Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News
The Israel lobby is working directly with the Canadian government and with Silicon Valley corporations to quash the voices of those critical of its expansionist policies and systematic oppression of its indigenous population.
One clear example of this came last September when an international parliamentary committee met in Congress in Washington, DC, to demand that Twitter remove the account of Palestinian-Canadian Laith Marouf. Marouf is a multimedia producer who currently serves as a senior consultant at the Community Media Advocacy Centre and the coordinator of ICTV, a project to secure a national multi-ethnic news television station in Canada. He also has a long record of active support for Palestinian rights.
As such, Marouf – whose Community Media Advocacy Centre is funded by the Canadian government – faced official consequences for comments he made critiquing Israel. But the Trudeau administration went further to secure his erasure from social media, which should concern all those who believe in free speech.
Marouf’s case is just one in an endless stream of such acts happening all over social media and beyond. Marouf, in other words, was not the first and certainly will not be the last. Furthermore, his case opens the floodgates for the stream of suspensions to become a torrent.
As a major human rights abuser engaged in apartheid and military occupation of Palestinian land, Israel’s working relationship with big tech and the Canadian government is showcasing how antisemitism is being weaponized to target, flag and now vanish accounts critical of the apartheid state.
Marouf’s case also highlights the existence of a nearly fifty-year alliance between a Canadian national and a former Soviet dissident – a relationship that began as part of an Israeli intelligence operation. This history directly ties what happened to Marouf to Israel’s foreign policy strategies developed between 2000 and 2016.
A BIASED GROUP
The Interparliamentary Task Force To Combat Online Antisemitism is, as the name suggests, an international grouping of parliamentarians. Launched in September 2020, the task force is focused on increasing awareness of and developing responses and solutions to allegedly growing online antisemitism. Its first hearing was held on September 16, and the committee called executives from Twitter, YouTube, Meta, and TikTok to testify and explain how and why accounts like those of Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, were still in existence. Khamenei’s English Twitter account has nearly a million followers. At the time of writing, it and its Russian, Spanish, Arabic and Farsi alternative accounts remain live.
Former Canadian member of parliament (MP) Michael Levitt went over his five allotted minutes in his enthusiasm to denounce Marouf’s tweets. Another member of the task force devoted some of her time to arguing that “Zionism as an identity” should be included as a “protected characteristic.” She elaborated, “Zionist is an integral part of the identity of the majority of Jews and many non-Jews who self-define as Zionists.”
But who is on this committee, and why would they make such an argument? Answering this question accurately involves peeling back several layers of the onion and tracing back the origin story of this latest assault on online Palestinian speech.
It is claimed that the committee consists of “bipartisan legislators” and parliamentarians from Israel, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Yet this claim of “bipartisanship” is quickly scotched. The task force’s four South African members identify as Zionists and are part of the controversial Democratic Alliance, the party for whom most White South Africans vote. No African National Congress (ANC) members are involved in the group. At the hearing, one MP denounced the ANC, reportedly claiming, “The greatest proponents of antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment comes from our government.”
Members of the Task Force from the US include Democratic Congresspersons Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has visited Israel on an AIPAC-sponsored tour, and Ted Deutch, the newly-appointed CEO of the Zionist lobby group, the American Jewish Committee.
Among the British representatives is Andrew Percy, the Conservative MP who converted to Judaism in 2017 partly because of “a wholehearted commitment to support of Israel.” The other British representative is Alex Sobel, a longtime supporter of the Zionist affiliate of the Labor Party, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). The Canadian representatives included the former MP Michael Levitt, who is now President-CEO of the Zionist Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Also from Canada was Anthony Housefather, who in 2019 wrote, “I have always been and will continue to be a huge supporter of Israel.”
Along with two Members of the Israeli Knesset (MK) was the former MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh. Widely respected journalist Gideon Levy has described Cotler-Wunsh as both “an expert on human rights, an enlightened intellectual” and “nationalist, racist, cruel.”
At the hearing itself, three more Zionists were present. The first was the Israeli special representative for antisemitism, Noa Tishby. Recently Tishby denounced Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Bella Hadid – all Muslim women – as anti-Semites for condemning the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli soldiers. Tishby reportedly “singled out only criticism of Israel from Muslim Americans,” showing an apparent “effort to cast their anger as the product of ethnic or religious bigotry.” Another Zionist at the hearing was Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, appointed in March 2022. According to Ismail Allison of CAIR, Lipstadt has a “history of using bigoted rhetoric, including Islamophobic … talking points.”
Well-known Canadian politician and jurist Irwin Cotler was also in attendance. He is Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, a position receiving CA$ 5.6 million over five years beginning in 2022. He is also the stepfather of Michal Cotler-Wunsh MK, mentioned above. As it turns out, Cotler is the most significant actor in this story, being deeply embedded in Zionist lobby networks.
Unsurprisingly, no representative of Arab or Palestinian origin is involved in the task force.
20 YEARS OF CLASHES
Marouf claims that “in 2021, I began to be stalked and harassed online by Zionists in the Broadcasting sector in Canada.” These efforts led to his Twitter account being shut down for “hateful conduct” and promoting “violence against or directly attacking” people with protected characteristics like race, ethnicity or national origin.
In fact, Marouf has spent much of the past two decades years combatting Zionist efforts to censor him. The first such instance happened at Concordia University in 2001 when he was the first Arab candidate to be elected to a student union executive in Canada. Within months of his appointment, he was “expelled summarily … for writing that ‘Zionism is Jewish Supremacy’”. He won an ensuing six-month court battle with the university. After that, however, the attacks continued; the next was from the Chair of the Department of History, who, as Marouf noted, was also the chair of a Zionist lobby group.
Among the interlocutors back in 2002 was then-MP Irwin Cotler. Cotler’s reputation was at that stage not nearly as great as it is now. Perhaps this is why Marouf’s comrades were able to occupy his office, following which the police were called. Marouf has confirmed to Mintpress that he was “part of the organizing of the occupation” but was not present in the office.
At the time of Marouf’s clashes with Cotler, Cotler’s wife, Ariela, was also involved in the events. She was President of the board of Montreal Hillel in 2001 during the most heated period at Concordia. Hillel is the Zionist student organization on campus in Canada and the US. She “played a major role in the pro-Israeli activity” at that time, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an Israeli think tank.
Before that, Ariela had been parliamentary secretary for Menachem Begin. As can be imagined from this, Ariela is a hardline Zionist and claims to have been involved “at the cradle” with the creation of the so-called Birthright program, which takes young Jews to “Israel” despite there being no “birthright” for Jews in Canada or elsewhere to colonize Palestine.
Ariela Cotler has also been involved in a wide range of other Zionist lobby groups, including the Canada Israel Committee and the Federation Combined Jewish Appeal, the largest Zionist fundraiser in Canada. The Federation CJA, as it is known, has promoted Canadians joining the Israeli army.
IRWIN COTLER – ZIONIST REGIME ASSET
Cotler’s public persona is that he has some sympathy for the underdog. At the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, he notes he has been described as “Counsel for the Oppressed” and as “Freedom’s Counsel.” His 600-word profile does not use the words “Israel,” “Zionism,” “Jewish,” or “antisemitism”; his decades-long advocacy for the crimes of the State of Israel are not even hinted at.
Born in 1940, he took degrees at McGill University and then secured a Law postgraduate degree at Yale in 1966. In 1968 he was hired as a speechwriter for the then Justice Minister for four years. In 1970 he was appointed as an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto before being appointed Professor at McGill in 1973. That same year he helped found and became President of the pro-Israel Canadian Professors for Peace in the Middle East, and he then “spent his summers travelling the Middle East.”
By the late 1970s, he was already heavily involved in Zionist advocacy, being the lawyer for Anatoli Shcharansky. A Ukrainian Zionist activist, Shcharansky was active in agitation as part of an operation run by a secret Israeli intelligence organization, Nativ, to access new settlers from the Soviet Union. Was Cotler aware that he was involved in an intelligence operation?
In 1978 while working with Shcharansky, he was living in the Jewish quarter of Damascus and, not surprisingly – given his Zionist contacts – drew the attention of Syrian officials. He also spent time in Egypt in 1975, 1976 and 1977, making contact with the political elite, including the foreign minister, and was introduced to President Anwar Sadat. Knowing that Cotler would later visit Israel, Sadat “asked him to deliver a message to … prime minister Menachem Begin.”
Cotler claims he said “he didn’t know” Begin “particularly well.” But when he arrived in Israel, he was “invited to lunch with members of the Knesset.” There he met a Begin staffer named Ariela Zeevi, who took him to meet her boss. The message was, “Egypt was prepared to enter into peace negotiations with Israel.” Cotler later married the staffer in 1979 and became a “close personal friend” of Begin.
ZIONIST LOBBY STALWART
In 1980, Irwin Cotler was appointed President of the Canadian Jewish Congress. Four years later, he participated in a Jerusalem conference entitled “Hasbara: Israel’s Public Image.” (Hasbara is a Hebrew word meaning “explanation,” which is used as a synonym for “propaganda” in English). The American Jewish Congress ran the event, a group with a history of working directly with the Israeli intelligence agency Nativ, a campaign to recruit new settlers from the Soviet Union. Though referred to only as a professor of law at McGill, Cotler made it clear that he was a committed partisan of Israeli hasbara, complaining that “hasbara efforts are discriminated against” and that “Israel itself has become some kind of illegitimate entity.”
Since this public declaration of commitment to the cause of Zionism, he has taken up a dizzying number of appointments in Zionist organizations. He is or has been affiliated with a wide range of Zionist groups on three continents, including,
- United Against Nuclear Iran;
- Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies;
- Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs;
- UN Watch;
- Jewish People Policy Institute;
- International Institute for Counter-Terrorism;
- The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy
All of these groups are closely related to the State of Israel, some with intelligence connections, some in receipt of funds, or created by Tel Aviv. None of these roles are listed in his biography at the Wallenberg Center, to which he is currently attached. Nor are Cotler’s interesting links with the far right in Ukraine; he is reportedly on the advisory board of “Ukrainian-Jewish Encounter,” which honored Ukrainian Nazis who collaborated with Nazi Germany and massacred Jews in the 1940s.
ENTER THE MOSSAD
But it is in the policy planning process of the state of Israel that Cotler seems to have made the most significant impact. Cotler has been, as British writer Antony Lerman puts it, “probably the most significant and influential international figure in the propagation of the concept of the ‘new antisemitism.’” As codified and finally published in its current form in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Association, the “working definition” of antisemitism is the weapon of choice of the Zionist movement to intimidate and bully supporters of the Palestinians.
While the idea of the new antisemitism has roots back to the 1940s and was a subject of renewed interest from the early 1970s, the administrative infrastructure to redefine antisemitism flourished from the late 1980s when Mossad was given the lead in the coordination of the strategy. As Lerman has noted, the Monitoring Forum on Antisemitism, established in 1988, “aimed at establishing Israeli hegemony over the monitoring and combating of antisemitism by Jewish groups worldwide.” It “was coordinated and mostly implemented by Mossad representatives” working in Israeli embassies.
A key step in the process was the first Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust in January 2000. The resulting Stockholm Declaration “became the founding document” of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association. Cotler headed the Canadian delegation to that event. He was also a key figure in responding to the 2001 Durban World Conference Against Racism, which concluded that Zionism is racism. In a hyperbolic reply for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, he denounced “what was supposed to be a conference against racism” [emphasis in original], saying it “turned into a conference of racism against Israel and the Jewish people.” He also decried what he called a new “genocidal antisemitism – the public call for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.
Cotler was engaged directly with the state of Israel’s response to Durban in co-founding the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) in 2002 “in collaboration with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior.” This venture, however, collapsed, its main problem being that it was obviously an instrument of Israeli foreign policy. Even an arch-Zionist like Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League observed: “If a lot of its strategy and implementation is coming from Israel, I won’t be supportive of it.”
In 2003 a new body, the Global Forum for Combatting Antisemitism, was created by Melchior and Cotler’s friend and former “client” Natan Sharansky (formerly known as Anatoli Shcharansky, he changed his name to Zionise it, as do many incoming settlers). Sharansky was also – as an Israeli government minister in charge of antisemitism —chair of the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism, which had been set up in the 1990s. “The State of Israel has decided to take the gloves off and implement a coordinated counteroffensive against antisemitism,” Sharansky said.
In his “3D test of antisemitism,” Sharansky took up the idea of discrimination against a nation-state, trialed by Cotler. It focused only on the occasions where it was claimed that criticism of Israel became antisemitism:
- “demonization” is “when Israel’s actions are blown out of all sensible proportion”;
- “double standards,” when criticism of Israel is “applied selectively”;
- “delegitimization” when Israel’s “fundamental right to exist” is denied.
These are tendentious arguments. Who is to judge what is “sensible” or “selective”? No regime or even state has a “fundamental” right to exist.
Cotler and Sharansky would frequently connect again over the course of the ensuing decade. For example, they both attended the February 2008 Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism. It was here that the plan to extend the event around the globe was announced. Though it has been claimed that the subsequent London event was independent, the 2008 event it was seen as simply another GFCA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) event. Minister Tzipi Livni personally thanked British MOP John Mann for ‘volunteering to host the Global Forum next year.’
Tellingly, the new body used the identical name to the previous 2002 effort: the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA). Sharansky was an advisor.
In 2009, Cotler was on the steering committee of the ICCA. Also, there was Fiamma Nirenstein, an Italian writer and politician who has lived in an illegal settlement in East Jerusalem since 1998. Cotler led a delegation of 11 Canadian MPs to the event. Together, they decided to form a Canadian coalition. Thus was the Israeli network extended to Canada: the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism. It met in November 2010 and produced a final report the following year. Canadian groups which were critical of the redefinition of antisemitism to equate it with anti-Zionism responded to the consultation, but their submissions were “excluded from the hearings.”
The ICCA would host conferences in London in February 2009, Ottawa in November 2010, Brussels in June 2012 and Berlin in March 2016. A “task force” report on “internet hate” was published in 2013. In addition, an Italian parliamentary report was published in 2011, having reportedly taken “inspiration” from the ICCA. Similar German parliamentary reports came out in 2011 and 2017. These reports, commissions and groupings laid the groundwork for the American hearing late last year that removed Marouf from social media.
ZIONIST INFLUENCES EMBEDDED IN TWITTER
As the State of Israel developed its strategy to redefine antisemitism as opposition to Israeli government policy, it embedded a number of Zionist lobby groups in the process. For example, advisors on the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism included the following: The U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL), B’nai B’rith International (BBI), the World Jewish Congress (WJC), and the U.K.-based Community Security Trust (CST). Some of these advisors to the state of Israel were carried over as advisors to the European Union Monitoring Center, which first introduced the “working definition” of antisemitism in 2005. Both the ADL and BBI were there, as was the EU branch of the WJC, the European Jewish Congress and the UK-based CST.
When Twitter started to appoint advisors on content, these same groups were again in the frame, with no indication that they were essentially assets of the Israeli government. In 2015, Twitter launched a safety center and listed a number of ‘trusted partners’ in the US, Australia, and Europe.
In the area of offensive speech, it listed both the ADL and CST as concerned with antisemitism. Twitter executives have referred to the CST as “empowering” Twitter to “take action.” The big tech platform takes advice from precisely zero Palestinian organizations or grassroots Muslim groups on how to regulate its content.
From 2018, the list of groups working with Twitter evolved. In addition to the ADL, two new European groups were added: the Board of Deputies of British Jews in the UK and the Centre Européen Juif d’Information [European Jewish Information Center] (CEJI) in Brussels. Both these groups are strongly pro-Israel. The Board of Deputies unblushingly admits in its 2020 Trustees report that it enjoys a “[C]lose working relationship with the Embassy of Israel in the UK, including with the Ambassador, diplomats, and professional staff, and strengthened links to the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and the IDF Spokesperson Department.”
The CEJI is a Zionist organization that advertises working closely with a range of other Zionist groups as “partners,” including B’nai B’rith Europe and the CST. Scandalously, amongst its funders are a host of social media firms, including Twitter itself. So Twitter funds a Zionist lobby group to lobby Twitter on issues relating to the question of Palestine. It is not surprising, therefore, that when pressure is brought to bear from apparently bipartisan lawmakers, and Twitter turns to its trusted advisors, pro-Israel decisions are routinely made. The whole process of both pressure and response is entirely corrupted by Zionist influence.
Israel’s government is also heavily involved in censoring pro-Palestinian content online. According to 7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, the Israeli Ministry of Justice Cyber Unit sends requests to remove Palestinian content to tech giants. Through Israel’s access to information law, the government said requests to social media companies led to the deletion of 27,000 posts from Facebook, Twitter, and Google from 2017-2018.
After all these years, Cotler continues to spearhead illegitimate attempts to subvert solidarity with Palestine under the guise of fighting antisemitism. Shored up by a constantly evolving Zionist movement with its front groups, lobby initiatives and covert operatives (many of whom are embedded in Twitter’s own editorial structures), it is not a surprise that Twitter censored Laith Marouf’s account.
The Israel lobby’s cancel culture depends on the decades of work done by Cotler as an Israeli asset and by his close co-conspirator, the former Soviet prisoner and Israeli government minister Sharansky. Both have been central to forging the “criticism of Israel is antisemitism” weapon which is put to daily use by the lobby through their operatives on the ground, via inter-parliamentary front groups or via the editorial structures of Twitter itself, to do the bidding of a foreign state.