Whether it is your bias in favor of Israel that recently cost you your seat on the UN Security Council, it is a fact that in the space of five years you have voted “no” 50 times to UN resolutions in favor of Palestine. Of the 166 “no” votes by Canada since 2000 this represents an embarrassing average. Neither the protests of Marc-André Blanchard, nor the denials of Bob Rae, your successive ambassadors to the UN, have been able to diminish the echo of your campaign slogan, as reckless as it is boastful: “Canada is back.”
No, Canada is not back, nor can it be, as long as you sacrifice the rule-of-law, in its various applications, on the altar of the United States. Canada is not, and will not be, back as long as you evade a critical examination of your authoritarian allegiance to Zionism – an allegiance that admits of no opposition from your own government. Far from the clamor of Zionist pressure groups and the blinders of Israeli propaganda, please do see and hear what otherwise looks you in the eye and bursts your eardrums.
Zionism in Canada is a cult: a religious one, for those who conflate Judaism and nationalism; a political one, for those who are illiberal, who well know that violent and eradicative ideologies need an array of anti-democratic laws to shield them. Consider the historical Zionism of the pioneers – Herzl’s foundational Zionism; “transfer-Zionism”, that imagined by the Zangwill, Syrkin, Motzkin and Aaronsohn; or Jabotinsky’s revisionist Zionism. Consider, too, Netanyahu’s Zionism today and some of its laws – to mention but the most recent one, the “Israel Nation-State of the Jewish People” Law.
Zionism in Canada is a bipartisan dogma, which Conservatives and Liberals alike firmly uphold. In Canada today the rules of blasphemy apply to Zionism. Anyone who questions it or criticizes it is first publicly shamed, then quasi-criminalized. With the help of motions and resolutions, definitions, declarations, and tweets, we have built in the space of a few years, in Canada, an impressive gagging arsenal. Here are its pillars:
– BDS. Ever since you assumed power, whether in a private or official capacity, you have not ceased to condemn, vilify and slander the peaceful resistance movement, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, launched 15 years ago by Palestinian civil society. In 2015, you meddled in McGill University’s passage of a pro-BDS motion, declaring that the movement “has no business being on Canadian campuses”; in 2016, your party supported an anti-BDS parliamentary resolution, in the name of friendship and economic and diplomatic relations between Canada and Israel; in 2018, in apologizing for Canada’s rejection of Jewish refugees during WWII, you chanted this worn-out Zionist catchphrase, associating criticism of Israeli ultraviolence with anti-Semitism; in 2019, at a town hall at Brock University, you explained that you uphold your condemnation of BDS, not for foreign policy reasons, but “because of Canadian values”: what values Mr. Trudeau? The colonial ones that you share with Israel?
– IHRA. To give legal legitimacy to your witch hunt, your government announced, in June 2019, that it would formally adopt a controversial and dangerous definition of anti-Semitism, that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, by including it in its antiracism strategy. A definition that allows “friends of Israel” to achieve exactly their goal: to conflate opposition to Zionism and anti-Semitism. A definition above all which now legitimizes the physical and moral harassment practiced by the subsidiaries of Zionist violence in North America against whole sections of the population: namely, those Canadians of Palestinian descent and all those who support them.
– CIFTA. When on July 29, 2019, the Canadian federal court ruled in favor of a citizen who argued that wines produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank (which Canada officially considers as such) could not be labeled and sold in Canada as “products of ‘Israel” (Kattenburg v. Canada)… you saw fit to lodge an appeal. Driven, no doubt, by the posturing of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, for whom the occupied West Bank is a region “covered” by the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA)? To accept such labeling and trade is not just the normalization of the Occupation, it is the legitimizing of annexation. To agree to our trade relations with the Palestinians being channeled through Israel is to admit their economic subjugation. It is to admit, as is the case presently, that for a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, Israel is withholding, in its own coffers, the tax and customs revenues from Palestinian exports, which Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians.
– ICC. When in December 2019, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said she was “convinced that there is a reasonable basis justifying the opening of an investigation” into “past and present war crimes”, committed in Palestine… you challenged the court’s competence in hearing such a case, on the grounds that Palestine is not recognized as a state. Not only was it not for you to deliver such a legal opinion (but up to the Court itself), but it is hard to believe that you found it flattering to remind the world that it is Canada that does not recognize Palestine, unlike an overwhelming majority of UN member countries. If, as your Foreign Minister rightly pointed out last June, “the staff of the International Criminal Court should not be singled out for their work,” then they should not be targeted at all, whether the war crimes under investigation are the US’s in Iraq and Afghanistan or those of Israel against the Palestinians.
That energy that you deploy in support of the unsupportable, would be better channeled in supporting international law. Recently, calls for a change of course in Canadian foreign policy have become deafening. Almost as much as your silence on the annexation scheme for Palestine, fomented by Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu last January. At the time, you failed to consider international sanctions against Israel, which is required by your formal adherence to the “two-state solution”, as well as by the inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by war and its illegal settlement by settlers. It is also required by the absurd impunity of that state, which violates day and night its occupied populations, evading the 4th Geneva Convention, which Canada has, however, ratified. By now, you probably feel exempted from responding to Trump’s annexationist plan, since the United Arab Emirates, and now Bahrain, have just announced a normalization of their relations with Israel. But you are well aware that Netanyahu was quick to apprise us that the said annexation has only been postponed.
Finally, allow us to submit to you some very general recommendations that could serve as a framework for the overhaul of Canadian foreign policy:
1. Conduct the latter without demagogy or avoidance: When asked what your position is in the face of the threat of formal annexation of the West Bank by Israel, do not answer “the priority right now is avoiding that a health crisis turns into a humanitarian one.” This response from your Minister of Foreign Affairs is obscene. The 5 million Palestinian refugees, to whom Israel refuses any return, have been living a humanitarian hell for 70 years; Gaza, which Israel has blockaded for 13 years now, was declared “unlivable” in 2020 by the UN.
2. Make a conscious commitment: remember that if Lester Pearson and Ivan Rand succeeded, in 1947, in becoming the double lever of partition in Canada, one as the Secretary of State, the other at the United Nations, it is because an alternative diplomacy, just and prescient, that of Elizabeth MacCallum, had been stifled. Remember that she had advocated against voting for partition. Remember how she had foreseen the wars to come. When it comes to the Middle East, it seems that Canada has long favored ideologues over experts. Will you break the spell, Mr. Trudeau? Will you clean up around you?
3. Finally, address our foreign policy without denial, without duplicity: when Canada voted in favor of the partition of Palestine in 1947, the UN became a craftsman of hell; since then, it has applied itself to a reverse course, through a legion of resolutions, the most important of which –resolutions 194, 242, 465 — were all voted on by Canada. Get up to speed, Mr. Trudeau. Make an effort: when you go before the UN to recognize the “devastating legacy” of the colonization of Canada by the white man, which took place without the consent and participation of indigenous peoples, how can you continue to be a Zionist? One can only assume two things: either you are openly hypocritical, or you are fundamentally ignorant: for Palestine 1920-2020 is one hundred years of servitude. From the British Mandate up to the American Plan.
Université de Montréal
A version of this letter was published in French on September 29, 2020 in Presse toi à Gauche.