemof anti-Semitism, especially its manifestations in the media and academia."Under the leadership of Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney andLiberal MP Irwin Cotler, a delegation of 11 Canadian Members of Parliamentattended the conference. They returned "with the desire to form a Canadiancoalition to fight anti-Semitism here."

In June, 2009, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to CombatAnti-Semitism (CPCCA) launched its nation-wide inquiry into anti-Semitism byinviting written submissions on the subject.  The plan was to review the submissions and begin hearingwitnesses in the fall. Testimony was scheduled from November 2, 2009 throughFebruary 8, 2010. The list of witnesses reveals a transparently biasedselection and excludes submissions from people intending to substantivelychallenge the notion of a "new anti-Semitism." [1]

Following the inquiry, the CPCCA plans to submit a report onanti-Semitism to the Government of Canada, in anticipation of the nextInterparliamentary Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism, to be held in Ottawain October 2010.


The "New Anti-Semitism"

In 2005, the European Union's Monitoring Centre on Racism andXenophobia (EUMC) offered a "standardized" definition of anti-Semitism for datacollection. The EUMC definition was an important resource at the ICCA Londonconference.  It states:

"Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews which may beexpressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations ofanti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or theirproperty, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. Inaddition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceivedas a Jewish collectivity." As Irwin Cotler, the chair of the CPCCA/ICCAdeclared in his key note address at the London Conference, "Compared to mostprevious anti-Jewish outbreaks this new anti-Semitism is often less directedagainst individual Jews. It attacks primarily the collective Jews, the State ofIsrael."

Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itselfwith regard to the state of Israel include (1) denying the Jewish people theirright to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State ofIsrael is a racist endeavor; (2) applying double standards by requiring of it abehavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation; (3) holdingJews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

On the one hand, it is anti-Semitic to hold Jews "collectivelyresponsible for the actions of the state of Israel."  On the other hand, the working definition, as shown above,states that manifestations of anti-Semitism could "also target the state ofIsrael, conceived as a Jewish collectivity." It is impossible to tell from areading of the definition what is and what is not anti-Semitism. Not that itmatters. Its primary function is to pave the way for the criminalization ofcriticism of Israel.

In August, 2009, Seriously Free Speech, a Vancouver-basedorganization concerned with the protection of free speech in Canada, forwardeda submission to the CPCCA in which they sounded the alarm regarding theCoalition's apparent intention to make criticism of Israel a hate crime:

"...the hearings of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combatanti-Semitism (CPCCA/ICCA) are directed not towards combating racism andanti-Semitism but rather towards incorporating a much broader definition ofanti-Semitism in the Canadian criminal code. This new an expansive,subjective and politicized definition which merges the interests of individualJews with the state of Israel and its Zionist ideology. By conflating the Jewish peopleas a whole with the government of Israel, it seeks to delegitimize and evencriminalize criticism of Israel and its policies."

Faculty for Palestine (F4P), a pan-Canadian network ofuniversity and college teachers, submitted a deposition to the CPCCA as well.They pointed out that both of the CPCCA's main committees are under thedirection of Members of Parliament who have been at the forefront in advocatingan application of the "new" anti-Semitism definition against Palestinianadvocacy. F4P warns:

"This is a self-constituted body and not a representative one.Its mandate was given to itself, not generated out of public debate norapproved through any parliamentary channels. This aspect of the CPCCA permitsit to be shielded from public accountability."


Who Is Irwin Cotler?

Liberal Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler is a key player in thepush to apply the "new anti-Semitism" against Palestinian advocacy. He is theco-founder of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism andthe Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism. A former Ministerof Justice and Attorney General of Canada, he is a board member of UN Watch, anIsraeli advocacy group focusing on the United Nations, and an associate of theJerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an Israeli right-wing think tank. Hegained notoriety for his verbal attack of Louise Arbour, the United NationsHigh Commissioner for Human Rights for her condemnation of Israel's bombing ofLebanon in 2006.

In his keynote speech in London, Cotler stated: "Anti-Semitismis the canary in the mineshaft of evil, and it threatens us all." In anoutburst of Zionist zeal, he declared:

"What we are witnessing today- and which has been developingincrementally, sometimes imperceptibly, and even indulgently, for somethirty-five years now is a new sophisticated, globalizing, virulent and even lethalanti-Semitism, reminiscent of the atmospherics of the 30s and without parallel or precedentsince the end of the Second World War."

Cotler also raised the spectre of genocide in his keynoteaddress, encouraging delegates to consider "if anti-Semitism is the mostenduring of hatreds and genocide is the most horrific of crimes, then theconvergence of this genocidal intent embedded in anti-Semitic ideology is themost toxic of combinations." Referencing the Holocaust, he went on to say,"Today, the most dangerous anti-Semites might be those who want to make theworld Judenstaatrein, ‘free of a Jewish state.'" In a chilling call, theso-called London Declaration warns signatories to the Genocide Convention [2]that "where there is incitement to genocide, signatories to the GenocideConvention automatically have an obligation to act...this promise must now beacted upon."


The Canadian Government

 "Canada holds thedistinction of being one of four nations in the world that has refused to signthe UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."  Ashifa Kassam,

The Canadian government under Stephen Harper was the first toimpose the siege on Gaza after the election of Hamas, the first to provideunquestioning support for the war against Lebanon in 2006, and the first toannounce a boycott of Durban II.


Canadian Citizenship vs. Canadian Foreign Policy

In a September 2009 article, Ashifa Kassam cautionedthat the Harper government has launched "a full-out war against those theybelieve are

not worthy of Canadian citizenship, whether it be children bornabroad to parents that are Canadian but not born in Canada, or the visa regulationsslapped on the citizens of Mexico and the Czech Republic [3] to control ‘bogus'refugee claims. The move exposes the increasingly overt racist immigration andrefugee policies and practices of the federal government. The current rate ofrejection of refugee claims in Canada is 62%.

In an August, 2009 article in the Globe and Mail, Paul Koringreported that, while the Canadian government is aware of a new Israeli practiceof stamping the passports of Palestinian Canadians with a "Palestinian Authorityonly" stamp - thereby curtailing freedom of movement for Canadian citizens -the Harper government has made no protest. In response to the government'ssilence on the situation, the president of the Association of Palestinian ArabCanadians said, "The Harper government wants to disown us even though we arecitizens." He cited the growing list of cases where non-white and MuslimCanadians facing difficulties overseas were refused help by Canadian diplomats.


Canada's Security Certificates

There are compelling similarities between the oppression ofCommunists during the McCarthy era, and present-day targeting and persecutionof "suspected terrorists," who are predominantly Arabs and Muslims. In Canada,the issuance of security certificates is central to the hounding of peopleunder the country's homeland security legislation, as was the McCarran-WalterAct, enacted by the U.S. government in 1952. It allowed the government todeport immigrants or naturalized citizens suspected of "subversive activities"and to bar "suspected subversives" from entering the country.

Security certificates, issued under the Canadian Immigration andRefugee Act, apply to non-citizens, visitors, refugees or permanent residents.The certificate may extend for many months, or even several years. Foreignnationals are automatically incarcerated when a certificate is issued, andpermanent residents may be detained if deemed a danger, or considered likely tofail to attend court proceedings. Much of the evidence in security certificatecases is heard in camera, with only the Federal Court judge and governmentlawyers and witnesses present. The precise allegations, and the source of theallegations, remain unknown. Evidence may be presented in court in the absenceof both the detainee and their lawyer, making the cross-examination of keywitnesses impossible.


Canadian Foreign Policy: Shifts in Language and Terminology

According to Michelle Collins, writing in Embassy Magazine(Ottawa) in July, 2009, staff at the Department of Foreign affairs were expressing theirconcerns about changes being made to commonly used terms in the lexicon ofCanadian foreign policy language.

Embassy sources had learned that "tweaks" to the language"fraught with policy implications" had been in the works since the Harpergovernment took power in early 2006. The word "humanitarian" had been excisedfrom all references to "international humanitarian law." In addition, the term"gender equality" had been replaced with "equality of men and women."References to gender-based violence had been removed, marking a serious stepbackward in Canadian foreign policy language. The new terminology denies thatit is women who disproportionately experience distinct and often deadly formsof gender-based violence and it sets the stage for disallowing gender-basedviolence as a legitimate claim for refugee status.

Errol Mendes, a professor of International Law at the Universityof Ottawa, told Embassy that removing the word "humanitarian" from the languagecould be the Harper government's strategy for diluting Canada's obligations tothe International Criminal Court. According to Embassy, a source close toForeign Affairs said that the Prime Minister's office "had once tried to changeCanada's official position on the International Criminal Court (ICC) toessentially state that Canada does not support the ICC, it tolerates it." Itappears that the Canadian government shares the Israeli state's contempt forthe principles of international humanitarian law.


The Canadian Arab Federation and Kairos

In his opening address to the February, 2009 founding conventionof the so-called Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism,Jason Kenney, federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration stated:   "Organizations like the CanadianArab Federation and Canadian Islamic Congress should not expect to receivegovernment funding, because of their hateful sentiments toward Israel andJews...I would encourage all other governments to take a similar approach toorganizations that either excuse violence against Jews or express essentiallyanti-Semitic sentiments." The Canadian Arab Federation was in fact stripped ofits funding, most of which would have been earmarked for language classes andessential settlement services.

More recently, Kairos, an internationally renowned Canadianfaith-based human rights organization, representing seven of Canada's largestchurch denominations, was informed by the Canadian government that its fundingwould be axed. Kairos' human rights work includes projects in Africa,Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East. Addressing the Global Forum toCounter Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, Minister Kenney described his government'sfights against anti-Semitism, citing the defunding of Kairos as an example. After35 years of Canadian governmental support, the organization has been labeled"anti-Semitic" by the country's Minister of Immigration and Citizenship andstripped of its ability to fund its international commitments.


Canada's "Full Understanding" of the Israeli State

"It's hard to find a country friendlier to Israel than Canadathese days. Members (of parliament) are loyal friends to us, both with regardto their worldview and their estimation of the situation in everything relatedto the Middle East, North Korea, Iran, Sudan and Somalia. No other country inthe world has demonstrated such full understanding of us." Israeli ForeignMinister Avigdor Lieberman, after meeting with Canada's Minister of ForeignAffairs and the leader of the Liberal opposition, July, 2009.

The pivotal geo-political, economic, military, and ideologicalrole played by the Israeli state positions it as the war on terror's designatedbully on the block, acting with impunity and in possession of the only nucleararsenal in the Middle East. Canada stands as the state's most steadfastchampion, its loyalty lauded by people like Lieberman, who has repeatedlycalled for the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel.

In addition to public displays of devotion, Canada's complicityin Israel's war crimes includes a number of important infrastructuralinitiatives. These include the implementation of the Canada-Israel Free TradeAct; substantial technical and structural support to the Israeli military [4];and the Canada-Israel "Public Security" Agreement. The agreement is a"Declaration of Intent" by the two governments, and "is an opportunity forCanada and Israel to strengthen their commitment to safeguarding their citizensand respective national interests from common threats," according to AviDicter, the Israeli Minister of Public Security. This talk of "common threats"echoes the racist rhetoric of Islamaphobia and is part of the construction ofthe political climate needed to legitimate the criminalization of criticism ofIsrael.


Conditions for Genocide

"The blockade (of Gaza) has created conditions for genocidethrough contamination of water supplies due to white phosphorous, raw sewagepouring into the sea, and the prevention of food, medical, and otherhumanitarian supplies from entering Gaza. The Palestinians living in Gaza are already feeling the ter

rible effectsincluding a huge increase in birth defects and in cancers especially inchildren." From International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), on the 2009anniversary of the siege on Gaza.

In September, 2009, the UN Environment Programme sent out areport with a warning that "the aquifer that 1.5 million Gazans drink from, andgrow crops with, is failing. Overuse is making the water supplysaltier...pollution from sewage and fertilizers is high enough to put youngchildren in jeopardy of nitrate poisoning...repairing the water system willrequire US$1.5 billion over two decades." [5] Just two months later, inNovember, 2009, Canada's Minister of Industry, Tony Clement, met with Israeliindustry and government officials to discuss Canadian developments in the fieldof water technologies. "I am hoping that our visit may lead to even closercooperation and serve to demonstrate to companies here that Canada is a goodplace to do business," Mr. Clement said. [6]

In the glaring light of the devastation of Gaza, where waterpollution from sewage and fertilizers puts young children in jeopardy ofnitrate poisoning and the prospect of access to clean water may be as much astwo decades away, Canada's pursuit of business with Israel in the field ofwater technologies is yet another indication of its complicity with war crimes.


In the Climate of the "War on Terror"

No doubt there are similarities between Zionism and McCarthyism.At the same time, this similarity does not occur in a vacuum. The Israeli stateplays a pivotal role in the so-called war on terror and speaks the Islamophobicrhetoric of "homeland security" with impunity. Escalating support for Boycott,Divestment and Sanctions is seriously threatening to upset Israel's plans forPalestine, plans in lock-step with U.S. and Canadian interests in the MiddleEast. As support for Palestinian self-determination grows and strengthens,Zionist reaction will escalate. Here in Canada we can expect more McCarthy-likescare tactics against Palestinian advocacy. The primary targets will bePalestinian, Arab and Muslim organizations and individuals, and otherCommunities of Colour. Jews and others in solidarity may well be targeted fortheir work in support of Palestinian self-determination, but are not besiegedby the apparatuses of the so-called war on terror and the racist rhetoric thatfuels it.



[1] See

[2] Adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United NationsGeneral Assembly on 9 December 1948.

[3] Mostly Roma

[4] See Making a Killing: The Canada-Israel Military-IndustrialPartnership, A Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) Pamphlet;


[6] The Canada/Israel Public Security Agreement,  Michel Chossudovsky, April, 2008.



Michel Chossudovsky, The Canada-Israel "Public Security"Agreement: Ottawa and Tel Aviv Collaborate in Counter-terrorism & Homeland Security, April 2, 2008.

Michelle Collins, Canadian Foreign Policy, International LegalObligations Being Subverted by PMO -Driven Shift in Policy Language andTerminology, Embassy Magazine (Ottawa) July 29, 2009.

Yves Engler, Is Canada More Pro-Israel than the US?, TheElectronic Intifada, October 12, 2009.

Ashifa Kassam, Canadian Foreign Policy Fails Its Citizens,, September 7, 2009.

Paul Koring, Israel Targets Palestinian Canadians, The Globe andMail, August 21, 2009.

"Enemies from Within": Senator Joseph R. McCarthy's Accusationsof Disloyalty",



Naomi Binder Wall is a long-time political and social activistand writer. She is a member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network(IJAN).





Click here to download the 120-report which exposes the funders of Zionist backlash on campuses and in communities