End Canada’s complicity with Israel


May 15, 2024

End Canada’s complicity with Israel

On this May 15, more than seven months into Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza, Palestinians commemorate the 76th anniversary of the Nakba (the Catastrophe). Throughout the years, Canada has always been complicit with Israel and an obstacle to self-determination for Palestinians. Respect for universal human rights and international law demands a radical change in Canada’s policy towards Israel and Palestine.

The Nakba of 1948

On November 29, 1947, in the wake of the Holocaust, the ultimate horror inflicted on Europe’s Jewish populations by European anti-Semitism, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a plan to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Responding to the goal of creating a Jewish national home in Palestine that the European Zionist movement had pursued since the late 19th century, the fledgling UN thus paved the way for other crimes.

In 1948, Zionist militias forcibly evicted from their homes some 750,000 Palestinians, more than 80% of those living on the land that would become the state of Israel. They razed more than 500 Palestinian villages and emptied eleven city neighbourhoods of their Palestinian inhabitants.

These crimes were long obscured by the foundational myth of tiny Israel bravely struggling to be born and to survive in the midst of hostile, uncivilized Arab nations. It is a narrative quite similar to the founding myths of the settler states of the Americas, including Canada, which dispossessed and slaughtered their Indigenous populations. But over the years, the work of Palestinian and Israeli historians has revealed that the expulsion of the Palestinians was not collateral damage from the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948 but rather a meticulously planned ethnic cleansing.

The Nakba: Past and present

But the Nakba isn’t just the horrific events of 1948; it also refers to a process of dispossession that continues to this day. Neither the refugees of 1948 nor their descendants have ever been able to exercise the right of return guaranteed by UN General Assembly Resolution 194, adopted on December 11, 1948. In 1967, Israel conquered the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Ever since, its military occupation and control of these territories has strangled the Palestinian economy, subjected the population to constant harassment and humiliation, and brutally suppressed legitimate resistance. Israel has also illegally settled hundreds of thousands of its Jewish citizens in the occupied territories and continued to confiscate land and dispossess the Palestinian people.

Israel’s genocidal assault on the people of Gaza since October 2023 is part of this ongoing Nakba, a Nakba 2.0. Indeed, some Israeli leaders have spoken of “finishing the job” begun in 1948.

Canada complicit since 1947

Canada has been connected to the history of Israel since 1947. As a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, Canada supported the Zionist position and the partition plan.

Canada is content to name a few of Israel’s longstanding and persistent violations of international law: it says it recognizes Palestinians’ right to self-determination and considers Israeli settlements and the annexation of East Jerusalem to be contrary to international law. But it has expressed no outrage at the countless crimes that are part and parcel of the occupation and settlement of Palestinian territories and, most importantly, has taken no meaningful action. Quite the contrary: Canada regularly professes its “steadfast friendship” with Israel and says that support for Israel “has been at the core of Canada’s Middle East policy since 1948.”

In response to the new atrocities committed by Israel in Gaza over the past seven months, Canada has continued to be complicit, albeit with some face-saving adjustments in rhetoric. Canada finally voted for a ceasefire at the UN and has occasionally expressed “concern” about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. After selling more weapons to Israel from October to December 2023 than in all of 2022, Canada announced that it would not authorize any more arms sales but indicated that it would honour existing contracts. This position did not change after Parliament passed a motion on March 20 calling for a halt to arms shipments to Israel.

For real “fundamental change”

On May 6, 2024, Israel finally launched its promised all-out offensive on Rafah, where 1.5 million Gazans have sought yet another refuge. Israel is now preventing all humanitarian aid from entering the Rafah crossing. On the following day, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly declared that this was “totally unacceptable,” just as she had more than two months earlier.

On May 10, proclaiming a “fundamental change” in its approach, Canada abstained when the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to formally recognize Palestine as a state. Canada said it was “prepared to recognize the State of Palestine at the time most conducive to lasting peace,” even without Israel’s agreement, provided that Hamas plays no part.

But given the scale of the crimes committed by Israel, this is an empty gesture. As Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, recently said, “the scale of the violations committed [by Israel] over the last six months is unprecedented.” Never before have so many children, journalists, health workers and humanitarian aid workers died under bombs. And never has famine spread so rapidly through an entire population as it has as a result of Israel’s orchestrated blockade.

It is high time for Canada to end its “steadfast friendship” with Israel. It is high time for Canada to challenge the colonizing, apartheid, and genocidal state that is Israel. It is high time for Canada to denounce all these crimes and hold Israel accountable. The problem before us is not a supposed Palestinian plan to “drive the Jews into the sea” but the Zionist project to create a Greater Israel from which the Palestinian population has been expelled, suffocated, starved or exterminated. It has been under way for decades. It must stop.

Jean Baillargeon
Martine Eloy
Raymond Legault
Suzanne Loiselle

Members of the Collectif Échec à la guerre