B’nai B’rith Smear Campaign Protest (Aug 29, Toronto)

My name is Elizabeth Byce.  I am the federal treasurer of the NDP Socialist Caucus.  For thirty years I was an active member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.  At the national convention of the CUPW in 1998 I was the delegate who moved the motion to have CUPW endorse the global campaign in solidarity with the people of Palestine and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Zionist apartheid state.  That motion was adopted almost unanimously by the 700 delegates present.  It was an act of internationalism.  It was an act of working class solidarity against racism, occupation and murder.  The BDS campaign is global.  It is much stronger than it was 20 years ago, and it is growing fast on every continent.  That is why Israel and its Zionist apologists are desperate to portray BDS as anti-Semitic.  That claim is a lie which cannot conceal the crimes of Zionism.  Nor can it divert us from our duty of solidarity with the victims of occupation, the Palestinian people.

Recently, B’nai B’rith Canada launched a smear campaign against the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. As a result, CUPW has become the latest victim in a long list of smear campaigns launched by B’nai Brith Canada to silence human rights defenders who expose Israeli violations of international law.  But as you can see, we shall not be silenced, and we shall not be moved.  We will win the NDP and more unions to a principled stand against Israeli apartheid.  “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

My name is Barry Weisleder and I am pleased to speak on behalf of Socialist Action in solidarity with the CUPW and against deplorable smear tactics.  History is full of ironies.  The so-called Jewish Defense League, which is shouting threats at us today and that calls CUPW and Palestinians terrorists, is itself banned in Israel and the USA as a terrorist organization.  I want to mention one more irony.

B’nai B’rith was founded in New York‘s Lower East Side in 1843, by 12 German Jewish immigrants. It was a working class movement that organized Jews of the local community to confront what Isaac Rosenbourg, one of the founders, called “the deplorable condition of Jews in this, our newly adopted country”. It performed the traditional functions of Jewish societies in Europe: “Visiting and attending the sick” and “protecting and assisting the widow and the orphan.”  B’nai B’rith, which means “sons of the covenant”, established a Lodge in Toronto in 1875.  But with the discovery of oil in the Middle East, and with the backing of the Zionist project by British and French imperialism, and later by American imperialism, B’nai B’rith became a cheerleader for the Occupation of Palestine and for ethnic cleansing.  Bourgeois Jewish organizations continue this regression into mouthpieces for an Apartheid state.  In 2011 the Canadian Jewish Congress dissolved into the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs.  In an ugly irony of history, the Jewish establishment and imperialism have turned the Palestinians into the Jews of the Middle East.  As Leon Trotsky explained in the 1930s, Zionism creates a death trap for the Jews, fostering anti-Semitism worldwide.  Increasingly, the Zionists are out of touch with their own supposed base.  A fast-growing minority of Jews are non-Zionist, or anti-Zionist.  This new political reality is the cause of desperation in the ranks of the reactionaries, so they lash out against great organizations, like the CUPW, which had the courage to be among the first supporters of the global boycott campaign.  The labels ‘terrorism’ and racism apply to Israel, not to CUPW.  A new feature of the constitution of Israel proves this again.

The “Jewish Nation-State Law”, adopted by the Knesset just weeks ago, declares Israel to be the “nation-state of the Jewish people”.  It enshrines Hebrew as the only official language.  It permits the creation and protection of “Jewish only communities’, and it directs the Supreme Court to refer to “Jewish tradition’ in rendering some decisions.  Non-Jews are officially relegated to second class status.  Apartheid practices are entrenched in Israel’s Basic Law, which since 1951 is the constitution of the Zionist state.  If any further proof of the racist character of the colonial settler state was required, this is it.

Socialists are here, not only to defend CUPW, but to support BDS, to demand the Right of Return of all refugees, to end the siege of Gaza, to tear down the Apartheid wall, and to advance the only solution to the present crisis, a Democratic and Secular Palestine.  “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

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