Spartacist Canada No. 170

Fall 2011


Defend the Palestinians!

NDP Backs Zionist Butchers

In July, the “Freedom Flotilla II,” an international convoy determined to bring humanitarian supplies to the besieged Palestinian population of Gaza, was detained by Greek officials at the behest of Israel. The one vessel that managed to make it into international waters, the Dignité-Al Karama, was stormed by Israeli commandos, and the activists aboard were detained and deported. It was a repeat, minus the open bloodshed, of the Zionist assault on the Mavi Marmara last year, when nine pro-Palestinian activists aboard the Turkish ship were killed and dozens injured. The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, imposed in 2007, has vastly deepened the misery of its 1.5 million inhabitants, who live in what is essentially an open-air concentration camp, subject to repeated air assaults by Israeli forces.

Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition of the NDP took the opportunity to join in the hue and cry against these courageous defenders of the Palestinians. Then-leader Jack Layton met with the Israeli ambassador to assure him “that it was not New Democrat policy to support the flotilla.” Meanwhile, two NDP MPs who had publicly endorsed the flotilla were smacked down in private “conversations” with Layton, and instructed to withdraw their support. Quebec MP Alexandre Boulerice capitulated publicly, leaving B.C. MP Alex Atamanenko as the sole dissenter. Following the murderous assault against the Mavi Marmara a year earlier, Layton similarly publicly chastised NDPer Libby Davies, reaffirming Israel’s “right to exist in secure borders in a safe context.” As we have noted, Israel’s “secure borders” mean the apartheid wall, full land and sea blockade of Gaza, and regular military assaults on the Occupied Territories.

According to a report on the NDP’s June convention in Vancouver by oppositional party member Zev Tiefenbach, efforts to put forward a motion in support of the flotilla were ostentatiously quashed: “NDP staffers arrived in droves (multiple first-hand sources claim that at least 50 MP’s and staffers were involved) standing at the back of the room exclusively to vote down the resolution.” Tiefenbach continued: “Indeed, the only visibility that the entire Palestine-Israeli question received in the entire convention was a full-page ad in the official convention guide which proclaims that, ‘The NDP and the...Jewish community, together in our commitment to the state of Israel’” (“NDP Convention: Party Activists vs. Community Militants,” All of this is utterly consistent with the NDP’s entire history as a staunchly pro-Zionist political party.

At least two NDP MPs, Peter Stoffer and Pat Martin, are prominent members of the “Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism” (CPCCA). This pseudo-parliamentary body has held “hearings” to investigate “the new anti-Semitism,” a slur levelled against anyone who would protest Israeli state repression. Upholding an obscene amalgam between actual anti-Semitism and opposition to Israel’s barbarism against the Palestinians, the NDP loyally serves the ruling Tories’ hard pro-Zionist agenda. Indeed, this sinister campaign aims to make it a crime to criticize Israel. And it’s not just the ranting right wingers in the New Democrats’ upper echelons like Pat Martin who partake of this demagogy. Last year, NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo, a darling of the fake-socialist “left,” voted in the Ontario provincial parliament to condemn “Israeli Apartheid Week” because it “serves to incite hatred against Israel.”

Always on the right wing of the spectrum of international social democracy, the NDP has of late shifted its posture even further rightward. It has dropped its paper opposition to NATO and NORAD, endorsed huge increases in military spending and joined the unanimous endorsement in parliament of the NATO bombing of Libya. Riding high on its recent transitory electoral victories, the NDP has been increasingly presenting itself as the party of “middle-class families,” aiming to displace the Liberals as the alternative to the Tories.

NDP leaders would evidently like to refashion the party along the lines of the U.S. Democrats, i.e., as a purportedly “progressive” bourgeois party, though this process is nascent and reversible. Their occasional posturing against the “excesses” of capitalism plays a useful role for the bourgeoisie, after all, by corralling the militancy of workers and the oppressed into the dead end of parliamentary reformism. In sharp contrast to those reformist leftists who strive to “win the NDP to socialism,” we Trotskyists understand that the NDP is a bourgeois workers party. Linked to the unions via the labour bureaucracy, it has a thoroughly pro-capitalist program of maintaining the present system.

In Quebec, where the NDP won most of its seats, the party’s strident pro-Zionism runs up against strong sentiment in defense of the Palestinians among working people and youth. All three Quebec labour federations endorsed the Gaza flotilla, and the left-nationalist Québec Solidaire (with which the NDP presently shares a substantial voting base) had a representative on one of the boats. Even the bourgeois-nationalist Bloc Québécois felt compelled to withdraw from the CPCCA, citing its pro-Israel bias.

The NDP’s chauvinist stance towards the Palestinians mirrors its chauvinist position on Quebec. The NDP has always, ardently, supported a “united Canada,” and is thus hostile to the struggles of the Québécois people for national self-determination. For our part, we Marxists are intransigent opponents of the prevailing Anglo chauvinism, and we advocate Quebec independence as the best means to win the workers of both nations to a perspective of anti-capitalist class struggle.

Workers and the oppressed throughout the world must defend the Palestinian people against Zionist aggression and demand: All Israeli troops and settlers out of the Occupied Territories! At the same time, it is crucial to understand that a just solution to the valid, conflicting claims of the Palestinians and the Hebrew-speaking people to a tiny slice of land is not possible under capitalism. The way forward lies through the joint class struggle of Hebrew-speaking and Palestinian Arab workers, connected to class struggle throughout the region and leading to socialist revolution. A socialist federation of the Near East requires not only a revolutionary struggle against the Zionist butchers and the collection of dictators, mullahs and military regimes that rule the rest of the region, but also against the imperialist sponsors of oppression in the Near East, whose class rule the New Democratic Party upholds.