It finally caught up to him. Known by many as “Israel’s man in the Canadian parliament” former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler had his head handed to him in an open forum June 3 at Concordia University.The executioner was human rights activist Dimitri Lascaris who had just returned from monitoring human rights I abuses in Honduras. Story by Ali Abunimah follows below.
Cotler for decades has been dining out as a “human rights crusader,” all the while remaining mute on the massive abuses of Palestinians. To his everlasting shame and still living in a Montreal bubble ex PM Paul Martin in January actually nominated Cotler for the Nobel prize.
This led Mehdi Samadian,Iranian-Canadian activist to write the Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and start a petition to end this egregious, tone deaf and and astounding misstep by the former Prime Minister.
Irwin Coltler has frequently used his status to prevent both his party and the Canadian government from condemning the Israeli violations of international law as well as their constant abuse of human rights against Palestinians. In his most recent remarks he has expressed regrets at the Canadian government’s statement criticizing Israel’s use of force for killing over 60 protesters near the Gaza border in just one day back in May 2018.
Closer to the truth of Cotler’s selective morality and stunning blindness is the summation of writer Yves Engler’s description, “ This supposed promoter of peace and former Liberal justice minister has devoted much of his life to defending Israeli violence…Cotller is a vicious anti-Palestinian who aggressively criticizes “enemy” states while largely ignoring rights violations committed by Canada and the US.
Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler was on stage as one of several “inspiring thought leaders” talking about “pressing human rights issues” at Montreal’s Concordia University on June 3
But one issue the chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights was in no hurry to talk about is Israel’s massive and systematic violations of Palestinian rights.
Cotler was the focus of a disruption that sought to raise the question of Palestine in a place where members of Canada’s liberal elite preferred silence.
As the video above shows, lawyer and activist Dimitri Lascaris jumps up on the stage and challenges Cotler directly, pointing out how Israeli snipers have deliberately killed journalists, medics and unarmed protesters during Great March of Return protests in Gaza over the last year.
Lascaris says that he used to believe that Cotler, a prominent figure in Canada’s Israel lobby, was a “true defender of human rights.”
“But I’ve learned since then that you refuse to criticize a regime which is running roughshod over the human rights of the Palestinian people, and I find that disgraceful,” Lascaris says.
“Are you prepared to criticize Israel for anything?”
Cotler refuses to answer as people in the audience can be heard chanting, “Palestine will be free,” and demanding that the former justice minister address the question about Gaza.
Eventually Cotler asserts that for the last four decades, “I’ve been a supporter of two states for two peoples.”
Event officials criticize Lascaris for disrupting the conference, to which he responds: “I object to a man who was a justice minister of the country of which I am a citizen apologizing for the heinous crimes of an apartheid regime relentlessly.”
“I will disrupt your event to express my objection to this outrage.”
Lascaris is a member of the Quebec Movement for Peace, and two other members of that group, author Yves Engler and human rights activist Malcolm Guy, also mounted the stage to take part in the protest.
Earlier Yves Engler admonished Cotler for his “constant justification of Israeli violence against Palestinians.”
Lascaris told The Electronic Intifada why he thought it was important to protest Cotler, a high-profile member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party.
“Wittingly or unwittingly, Cotler has assumed the function of legitimizing the support for the Zionist entity among liberals and moderate progressives in Canada, and he does this effectively because in matters unrelated to Palestine he has engaged in advocacy promoting human rights around the world,” Lascaris said.
“But he behaves as if historic Palestine is a human rights-free zone and as if the laws that apply to other actors are inapplicable there.”
Indeed, Trudeau has acknowledged Cotler’s influence on the Canadian government’s extreme pro-Israel policies, including its smear campaign against the nonviolent BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement for Palestinian rights.
Cotler’s support for Israel is so unconditional that he publicly rebuked Trudeau’s government for not being pro-Israel enough, and blamed Hamas for Israel’s deliberate shooting of unarmed protesters in Gaza:
The Cotler family’s ties to Israel are such that Michal, Irwin’s daughter, ran in Israel’s elections in April as a candidate for the party headed by Benny Gantz, the general who commanded the Israeli army during its 2014 assault on Gaza that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 550 children.
Bloggers responded to Lascaris’s intervention
This was a brilliant intervention by these activists. In particular, Dimitri Lascaris’ eloquent challenge was very satisfying. The complete moral bankruptcy of this unjustly honoured charlatan and the sort of fraudulent, cosy event that would host him, was fully registered in Cotler’s baffled inability to even address the question. Many thanks for posting. It’s one to savour. Tom Hall
Glad to see that Cotler has been exposed for what he is, a farcical advocate of human rights. His advocacy of human rights ends where Israel, its illegal occupation of Palestinian land and its massive and continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, start. When it comes to freedom, justice, and human rights (all of which are essential elements of the Palestinian issue), there is no room for “selectivity” and/or “partiality.” Ibrahim Hayani
How this academic mountebank has managed to take in so many of his fellow countrymen will ever remain something of a mystery. In the main Cotler’s business in life would appear to consist of exculpating the atrocities perpetrated by Israel’s government, for whose criminal behaviour in Palestine he has taken it upon himself to serve as megaphone in Canada; where it exists at all, the scholarly record of this emeritus professor on closer examination turns out to be exiguous. A remarkable achievement. Dave