MK Bassel Ghattas.
(photo credit: KNESSET CHANNEL)
Joint List MK Basel Ghattas is a featured speaker at a conference this week that outraged Canadian Jewish organizations with its anti-Semitic content and promotional materials, as well as its support for boycotting Israel.
He is set to take part in the World Social Forum, which calls itself “the largest gathering of civil society to find solutions to the problems of our time,” and is meant to be a far-left alternative to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos.
One of the four ideas the forum’s organizers said it is committed to is “Non Apartheid,” which they act on by “taking a stand to exclude all people, organizations or activities that promote any kind of oppression, supporting Palestinians and all people struggling for their emancipation and freedom.”
B’nai Brith Canada said that commitment has been translated into “a promise to ban all Jewish Israelis and supporters of Israel from the WSF, which is clearly [an] anti-Semitic policy.”
In addition, the conference originally had an event scheduled on “Terrorizm (sic), Wahhabism, Zionism,” in which Seyyed Ali Mousavi of the Center of Religious Dialogue for Peaceful Coexistence intended to argue that worldwide terrorism and imperialism are the fault of Zionists. The event was promoted with a caricature feature classic anti-Semitic imagery – of a hook-nosed man with forelocks, a beard and a black hat with a Star of David on it controlling Uncle Sam, who in turn controls Wahhabism, a denomination of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia.
The event was canceled following a media uproar in Canada, but Mousavi posted on the WSF website that the conference is “occupied by Israeli tanks and petrodollars Saudi Arabia.”
Ghattas, a member of the Balad party, is listed on the WSF website as speaking in favor of BDS at two events. In the first, the Joint List MK will talk about his experience on the 2015 Gaza flotilla, meant to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. The second is the “Grande Conference Palestine,” in which Ghattas, who is Christian, will “address the hardships and problems facing Christians under Israeli rule.”
The events in which Ghattas is scheduled to participate are sponsored by Canadian Friends of Sabeel, an organization whose goal is to convince churches to divest from Israel.
Ghattas’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Over 20 anti-Israel events are listed on the WSF website. At least eight promote the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, including “Divesting Your Church” and “BDS 101.” At least two events at the WSF are about fighting “Israeli apartheid.”
Others include “The ‘new anti-Semitism’ or the ‘new McCarthyism’? The Israel Lobby’s war on Palestine Solidarity and How Best to Resist,” “Decolonizing Israel-Palestine through Challenging the Jewish National Fund (JNF)” And “Call for a Canadian Military Embargo toward Israel.”
Earlier this week, the Canadian federal government instructed the WSF to remove its logo from the list of partners in the conference. Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt led the charge.
The MPs told B’nai Brith Canada that they are “deeply concerned with a number of the sessions that are scheduled for the 2016 WSF and in particular, we are disgusted by the blatantly anti-Semitic cartoons and images that appear on the World Social Forum website.
“The prime minister, the Government of Canada and the Canadian Parliament have been very clear that we oppose the BDS movement and that anti-Semitism is never acceptable,” they added.
However, the Province of Québec and the City of Montréal, as well as McGill University, Université de Québec à Montréal and the Cégep du Vieux Montréal college are still listed as partners for the conference.
B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn expressed disappointment that, despite the federal government’s distancing itself from the WSF, public funds are still invested in the “anti-Semitic conference.”
As for the WSF’s apparent policy of excluding pro-Israel individuals, Mostyn said: “The idea that public money is being invested in an event which not only spreads anti-Semitism, but also bars attendees based on ethnicity is contrary to the multicultural and pluralistic values that we as Canadians value so highly.”
“Any partnership by governmental agencies is entirely inappropriate for this event, and we call on both the government of Québec and the City of Montréal to pull all support from the WSF,” said Mostyn.
Last week, the CBC reported that hundreds of people planning to participate in the WSF were denied visas to enter Canada.