Canadian Complicity in Israeli War Crimes: Electoral Politics
It's time to be clear as we approach the 28th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo accords that the pivotal issue now is the system of Israeli apartheid and its devastating effects on the Palestinian people and nation.
Pro-Palestine activists in Canada are continuing to highlight years of biased foreign policy as Canadian voters are once again going to the polls, just 2 years after the last federal election.
In August 2019, faced with the same situation, the #IVotePalestine campaign was launched to try and educate the public on the decades of official Canadian complicity in Israeli war crimes. And why such complicity had tarnished any credibility of Canada as an international or neutral “honest broker”.
Much has happened in the intervening two years. Canada lost its bid for a UN Security Council, in large part due to its anti-Palestinian policies. There have been significant steps in progressive circles to bring the Palestinian issue forward, including a resolution passed at the last New Democratic Party NDP Convention in April 2021. All of this has resulted in more voices during this election campaign calling for justice for Palestine.
The two main Canadian parties that have governed for decades, the Liberals and the Conservatives, have only a few substantive differences in their approach to Palestine; in fact, these two parties engage in a macabre competition to see who can best serve "Israel’s" interests. A sitting Liberal MP recently tweeted how the Trudeau government’s voting record at the United Nations was more supportive of "Israel" than his conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper, and concluded it with her own pronouncement that “I will always fight anti-Semitism”. The leader of the opposition Conservatives just repledged last week that he will move Canada’s embassy to Jerusalem if elected.
The Liberal Party, however, is extremely adept at performative gestures to present itself as being concerned about Palestinian rights while at the same time, consistently promoting actions that help entrench Israeli expansionism and aggression. As noted earlier this year by Canada Palestine Association, in a statement on Canada’s support for "Israel" at the International Criminal Court:
Canada will make some shallow gesture or nice photo-op, to show that they really do care about Palestinians and their rights. Some funding for UNRWA, but only if we can control the books in their schools and every action from their senior managers. Or a Canadian diplomat shows up in a photo at a West Bank location with EU reps to demonstrate their opposition to yet another Israeli demolition of a school or a village. But don’t expect any further meaningful action once that school is actually demolished, because that type of serious challenge to the Israeli government’s trampling of Palestinian rights is not on the agenda of the Canadian government.”
This is the Canadian political landscape that passes for rational policy on Palestine and Palestinian dispossession, an issue in which Canada has a long and stained legacy of complicity with Israeli ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Navigating this minefield while at the same time maintaining the integrity and truth of Palestinian grassroots demands is daunting and at times surreal.
The #IVotePalestine campaign has been relaunched for 2021, this time led by the Canadian BDS Coalition, and has sent a questionnaire to party leaders as well as candidates standing in the upcoming elections. Their 11 questions cover a broad range of topics, from sanctions on "Israel" to protection of Palestinian children to defense of civil rights in Canada for Palestinian activists. Some of the key points candidates are asked to comment on are:
1. Recognizing Israeli Apartheid
2. Sanctioning Israel and #NoIsraeliArms4Canada
3. Recognizing the right of return for Palestinians
4. No Criminalization of Palestinian Advocacy
The response to the questionnaire has far exceeded organizers’ expectations, especially from NDP and Green Party candidates. Although some stayed within the confines of their official party platform, others spoke up more strongly in support of sanctions on "Israel" and acknowledging the legitimate rights of Palestinians.
There were other encouraging signs during this election campaign. One NDP candidate was forced to delete a controversial tweet from May 2021, that claimed the term Nakba was “offensive to most Jews” and classified it as “hateful language”. The response from both within NDP ranks and from other activists on social media was forceful and loud.
However, activists must also keep up the pressure to ensure that Canada, and other western governments, can no longer hide behind the smokescreen of the failed “two-state” solution. For several decades, Canadian politicians have been allowed to avoid any meaningful challenge on the issue of Palestinian rights as long as they mouth some token words of support for the Oslo accords and the long-delayed and never-delivered mythical Palestinian state. It's time to be clear as we approach the 28th anniversary of the signing of those accords that the pivotal issue now is the system of Israeli apartheid and its devastating effects on the Palestinian people and nation.