OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has greenlighted a libel action brought by a pro-Palestinian activist against B’nai Brith Canada, Canadian Press reported Oct. 15.
As usual, the high court gave no reason for declining to hear an appeal from B’nai Brith. The development clears the way for lawyer Dimitri Lascaris to pursue a libel case against the Jewish advocacy group.
The matter goes back to August 2016 when B’nai Brith published an article alleging Lascaris supported terrorism following a trip he made to Israel.
The article, and a subsequent tweet, charged that Lascaris had used social media “to advocate on behalf of terrorists who have murdered Israeli citizens.”
Lascaris initiated a libel case against B’nai Brith, which sought to dismiss the action using anti-SLAPP legislation, a legal tool designed to prevent use of courts to silence speech that is deemed to be in the public interest.
B’nai Brith succeed in Ontario’s Superior of Court of Justice but that decision was overturned by the province’s Court of Appeal, which reinstated Lascaris’s action.
He is seeking $220,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, plus costs.
Lascaris was the recent runner-up for the federal Green Party leadership. He has a long history of pro-Palestinian activism, including representing organizers of the annual al-Quds Day rally in Toronto.
This is not the first time B’nai Brith’s reliance on Ontario’s anti-SLAPP law faltered.
In January, an Ontario court dismissed a motion from the Jewish group, which sought to squelch a defamation lawsuit brought against it by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).
CUPW had made common cause with its Palestinian counterpart, the Palestinian Postal Service Workers Union, which B’nai Brith said “supports terrorism and the elimination of Israel,” and that CUPW’s leadership “had aligned itself with the path of violence and extremism.”
A judge dismissed B’nai Brith’s request to have the case thrown out under the anti-SLAPP law, saying that, in fact, CUPW’s defamation suit “appears to have merit.”
B’nai Brith is appealing the ruling to the Ontario Court of Appeal. The organization had no comment on the Lascaris matter.
MONTREAL— The biennial Azrieli Music Prizes (AMP) concert – the world premiere of the most recent winning compositions of orchestral Jewish music and Canadian art music – goes virtual this year due to the pandemic.
The concert is scheduled to be live streamed from the Salle Bourgie of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Oct. 22 at 8 p.m.; on the classical music channel Medici TV, and on the AMP Facebook page, free of charge.
Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (NEM), which is resident in the U of M’s music faculty, will be making its debut on Medici TV under the direction of its founder, Lorraine Vaillancourt. Soprano Sharon Azrieli, who created and heads the AMP project, and Hungarian-Canadian mezzo Krisztina Szabò join NEM as soloists.
The performances are part of the total prize package each AMP laureates receives, valued at over $200,000, including $50,000 cash.Two later international performances and a recording of the winning works, to be released on the Analekta label, round out the package.
Keiko Devaux, the inaugural winner of the new Azrieli Commission for Canadian Music, is cited for her work, Arras, which “weaves together the tapestries of her French and Japanese-Canadian heritage.” She is currently completing a PhD in composition at the U of M.
“These collective sonic memories that we have held onto, shared, diffused and celebrated together are what define the Canadian sound to me,” she said.
Yotam Haber’s Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music winner is Estro poetica—armonico III, written for mezzo-soprano solo, chamber orchestra and pre-recorded audio, reflects his interest in the music of the Jewish community of Rome.
“As a composer of Israeli background, I have spent years thinking about how I should look back at my past while looking forward at my future,” he said. “I wished to compose a work using text by modern Israeli poets sung by a mezzo-soprano in conjunction, or in opposition to, traditional cantillation and liturgical texts found in the Leo Levi recordings, virtually always recited by men,” he explained.
Haber is an associate professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory.
Yitzhak Yedid, winner of the Azrieli Prize for Jewish Music, wrote KadoshKadosh and Cursed, which consist of 20 tableaux, or musical scenes, that bridge very different musical traditions.
“My attempt in this composition, and my endeavour for over a decade, has been to broaden the esthetic resources of Western art music through the incorporation of musical elements of Sephardic Jewish music,” explained Yedid, whose ancestry is Syrian and Iraqi. The result is “a strange, surreal atmosphere.”
He is currently a lecturer in composition and piano at the Queensland Conservatorium of Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.
In addition, Canadian composer Jonathan Monro has created a new arrangement for NEM and soloist Azrieli of Pierre Mercure’s classic song cycle Dissidence, which expresses modern humanity’s search for happiness through faith, which is also on the program.
Established in 2014 by the Azrieli Foundation, the biennial AMP accepts nominations for original works from individuals and institutions of all nationalities, faiths, backgrounds, and affiliations, which are then submitted to its two expert juries.
“The three AMP prize packages, valued at $200,000 per laureate, currently makes it the largest music competition for music composition in Canada and one of the largest in the world,” said Azrieli.
On Sept. 6, 1970, 50 years ago last week, Leila Khaled, a Palestinian refugee from Haifa, participated in the hijacking of El Al flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York. The crime was part of a coordinated attack involving 600 passengers on four commercial jets from four airlines, all bound for New York.
The Israeli pilot and crew overpowered the hijackers. Khaled’s accomplice wounded two members of the flight crew and was himself killed. Khaled was handed over to the British authorities when the Israeli pilot landed at Heathrow.
The hijacking was the second one for Khaled, who was also involved in an attack on TWA flight 840 on Aug. 29, 1969. In that earlier act of terrorism, a flight bound for Tel Aviv was diverted to Damascus by six attackers.
With three other aircraft captured on Sept 6, 1970 on the ground in Beirut and Amman, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which was responsible for all of the hijackings, demanded Khaled’s release in return for the release of British hostages. On Sept. 10, the PFLP highjacked a British VC10 to Amman, and on Sept 12, they blew up the airliner. They were holding 300 hostages in Jordan and Lebanon, and by Oct. 1, the UK surrendered to their demands. Khaled, two-time air pirate, was set free. She never stood trial and never expressed any regrets.
More shocking than the fact that she was never tried is that Khaled has spent the 50 years since she escaped justice being treated as an honoured spokesperson for the Palestinian people and their cause. In recent years, she has been a globetrotting advocate of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.
In 2013, B’nai Brith Canada protested when a student group invited Khaled to speak via remote video link at a conference at the University of British Colombia. The organizing group was “Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights,” registered with the Alma Mater Society affiliated with the UBC.
Six years ago, Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada wondered, as did many others, “at a time when we’ve just seen a terrorist tragedy in Boston, and arrests here in Canada due to a bombing plot … which has all been speculated to be a product of homegrown radicalization, why would we [allow] a public institution in Canada to bring in a convicted terrorist to speak to students?”
Khaled, now 76, was back in the news this week because San Francisco State University (SFSU), also funded with public dollars, is implicated in a Zoom panel discussion hosted by the university’s “Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies” program, and scheduled for Sept. 23. University president Lynn Mahoney defended the panel, which is entirely composed of anti-Zionists, as promoting “diversity.”
As news spread of the planned anti-Israel event, held with SFSU’s endorsement, protests were heard from many quarters, but none as poignant as a letter from Rodney Khazzam, who was a child hostage on the flight Khaled hijacked on Sept 6, 1970.
In his letter to the SFSU president, Khazzam bluntly states that Khaled “attempted to kill me, an innocent, civilian child at the time. I am alive because of the heroic pilot who thwarted the hijacking. … When she realized she was being captured and her plan was being foiled, she detonated a grenade and indiscriminately attempted to set if off onboard. By sheer fortune, all her attempts failed.”
In March 2019, SFSU settled two lawsuits alleging that it failed to prevent an atmosphere of antisemitism on campus. This time, the welcome extended to a life-long member of a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s annihilation suggests that the university has not made the changes necessary to prevent antisemitism.
More broadly, the celebration of violence in the academic sphere reveals a profound moral rot, not just at SFSU, but at other universities that welcome unrepentant terrorists.
Addendum: Rodney Khazzam has begun a petition calling on SFSU president Lynn Maloney to cancel Khaled’s appearance.
The aircraft Khaled helped commandeer were “all passenger planes filled with civilians. These were not war planes. Would it be OK for a 9/11 hijacker to teach university students has one survived?” the petition asks.
Khaled, it goes on, is being given the “honour” of speaking at the university “for one reason only: She is an infamous female hijacker/terrorist. That is her claim to fame…It is deplorable to see a State university in America rolling out the red carpet for this woman, to speak and influence college kids on campus. We must sign and stop this from happening.”