ONDP expels member for referring to “Zionist Lobby”

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On November 26, 2022, Henry Evans-Tenbrinke attended an Ontario NDP provincial council meeting which included a discussion about the party’s disciplinary action against MPP Joel Harden earlier that year.  Earlier that month, Harden had been forced to apologize after criticizing Israel for human rights violations, and was accused of being antisemitic by pro-Israel groups[i].  During the discussion at the NDP council Evans-Tenbrinke, a longtime activist with the ONDP, commented on the party's disciplinary action against Harden. Evans-Tenbrinke suggested that the party had caved to the "Zionist lobby," leading an unnamed participant to lodge a complaint against him for using what was claimed to be an antisemitic term.

On January 10, 2024, the ONDP Administrative Committee emailed Evans-Tenbrinke, telling him it was recommending his membership be suspended until he apologized, retracted his comment, and agreed to undergo antisemitism training by either the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) or Project Shema. Responding to that, Evans-Tenbrinke sent a legal letter on March 8, 2024 to the party demanding his right to appeal and clear his name. On March 15, 2024, the ONDP responded through their lawyers that Evans-Tenbrinke was not suspended and was free to participate in party activities. However, in a contradictory message received on the very same day, Kevin Beaulieu, ONDP Provincial Director, sent a letter to Evans-Tenbrinke saying he was still expected to undergo antisemitism training. Evans-Tenbrinke and his lawyer emphasized the importance of distinguishing between antisemitism and legitimate criticism of state policies. They called for a public apology and clarification on the ONDP's stance on the Israel/Palestine issue, highlighting the broader challenge of advocating for Palestinian rights within Canadian political discourse[ii].  

Why is this incident considered Anti-Palestinian Racism (APR)?

Evans-Tenbrinke's use of the term "Zionist lobby" refers to a political ideology supporting the State of Israel and its claims over the land of historic Palestine, rather than being a derogatory comment towards Jewish people. The Arab Canadian Lawyers Association report on anti-Palestinian racism (APR) states that “defaming Palestinians and their allies as being inherently antisemitic” is a classic case of APR[iii].  Pro-Israel voices in Canada are often quick to label criticism of Israeli government policy, and/or its founding ideology of Zionism as antisemitic.  

Zionism, is a movement that emerged in Europe in the late 19th century calling for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.[iv] It is predicated on the religious belief that Jewish people are God’s chosen people, that Palestine was a land without a people, and that Jewish people anywhere in the world have the exclusive right to immigrate and be sovereign in Palestine. Zionism is grounded in the notion of Jewish racial uniqueness and that Jews constitute a race, leading to racial self-segregation, racial-exclusiveness, and racial supremacy[v].

In referring to the “Zionist lobby,” Evans-Tenbrinke was referring to the numerous, well-funded lobby organizations in Canada whose purpose includes, either explicitly or implicitly, a mandate to protect the interests of the state of Israel.[vi]

The ONDP decision to label criticism of Zionism as antisemitic without considering its context in a discussion about Israel’s actions and pro-Israel lobby groups’ political actions reflects a broader tendency to conflate criticism of Israel and Zionism with antisemitism. At the same time, such action marginalizes and undermines socialist and progressive elements within and around social democratic political parties like the NDP.

The case of Henry Evans-Tenbrinke highlights a troubling trend where legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies or criticism of pro-Israel interest groups defending or promulgating of Zionist ideology in Canada is wrongly labeled as antisemitism. Evans-Tenbrinke’s criticism of the “Zionist lobby” centers on the suppression of pro-Palestine and pro-justice voices and is not a display of antisemitism.

Additional Background to the Incident

In his legal letter, Evans-Tenbrinke expressed concern regarding the ONDP's approach to antisemitism and its relationship with pro-Israel lobby groups.  The ONDP’s insistence that he undergo antisemitism training  by pro-Israel groups, prompted Evans-Tenbrinke to question whether the party endorses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, often used to shield Israel from criticism. Evans-Tenbrinke urged the party to reveal its connections with pro-Israel lobby groups like the Centre for Israel and Jewish  Affairs (CIJA.) He emphasized the need for the party to explicitly define its stance on the Israel/Palestine conflict, arguing that it cannot simultaneously “stand for both the oppressor and the oppressed.”[vii]

The resolution sought by Evans-Tenbrinke and his legal team underscores the need for a nuanced understanding of the distinction between antisemitism and legitimate criticism of Israeli state policies. Evans-Tenbrinke’s demand for a public apology from the ONDP and clarification of the party’s stance on the Israel/Palestine issue speaks to a larger conversation about freedom of expression, the importance of distinguishing between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and the necessity for political entities to adopt informed positions on the Palestinian issue[viii]. This incident serves as a crucial reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by those advocating for Palestinian rights within Canadian political discourse, highlighting the urgent need for clarity, fairness, and a commitment to genuine international solidarity.



No Legal action has been filed as of yet.


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[i] Robert Benzie Queen's Park Bureau Chief. “New Democratic MPP Joel Harden under fire for antisemitic comments,” Nov. 21, 2022, Toronto Start, accessed Mar. 21, 2024 at https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/new-democratic-mpp-joel-harden-under-fire-for-antisemitic-comments/article_701697c7-9cd1-5a51-988e-68c517a7c3a7.html

[ii] Henry Evans-Tenbrinke, “Reinstate Henry” accessed Mar. 21, 2024 at https://substack.com/@reinstatehenry/notes

[iii] “Anti-Palestinian Racism: Naming, Framing and Manifestations,” Apr. 25, 2022, Arab Canadian Lawyers Association, accessed Mar. 4, 2024 at https://static1.squarespace.com/static/61db30d12e169a5c45950345/t/627dcf83fa17ad41ff217964/1652412292220/Anti-Palestinian+Racism-+Naming%2C+Framing+and+Manifestations.pdf

[iv] “Zionism,” Encyclopedia Britannica, last updated Feb. 25, 2024, accessed Mar. 13, 2024, at https://www.britannica.com/topic/Zionism

[v] Sayegh, F. (1965). Zionist Colonialism in Palestine. Beirut: Research Centre of the PLO, accessed at https://www.freedomarchives.org/Documents/Finder/DOC12_scans/12.zionist.colonialism.palestine.1965.pdf

[vi] While there are a number of different groups in Canada whose mandate includes defending the interests of the state of Israel, some of the most prominent include the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, B’nai Brith Canada, and the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre

[vii] Henry Evans-Tenbrinke, “Reinstate Henry” accessed Mar. 21, 2024 at https://substack.com/@reinstatehenry/notes

[viii] Henry Evans-Tenbrinke, “Reinstate Henry” accessed Mar. 21, 2024 at https://substack.com/@reinstatehenry/notes