A recent headline for the Toronto Star reads: “New face of Canada isn’t pretty.” The national affairs columnist, James Travers, writes, “The confluence of domestic politics, Christian fundamentalism and foreign policy is now so strong that Israel’s tail is wagging Canada’s dog.” Yves Engler’s latest book, Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid, reveals that Canada’s stance vis-à-vis Israel is hardly new. Engler also claims that another country is wagging Canada.
The cover of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid speaks loudly. There is an illustration of a wall, obviously alluding to the barrier built by Israel — called the Apartheid Wall — much of it inside what remains of that part of historical Palestine on the west bank of the Jordan river occupied after the 1967 War that Israel unleashed against Egypt. In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled, by a vote of 14-1, that the Apartheid Wall was illegal, its construction must be ceased and reversed, reparations paid to Palestinians, and that all states are obligated to take action (13-2), and that the United Nation’s General Assembly and Security Council should act. Subsequently, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution, by a vote of 150-6, demanding compliance with the world court’s decision. Canada abstained from the vote.
Canadian patriots pride themselves on Canada’s reputation as an honest broker in the world, and they delight in telling how Americans pin Canadian flags on their knapsacks when abroad. Here is where Engler derives much credibility. His critical writing is not fixated on crimes outside his homeland; instead he focuses on the complicity and commission of crimes by Canada. Engler opens a window on the morality of Canada’s behavior in the world.
Engler refers to the dispossession, oppression of Palestinians, and occupation of their land as “one of the world’s longest standing conflicts.” The buzzword for the “conflict” is “apartheid.”
Engler acknowledges Canada’s ongoing, historical abuses against the First Nations of Turtle Island, but he does not define it as, or having been, apartheid. Canada is a state erected by European colonists on the dispossession and “slow-motion” genocide of the Indigenous peoples. Israel is also a state established by European colonists through the dispossession and genocide of the Indigenous peoples. Early in its history, the Canadian state enacted laws and policies that unquestionably personified apartheid. The Original Peoples were placed in small reserves; a people never poor pre-contact became impoverished; the prison population became (and remains) inordinately Indigenous. Although the legislated apartheid in Canada is mitigated (the fearsomeness of the genocide allowed for assimilation as a policy of disappearing the other), the results of the dispossession and genocide still linger.
One myth that Engler compellingly dispels is that Zionism is exclusively Jewish in origin. He points out that its roots have much to do with Christianity: “The Protestant Reformation’s biblical literalism is what spurred Zionism.”
Early on, Zionism had little appeal to most Jews writes Engler. The Nazi Holocaust, however, caused many Jews to flee Europe’s dangerous environment. Canada, however, refused to accept Jewish refugees and regarded them as the “Jewish problem.”
Canadian government indifference to the suffering of others is not atypical. Engler shows that just as Canadian opposition to apartheid in South Africa lacked any conviction, so has any pretense of opposition to the apartheid against Palestinians lacked conviction.
Engler documents the involvement of Canadian authorities (diplomats, judges, politicians, governor generals, and prime ministers) in realizing Zionist aspirations in Palestine.
Canada had a major role in pushing through the United Nations partition plan for a Jewish and Palestinian state. Palestinians boycotted the group charged with investigating the “conflict” – UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP); they held that UNSCOP denied them their rights and self-determination guaranteed under the UN Charter. During the partition planning, Canada towed the American line, an adherence that Engler finds Canada has followed ever since.
He depicts the one-sidedness of Canada – for instance, the sale of armaments to Israel. Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser called it a “hostile act aimed at the whole Arab nation.”
Engler documents Canadian partnerships with Israel in intelligence, security, and business. Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) works closely with Mossad. Mossad has abused Canadian passports in the past – something known and covered up by Ottawa.
The author questions the purpose of the border management and security agreement with Israel – a state Canada shares no border with.
Militarily, Canada invited the Israeli airforce to train in Canada. The author details further cooperation, such as in communications and surveillance.
Engler says the presence of foreigners fighting for the Israel Defense [sic] Forces (IDF) is a powerful symbol. Although illegal, recruitment from Canada staffs the IDF. Engler reports that early on, about 1000 Canadians fought to help establish Israel.
Canada has also been a fertile ground to raise funds for Israel. Engler informs that Canadian Jews sent $100-$200 million in 1991 to Israel; with inflation this amount may be double now.
In 1997 Canada entered into a “free trade” agreement with Israel that has featured a consistent trade deficit for Canada.
Israel has eponymously “recognized” (social justice activists would argue “shamed”) Canada’s support. Engler writes of a Canadian forest, Canadian village, Canada Park, and Galil Canada in Israel.
Particularly egregious is Canadian support of the racist Jewish National Fund (JNF). Non-Jews may not buy land held by the JNF. Engler quotes Tawfiz Dawggash, Deir Hanna’s deputy mayor: “I want to say to the people of Canada that every dollar they contribute [to JNF] is helping the Israeli Government in its attempt to destroy the Arab people here.”
Engler convincingly delineates staunch Canadian political support for Israel. It doesn’t matter which of the two largest vote-getting parties is in political power in Canada, much like in the US. The Conservatives and Liberals are both pro-Zionism. As Engler reveals, this hardly changes with the left-of-center New Democratic Party or the centrist Green Party.
While there is social justice activism in labor circles for Palestinians, Engler notes that the Canadian Labor Congress (CLC) liaises with its Israeli counterpart, Histradut, which excludes Arab workers, encourages the arming of Israel, and “vigorously opposes” the PLO’s admission to the International Labor Organization. He points to the mendacity of the CLC in the “conflict.” The CLC position is that “Arab countries and peoples must categorically accept Israel’s right to exist and live within secure and recognized boundaries.”
Amazingly, there is no call for reciprocity by the Jewish country and peoples.
Chapter 8 is entitled “The world’s most pro-Israel country.” This is unsurprising given that a former prime minister Paul Martin stated Israel’s values were Canada’s values. His successor as prime minister, Stephen Harper is the world’s only state leader listed as a Hasbara member. Engler provides examples from many prominent Canadians.
Engler details the lengths Canada will go to side with Israel. For example, Canadian hypocrisy is evident in relations to Hamas and Likud. The “radical” Palestinian group is shunned and the “radical” Israeli group embraced. Indeed, instead of promoting peace, Ottawa and Washington have pushed for civil war among Palestinians — setting Fatah against Hamas.
Canada promotes its image as a tolerant multi-cultural state where racism is abhorred and human rights for all are respected. Yet not all are regarded equally states Engler: “Ottawa supported recognizing discrimination against Jews as a unique phenomenon, not one among many forms of bigotry.” [italics added] This smacks of a supremacist attitude: that the discrimination against one group is held to be special in contrast to the discrimination faced by other groups. In fact, discrimination against Jews is unique. It is rare that a group so discriminated against could thrive so extraordinarily financially, in media portrayal, education-wise, politically, and conduct itself with such impunity. Many groups would welcome the results of such discrimination.
Victimization suffered by European Jews has been used as a shield for the racism and discrimination practiced by Israeli Jews. Engler deplores this, writing: “The Holocaust should not be used as ideological cover for Israeli crimes.”
The prejudice toward Israel’s chosen enemies is clear from the comments of former Bank of Montreal president and CEO Tony Comper who warned “a second Holocaust” was possible if Iran acquired nuclear weapons. The racism is palpable in that Iranians are considered to have evil intent with nuclear weapons while Jews escape such criticism, even though they started the weapons nuclearization of the Middle East.
Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid discusses the covering role of the Canadian media for Israeli crimes, complicit universities, Canadian politicians accepting political junkets to Israel, the impact of The Lobby, and the chill on freedom of expression.
Despite university administrators clamping down, Canadian universities have been a bed of protest against Israeli apartheid. As Engler relates, the now global Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) was started by students in Toronto. (As further evidence of the power of The Lobby, on 25 February, the legislature of Ontario passed a unanimous motion condemning IAW.)
Engler states that it is predominantly the power of empire that drives Canadian policy. Fancying itself a “middle power,” then it must be Canada plays a subservient role in empire. This leads Engler to a conclusion. (1) He quotes Noam Chomsky who posits the control of Middle East resources as driving US policy in the region. (2) Since Canada follows the US lead, then (3) “To continue the logic it would be fair to say that Canadian policy toward the Middle East is designed, above all else, to guarantee the U.S.-led West’s control over the region’s energy sources.”
For logic to hold, the premises must be sound. A common logical fallacy is to appeal to authority. The mere fact that Noam Chomsky asserts something does not make it true anymore than if another figure claims that The Lobby holds sway over US policy would make that the reason for the design of the Canadian policy.
For Chomsky’s hypothesis to be accepted, it must be explored, challenged, and compared to competing hypotheses. Still knee-jerk support of US empire’s dictates does not necessarily imply acceptance of the rationale underlying such policy.
Moreover, Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid attests to the efficacy of Jewish fund raising; the shutting down of charities benefiting Palestinians; the recruitment of Canadians for the Israeli military; cooperation with Mossad (to the extent that national identification documents such as passports are misused); the negotiation of a favorable free trade agreement for Israel; that any voices raised against Jewish racism is met with the charge of anti-Semitism or self-hatred; the influence of Zionists within academia, along the political spectrum, inside labor circles, in the military, business … Engler also cited evidence of Canada abandoning the US lead should it not sufficiently support Israel. It seems that Engler has provided mega-evidence of a powerful lobby. Add to this the government of Canada’s recent cut in funding to the Canadian Arab Federation; cut to KAIROS, a mainstream Christian religious organization critical of Israeli crimes (it appears that Jewish interests outstrip Christian interests); attacks by the government on other human rights groups, such as Rights and Democracy [for failing to have a Jew on staff; 2006 data indicates 393,660 Jews in Canada (1.2%), so if Rights and Democracy hired by percentage of the population then it faced the impossible feat of hiring half a Jew (there are 45 employees at Rights & Democracy)]; the suggestion by the governing Conservatives that the opposition Liberals were guilty of “incitement to anti-Semitism”; etc.
Engler deserves credit for taking a stand, but in treating such a contentious issue among progressives with superficial analysis, it serves as a bit of a distraction from the apartheid he opposes. It would have been preferable to cite the existence of alternative or mixed hypotheses for readers to ponder.
However, there is no need to get bogged down on the primacy of control exerted by Big Oil or a hyper-influential lobby.
What underlies the support of apartheid and the oppression of Palestinians is important. More important than pinning causality is ending the oppression of the Palestinians. The machinations of The Lobby as the well as the crafting of foreign policy by Canada and the US all contribute to Palestinian suffering under Zionist apartheid, so it is self-evident that all of these factors contributing to the oppression of Palestinians must be dealt with.
Today, there is a political-capitalist driven policy toward Israel. Nevertheless, Engler writes that grassroots opposition has never been greater in Canada. According to one poll, 52 percent of Canadians believe that Israel plays a negative role in the world. This indicates the numbers are there for a social justice movement for Palestinians.
Engler sees the boycott divestment sanctions (BDS) campaign (a main plank of IAW) as one tactic to end Israeli apartheid. He identifies education as key to ending unwitting complicity in Palestinian suffering. For those seeking to educate themselves about Canada’s role in Israeli apartheid, Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid contains much essential information.