Countering Canada's national security agenda in Palestine

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The people's commission network held a two-day forum in Montreal titled Whose security? Our Security! from Feb. 4 to 6.

The event brought together activists, social justice organizers and communities impacted by Canada's national security agenda in order to broaden the movement against Canada's National Security Agenda, whether it be the criminalization of social justice movements, national security measures that target immigrant and migrant communities.

The importance of this gathering as it relates to Palestine solidarity was intrinsic, highlighting the work towards solidarity with Palestine through the growing Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign to end Israeli apartheid. It was critical for those who tackle this topic to also build an analysis and a challenge to the way in which national security has been used by the Conservative government as a means to support for Israeli Apartheid, through the 'War on Terror' and to delegitimize both the Palestine solidarity in Canada and the struggle for self-determination and justice in Palestine.

A panel on Feb. 6 discussed blacklisting and how to challenge the list and its basis as being political, and nothing to do with national security. In particular, Issam Elyamani, director of Palestine House in Toronto and (CAIA) Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, spoke to why Palestinian organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have been placed on the black list, having more to do with Canada's policy of its steadfast support to Israeli occupation and apartheid, than the War on Terror.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has described Canada as one of Israel's closest allies and expressed pride in the ever-strengthening relationship.

"Canada has clearly shown that it is a real friend to Israel and the Jewish people. It has stood up for Israel even when it wasn't necessarily to its benefit, and that is greatly appreciated," said foreign press spokesman Mark Regev.

"The prime minister considers Mr. Harper a personal friend, and everyone has noticed his international leadership in standing up for Israel and for what is right," he continued.(Jerusalem Post, Jan. 7, 2011)

How this unconditional support has been carried out by the Harper regime has been through shown in Canada's use of the War on Terror in order to justify its foreign policy -- this is no different in the case of the struggle for justice in Palestine. In Canada, every major Palestinian resistance organization or faction has been placed on the 42-member "List of Terrorist Entities" created by the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2001. The other way in which it is used to do that is through the criminalization of the Palestine solidarity movement not just in Canada but recently in the United States as well as the movement grows here in Canada to challenge Canada's foreign policy in the Middle East

In December 2010, Hamas reacted to Canada's decision to keep it on the terrorist list, calling the decision "a clear bias to Israel" (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 26, 2010). Hamas was first listed in Canada in November 2002; under the terms of Canada's ATA, listing is reviewed periodically. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum went on to say, "This encourages Israel to commit more crimes against the Palestinian people."

Moreover, it provides a pretext for direct punitive measures: Canada was the first country to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and implement the economic embargo and siege on the 1.5 million Palestinians after Hamas won the elections in 2006 and continued to articulate a need for Palestinians to resist Israeli apartheid and occupation.

Stephen Harper greeted news of Hamas's election by saying, "We've always maintained that we support a secure Israel and a democratic Palestine . But for a nation to be truly democratic, that nation must renounce any use of terrorism." (National Post, Jan. 27, 2006). Over $40 million of Canadian funding to the Gaza Strip was cut; and a further $15 million in funding to UNRWA was cut after Operation Cast Lead in Dec. and Jan. 2008/2009.

While Israel maintains a devastating blockade over the Gaza Strip, carried out an attack on Gaza that led to the deaths of over 1,400 Palestinians just over two years ago, detains about 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners, and denies the human rights of the indigenous Palestinian population, Canada frames these actions as part of a War on Terror. Any Palestinian resistance to it considered "terrorism."

This move helps to silence dissent and criminalize Palestinians and Palestinian solidarity activists in Canada in the context of a growing movement of support for the rights of the Palestinian people.

Palestinians inside Palestine are responding to this process of criminalization. The Popular Front of Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), another Palestinian political faction that struggles for the rights and freedoms of the Palestinian people, was added to Canada's terrorist list in November 2003. It has launched a Campaign to remove "terrorist designations" in the EU, Canada and the U.S.

The PFLP's campaign statement declares, "This designation is illegitimate, and an attempt to use the legal system to criminalize and demonize the Palestinian cause. It is an attempt to silence our people in exile through the use of fear and intimidation. Furthermore, it goes hand in hand with the funding, arming and support of Israel by the United States; the so-called 'terrorist' designations are merely another weapon placed in the hands of the occupiers of Palestine."

The terrorist designation can be seen as an extension of the occupation -- an attempt to trample on the voices of the diaspora, repeatedly displaced as refugees. As the PLFP argues, "this designation is a dangerous threat to freedom of speech and association, threatening all -- especially immigrants and refugees -- with unjust persecution merely for working to bring justice for Palestine."

It is important that those who stand in solidarity for a just and free Palestine challenge the logic of national security. The "War on Terror" creates a climate of fear for those who want to demand justice and their right to return by means of their right to remain here.

For more information about the people's commission click here.

Mostafa Henaway is an organizer with Tadamon! Montreal, and active in the campaign for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israeli Apartheid, and a community organizer with the Immigrant Workers Centre in Montreal.

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