B’nai Brith Canada is girding for a protest. Only this time, it will be the target.
A rally planned for Aug. 29 at 4 p.m. outside B’nai Brith’s Toronto headquarters is intended to lash out at the Jewish advocacy group for a “smear campaign” it waged against the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and for ostensibly silencing other critics of Israel.
“Recently, B’nai Brith Canada launched a smear campaign against CUPW, (which) has taken a principled stand in defence of Palestinian human rights,” the protest’s organizers wrote on Facebook.
“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 are critical of Israel’s violations of international law.
“Enough is enough. Please join us in communicating to B’nai Brith that we will no longer remain silent in the face of its constant attacks on those who demand freedom and justice for the Palestinian people.”
The spat between the two groups began last spring, when CUPW, which represents some 50,000 postal workers, revealed that it had launched a “joint project” with the Palestinian Postal Service Workers’ Union (PPSWU) that’s “designed to strengthen the Palestinian postal union and build greater solidarity between our two unions.”
B’nai Brith countered that the PPSWU supported terrorism and “the elimination of Israel.” It said the Palestinian union glorified a Hamas terrorist who was killed by Israeli forces after a West Bank rabbi had been murdered and called for the release of a Palestinian who was convicted in 2009 of attempting to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip.
B’nai Brith spokesperson Marty York said his organization is “in regular communication with the relevant authorities and understand there will be police presence to keep the peace and uphold the law.”
Toronto Coun. James Pasternak, whose district the rally will take place in, said that the local police precinct has been alerted. Pasternak also said that he will “probably” shut down his constituency office, which is in a shopping plaza right behind B’nai Brith’s offices.
“It’s our responsibility that people feel safe, secure and that we fight hate (and) racism in all its forms. And we’re strongly urging everyone to keep safe and for police to de-escalate (the situation) and make sure there’s an incident report to the attorney general” for the laying of a possible hate crime charge, he told The CJN.
The Facebook post advertising the protest shows a CUPW logo and the words, “Rally to Oppose B’nai Brith’s Smear Campaign Against CUPW.”
The CJN sent a link to the post to CUPW’s offices in Ottawa, where spokesperson Emilie Tobin expressed surprise, saying the union knew nothing about the event and agreed that an observer might think it was under CUPW’s auspices.
“I can confirm that CUPW has not organized this event,” Tobin told The CJN in an email. “We have no further statement.”
But two days later, the union issued a statement saying that it supports the protest and that B’nai Brith had “falsely” accused CUPW of supporting terrorism.
“We are grateful to our allies who organized this event to communicate to B’nai Brith that false attacks against those who demand freedom and justice for the Palestinian people will no longer be tolerated with silence and fear,” the union wrote in an Aug. 24 statement.
It quoted CUPW president Mike Palecek as saying that the union welcomes the demonstration and encourages its members to attend. He said the Toronto local “will stand with our allies on the side of truth.”
The Jewish Defence League (JDL), which has called the Aug. 29 rally “a pro-Islamic terror march in the Jewish community,” is planning a counter-demonstration.
Al-Quds Day gangs are planning to march through the Jewish community.
– Meir Weinstein
On Aug. 22, JDL Canada director Meir Weinstein wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford, saying that, “Al-Quds Day gangs are planning to march through the Jewish community. They will call for the destruction of Israel and insult Holocaust survivors who live in the Sheppard and Bathurst Jewish community. We need you to stop this anti-Semitic march. Please take action.”
Dimitry Lascaris, one of the rally’s organizers, said it’s “clear” that B’nai Brith’s attack on CUPW was designed to “silence” the union, because it has defended Palestinian human rights.
“This protest has been organized to express support for the principled stance of CUPW,” Lascaris told The CJN via email.
He promised the protest will be “peaceful, as are our objectives.”
In late June, an Ontario court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Lascaris, who sued B’nai Brith for libel, after the group accused him of using social media to advocate on behalf of “terrorists who have murdered Israeli citizens.”
Lascaris also serves as legal counsel to the Al-Quds Toronto Committee.
A few days after this year’s Al-Quds Day rally in Toronto, Lascaris issued a press release rejecting accusations against the rally’s organizers that were levelled by the “pro-apartheid lobby group, B’nai Brith Canada.”
In 2008, CUPW endorsed the international BDS campaign against Israel. In June, it pledged support for the Freedom Flotilla Coalition that challenged Israel’s “inhumane” blockade of Gaza.
Another rally organizer, Stephen Ellis, posted suggested slogans for participants to chant at the protest. They include: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”; “Gaza must have food and water! Israel, Israel stop the slaughter!” and “Racists go home!”