Canadian Press journalist Lee Berthiaume recently reported on Canada’s military mission in the occupied West Bank. The story states that there are 23 Canadian troops and three RCMP members currently part of Operation Proteus, which trains Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces as part of a mission led by the Office of the United States Security Coordinator.
Strangely, the puff piece ignored how Canadian military trainers and aid have supported the creation of a Palestinian security force explicitly to enforce Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, a fact that Berthiaume previously reported.
In a 2013 story Berthiaume quoted an internal 2012 note signed by then Canadian International Development Agency president Margaret Biggs that read:
“There have been increasing references in the past months during high-level bilateral meetings with the Israelis about the importance and value they place on Canada’s assistance to the Palestinian Authority, most notably in security/justice reform.”
He further quotes Biggs stating, “the Israelis have noted the importance of Canada’s contribution to the relative stability achieved through extensive security co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.” The heavily censored note suggests the goal of Canadian “aid” was to protect a corrupt Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority, whose electoral mandate expired in 2009, from popular backlash. Biggs explained that “the emergence of popular protests on the Palestinian street against the Palestinian Authority is worrying and the Israelis have been imploring the international donor community to continue to support the Palestinian Authority.”
Surely this is important background information for a story about the recent work of Canadian troops and police in the West Bank.
In my 2016 book A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation, I cite Berthiaume’s 2013 revelation as an example of how critical information is reported on and then ignored.
“Even when dissidents’ claims are proven by leading reporters through access to information requests, the result is often sent down the memory hole. Internal government documents unearthed by foreign policy journalist Lee Berthiaume about Canada’s $300-million, five-year aid program to the Palestinians is a prime example…. Berthiaume effectively confirmed that Canadian aid money was used to train a Palestinian security force to serve as an arm of Israel’s occupation. While Berthiaume’s article was reported in a number of Postmedia papers, there was no commentary in a major paper or follow-up stories about Biggs’ internal note or Operation Proteus, Canada’s effort to build a Palestinian security force under the U.S. military’s direction (with the exception of stories in small-town papers covering individual police or soldiers leaving for the mission).”
At the time of writing this I was unaware of the depth of the suppression. Apparently, the information was so efficiently sent down the memory hole that the journalist who uncovered the internal documents won’t even mention it when reporting on the subject!
And this is not simply a matter of historical interest. Canada continues to plow significant resources into Palestinian Authority security forces. In 2019-20 the military allocated $5 million to Operation Proteus and millions of dollars more in Canadian “aid” in support for Palestinian security forces.
In 2018 the Trudeau government initiated the $1.25-million “Empowering the Palestinian Security Sector” and the $1.365-million “Security Sector Capacity Building in the West Bank” projects. According to Global Affairs’ description of the latter initiative, “these activities complement the ongoing institutional capacity-building efforts by Operation Proteus, Canada’s contribution to the United States Security Coordinator.”
More recent research continues to demonstrate who this “aid” is designed to help.
Drawing on previously classified materials, Carleton criminology professor Jeffrey Monaghan details Canada’s role in turning Palestinian security forces in the West Bank into an effective arm of Israel’s occupation.
In Security Aid: Canada and the Development Regime of Security, Monaghan describes a $1.5-million Canadian contribution to joint operating centres whose “main focus … is to integrate elements of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces into Israeli command.” He writes about Canada’s “many funding initiatives to the [Palestinian Civilian Police]” which “has increasingly been tasked by the Israeli Defense Forces as a lead agency to deal with public order policing, most recently during IDF bombings in Gaza and during Arab Spring demonstrations.”
In a 2019 assessment of 80 donor reports from nine countries/institutions titled “Donor Perceptions of Palestine: Limits to Aid Effectiveness,” Jeremy Wildeman concludes that Canada, the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund employed the most anti-Palestinian language. “Canada and the U.S.,” the academic writes, “were preoccupied with providing security for Israel from Palestinian violence, but not Palestinians from Israeli violence, effectively inverting the relationship of occupier and occupied.”
A great deal of Canada’s supposed “assistance” to the Palestinians — who have less than one-20th their occupier’s per capita GDP — is, in fact, explicitly designed to aid Israel. This is information Canadians need to know in order to judge what the government does with their taxes. But the dominant media largely ignores this and the other innumerable ways Canada supports Israeli apartheid.
Yves Engler is a Montreal-based writer and political activist.
Image credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit/Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0.