Updated July 4, 4:45 PM.
KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Just 4 months before the 2019 federal election, the NDP is has effectively blocked two women of colour from running under its banner.
In the last two weeks, we have seen the federal NDP pull the plug on Rana Zaman in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. Zaman, is a tireless party worker who previously ran for the NDP in Nova Scotia’s 2017 provincial election. This time Zaman recruited hundreds of new members and won the federal nomination.
The trouble began when online trolls leaked Zaman’s August 2018 tweets critical of Israel’s shooting of Gaza protesters. Zaman, who came as a child to Canada from Pakistan, used strong language to castigate Israel. When Zaman posted the tweets, it was five months into the Palestinians’ Great March of Return. By then, according to Amnesty International, Israeli forces had killed almost 150 Palestinians, and injured 10,000– including Canadian emergency room physician Tarek Loubani. Zaman’s tweets compared the Israeli killings to Nazi Germany and likened Gaza to Auschwitz. The tweets were over the top and she quickly issued a heartfelt and genuine public apology. Despite the apology, the NDP revoked her nomination.
Some have suggested that Rana Zaman, as a racialized person, was treated more harshly than a white person would have been. There is some evidence to support this. Her situation is somewhat analogous to that of Matthew Rowlinson, a university professor in London, Ont. In 2015, Rowlinson received the NDP nomination for the federal riding of London West. Previously, he had signed a letter which asserted that “ethnic cleaning” of Palestine was ongoing and that Israel wanted a Jerusalem free of Palestinians. Rowlinson issued an apology and the NDP permitted him to stand as a candidate. The party did not extend the same consideration to Zaman.
Readers may recall that, in the lead up to the 2015 federal election, two NDP hopefuls were prevented from seeking nomination, and two democratically nominated candidates had their nominations revoked by the party because of their criticism of Israel. We have to remember that many Canadians supported Palestinians in the wake of Israel’s horrendous 51-day bombing of Gaza. In the 2014 “Operation Protective Edge,” Israel killed more than 2,200 Palestinians — mainly civilians. Five hundred of the dead were children. In addition, more than 10,000 Gazans were seriously injured by Israel’s bombs.
- Syed Hyder of Edmonton disallowed because he dared to say that Israel was guilty of war crimes against Palestinians.
- The mayor of Clyde River, Nunavut, Jerry Natanine, was rejected from being a federal NDP candidate because he wrote “I often side with the Palestinians because of all the hardship they are facing….”
- The NDP revoked the nomination of Morgan Wheeldon, in Nova Scotia’s riding of Kings-Hants because he called Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza a war crime, and suggested that Israel wanted to ethnically cleanse the region.
- NDP nominee Paul Manly, was prohibited from running in Nanaimo-Ladysmith in BC because in 2012 he had criticized the party for its refusal to support his father, former NDP MP Jim Manly who was imprisoned by Israel as he tried to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. In a strong instance of irony, Paul Manly went on to win a seat for the Greens in the recent federal by-election.
Some in the NDP say the fact that the party dismissed these candidates in 2015 was because then-leader Tom Mulcair personally opposed any criticism of Israel. NDP supporters claim that under the new leadership of Jagmeet Singh, things are changing. But at the February 2018 federal NDP convention, the party brass organized frantically to ensure a resolution to support a boycott of Israeli settlement goods did not come to the floor. This tells us that the NDP power-brokers hold tight to the pro-Israel narrative.
Somehow we have come to live in an alternate universe: Israel’s actual slaughter and wounding of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are considered less blameworthy than the words of those, like Zaman, who condemn it.
Another point: Throwing NDP female candidates of colour under the bus seems to be trending this season.
Just ten days ago, we had the case of Saron Gebresellassi — a lawyer, community activist and recent Toronto mayoralty candidate of Eritrean background. She had recruited nearly 400 people to join the NDP. Working in the poor and immigrant areas of theParkdale riding, Gebresellassi used paper forms to sign up members, and collected their $5 membership fees in cash –as many of her supporters had no credit cards. Gebresellassi presented the forms and the cash to NDP officials. However, the officials never told her at the time that the party had declined to process the names of people on the forms and the cash—because they were not electronically submitted.
At the nomination meeting on 23 June, the NDP decided to manually register the scores of immigrant, poor and disabled who had already filled in the paper forms and given their $5. This resulted in Gebresellassi’s supporters waiting in long lines at the meeting for. Many with young children or those who couldn’t stand in a queue left. The more traditional NDP members who joined online and paid with their credit cards were seated immediately.
Ultimately Paul Taylor, a white man, won the nomination — possibly because the NDP could not register all of Gebresellassi’s members in time for the vote.
The NDP should think long and hard about the optics of these, and also what this says about justice in the Party. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde,
To lose one candidate who is a woman of colour may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
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