Canada complicit with Israeli war crimes?

January 30th, 2009 | Posted in Boycott, Canada, Palestine, Quebec
    By Stefan Christoff, Sada al Mashrek.

    Photo: Sabrien Amrov. Gaza solidarity protests in Montreal.

Response to Israel’s latest military attack on Gaza in Canada took a strikingly different tone on the streets and within the halls of power.

On the streets across Canada thousands marched in solidarity with Gaza, marking some of the largest Palestinian solidarity demonstrations in Canadian history.

Tens-of-thousands marched in Montreal and Toronto in the cold winter winds calling not only for an end to Israel’s military attack on Gaza but also for a boycott of the Israeli government; sparks of decisive movement in solidarity with Palestine rooted in the international boycott campaign that struck a critical blow to the apartheid regime in South Africa.

In contrast to the striking grassroots response stands Canada’s Conservative government, which backed the Israeli military attack on Gaza. A position that echoes Harper’s crass statements on the 2006 bombardment of Lebanon which categorized Israel’s military assault as “measured”, despite over one-thousand Lebanese being killed, the majority civilians.

Days after Israel began the military bombardment on the population of Gaza, who since 2006 have been under a land, air and sea blockade, Canada’s foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon stated, “Israel has a clear right to defend itself against the continued rocket attacks by Palestinian militant groups … first and foremost, those rocket attacks must stop.”

Canada’s position stands as a clear rupture with the majority of counties around the world who called for an immediate ceasefire, a position backed by the U.N. Secretary General who categorized Israel’s military campaign in Gaza as “disproportionate” and “unacceptable”.

Days after the fragile ceasefire was announced U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the burning rubble of the main U.N. compound in Gaza, bombarded with white phosphorus by the Israeli military stating that the bombing was “outrageous and totally unacceptable,” while also calling for a “investigation” into the killing of over one-thousand civilians in Gaza.

Canada’s role at the U.N. was anything but neutral, standing as the only country to vote against a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council that condemned the Israeli attack on Gaza and ongoing siege imposed on the Gaza Strip a resolution stating that “the Israeli siege imposed on the occupied Gaza Strip, including the closure of border crossings and the cutting of the supply of fuel, food and medicine, constitutes collective punishment of Palestinian civilians and leads to disastrous humanitarian and environmental consequences.”

Absent from the Canadian government’s official statements was an acknowledgement that the Palestinians remain an occupied people, living under the thumb of Israeli military control. International law clearly outlines the right of an occupied people to resist, a critically important right etched into multiple national histories, from Algeria who fought for independence from French colonial occupation, to the great population of South Asia who waged a struggle that employed both armed struggle and civil disobedience to gain independence from British imperial control.

Beyond the Conservative government Israel’s military actions in Gaza were also backed by the Liberal party. “Canada has to support the right of a democratic country to defend itself,” outlined Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, outlining that Israeli military actions in Gaza were defensive, a claim that is very distant from reality.

As an occupied people under Israeli siege the Palestinians in Gaza experienced the violent wrath of the Israeli military, of one of the most advanced militaries in the world, Ignatieff’s claim that Israel’s actions were ‘defensive’ is an offence to the human reality in Gaza.

U.N. officials in Gaza estimated that prior to the Israeli attack more than half the population lived below the international poverty line, “Gaza has historically been exposed to more difficult conditions than the West Bank for a number of reasons, but largely due to the fact that two thirds of the territory are refugees and dispossessed of their property for more than six decades,” outlined Salem Ajluni in 2007, an economist with U.N. working in Gaza, “of course, the situation in Gaza has been made much worse by the progressive tightening of the siege of the territory.”

Despite the hardening of support towards Israel at the highest levels of political power in Canada it is certain that at a grassroots level across Canada there is a growing will to organize in solidarity with Palestine. As multiple student associations and labour unions join the international movement for boycott divestment and sanctions against the Israeli government, Canadian political leaders will be judged by their complicity with Israeli war crimes in Gaza, a complicity which is a striking stain on the morality of Canada’s political elite.

Stefan Christoff is a community organizer and journalist based in Montreal. Christoff is a member of Tadamon!, a collective of social justice activists in Montreal working for justice in the Middle East.

1 Comment »

this is an interesting conference:

“There’s no pretense here that this war had anything to do with rocket attacks-it’s about getting it right,” and restoring Israel’s “deterrence capacity” he said, adding that Hamas fired rockets into Israel only after Israel broke a ceasefire agreement and killed seven militants.

Comment by Viv — January 30th, 2009 @ 3:00 PM

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