Home Perspectives Opinions Will the NDP buck the left’s anti-Israel trend?

Will the NDP buck the left’s anti-Israel trend?


If there ever was a good time to be a left-liberal Jew, this isn’t it.

In Israel the right-wing is ascendant. Meanwhile, the global left has degenerated to such extremes that believers in a two-state solution may have trouble finding a political home.

One notable exception to the trend has been Canada’s New Democratic Party, which experienced unprecedented success in the past decade while working to moderate its image. By NDP standards, its current leader, Tom Mulcair, who began his career in the cabinet of Quebec Liberal premier Jean Charest and is suspected of having once considered a job with the Conservatives, is extremely moderate. Indeed, the left-wing of the NDP has always been suspicious of Mulcair, and he has, in some ways, lived up to their suspicions.

At one time, far-left stalwarts such as Svend Robinson and Libby Davies could have been counted on to generate Israel-themed controversy. In 2002, Robinson, then the NDP foreign affairs critic, was removed from the Middle East file after publicly accusing Israel of committing state sponsored terrorism and war crimes. At a 2010 rally, Davies told an interviewer that, in her view, the occupation started not in 1967 but in 1948, the year of Israel’s founding (a view she later retracted). The following year she declined to run for party leadership, citing her inability to speak French.

Mulcair has had no such problems. A fluent French speaker, his 2007 by-election victory in Montreal’s Outremont riding gave the party its first foothold in Quebec. In 2011, its seat count would grow to 59 across the province, rocketing the party for the first time to official opposition status.


One of the rookie politicians who rode this wave to Ottawa was Tunisian-born Sana Hassainia, who became member of Parliament for Verchères-Les Patriotes. But when Mulcair issued a bland statement to the effect that Israel has a right to defend itself during the 2014 Gaza war, a measure that earned him praise from the mainstream media, Hassainia said she found it “despicable” and resolved to serve out her term as an independent. (Unnamed party sources suggested their true conflict was over a different matter, namely her 8.7 per cent voting attendance record—then the lowest in the House of Commons.)

The NDP’s position in favour of a two-state solution has remained unchanged since former leader Jack Layton’s time. But the past is not a guarantor of the future. The NDP’s performance in the 2015 election was among the strongest in the party’s history, and yet, it was a major setback from the historic heights the party had recently attained.

Mulcair’s tenure as NDP leader is coming to an end. The party will choose a new leader next October. No front-runner has yet emerged, but a webpage has quietly sprung up looking to return the party to its socialist roots. On behalf of a “broad group of activists,” the website calls for Sid Ryan, a labour leader and committed boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigner, to be drafted into the leadership contest. The site’s slick appearance gives the impression of an “AstroTurf” campaign, an artificial product designed to appear grassroots. Among the 16 issues discussed on the page, only a single foreign policy item is mentioned. You may not be surprised to learn that it’s about Israel and BDS.


It’s worth taking note when a political party starts to spend too much time wrangling over Israel. Not because Diaspora Jews should anchor their political affiliations based on that one issue – they shouldn’t. But because an obsessive preoccupation with Jews and Israel is a pretty reliable indicator of the health of a political movement. And currently the left is suffering something of a public health crisis.

In the meantime, it’s hard to know what direction the NDP will take next year. The party remains divided. But note how much of a fuss is made over that one foreign policy issue, and you could have a pretty good sense of what’s to come. 

David Gruber is a writer and lawyer in Toronto.

  • EverettColdwell

    Like it or not, Israel is a controversial subject.

    Israel’s government is moving further to the right and they have all but discarded the mythical 2-state solution. Increasingly highly regarded international human rights groups are raising the alarm on Israeli actions against Palestinians.

    CJN should be open to discussing the problems with Israel, instead of defending a government that, through it’s own actions, is becoming more and more isolated by us on the “left”.

  • TerrorIsEvil

    “Progressives” as they endearingly like to refer to themselves, continue down the path of differentiating themselves from “conservatives” by becoming more anti-Israel
    and thus more extremely anti-Jewish.

    One cannot burn down the home (Israel) without burning to death the people inside and when the left tells us that they are not against Jews (who, we are told ad nauseam, are among their “best” friends) but that they are against “Zionists” and Israel, then that is an indication of doublespeak for: We leftist “progressives,” will use lies and obsessive scrutiny against Israel to damage Jews and give Israel away to the groups now raping, destroying and killing their way through the Middle East and beyond.

    One has to ask him/herself exactly what the left get out of their endless BDS-mongering and expressions of solidarity with knife-wielding, savage car attackers, plus their fondness for Islamists and lack of concern over unprovoked missile attacks by Islamists on Israel within an overall state of war enshrined in the PA’s and Gaza’s immutable and horrifically prejudiced terror-ridden Charters.

    The poster below named EverettColdwell tells us that it bothers him when Jews and the CJN defend what he calls “a government that, through it’s own actions, is becoming more and more isolated by us on the “left”.” I think that the left, including EverettColdwell, have got it all wrong and twisted (just as they miscalculated the sentiment of the US in this past election). They start from the premise that Israel’s “actions” of defending its country and citizens are somehow wrong and then they exaggerate every imperfection in Israel to make their out-of-context points. They never
    bring up the fact that over 1 million Muslim citizens are living peacefully
    inside Israel and would not trade it for a PA, ISIS, HAMAS or Hezbollah for any
    money. They never bring up the root cause of the conflict which is not land but
    terrorism. They never say that they are against the establishment of
    another failed Islamic terror state in place of Israel because they are for a
    caliphate in place of Israel. They never mention that along with Islamic rule
    come misogyny, rape, antisemitism, slavery, terrorism, conquest and sharia. They
    never mention what has happened to Christian and other communities in all
    Muslim countries, accelerating the past 75 years.

    In Canada the Green Party has come up with a “compromise” on BDS which is a distinction without any difference. A hate campaign by any other name smells just as bad and hateful. I am sure that the NDP, who are always looking to increase their popularity among the radical side of the far left will take note and join the hateful BDS-mongering bandwagon.

    This will further polarize Canadian politics and really has no place in Canadian politics in the first place. There are enough questions of “occupation” right inside Canada to occupy the small-minded do-gooders on the left from here to eternity – they do not
    have to go to Israel to fashion fake or exaggerated stories of “Palestinians”
    being stopped at check points and to speak up on behalf of people who given the
    opportunity would establish a country of their own cleansed of Jews – they have
    told us so and mean it. Jews have been a central feature of the region for over 3500 years – but you will never hear this from leftists who care more about terrorists’ rights than the rights of Israelis or Canadians.

    How long, we must ask, have leftists sensitive to these issues been in Canada? What right do they have to work towards the eradication of Jews in the Middle East while giving themselves a free pass? Maybe EverettColdwell should be starting a BDS campaign against himself, his friends and his family too!

    What the federal election to our south revealed very clearly is that people do not buy into the myths and lies on the left. As much as the press tried to control our thoughts and feelings to promote leftism, they failed to convince us that black is white and
    white is black. Those on the left in Canada will adopt the farcical politics of
    hate and division (among classes, races, religions, colors, etc.) but they too
    will be rejected because the truth will out, the fans will support our own
    team, not theirs, and we will, in the end, defend our own Western democracies
    while the leftists will remain firmly on the other side defending Islamism, nation-destroying globalism and a leftism which only has room for certain people only but a lot
    of antipathy towards our own people and the government systems and beliefs which,
    whether they admit it or not, have greatly sustained freedom and
    democracy and prosperity in Western societies in modern times.

    If the leftists want anarchy, then there is lots of it to find in places they support like Iran, Syria, Russia, Turkey, Libya, Yemen, Gaza, the West Bank, etc.