In Canada, Dimitri Lascaris, Israel

On May 14, 2021, as Israel’s military rained bombs down on the children of Gaza, Noah Zatzman, senior adviser to Green Party leader Annamie Paul, posted an explosive comment on his Facebook page.

By Dimitri Lascaris

Published on the author’s own website, May 31, 2021
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On May 14, 2021, as Israel’s military rained bombs down on the children of Gaza, Noah Zatzman, senior adviser to Green Party leader Annamie Paul, posted an explosive comment on his Facebook page.

Zatzman charged that, during the prior week, “a range of political actors” had disseminated “appalling antisemitism and discrimination … beginning with Jagmeet Singh and Dimitri Lascaris and many Liberal, NDP and sadly, Green MPs.”

Not content to defame members of his own party, Zatzman vowed to work for their removal from office:

We will work to defeat you and bring in progressive climate champions who are antifa and pro LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists!!!!! Am Israel chai.

In his Facebook rant, Zatzman cited no evidence to back up his grave accusation against members of his own party – undoubtedly, because no such evidence exists.

Despite that fact, Zatzman pinned his accusatory post to the top of his Facebook page and ensured that the post was visible to the public for several days.

Gradually, news of Zatzman’s attack spread on social media and in the blogosphere.

On May 19, Geneviève Joëlle, a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, condemned Zatzman on Twitter for promoting a settler colonial ideology:

Later that day, author and activist Yves Engler posted an article on his website in which he denounced Zatzman as a “crazed anti-Palestinian Green adviser” and urged Ms. Paul to remove Zatzman from the leader’s office. Among other things, Mr. Engler noted:

Certainly, smearing influential individuals and threatening to work to “defeat” sitting Green MPs doesn’t seem very strategic for a top adviser. Nor is it realistic to think it’s possible to create a climate and social justice coalition supportive of Israeli violence and ethnic cleansing. Whatever Zatzman may believe, there is a strong correlation between those who organize or attend climate or indigenous rights protests and those outraged at Israel’s actions.

The controversy provoked by Zatzman’s smear did not reach the mainstream media until May 29, when the CBC published a lengthy article by Evan Dyer examining how Israel’s assault on Gaza had altered the political landscape in Canada. Mr. Dyer’s article quoted Zatzman’s Facebook post. It also quoted Green Party MP Paul Manly, who stated:

I think using accusations of antisemitism to shut down legitimate criticism of human rights abuses is offensive and dangerous, and it dilutes the weight that word carries when it’s used to identify real antisemitism.

The original version of the CBC’s article included no comment from Zatzman on the controversy provoked by his Facebook post. However, several hours after the CBC article was first published, two paragraphs were added to the article:

Zatzman told CBC News he wanted to be clear that his comments about Green MPs did not refer to Elizabeth May, whom he called “a great friend of the Jewish community.”

He said he has suffered ongoing harassment as a result of the position he took within the party, to the extent that his parents felt compelled to delist their address.

In making that belated clarification to the CBC, Zatzman effectively doubled down on his accusation of anti-Semitism against Paul Manly, Jenica Atwin and me, and did so, again, without offering a shred of evidence to support his accusation.

Is Accusing Israel of Apartheid Anti-Semitic?

Since Zatzman evidently believes he is under no obligation to support his accusations of anti-Semitism with actual evidence, we are left to examine the public record ourselves in order to determine what might have prompted him to defame Paul Manly, Jenica Atwin and me on May 14.

During the second week of May, when Zatzman claims to have witnessed “virulent anti Jewish behaviour” from the “progressive and climate communities”, Mr. Manly, Ms. Atwin and I all publicly accused Israel of committing the crime of apartheid.

There’s good reason to believe that Zatzman’s attack on us was prompted by those accusations, because Israel’s defenders routinely smear as anti-Semites those who accuse Israel of apartheid. As recently as May 26, in a letter to Joe Biden, four Democratic members of Congress denounced as anti-Semites fellow Democratic members of Congress who had accused Israel of apartheid during Israel’s latest round of atrocities.

The claim that it’s anti-Semitic to accuse Israel of apartheid is, however, utter nonsense.

In 2017, international jurist Professor Richard Falk (who is Jewish-American) and Professor Virginia Tilley concluded in a meticulous report that the evidence Israel is committing the crime of apartheid is “overwhelming.” Since publication of their report, Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem and Yesh Dinhave both reached the same conclusion. More recently, the widely respected, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch accused Israel of apartheid. Other notable figures who have joined in that accusation include Professor Noam Chomsky (who is also Jewish-American), South African human rights lawyer John Dugard, Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s current President Cyril Ramaphosa, Dr. David Harel, Vice-President of Israel’s Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and Paul Manly’s chief of staff, Ilan Goldenblatt, an Israeli-Canadian who served in the Israeli military.

Are we seriously to believe that they are all anti-Semitic?

In April 2018, after returning from the West Bank and having seen with her own eyes what occupied Palestinians are forced to endure on a daily basis, former Green Party leader Elizabeth May courageously declared at a press conference that what Israel is doing to Palestinians in occupied territory is in fact “much worse” than apartheid in South Africa. (Ms. May’s comment can be viewed here.)

Despite the growing international consensus that Israel is committing apartheid, Israel’s more fanatical supporters continue to casually toss accusations of racism at Israel’s critics.

In a sane world, however, those who condemn apartheid would be recognized readily as anti-racists, whereas those who defend the conduct of an apartheid state would be presumed to be racists, and treated as such.

Why Has Annamie Paul Remained Silent?

Throughout all of this, and to this very day, Annamie Paul has remained silent.

Since Zatzman’s attack, Ms. Paul has commented publicly on several issues, including the need to create summer jobs for students, but for unknown reasons, she has failed to comment publicly on the accusation of racism levelled against members of her party’s own caucus by her senior adviser.

It would be difficult to overstate the damage that Ms. Paul’s silence could do to the Green Party.

For one thing, how can members of caucus who have been falsely accused of anti-Semitism by the leader’s senior adviser be expected to work constructively with the leader’s office?

Moreover, how are Mr. Manly and Ms. Atwin supposed to mount strong campaigns in Canada’s upcoming election when their leader’s own adviser has falsely accused them of racism and their party’s leader has not publicly rejected the accusation? Mr. Manly’s and Ms. Atwin’s political opponents may well draw the inference from Ms. Paul’s silence and her continued employment of Zatzman that she agrees with Zatzman’s smear, and they could seek to exploit that inference in an effort to discredit Mr. Manly and Ms. Atwin.

Finally, in the upcoming election, Zatzman’s allegation will surely be weaponized against other Green Party candidates as well. Indeed, all Green Party candidates are now vulnerable to an accusation that they have chosen to run for a party whose MPs are anti-Semites.

It is therefore imperative that Ms. Paul make clear where she stands, as Green Party leader, and that she do so promptly.

If Ms. Paul agrees with her senior adviser, then she should say so publicly, and more importantly, she should do what Zatzman did not have the decency to do: she should back up her allegation of anti-Semitism with credible evidence (of which there is none).

If, however, Ms. Paul understands that Zatzman’s allegation is categorically false, then she should support our Green MPs by removing Zatzman from the leader’s office and by rejecting his false allegation of anti-Semitism, publicly, explicitly and unambiguously.

That is what a true leader would do. Anything less from Ms. Paul would constitute an abdication of leadership.

*****

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