Art by Yousef Amairi

Art by Yousef Amairi
the struggle continues

June 23, 2010

COMMUNITY SUPPORT STRONG FOR M.P. LIBBY DAVIES July 1-31, 2010 issue of People's Voice, Communist Party of Canada Newspaper

(The following article is from the July 1-31, 2010 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)

PV Vancouver Bureau

In response to ferocious attacks by opponents of Palestinian rights, including within her own party, NDP MP Libby Davies is also receiving an outpouring of public support. Backing for Davies is especially strong in her riding of Vancouver East, where she was greeted warmly by voters at the annual "Car Free Day" festival, held June 20 along Commercial Drive.

The hate campaign erupted after an interview was posted on YouTube, in which Davies dated the occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel from 1948. As Palestinian-Canadians and many others have noted, this date is accurate, since it refers to the Naqba, the terror campaign which saw the newly-formed state of Israel destroy dozens of Arab villages and drive hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of the region.

However, the pro-Zionist forces which are pushing to criminalize any criticism of Israel jumped on the interview, making absurd claims that Davies is anti-Jewish. PM Stephen Harper joined in to demand the MP's resignation, and pro-Zionist politicians including NDP MP Thomas Mulcair called on Jack Layton to remove Davies as the party's deputy leader.

Davies apologized for her reference to 1948, in a letter calling this "a serious and completely inadvertent error" and affirming her support for the NDP's two-state solution.

"I reject the allegation that I hate Israel, and I reject the assertion that I said that Israel is illegitimate or an abomination. Neither are true," said Davies.

The interview, staged by a supporter of Israel hoping to ambush Davies, took place at a rally in Vancouver against Israel's murderous May 31 attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Davies has been one of the few elected politicians in English-speaking Canada with the courage to attend public events in solidarity with the Palestinian people. She was one of three MPs who visited Gaza last December; that delegation reported on the humanitarian crisis created by the Israeli blockade and the war against Gaza waged by Israel in December 2008-January 2009.

In the days following the interview, Davies has been the target of an astonishing volume of vile hate messages, often extremely personal in nature. She has been condemned by critics for supposedly being a corrupt or incompetent MP, for being a "dupe" of Hamas, and even for being "a Jew-hater". These absurd charges, mostly by unnamed people, are rejected by Vancouver East residents, who re-elected her in 2008 with 54% of the vote, three times as many as her closest challenger.

Davies is recognized universally in this riding, where she began her activist life during the 1970s as an anti-poverty organizer. She was elected to Vancouver city council in 1982 as a 29-year-old candidate for the Committee of Progressive Electors, and again in 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1990. Her only defeat came in 1993, as COPE's candidate for mayor. She won election to Parliament in 1997, holding the seat for the NDP with increasing victory margins, reflecting her unwavering support for the poor and working people, solid constituency work, and her dedication to human rights. The idea that her support for the Palestinian people indicates "anti-semitism" is seen here as a shameless lie, considering her long and well-known political friendships with a wide range of Jewish progressives in Vancouver.

These lies have also been rejected by a growing list of organizations, including Palestine solidarity groups based in the Jewish community itself. The Vancouver and District Labour Council overwhelmingly adopted a resolution backing Davies at its June 15 meeting, and COPE members gave Davies an emotional show of appreciation at the party's June 21 annual BBQ fundraiser.

While Jack Layton has so far not caved in to demands that he fire Davies as deputy leader, many were appalled when the NDP leader grovelled by sending a formal apology for her statements to the Israeli ambassador to Canada. Layton's reluctance to challenge the pro-US and pro-Israel foreign policy of the Harper Tories is causing enormous unease within the NDP rank and file, the anti-war movements, and sections of NDP supporters across Canada.

Rifts within the NDP are also showing over other issues, such as the Layton leadership's rejection of public ownership or higher corporate taxes as important tools to address the needs of the working class during the economic crisis.

There are suspicions that Layton may engineer Davies' removal before the next election, using some other pretext. Such a move could further erode the NDP's electoral support among progressive movements. On the other hand, Layton's attempts to appease right-wing critics may open the door to higher votes for progressive candidates, especially for the Communist Party of Canada, whenever the next federal election takes place.

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