As Israel faces growing isolation and repercussions from an effective global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Campaign, over the past month Canada has continued to deepen its economic, political, and ideological relationship with Israel.
Least discussed of late has been the merging economic ties between the two countries. This week, the Canada-Israel Technology Innovation Summit in Tel Aviv concluded with a renewal of the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation. Canada’s Minister of International Trade Ed Fast described Canada’s $5 million towards this “treaty” — which will be tabled in Parliament prior to final ratification — as a collaborative project between Canada’s private-sector and Canada’s “key trading partner.”
One of the projects funded by this Foundation has been the Guardium Autonomous Security Vehicle for the purposes of, as described by Kole Kilibarda, militarizing the border. This is one of many initiatives within the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement and the Canada-Israel Public Security Partnership. Under the former agreement, bilateral trade has more than tripled, making Canada increasingly complicit in the economic normalization of the Israeli occupation as well as a critical stake-holder in Israel’s defense complex. Under the Declaration of Intent for Cooperation on Public Security Issues, Canada and Israel supposedly face “common threats to border security, illegal immigration, and terrorist financing.” In a post 9/11 climate and the never-ending War on Terror, this legitimizes both states’ practices of torture, extraordinary rendition, racial and religious profiling, incarcerations, deportations, and surveillance.
The most discussed issue lately has been the Freedom Flotilla II. The Canadian Boat to Gaza Tahrir was one of 10 Gaza-bound vessels carrying humanitarian aid and challenging Israel’s illegal blockade. Since 2007, Israel has imposed a tight siege on the 1.5 million residents of Gaza: maintaining control of airspace, waters, and land crossings; disallowing residents to leave without permits; and prohibition on imports and exports including food, fuel, and medical supplies. Aboard the Tahrir, Ardoch Algonquin Robert Lovelace described this collective punishment as follows:
“We recognize that the people of Palestine have been subjected to colonization in the same way that Indigenous people here have lost their relationship with the land. Gaza has become an open-air prison for 1.4 million people. It is the largest ‘Reserve’ in the world.”
Predictably, the Tahrir never reached Gaza, as Israel outsourced its siege to Greece, and the Greek government banned any ship from leaving its ports towards Gaza. Instead of demanding that the boat be allowed to sail, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird had proclaimed in advance that “Canada recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns and its right to protect itself and its residents from attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including by preventing the smuggling of weapons.” This was congruous with the Canadian government parroting of the outlandish Israeli line last year, which alleged self-defence after the murder of nine activists aboard the Mavi Marmara flotilla.
Making no mention of the 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, Baird continued, “Canada continues to call for the immediate return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas.” Following the election of Hamas in 2006, Canada was the first country, even ahead of Israel, to boycott and vilify the Hamas government. Canada began funding and training Palestinian security forces loyal to appointed President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) as part of U.S. General Keith Dayton’s training project and Operation Proteus.
Though focused on the dirty war against Hamas, this past week Canada reiterated hostility towards the P.A.’s bid for statehood at the UN General Assembly in Sept. 2011. While there has been much criticism of the process by Palestinians — such as Ali Abunimah arguing that “the only thing that could be gained from UN recognition is for Abbas and his entourage to obtain international recognition for themselves as leaders of an imaginary state while nothing changes for Palestinians” as well as Raja Khalidi opposing the neoliberal economic foundation of the proposed state – Canada and the US have succumbed to Israel’s (now leaked) global diplomatic campaign to persuade countries to vote against recognition.
Given the Conservative government’s consistent support for the unilateral military actions of Israel — who possesses nuclear capabilities and has occupied Palestinians since 1948 through one of the world’s largest militaries — the Department of Foreign Affairs statement “The Palestinian state is to be a non-militarized one” reflects the hypocrisy of imperial dictates. Furthermore, demanding that those being military occupied must engage in “bilateral peace negotiations” in fact perpetuates the very oppression being resisted. As Malcolm X said “You can`t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” This week, the Palestinian BDS National Committee called for an immediate and comprehensive military embargo against Israel.
Not limited solely to the political or economic realm, Canada continues to be a primary ally in Israel’s attempts to brand itself as a victim in our collective social conscience. This week the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism, co-founded by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, released its report noting a rise in “hateful discourse” against Israel, and unsurprisingly yet dangerously characterizes criticism of the state of Israel, particularly Israeli Apartheid Week campus organizing, as anti-Semitic. Meanwhile, Canada has been noticeably silent on the Knesset’s passing of the widely condemned boycott law which criminalizes and penalizes support for the BDS campaign against Israel. Yet as Hind Awwad with the Palestinian BDS National Committee notes “This new legislation is testament to the success of the rapidly growing global BDS movement and a realisation within political elites inside Israel that the state is becoming a world pariah…”
And of course an accounting of Canada’s generosity towards Israel would be incomplete without hockey. Israel already boasts a Canada-Israel Hockey School, and yesterday the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University announced a scholarship program for Israeli hockey players. Maybe the best gift from Canada that one can hope for will be a good old Canadian-style hockey riot in Israel and instead of a few broken windows, there will be a torn-down apartheid wall.
Harsha Walia is a south Asian activist and writer based in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. She has been active in migrant justice, Indigenous solidarity, feminist, and Palestinian self-determination movements. You can find her on Twitter.