Anthems, Indoctrination, and Violence

The basic sentiment expressed in Uri Avnery’s latest article, “A Jewish Soul,” is humanistic, but in some parts it is puzzling. For instance, when Avnery writes of “our [Israeli] hope to be a free people in ‘our’ land has already been fulfilled.” Since Avnery is one of the Jews who partakes in some fashion in the “booty” of the Nakba, it seems as if he is implying that Israel is the land of the Jews; and certainly the Palestinians in Israel can hardly be construed as “a free people,” unless one means free to suffer discrimination.

His article is humanistic because he recognizes and opposes the offense of the Israeli anthem for an “Arab Israeli” (although Avnery’s bias is evident in how he shies away from calling the people Palestinian).

Avnery is critical of many anthems. I tend to be skeptical of all anthems, as they oftentimes serve as a vehicle of patriotic indoctrination. Albert Einstein recognized the darkness that underlies patriotism: “Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how passionately I hate them!”

Yet Avnery found the Canadian anthem to be an exception:

… Canada changed its anthem not so long ago, exchanging the British anthem for one that French Canadians can sing with a clear conscience, without denying their own identity. “O Canada” enhances the unity of all citizens. [italics added]

With all due respect, what Avnery writes about the Canadian anthem and Canada is misinformed.

The “O Canada” lyrics are palpably colonialist and sexist:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command…

Many Canadians regard the Original Peoples as a founding people; however, their languages are still not recognized as official languages, so in some respects they are worse off that the Indigenous Palestinians are in Israel.

So what kind of “patriot love” should Indigenous peoples in Canada feel, and what kind of “patriot love” should other “Canadians” of conscience feel?

The French version:

O Canada! Terre de nos aïeux, (O Canada! Land of our ancestors,)
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux! (Your forehead is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers!)

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée, (For your arms are ready to carry the sword,)
Il sait porter la croix! … (You will be able to carry the cross! …)

In the French version, the land belongs to the, presumably, French and European ancestors. The readiness to commit violence in the name of patriotism is evident. Christian symbolism is also present.

Canada exists as a English-French state for much the same reason Israel exists as a Jewish state. Europeans came to take the land of Indigenous peoples — even by lethal force. In Palestine it was the Nakba, for “Canada” it was a genocidal event that included the wholesale extermination of the Beothuk.

And since the point about the disunity sown by the Canadian national anthem has been made, to mention daughters is merely to belabor the impropriety of the anthem of the colonially derived entity called Canada.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at Read other articles by Kim.