As I’ve noted earlier today, Jonathan Kay from the the National Post in Canada published an article picking up our story about the possibility that Palestine House in Toronto may be behind the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) “protest” letter by Naomi Klein, John Greyson and the rest.
Well, the National Post article generated two responses that were published on the “protesters” website.
A certain Jenny Peto has come forth on the website of the “protest” letter to TIFF to claim that the phone number used under the title Palestine House Media in a CAF press release sponsored by Palestine House is actually her personal phone number. In her reply she writes,
I am a Jewish-Canadian who is involved in the Palestine solidarity movement in Toronto. Despite Kay’s accusations, I am not affiliated with Palestine House, the Canadian Arab Federation or The Palestinian Authority. I have however, on various occasions, offered the use of my extra cell phone as a media contact for local events that I happen to support.
Well that is excellent news and I congratulate Ms. Peto for being in the right place at the right time!
But I do have a couple of questions for Ms. Peto and the others who are connected to her and signed on to the “protest” letter since she did publicize her note on the “protest” website and since the press release under question, the one with her phone number that matched the Palestine House Media phone number, claimed it was written by the “organizers” of the letter…
1. In a quick google search, it appears that Ms. Peto is affiliated with an organization called “Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid” or CAIA.
2. A search on Google for CAIA and Palestine House shows they are joined at the hip. In fact, both are listed together in a public letter to the Royal Ontario Museum about their Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition. This is not a small piece of information since the original protest letter as well as John Greyson’s letter both mentioned the Toronto Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition, and the National Post’s Kay informs us that Palestine House advocated against the exhibition just 4 days after the Palestinian Authority published a letter to the Royal Ontario Museum attacking the upcoming show. CAIA appears to have also been directly involved with the attacks against that show and they are mentioned together (partners?) with Palestine House in this article.
3. Jenny Peto was involved as well In this press release about a demonstration against the war in Gaza, where she is listed along with a board member of, you guessed it, Palestine House as a keynote speaker and once again her phone number appears as a listing for “Palestine House Media.” By the way, the board member of Palestine House, Rafeef Ziadah, is also listed on different sites as a “facilitator,” “organizer” and “member” of CAIA.
4. In another press release from Palestine House, CAIA is listed as the email contact.
6. The CAIA contact phone number can be seen on numerous Palestine House activities, press releases and other connected information.
7. In this press release, Jenny Peto is listed as the CAIA spokesperson, and the phone number for CAIA is her infamous one ending in 3703 (the one that began this little investigation)…but under that number is a contact number for…Palestine House which is not even mentioned anywhere in the press release.
8. In the original Canadian Arab Federation and Palestine House press release where I found the phone number that Jenny Peto tells us is her own, that phone number is listed as “Palestine House Media.” However, on Page 13 of that press kit, there are contact numbers. One is to…Jenny Peto of www.caiaweb.org and that phone number is listed as a cell phone number. That number ends in 4746 while the Palestine House Media number ends in 3703. Even if Ms. Peto offers her “extra cell phone” to “as a media contact for local events,” isn’t odd that the same person who is wearing a CAIA hat is also at the same time wearing a Palestine House hat?
I know, it’s all one big coincidence, not one big orgy.
Maybe some enterprising reporter can clear up where CAIA begins and Palestine House ends?
And if they are indeed working together extensively, or even organizationally directly connected somehow, which is what I suspect thanks to all of these new links, will somebody also clarify for us whether Palestine House is connected to the Palestinian Authority and how Mr. Masri came to appear at the press conference held by the “protest” group? How do his former connections with the “PLO” come into play, if they do?
Simple questions. Right?
Click on the link for more and for RESPONSE 2 which comes from Palestine House itself.
I apologize for the fact that I am posting anonymously and understand fully why this would make anybody reading this chuckle with a dismissive wave of the hand, which is why I encourage you to explore the links yourself and come to your own conclusions.
I guess I should also add that there is nothing wrong with advocacy, even if it is anti-Israel advocacy. Canada is a free country, Israel is a free country, the US is a free country and we cherish the freedom to speak openly. Criticize Israel (unfairly) all day long if you wish, but can somebody please clarify all this mystery for us anyway?
It does matter when what is purportedly a grass roots movement is actually controlled by organizers who may be professionals and it would especially matter if there is a connection, indirect as it might be, to the Palestinian Authority. In his open letter to Robert Lantos, John Greyson brought up questions, despite public denials by TIFF, as to the financial connections between the Israeli government and TIFF. To set an example, the organizers of this “protest” should at least be as forthcoming about who they’ve been working with and to what extent.
Palestine House has responded to the National Post article. The strange thing is that their response appears on the same website as the original “protest” letter by the supposedly independent “protest” letter authors.
Palestine House writes,
“Palestine House is an independent community organization with no ties, financial or political, to the Palestinian Authority.
It is unfortunate that instead of focusing on the real issues raised by the Toronto Declaration and truly opening up the debate on the question of the â€œBrand Israelâ€ initiative, some are trying to create a story to delegitimize the protest. We urge Mr. Kay and others in the media to seriously address the questions brought up by this important protest.
First of all, I can’t tell you how ironic it is to see this organization complain about changing the subject on them with legitimate questions after the way the subject has been changed for this year’s Toronto Film Festival, for the filmmakers who have worked so hard on their movies just to see their thunder stolen by pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli activism supported by Palestine House and for the Israeli filmmakers who have been unfairly branded as accomplices in an apartheid regime. In fact, according to Mr. Greyson, any person who attends the film festival this year is virtually “crossing a…picket line.”
There is very good reason to inquire whether this entire “protest” was guided, even if indirectly, by the Palestinian Authority and also a good reason to ask what are and how extensive are the ties between Palestine House and the “protest” letter writers. I’ve mentioned the presence at yesterday’s press conference by the “protest” writers of Mr. Masri, for example, who formerly consulted the “PLO,” mother organization of the PA, and who is listed as a resource on the press release put out about Gaza by the CAF and Palestine House. What’s his connection? Is he also “independent” like Ms. Peto who just happens to be a key organizer for an organization that has extensive ties to Palestine House? He happens to be a member of the same organization, CAIA.
Fatah has recently decided, in their Sixth Congress, to push ahead with an international movement to protest Israel. How can Palestine House expect people of good faith to think that this sudden increase in boycott activities in Toronto, publicly supported by organizations such as Palestine House, aren’t part of this strategy?
If Israel can be accused of using a marketing campaign to promote itself at a film festival, why should we suppose that it just so happens that a couple of months after Naomi Klein visits Ramallah, seat of the PA, and weeks after Fatah decides to strategically focus on boycotting and alienating Israel from the international community, that purely by happenstance a group of activists rises up and “protests” a slate of films about Tel Aviv in a popular film festival?
At the very least, doesn’t this seem like a reasonable inquiry to make?
Isn’t that inquiry further justified by Palestine House and Ms. Peto’s admission that the phone number used by this group of “protest” writers, has also been used by Palestine House in the past? Isn’t further inquiry required since the organization for which Ms. Peto works (I don’t know whether she is paid or a volunteer, but that is also important in this case), CAIA, is often involved with Palestine House political activities?
Even if nothing is true here, I fail to see how an inquiry is improper or a change of subject that should be avoided. On the contrary, it is important for the public to know whether this was or wasn’t a grass roots protest or something driven by professionals.
The National Post writer, Jonathan Kay, wrote,
“(According to news accounts, PA officials contacted the ROM with their initial protests during the week of Monday, April 6. The Palestine House press release on the subject is dated April 10. What a coincidence.)
Yes, a coincidence. But what is really striking to me is the lawyer-like language used in Palestine House’s denial. The language used in the denial is a little strange. “…No ties, financial or political, to the Palestinian Authority.” Are there other ties, that are not political or financial? Aren’t there other ways to interact with large governments like the Palestinian Authority? Have there been any contacts between members of the PA or people who work with or for them and either Palestine House or this “protest” group in the past several months that may be understood to involve boycotts and protests against Israel? Did any of them specifically involve either the Toronto Film Festival, the York University conference favoring a single state solution or the Dead Sea scrolls show in Toronto?
Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with such contacts. It’s just that they should be public knowledge.
For more Jewlicious.com reading about this:
The PA did not change its charter as per their Oslo obligations. This was recently publicly confirmed before the Fatah conference by two of Fatah’s leaders including Dahlan.