Update: Shortly after I published this article I found a meeting has been announced at OISE on Friday protesting the Jewish National Fund- here’s the link.
Update 2: It appears that Porter Airlines is now suing COPE…
Update 3: Two days after publishing this article Megan Kinch of the anarchist-led Media Co-Op publishes a very curious story. For the first time during the strike the protesters have begun using images of a Porter executive- this time, Robert Deluce (and not Tanenbaum or Carty). Kinch is most well-known for her unforgettable interview with a con artist who was waving around cow bones telling her they were from a mass grave on the Six Nations reserve- she doesn’t ask a single critical question, swallows it hook, line & sinker.
Last year Porter Airlines’s refuelling staff joined a union. It was a curious choice of a union, the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) is mostly a union for people who work for unions. They represent staff from CUPE, CUPW, Canadian Association of University Teachers, United Steel Workers, a number of district labour councils, and employees of the federal and Quebec NDP. (And, curiously, COPE Local 81 represents workers at Bombardier’s train manufacturing operations in Thunder Bay- Porter recently signed a contract with Bombardier Aerospace for new jets.)
There are only 22 Porter workers involved in the strike, but they’ve had an extraordinary amount of support. Not only have people from other unions joined in on the protests, but so too have members of Toronto’s anarchist community. There were some familiar names in attendance including the now world famous Vanja Krajina, Alex “Flagpole” Balch, Mark Brill of OCAP, and anarchist schoolteacher Ashleigh Ingle. There were also some high-profile union leaders and politicians including Sid Ryan of the Ontario Federation of Labour, Tony Depaulo of the Steelworkers, and anarchist aficionado MPP Cheri DiNovo.
The question is, outside of supporting the strikers, why have so many radicals gravitated towards supporting this strike? This was a mystery to me until this week, but after some research it has become apparent- it’s about Israel, stupid! (I’m directing the ‘stupid’ at myself, wish I’d researched this earlier.)
Canada’s anti-Israel radicals have a hate-on for Israel that borders on racism. Rather than working towards peaceful solutions, most default towards incendiary language that can only cause further division- the phrase ‘Israeli Apartheid’ is a great example. This sort of hate will only result in adding heat to the fire.
What does this have to do with Porter Airlines? To understand that we need to look at the airline’s ownership and their board of directors.
Larry Tanenbaum is one of Porter Airline’s principal stockholders. He’s most well known to Canadians as an investor in professional sports- including his interests in the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Raptors. In 2002 Tanenbaum helped form a lobbying group called the Israel Emergency Cabinet. In 2005 the radical magazine Canadian Dimension published a critical article titled The New Israel Lobby In Action that featured (among others) Tanenbaum’s strong support of the state of Israel- by definition, most radicals at the Porter protests view him as the enemy.
Donald Carty is the Chairman of Porter’s board of directors, he’s also on the boards of Dell, Sears, Hawaiian Airlines, and (drumroll) Barrick Gold- a company that’s been a major focus of anti Israel protesters. Carty can also be considered a friend of Israel, in 1999 he was awarded the Torch of Conscience Award by the American Jewish Conference.
Barrick is led by Peter Munk, who ‘coincidentally’ is also on the board of the Jewish National Fund- an organization that sees regular protests by the very same people who are protesting Porter. Anti-Barrick activities are led by Sakura Saunders, an American, and a professional agitator who has a long history working for George Soros funded NGO’s. She also works with a number of organizations in Canada including No One Is Illegal, Occupy and the Mennonite funded Christian Peacemaker Teams. Many North American Mennonites hate Israel on a level that’s at par with your typical David Duke supporter.
It’s common for anti-Israel campaigners to hold ‘proxy’ protests against supporters of Israel. Tonight, for example, Saunders is giving a presentation against Peter Munk at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)- one of the country’s hotspots for anti-Israel activity. Saunders will be ‘exposing’ how Munk is funding of the Munk School of Global Affairs as part of an evil plot to implement a “right-wing think tank” at the UofT. (In her world, Saunders believes there should only be extreme left-wing activities on campus- the hypocrisy is amazing).
Last year Saunders, and No One Is Illegal terminated their annual Toronto May Day rally at Barrick Gold’s headquarters- some participants of Occupy Toronto were rather upset when they learned about the anti-Israel angle, but most participants had no problem with it. They’re the same crowd we’re seeing at the Porter protests today. This year the march will terminate in front of Billy Bishop airport “in support of Porter workers”. No One Is Illegal is funded through student fees by the (anti-Israel) Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) at York University.
Knowing all this, it’s easy to understand why so many anti-Israel radicals are so enthusiastic to cause problems for Porter Airlines- the opportunity is irresistible. And that’s okay, it’s their right to do so- but, the question has to be asked if the radicals are putting their fervent hate of Israel over the needs of the Porter strikers they claim to be supporting. Their history of hurting innocent people in order to achieve their political goals has is far from admirable. (e.g. Many good people were hurt by them during Occupy).
Allies of the anti-Israel movement are chipping in to help the porter workers. Besides appearing at support rallies there have also been cash donations. The Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s Association gave $30,000 to the porter workers- last year this same union passed a controversial resolution against Israel (just about every organization supporting the strike has) it’s unknown if they’re aware of the anarchist influence on the strike.
Considering all of the donations, moral support and camaraderie they’re providing, it wouldn’t be difficult for the radicals to encourage Porter strikers to elongate their dispute. And, considering the long wake of victims they’ve left in their path, it’s not unthinkable that they’d take advantage of this situation.
Ultimately, the only people who can decided if the strikers are being used or not are the strikers themselves. Hopefully they’ll keep this in mind when making their decisions. Because, regardless of one’s opinion on the Israel/Palestine conflict (or about Barrick Gold), it wouldn’t be fair to see the strikers being used as pawns…