Canada’s New Democratic Party must choose. Support party grassroots activists and do the right thing regarding Palestine, or cave to pressure from well-organized lobbyists who defend the state of Israel, regardless of the crimes it commits.

On August 26, Jagmeet Singh sent an email to supporters that significantly sharpened the NDP’s critique of Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession. “We believe Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories is at the centre of the challenges facing the Palestinian and Israeli people,” the NDP leader states in an email that listed 13 demands of the Liberals concerning Palestinian rights.

But the party never published the statement on its website or posted it to social media. It was only emailed to a list of individuals the NDP (presumably) identified as backers of the Palestinian cause.

Still, a number of left-wing media reported on the email, including, The Maple, The Orchard, Palestine Chronicle, and Rabble.

Additionally, the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, Independent Jewish Voices, Just Peace Advocates, National Council of Canadian Muslims, and many others, publicized the NDP’s 13 demands.

After it received significant attention in leftwing circles, including NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson defending it, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) published a press release and action alert criticizing Singh’s statement for “laying all blame at the feet of Israel.”

Two weeks after Singh sent the email, CIJA sent an email to its supporters urging them to “Tell the NDP to stop using this divisive rhetoric that infantilizes Palestinians, demonizes Israelis, and ignores the reality on the ground.”

Possibly in response to the anti-Palestinian pressure, Singh attended CIJA’s recent lobbying session on Parliament Hill. The event promoted a country that Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN Special Rapporteur, and other human rights groups, have all recently accused of committing the crime of apartheid.

Even worse, the event celebrated an odious accord Donald Trump signed to recognize Moroccan rule over Western Sahara (“Africa’s last remaining colony”) in exchange for Rabat establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.

In their tweet about Singh attending “A Taste of Morocco and a Sip of Israel,” CIJA noted, “we had a frank and productive discussion with Jagmeet Singh. We hope it will lead to changes in the NDP’s Middle Eastern policy.” The lobby group followed up with a stunning email action to their supporters titled “Jagmeet Singh: Your Middle East Policy is Dangerous for Jews.” In its message calling on people to email the NDP, CIJA says, “policies like those we saw in the letter breed antisemitism here at home — they put Jews in danger.”

The letter adds, “At CIJA, we’ve been pushing non-stop. Meetings, emails, letters, phone calls, text messages, pull-asides — anything and everything. We even took the opportunity to have a candid talk with Mr. Singh when he arrived at our parliamentary reception — you probably saw the tweet. We’re meeting his team again in the coming days, but they need to understand this isn’t just CIJA ringing the alarm bell — they need to hear that the alarm is coming from across the country. They need to hear directly from you.”

A CIJA official told Politico “more than 5,000 letters” were sent to Singh and NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson regarding the 13 demands on Palestinian rights.

Adding to the pressure, CIJA board member Steven Shafir published a recent column in multiple Sun Media papers headlined, “The NDP’s Middle East policy is to blame Israel entirely.” Shafir complained, “In an email last month, Jagmeet Singh’s NDP conveyed its new policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it was as if McPherson’s biased tweets, compiled in an email, had become the party’s new Middle East policy.”

It’s unclear what motivated Singh to send out his list of 13 demands on Palestine. The party’s position on Palestinian rights has steadily improved since 2021 when 85 per cent of delegates at the NDP’s April convention voted for the Palestine Resolution. Since becoming foreign affairs critic in November McPherson has repeatedly questioned the government about Amnesty International’s report finding Israel responsible for the crime of apartheid. Considering the NDP’s alignment with the Liberals on Russia and many domestic issues, the party needs issues that differentiate it from the government while exciting its base. Palestine appears to be that international issue.

At the same time the party is vulnerable to activist criticism over its ties to the Israel lobby. Just prior to Singh’s 13-point email a public letter began circulating in party circles calling on the NDP to withdraw from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group. Signed by 40 groups and 200 individuals, including Noam Chomsky, Svend Robinson, Linda McQuaig and Roger Waters, the letter points out that “it is incoherent for the NDP to echo the findings of prominent human rights groups’ while simultaneously participating in a group promoting ‘co-operation’ with Israel.”

Since it was publicly released more than 1,200 individuals have emailed asking “Singh to formally disassociate the NDP from the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group.”

On Singh’s 13 demands regarding Palestine, thousands have sent supportive emails through campaigns instigated by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and others. As part of a Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East email campaign launched four days ago, 3,300 individuals have written to thank Singh and encourage him to put its “admirable Palestine policies into action.”

Clearly the NDP is being pulled in two directions. Who will the party listen to? The people CIJA and Sun Media have mobilized, who are unlikely to ever vote NDP? Or party activists, people of conscience and millions of Canadians who support Palestinian rights?

The NDP leadership should follow the path of social justice and party democracy. Ignore the Israel lobby’s backlash.