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Nora Loreto is a writer, musician and activist based in Québec City. She is the author of From Demonized to Organized, Building the New Union Movement and is the editor of the Canadian Association of Labour Media. She writes regularly for blogs and magazines, and wrote a chapter in Canada After Harper, released by Lorimer Publishers in August 2015.

Condemning the violence in Gaza by acknowledging Canada's own violent history

| July 21, 2014
Image: Facebook/Amir Schiby

I find watching the siege of Gaza through Facebook frustrating, dreadful and tragic.

The images of dead children, dying grandparents and people who were once full of life are disturbing. The only positive is that these images help concretize the sentiment that this attack on Gaza must end.

In the wake of the destruction and death, Israel's "self-defence" defence looks more like Florida's Stand Your Ground laws. Rather than debates about whether or not Israel has the right to defend itself, a consensus has seemingly formed that demands an end to the siege on Gaza.

Somehow, this consensus hasn't managed to sway the opinions of Canadian politicians. The Conservatives are little better than the Israelis sitting on lawn chairs cheering on the destruction. The Liberals have defended Israel nearly as much as the Conservatives and the NDP has maintained a shameful silence. Only Québec Solidaire has opposed Israel's aggression.

Why is condemning Israel's actions so difficult for Canadian politicians?

The answer is simple: Israel's present is Canada’s past. To condemn Israel is to accept that Canada's crimes have been just as bad.

Israel's conquest of Palestine is still very new. The conflict has existed in a time of modern warfare. With Israel and Hamas given weapons from allied nations, technology plays a huge role in how each side deals with each other. Israel's $3 billion in aid from the United States helps reinforce the technological supremacy of Israel over Palestine. This includes technological supremacy in bombs and military equipment.

Modern warfare still shocks us.

Canada's conquest is not as new; it reaches back to the 1400s. Throughout the following centuries, the most modern military technology was used to rid the continent of the people who had lived here for time immemorial. As Canada advanced, the tactics changed, but were no less brutal.

In the years following the first contact between Indigenous populations and Europeans, the Indigenous population dropped by half. In the 1800s, deeply racist legislators made clear their desire to starve or kill Indigenous people to make way for white settlement. If millions of people had inhabited North America before Europeans arrived, a 50 per cent drop in the population is massive.

The genocide didn't stop there: 150,000 children stolen from their families and placed in residential school resulted in tens of thousands of children dying and multi-generational traumas that persist today. 27,500 Indigenous children are currently not living with their families. More than 1,000 Indigenous women have been murdered or remain missing. The RCMP shot a man at a baseball game yesterday at Norway House in Manitoba.

Consider these numbers against those in Palestine: 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from Palestine to make way for Israel. 1,400 people were killed in Operation Cast Lead, the worst attack against Gaza since 1948. More than 400 have reportedly been killed in the current campaign.

So, where Israel has used a blockade, laws, bombs, forced out-migration, immigration and military force to try and wrestle Palestine into submission, Canada has used: military force, biological warfare, forced famine and starvation, mass immigration, criminalization, the death penalty, forced removal of children from families, laws, medical studies, poverty, unemployment, prisons, police and child protective services.

These contrasts are not to downplay what Israel is doing. Rather, it is a needed reality check: Canada is no better than Israel.

Israel imposes separate laws on Palestinians than it does on Israelis. Canada imposes different laws on status Indians too. Palestinians are confined to very small parcels of land, where overcrowding is the norm, so too are most First Nations people living on reserve. They have a wall, we had a railroad. Unemployment of Palestinians was 30 per cent in 2013, while unemployment rates in New Brunswick for status Indians was 25 per cent in 2011. Twenty per cent of Israel's prison population are Palestinians, Aboriginal prisoners account for 23 per cent of Canada's prison population.  

If Palestine is the current face of war, then Canada is the face of war, five generations later.

Both conflicts demonstrate the fierce and fighting spirit of oppressed communities and that people will continue to thrive, despite incredible odds stacked against them. Both stories also show how important it is for solidarity to be shown, for injustice to be condemned and action to be taken.

Considering our shared histories, I don't expect the Canadian media to report on anything more sophisticated than to simply regurgitate Israel's PR machine. I don't expect Conservative MPs to condemn the killing. I don't even expect Liberal MPs to either.

I do expect, however, that anyone with knowledge of our history to make these links when they condemn Israel. If we express our solidarity with Palestine, we must acknowledge and fight to end on-going colonialism in Canada. We must support resistance where it happens. We must be present. We must use whatever tools we have available to us to do our part and undo some of our own legacy of terror.

Our land has lived these horrors already. Many of our ancestors lived these horrors too. They just didn't have Instagram or Facebook to document those horrors.

If you've marched, written letters and are left feeling hopeless about the situation in Gaza, express solidarity with Palestine by standing in solidarity with the people who refused Canada's genocide, who saved their languages, their spiritualities and cultures and will continue the fight as long as Canada exists as a colonial nation.

Image: Facebook/Amir Schiby

 

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