Canada’s Political Hypocrisy on the Palestinian Right to Live in Their Homeland

Haaretz reports that after completing the “separation fence” the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon will push the government to “act vigorously to expel Palestinians living illegally within Israeli Arab communities.”1 Haaretz lackadaisically provides no background on the declamations by President George Bush’s “man of peace,” otherwise known as a war criminal drenched with the blood of Palestinian civilians slain in massacres perpetrated under his command, such as at Qibya, and Sabra and Shatila.
 
It is more than puzzling to refer to people who have lived on the land for millennia as “living illegally within Israeli Arab communities.” It is difficult to know what to make of this. Would it be okay if the Palestinians lived within Jewish communities? Obviously not; otherwise there would be no need for an apartheid wall.

So when Sharon says, “We have a difficult problem with the fulfillment of their desire to return by infiltrating Arab cities and villages in Israel,” what Sharon really has difficulty with is the internationally recognized Right of Return — the Palestinians’ desire to live in, what is indisputably, their homeland. It is a right that, if exercised, turns out to be life threatening for Palestinians.

Sharon, who kills Palestinians with impunity, declares, “Anyone who kills a Jew or harms an Israeli citizen, or sends people to kill Jews, is a marked man. Period.” This period was applied too quickly. It should have included Palestinian women and children who are also marked whether or not they have harmed a Jew or an Israeli citizen.
 
This brazenly racist talk by the Israeli prime minister is reported without comment. To put it in context, it would be the equivalent of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin warning that First Nation people living illegally on reservations will be expelled. Then add to this a dire warning to the indigenous people that while they are under attack they must refrain from harming their Christians or Canadian attackers. It is like an affirmation of the philosophy of Albert Camus who postulated, “The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.”
 
The historical truth is that the Americas are an ethnically cleansed landmass. This expulsion of natives in North America continues. Jeffery St. Clair writes of the removal of Navajos from Blue Mountain in Arizona, the Zuni in New Mexico, and the Sioux in South Dakota to enable capitalist exploitation of their lands.2 Conversely, compelling nomadic indigenous people to settle down also has its tragic consequences. The denomadization of the Mushuau Innu of Davis Inlet in Labrador, Canada led to “the almost total destruction of the basic cultural fabric of a whole community.”3
 
The ethnic cleansing committed by Euro-Canadians against the First Nations and Inuit of North America hardly stands them in good stead to pronounce on the moral depravity of other nations. Nonetheless, the US is an unabashed backer of Israel — financing, arming, and protecting Israel from international condemnation for its crimes. Canada is more hypocritical. It mouths its support for the UN Security Council resolutions that support Palestinian rights but then on the other hand it rewards Israel with the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement. The Canadian government caved into Jewish pressure groups and placed Lebanese-based Hezbollah’s social wing on its terrorist list. The Orwellian-named Israeli Defense Forces is supposedly not terrorist.
 
Canada opposed the discussion of Zionism at the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001. Canada’s then Secretary of State for Multiculturalism Hedy Fry opposed attempts to include Palestinian suffering under Israel’s racist occupation on the agenda. Fry even declared Canada’s presence at the conference was “because we wanted to have our voice decry the attempts at this conference to de-legitimize the State of Israel, and to dishonor the history and suffering of the Jewish people. We believe, and we have said in the clearest possible terms, that it was inappropriate — wrong — to address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in this forum.” The twisted logic of stating that a conference on racism was not the appropriate venue to discuss racism against Palestinians is mind-boggling. 
 
The Canadian government sought to keep the International Court for Justice from deliberating over the apartheid wall which encroaches deep into the West Bank stealing more occupied land. Canadian foreign minister Bill Graham maintained “it’s not time for the court to take this as a legal question. It’s better that it remains for discussions between the parties, as mandated by the Security Council.” One wonders how Graham would respond if the US were building a wall penetrating deep into Canadian territory? It is supposedly better by Graham’s reckoning to legally challenge the wall after it is built. As for the efficacy of negotiation, 37 years of contempt for UN Security Council resolutions — during which time Israel has established ever more illegal settlements, and begun construction of the wall — stands in obvious refutation of Graham’s nugatory opinion.
 
Canadian government actions clearly support imperialism.

Opposing Zionist Colonialism
 
While the Canadian government and corporate media fawn over Israel, it is heartening to see some Canadian students true to their moral conviction. 

In September 2003 thousands of people converged on the Concordia University campus in Montreal to demonstrate pro-Palestinian solidarity before former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who many in the crowd consider a war criminal. Riot police showed up and used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd but Netanyahu’s speech had to be cancelled. To stand up for Netanyahu is anathema but the fact remains that even if convicted, Netanyahu’s free speech rights should still be protected. Noteworthy was the outrage expressed by many students who considered their civil rights violated after a temporary ban on campus politics following the “riot.”
 
Last month, the Israeli Consul General in Vancouver, Ya’acov Brosh, became so incensed during his speech at Simon Fraser University that he stormed out of the event put on by student groups Hillel and the Israel Advocacy Committee. Macdonald Stainsby pointed out indignities at the speech, from setting aside the front row “for Jews [read: Zionists] only” to the request that some students leave and thereby “surrender the territory of the student population of Simon Fraser to this form of modern colonialism.”4
 
Taking a moral stand, the response from students was firm:
 
“No,” came the answer. “You get out. Get out of Palestine, get out of the West Bank, get out of Gaza, get out of the Golan Heights, and most importantly, get out of our school.” This school has an explicitly anti-racist policy that people have been unwilling to enforce equally. Thus, we are forced to enforce it ourselves.
 
The refusal of the crowd to allow Brosh to “spew his racist lies” frustrated the diplomat, and losing his decorum he stormed out with a final retort: “You people are never going to win, do you understand? Never! It’s people like you who make it so that you will always lose!”
 
With tempers frayed, one Zionist screams to the Palestinians: “Go back to Palestine!”
 
Stainsby perceptively points out the cruel irony: “However, if this were possible, all of this anti-racist work would not be necessary.”
 
The student demonstrations against the longstanding debacle of ethnically cleansing Palestine of its indigenous people bode well for a morally enlightened next generation of Canadians.

  1. Aluf Benn, “We’ll expel illegal Arabs from Israel,” Haaretz, 2 April 2004. []
  2. Jeffrey St. Clair, Been Brown So Long It Looked Green To Me, (Common Courage Press, 2004). []
  3. Harold Press, “Davis Inlet in Crisis: Will the Lessons Ever Be Learned?Native Studies, 12, 1995. []
  4. Macdonald Stainsby, “Chasing Out Israeli Arrogance: Victory At Simon Fraser University,” Left Hook, 1 April 2004. []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.