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Jewish association wants Vancouver pro-Palestine group banned

Samidoun opposes Canada's 2002 designation of Hamas as a terrorist group.
Charlotte Kates, the Vancouver-based international coordinator of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Despite a four-day ceasefire expected to begin Friday in the Israel-Hamas war, the highest-profile protest in Ottawa since the 2022 truckers convoy is going ahead Saturday. 

A poster promoting bus tickets on the Palestinian Youth Movement’s Instagram group bills it as “the largest Palestinian march in Canadian history on Parliament Hill to demand an end to this genocide and a Free Palestine!”

“On Nov. 4 we made history in a national march on Washington, D.C. to demand a ceasefire, an end to U.S. funding to Israel and to lift the siege on Gaza. This Nov. 25, help us bring our demands to Ottawa in a national march on Parliament Hill.” 

It also includes a link to a website to send donations, in U.S. dollars, to one of its sponsors, the WESPAC Foundation in White Plains, N.Y.

At the same time as the march in Ottawa, a consortium of pro-Palestine groups in the Lower Mainland will hold what they call a “child-led” demonstration outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. One of those groups is the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), which represents Jewish federations across Canada, wants the Canadian government to follow the lead of Israel and Germany and ban Samidoun. CIJA’s website says Samidoun is related to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which Ottawa declared a terrorist organization in 2003. 

“Most disturbing to Canada’s Jewish community, Samidoun has a significant and active presence in Canada where it holds events, raises funds, runs advocacy campaigns, and organizes activities on university campuses,” said the CJIA website. “Regularly, Samidoun officials call for violence at these events.”

Samidoun held a banner-drop from the Georgia Viaduct on Oct. 8, after calling the bloody Hamas Oct. 7 invasion of Israel “heroic.” Since then, Samidoun has co-organized protests where far-left activists like Harsha Walia and Nathalie Knight have spoken passionately and positively about the terrorist attack that prompted Israel to retaliate. 

More than 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 kidnapped in the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. The Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry claims more than 14,000 Gazans have been killed since the Israel Defence Forces vowed to eradicate Hamas. 

Samidoun opposes Canada’s 2002 designation of Hamas as a terrorist group. Instead of calling what happened Oct. 7 in Israel terrorism, Samidoun calls it “resistance” against the “Zionist regime.” 

Just three days after the Israeli government banned Samidoun at the end of February in 2021, Samidoun incorporated as a federal not-for-profit in Canada. Directors are Charlotte Kates of Vancouver, Dave Diewert of Surrey and Thomas Gerhard Hofland of Netherlands. The Samidoun website said it is unable to accept online donations, but seeks paper cheques via the Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ) in Tucson, Arizona. Last February, AFGJ lost its credit card processor after the pro-Israel Zachor Legal Institute in Montana complained to the U.S. government. 

Kates, the international coordinator for Samidoun, is originally from New Jersey and married to Samidoun founder Khaled Barakat. They were reportedly banned from entering the European Union in 2022. Kates is a fixture at Vancouver-area pro-Palestine protests. She was part of the protest mob that chased Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from Vij’s restaurant on Nov. 14 and followed Trudeau to the Bagheera speakeasy in Chinatown. Kates led chants in an alley where protesters were face-to-face with a line of Vancouver police officers. 

Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University in Jerusalem, is an independent watchdog of non-governmental organizations and their financing. He said Canadians deserve to know more about Samidoun, especially at a time when foreign interference is a major concern. 

“Groups like Samidoun are not transparent,” said Steinberg, who founded NGO Monitor in 2002. “They don't tell you where they're getting their money from. As far as I am concerned, any organization that's registered as a legal body, in some form or another, if they want to be able to do protests in a democratic country, should at least publish every year, a list of all their donors, and it has to be verifiable.” 

Steinberg said that NGOs exert significant influence on public opinion and lobby politicians in a variety of ways, but they operate under minimal to non-existent checks and balances. Steinberg has witnessed the fundraising and campaigning landscape evolve with technology, such as the rise of social media platforms and influencers, the ubiquity of smartphones and the proliferation of online banking, money transfers and cryptocurrency.

“Banks are regulated, everywhere in the world, every democratic country, every country, to examine that they're not doing things that are immoral, illegal,” he said. “There are ethics, there are processes. In the NGO world, there is none of this.”

Nobody from Samidoun responded to requests for copies of Samidoun’s financial and compensation reports. 

Kates was, however, a guest Nov. 12 on the DSA International Committee’s virtual forum called “From the River to the Sea: Palestinian Resistance and the Threat of Regional War.”  

Kates said on the forum that the “Palestinian resistance” — including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP — must be supported because it “is on the front lines of defending humanity against fascism, is on the frontlines of defending humanity against imperialism.” 

Kates said a ceasefire in Gaza is not enough. Instead, she campaigns for the defeat of Israel and complete liberation of Palestine “from the river to the sea.” She also called the events of Oct. 7 “a response to a popular demand” to liberate Palestinian prisoners and their leaders. 

"We will not only not condemn the Palestinian resistance,” Kates stated. “But we will uphold the Palestinian resistance and call for its victory, and declare that every single one of these listings, so-called terrorist listings, must be defeated, must be removed, because these are liberation forces.”