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Canada Has Appointed an Israel Basher to a Major Job; But There Is Still Time to Act

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York, US, Sept. 21, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar

My kids have a game called, “Who Said That?” The rules are simple: one player picks a card that has a quote on it, and offers three choices for the speaker or writer.

Let’s play our own version, with this quote:

Contrary to conventional wisdom (which is far more convention than it is wisdom), terror is not an irrational strategy pursued solely by fundamentalists with politically and psychologically warped visions of a new political, religious or ideological order. It is in fact, a rational and well-calculated strategy that is pursued with surprisingly high success rates.

Was that said by:

Osama Bin Laden;
Timothy McVeigh; or
Canada’s newly appointed Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Birju Dattani?

The correct answer is 3.

The quote above is taken from a 2015 presentation Dattani made to showcase his research as a postgraduate student in England at the London School of Economics, and the School of Oriental and African Studies.

During this time, Dattani also tweeted that “Palestinians are Warsaw Ghetto Prisoners of Today” — which linked to an article with the same title. Another tweet linked to an article suggesting a connection between Israeli actions and summary executions by the Nazis and others.

On another occasion, Dattani shared a stage with a member of an Islamic fundamentalist group that’s banned in Britain, wants to impose Sharia law worldwide, and, of course, opposes the existence of Israel.

A reasonable observer might infer a pattern, and wonder how Dattani passed the vetting that surely must have preceded his appointment to his new post, which he’s set to assume on August 8.

So how did this happen?

To begin with, Dattani had previously served as executive director of the Yukon Territory’s Human Rights Commission, and most recently, at a Toronto community college — roles that did not involve a great deal of public scrutiny.  Moreover, he went by a different name, Mujahid Dattani, during his student days.

Mistakes happen. But this is the third time in the past 18 months that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has stumbled into a major scandal that rocks the trust of the Jewish community.

Last year, it emerged that the Canadian government had awarded a six-figure anti racism consulting contract to Laith Marouf, the son of a Syrian diplomat who opined that “Zionism is Nazism, and Apartheid Canada was a model for both of them,” and had posted this July 2021 tweet about former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and the National Summit to Combat Antisemitism Cotler was hosting on behalf of the Canadian government:


In a nation of more than 40 million people, surely there was a better candidate to lecture Canada’s broadcasting industry on the alleged scourge of racism than some antisemite who was spewing hate within plain sight of the nearest Google search.

The Canadian Ministry of Heritage has tried to recover the money it paid to Marouf, but since he’s currently living in Lebanon and busy running “Free Palestine Television,” a venture he launched after the October 7 Hamas massacre, the prospect for getting anything back from him is beyond remote.

The third low point was the government’s feting of a Waffen SS veteran in Parliament last September, which cost the Speaker of the House his job.

To call the relationship between Canada’s Jewish community and Trudeau’s governing Liberals “troubled” would be a polite understatement at this point.

And the government has only itself to blame.

The Trudeau Liberals aren’t a collection of raging antisemites, but their fealty to an intersectional ideology that’s hostile to the Jewish State and that sometimes bumbles into open antisemitism has given them a blind spot. Which is why, where the Jews are concerned, Trudeau and his party can’t stop stepping on these metaphorical rakes.

According to intersectional dogma, Jews — and Zionists especially — are “white,” and, as such, are members of an oppressor class that can be offended with little concern.

If someone seeking to be the nation’s top human rights adjudicator had demonstrated bias against any other group — Black, Indigenous, trans, or Muslim, for example — that bias would have been disqualifying at the outset.

If it was missed after an appointment was announced, the outrage would have been widespread, Trudeau’s apology swift, and the job offer immediately rescinded.

Dattani is still set to assume his new role.

His appointment has been made more untenable by virtue of the fact that the job has become more important than it was a few months ago.

An unapologetic progressive activist, Trudeau recently passed an Online Harms Act with broad reaching powers. Some of the measures, such as new obligations imposed on social media platforms to monitor child pornography and so-called revenge porn, are unambiguously good ideas.

But the legislation also gives the Canadian Human Rights Commission new powers to regulate “communication of hate speech” with fines of up to C$50,000 (US$36,500).

The potential chilling effect of that cudgel has always been problematic, which is why ensuring the Commission’s leadership is both unbiased and seen to have unimpeachable judgment is critical.

One might be inclined to attribute the views publicly expressed by Dattani during his student days as the strident immoderation of youth.

In most other jobs, that might be a good enough explanation.

But how would a Chief Commissioner Dattani respond to a Laith Marouf? Would his willingness to sanction Marouf be tempered by fellowship over their shared opposition to Israeli policies? Would his views be any different if instead of being an antisemite, Marouf was a white supremacist, a homophobe, or a cheerleader of militant West Bank settlers?

How would Dattani view the excesses in his own rear view mirror, many of which no doubt have him cringing for reasons beyond the high-status job (which pays between C$335,100 and C$394,200, plus a generous pension) he stands to lose as a result of them.

Very few people are the sum of the worst online posts they send out into the sea of cognitive effluent that is social media.

But the person who is expected to deter and — if necessary, punish — that kind of behavior ought not to be someone who has online excesses of his own, which were made under a different name, and not candidly disclosed to those who vetted him for the job.

At last count, antisemitic outrages represented 56% of reported hate crimes in Toronto, Canada’s largest city. In such a climate, having questions of anti-Jewish bias hang over the nation’s newly empowered hate crimes czar would profoundly undermine the legitimacy of the role and the prospects of success for Trudeau’s new Online Harms bill.

The Canadian Justice Department is currently investigating Dattani’s past conduct. One can only hope that at the end of the process, the government finds itself with a Chief Commissioner who comes to the role with less baggage.

Ian Cooper is a Toronto-based lawyer.

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One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.


Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

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Putin Jails US Reporter Gershkovich in Sham Trial

A Russian secret court found U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich guilty of espionage on Friday and sentenced him to 16 years in a maximum security penal colony in what his employer, the Wall Street Journal, accurately called “a disgraceful sham conviction.”

Gershkovich, a 32-year-old Jewish American who denied any wrongdoing, went on trial in the city of Yekaterinburg last month after being accused of trying to gather sensitive information about a tank factory.

He was the first U.S. journalist accused of spying in Russia since the Cold War, and his arrest in March 2023 prompted many U.S. and other Western correspondents to leave Moscow.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Gershkovich did not commit any crime and has been wrongfully detained.

“We are pushing hard for Evan’s release and will continue to do so,” Biden said in a statement. “Journalism is not a crime.”

Video of Friday’s hearing released by the court showed Gershkovich, dressed in a T-shirt and black trousers, standing in a glass courtroom cage as he listened to the verdict being read in rapid-fire legalese for nearly four minutes.

Asked by the judge if he had any questions, he replied “Nyet.”

The judge, Andrei Mineyev, said the nearly 16 months Gershkovich had already served since his arrest would count towards the 16-year sentence.

Mineyev ordered the destruction of the reporter’s mobile phone and paper notebook. The defense has 15 days to appeal.

“This disgraceful, sham conviction comes after Evan has spent 478 days in prison, wrongfully detained, away from his family and friends, prevented from reporting, all for doing his job as a journalist,” the Journal said in a statement.

“We will continue to do everything possible to press for Evan’s release and to support his family. Journalism is not a crime, and we will not rest until he’s released. This must end now.”

Gershkovich’s friend, reporter Pjotr Sauer of Britain’s Guardian newspaper, posted on X: “Russia has just sentenced an innocent man to 16 years in a high security prison. I have no words to describe this farce. Let’s get Evan out of there.”

Friday’s hearing was only the third in the trial. The proceedings, apart from the sentencing, were closed to the media on the grounds of state secrecy.

Espionage cases often take months to handle and the unusual speed at which the trial was held behind closed doors has stoked speculation that a long-discussed U.S.-Russia prisoner exchange deal may be in the offing, involving Gershkovich and potentially other Americans detained in Russia.

The Kremlin, when asked by Reuters earlier on Friday about the possibility of such an exchange, declined to comment: “I’ll leave your question unanswered,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Among those Russia would like to free is Vadim Krasikov, a Russian serving a life sentence in Germany for murdering an exiled Chechen-Georgian dissident in a Berlin park in 2019.

Officers of the FSB security service arrested Gershkovich on March 29, 2023, at a steakhouse in Yekaterinburg, 900 miles (1,400 km) east of Moscow. He has since been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

Russian prosecutors had accused Gershkovich of gathering secret information on the orders of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency about a company that manufactures tanks for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

The Uralvagonzavod factory, which he is accused of spying on, has been sanctioned by the West. Based in the city of Nizhny Tagil near Yekaterinburg, it has publicly spoken of producing T-90M battle tanks and modernizing T-72B3M tanks.

Earlier on Friday, the court unexpectedly said it would pronounce its verdict within hours after state prosecutors demanded Gershkovich be jailed for 18 years for spying. The maximum sentence for the crime he was accused of is 20 years.

Russia usually concludes legal proceedings against foreigners before making any deals on exchanging them.


Gershkovich, his newspaper and the U.S. government all rejected the allegations against him and said he was merely doing his job as a reporter accredited by the Foreign Ministry to work in Russia.

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia is open to a prisoner exchange involving Gershkovich, and that contacts with the United States have taken place but must remain secret.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that Washington was working every day to bring home Gershkovich, former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and other Americans.

He declined to go into details when asked why Putin would reach a deal on Gershkovich’s release ahead of the U.S. election.

“Any effort to bring any American home is going to be part of a process of back and forth, of discussion, potentially of negotiation,” Blinken said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

“Depending on what the other side is looking for, they’ll reach their own conclusions about whether it meets whatever their needs are, and we can bring someone home – and I don’t think that’s dependent on an election in the United States or anywhere else,” he said.

Mark Warner, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, called Gershkovich’s sentence “outrageous,” and said he thinks “it’s clear that the Russians view Evan almost as a bargaining chip at this point.”

Speaking in an interview with Reuters, Warner declined to discuss whether efforts are underway to arrange an exchange for Gershkovich’s release, but said “all options have to stay on the table” with regards to how the Biden administration responds.

Friends who have exchanged letters with Gershkovich say he has remained resilient and cheerful throughout his imprisonment, occupying himself by reading classics of Russian literature.

At court appearances over the past 16 months – most recently with his head shaven – he has frequently smiled and nodded at reporters he used to work with before he himself became the story.

Since Russian troops entered Ukraine in 2022, Moscow and Washington have conducted just one high profile prisoner swap: Russia released basketball star Brittney Griner, held for smuggling cannabis, in return for arms dealer Viktor Bout, jailed for terrorism-related offenses in the United States.

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VP Harris Hits Fundraising Trail Amid Ongoing Calls for Biden to Quit Race

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will headline a fundraiser in Massachusetts on Saturday as President Joe Biden faces continued pressure from fellow Democrats and big money donors to end his floundering campaign.

Biden and top aides on Friday vowed to continue with the campaign, even as major donors signaled they were unwilling to open their checkbooks unless the 81-year-old president stepped aside.

The crisis-in-confidence in Biden’s ability to win has placed a huge spotlight on Harris, widely believed to be the most likely replacement if he steps down.

Her fundraising events, including the one on Saturday in Provincetown, Massachusetts are getting added interest from donors who want to signal they are willing to coalesce around her potential bid for the White House, according to three Democratic fundraisers.

More than one in 10 congressional Democrats have now publicly called on Biden, who is isolating at his Delaware home with a case of COVID-19, to drop out following a disastrous debate last month against Republican former President Donald Trump that raised questions about the incumbent’s ability to win the Nov. 5 election or carry out his duties for another four years.

Biden’s campaign hoped to raise some $50 million in big-dollar donations in July for the Biden Victory Fund but was on track for less than half that figure as of Friday, according to two sources familiar with the fundraising efforts.

The campaign called reports of a July fundraising slump overstated, noting that it anticipated a drop-off in large donations due to vacations. It said the campaign still has 10 fundraisers on the schedule this month.

Harris assured major Democratic donors on Friday that the party would prevail in the presidential election as more lawmakers called for her running mate, Biden, to stand down.

“We are going to win this election,” she said on a call arranged on short notice to calm donors, according to a person on the call. “We know which candidate in this election puts the American people first: Our president, Joe Biden.”

Harris attended the call “at the direct request of senior advisers to the president,” one of the people said, an account confirmed by another person familiar with the matter.

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