Canada faulted for pro-Israel bias

April 27th, 2010 | Posted in Canada, Palestine
    David Heap London Free Press March 2010.


    Photo: Israeli apartheid wall from above cutting through Palestinian lands.

Yves Engler’s new book raises important issues at the centre of debates in this country and about which we all need to become better informed.

The title refers to the conditions Israel imposes on Palestinians, which some say amount to the crime of apartheid, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

Obviously, not everyone agrees with this interpretation, and the point is one that can give rise to a healthy debate.

Engler’s history of Canadian support for the formation of the state of Israel begins with an observation that “Zionism’s roots are Christian, not Jewish.”

He shows in detail that long before Theodore Herzl popularized Zionism among European Jews, various Christian groups were promoting the literal interpretation of the Bible whereby there should be a Jewish homeland in the part of the Ottoman Empire known as Palestine.

Christian Restorationists like Canadian businessperson Henry Wentworth Monk raised money in the 1870s and 1880s for the establishment of a “Dominion of Israel.”

In 1896 Monk wrote about this idea to A.J. Balfour, who later became Britain’s foreign secretary and issued the Balfour Declaration pledging British support for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine.

Thus even before the modern Jewish political movement for settling in Palestine began, western support for the idea of the Jewish state was intertwined with Christian fundamentalism and a world view of Israel as a useful outpost of imperial power.

Engler shows that as Canada’s international alignment shifted from Westminster to Washington, support for Israel remained a constant.

This support often went hand in hand with hostility toward Jews in Canada. Anti-Semitic politicians like E.C. Manning and Mackenzie King supported the foundation of Israel in part as a way of reducing Jewish immigration to Canada.

Engler also documents how the UN partition plan, which gave most of historical Palestine to Israel in 1948, had significant input from Canadians. Key players included then undersecretary of state for foreign affairs Lester Pearson, and Ivan Rand, later first dean of law at the University of Western Ontario.

Canada failed to condemn the ethnic cleansing when a large portion of the Palestinian population was forced into exile and their homes expropriated, and official Canadian support for Israel has continued with few exceptions to the present day.

Engler surveys decades of one-sided Israeli support by Canada in areas ranging from military intelligence to the charitable status of organizations that help fund illegal West Bank settlements through tax- deductible donations in Canada.

The book contends Canada has been “the world’s most pro-Israel country.”

Engler ends by examining the movement to shift our country’s international relations toward “an independent-minded policy rooted in social justice.”

Engler’s style is clear and direct. He writes with passion and careful documentation.

Learning about our country’s history of contributing to the situation in that region gives us a responsibility to seek just and lasting solutions. Canadians who care about our Middle East policy would do well consider its message carefully, whatever their views on the region may be.

David Heap is an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario.

Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid
by Yves Engler, Fernwood Books, $14.95

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