Conservatives back Gaza military siege, as BDS movement grows

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Image: Nidal Elkhairy

During the past week in Gaza, three Palestinian babies died in unusually cold winter temperatures. The deaths took place in Khan Yunis, an area in southern Gaza heavily damaged by Israeli airstrikes this past summer and still struggling to rebuild under the military siege.

Rafah Ali Abu Assi, a two-month-old baby died last Friday due to "a pulmonary obstruction caused by the cold," then on Saturday, Adel Maher al-Lahham, a one-month-old baby and Salma Zeidan al-Masri, a two-month-old baby staying in a temporary shelter without a heating system, both died due to cold temperatures, according to Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra.

Although the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza isn't an international political focus point right now, the crisis persists and deepens week-by-week, with almost daily Israeli violations of the unstable summer ceasefire and a military siege that creates the political, geographical and military conditions for another full blown crisis in the near future.

In real human terms, the crisis in Gaza has never gone away, the UN's "Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism" has been described as a failure by people working on the ground, while only two per cent of the $5.4 billion pledged reconstruction aid has actually been delivered to Gaza.

Despite clear and consistent calls from the UN and humanitarian groups to lift the military siege on Gaza, this urgent issue is clearly not on the Israeli political agenda in a context of a colonial electoral process, that saw Netanyahu cynically campaigning in Paris this past weekend.

"Only a full opening of all crossings to people and goods, including exports will enable Palestinian civilians in Gaza to restore their economy and escape the poverty the blockade has entrenched," Oxfam has said. "The international community must press Israel for the blockade to be fully lifted, rather than only eased."

Canada continues to fully support the Israeli siege on Gaza and more generally the colonial military occupation of Palestinian lands. Just last month Canadian and Israeli officials jointly boycotted a United Nations conference in Geneva, looking at the issue of Israeli settlements, illegal under international law and also according to Canada's official policy.

By extension, Conservative Foreign Minister John Baird stated at the time, that "we believe the Israelis are capable of investigating matters surrounding the events that took place in Gaza in the summer of 2014."

So according to Canada today, a military force and country accused across the world, within the UN, of war crimes should investigate itself? Really?

On the neoliberal front, Canada continues to and is boosting neo-colonial capitalist projects with Israel in the post-Gaza war context, all with no regard for the humanitarian disaster facing the Palestinians.

Currently Canadian and Israeli officials are holding talks to update the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA), originally signed in 1997, while government and corporate officials are exchanging ideas and technologies around developing oil sand projects in historic Palestinian lands.

At a grassroots level in Canada, the political winds are blowing in the opposite direction to the policies being crafted in the halls of power in Ottawa.

Thousands and thousands joined Palestine solidarity demonstrations this past summer across Canada, protesting the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. One key grassroots campaign highlighted at these actions was the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that Palestinian activists and community groups called for in 2005 and which has been growing in Canada and internationally.

In Montréal this past fall, Concordia undergraduate students voted to support the global BDS movement, while internationally over 60,000 people signed an open letter calling for a military embargo on Israel. This upcoming spring Israeli Apartheid Week events will take place in March at campuses across the world, illustrating the quickly developing global solidarity movement with the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

As the Israeli siege of Gaza continues, while the Canadian government sustains full on support for apartheid policies against the Palestinian people, including the public refusal to allow 100 severely injured children from Gaza to come to Canada for medical care, now is the time for social activists in Canada to deepen our support and involvement in the global BDS movement.

BDS is a clear way, called for by Palestinians directly affected by Israeli apartheid, that can place the Israeli government and military into a political corner, through diplomatic isolation and tightening economic sanctions, political conditions that would make the indiscriminate bombing and military siege of the Palestinians impossible, forcing the Israeli state into real negotiations for a just peace.

Also in building a BDS campaign, we work to unravel the structures of economic, environmental and social injustice at home that are supporting Israeli colonial violence abroad. It's no fluke that the very same political forces in Canada -- deeply involved with violent colonial resource extraction industries, like the tar sands -- now bound into Canada's neoliberal economy, are the very same political and economic forces publicly backing Israeli colonialism in Palestine.

Israeli apartheid is a key symbol of the global neoliberal economic order and picking apart that system of strategic support for Israel internationally, through BDS, is a strategic part to unraveling broader systems of neoliberal colonial violence that are deepening inequality for all and destroying the environment for future generations.

Stefan Christoff is a Montreal based writer, community organizer and musician who works with the Tadamon! collective, find Stefan @spirodon

Image: Nidal Elkhairy

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