Sunday, July 19, 2015

Canadian Government Silent on Gaza Slaughter at One

Canadian silence on one year anniversary of Israeli attack on Gaza

by Stefan Christoff - The Media Co-Op

July 9, 2015

Today in Canada, there is a dangerous alignment across the official political spectrum to not speak the truth about Israeli apartheid, or to acknowledge in full, the large scale systemic human rights abuses taking place against the Palestinian people.

On the one year anniversary of the 2014 Israeli bombardment of Gaza, a military attack that extended over 51 days, that took the lives of more than 2,250 Palestinians, the great majority civilians, there has been a resounding hush from the Canadian political establishment.

Imagining such heavy and intentional political silence on the first anniversary of any other major conflict, involving one of Canada’s closest international allies today, is impossible. Canada strongly backed the Israeli bombardment, the Conservatives largely repeated Israeli government talking points throughout the bombings and during the disastrous attempt at a ground invasion into Gaza, which saw major incidents of Palestinian civilians being slaughtered, such as in the Shujayea district.

Also during the bombardment last summer upwards of 500 Palestinian children were killed and well over 10,000 Palestinians were injured, many seriously, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

To imagine the incredible scale of destruction in Gaza is difficult, at times statistics can work to compartmentalizing things and sanitizing the deep human suffering involved. In this context, highlighting that the Israeli military strikes largely hit densely populated civilian areas is important, strike that aimed to terrorize, as part of an intentional policy to kill Gazans, a military strategy increasingly coming to light in the year after the mass bombing.

Beyond direct deaths, there is the sustaining damage to Palestinian society in Gaza, where Israeli bombs destroyed an estimated 20,000 homes, the great majority of which haven’t been rebuilt until today, due to the sustaining joint Israeli-Egyptian military blockade of Gaza.

On a cultural level, the Israeli strikes on Gaza last summer targeted university buildings, agricultural areas, factories, public infrastructure like Gaza’s water treatment systems and particularly mosques, with over 70 mosques destroyed and many others damaged in the bombings. In real terms the Israeli bombing of Gaza last summer was a military campaign driven by collective punishment, a war against a largely besieged civilian population with no exit.

Legal arguments outlining the Israeli war crimes inherent to the bombings of Gaza last summer are clear and focused, with a case developing at the International Criminal Court, that the Israeli state is desperately attempting to diffuse.

Back to Canada

On this one year anniversary of the bombing of Gaza the resounding inability for any politicians in Canada to speak up for the Palestinian people is haunting, but also really does reveal the lack of humanist principles on the table within mainstream Canadian politics.

There is little question that Israel engaged in systematic war crimes against the Palestinian people last summer. There is also little serious question about the fact that Israel practices a military and legal system of apartheid against the Palestinian people, yet despite growing international condemnation toward these Israeli policies, Canadian politicians remain not only silent on the issue, but are in many cases actively complicit in these Israeli state crimes.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has also taken up the Israeli apartheid mantel, issuing a statement last summer during the bombings that essentially backed the deadly attack on Gaza. Months later, in spring 2015, Trudeau called for the silencing of the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid. Trudeau has been consistently and openly complicit in the Canadian context with this wave of systematic Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.

By extension the NDP is still refusing to take a clear position against the ongoing Israeli besiegement of Gaza, a military siege working to ensure that tension and conflict remain deep rooted. Today according to the UN, not even 1 Palestinian home, of the over 10,000 destroyed homes in Gaza has been rebuilt, a reality directly linked to the Israeli military siege, banning the entrance of most construction materials.

NDP officials urgently need to face a grassroots challenge to this policy of complicity toward Israeli apartheid, like seen last summer during the Gaza bombings. The NDP, despite being a political party asserting narratives about social justice, still has not taken the side of justice in the case of Palestine.

At the level of official power in Ottawa, the Conservatives have been fully backing the Israeli state and military machinery over the past decade. From the halls of global power at the UN, to the massive pro-Israel delegation organized by the Conservatives and Harper to assert excessive complicity with the Israeli state, the neo-colonial, pro-Israel position in Ottawa is clear.

In fact the Conservatives have been working diligently to put into full political practice a 2005 assertion by former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, who stated that “Canada’s values, are Israel’s values,” a essentially truthful phrase, due to the colonial settler foundational identity to both states, that is now being asserted more and more brazenly.

Beyond politicians, the complicity of arms manufactures and corporations, who despite clear knowledge that their technology and manufactured parts will be used by the Israeli military in the context of systemic war crimes, continue to sell deadly technologies to Israel.

CAE corporation in Montréal, that specializes in flight simulators and “real-time operation systems” has secured multiple contracts involving the Israeli military, including a project with the military company Elbit Systems, to train Israeli military personnel to operate "next-generation combat aircraft.” Another CAE project focuses on operating systems for Israeli air force Black Hawk utility helicopters, corporate military work being done in the heart of Québec, CAE’s ominous buildings can clearly be seen from the Chomedey autoroute in Montréal.

Additionally the engines for the Bell “cobra” helicopter, nicknamed the “viper” on the Israeli Air Force website, are produced in the Montréal region by Pratt & Whitney Canada. Also the Israeli military uses helicopters produced in Mirabel, Québec by Bell Helicopter Textron Canada, a company also represented on a recent Conservative governmental delegation to Israel.

So political and corporate complicity with the Israeli state is clear, in both Québec and Canada. Silence from the political class on this one year anniversary equals and illustrates this open complicity.

In response, our challenge now, for those living on these indigenous lands called Québec and Canada, is to continue to build the global BDS campaign at home and beyond. In so many ways the BDS campaign is a clear process that can work to catalyze people, pushing toward collective action in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Also the BDS movement in the long term, does represent a real challenge to the impunity and institutionalized violence of the Israeli colonial system and that is why the Israeli state is now panicking.

On this one year anniversary let us also highlight and celebrate the steadfast Palestinian resistance, taking place against incredible odds.

Also let us recall the consistent steps forward that the BDS campaign is making, in Canada and internationally. Including the major cancellations of concerts, by artists like Lauryn Hill, as part of the global cultural boycott campaign against the Israeli state. Also there is the increasing impact of boycott actions against Israeli agricultural products in Europe, while on campuses there is the systematic advance of boycott resolutions within student unions, including a key vote by the Concordia Student Union in Montréal this past winter.

In basic terms there is a growing gap between grassroots opinion and the halls of power on this issue. As more and more people become involved and engaged with the global Palestine solidarity movement, those walking the halls of power are going to have a harder and harder time justifying their support for Israeli apartheid, that’s a basic political fact.

In so many ways this also illustrates clearly a deep political and moral bankruptcy of official power politics in Canada, to which our collective response to take action in solidarity with Palestine despite the official state complicity, shows both the importance for grassroots international solidarity work and also the critical role that activist networks can play in challenging structures of power.

Today there is little question that in the long term the Israeli siege on Gaza and the generalized apartheid policies won’t sustain, under the pressure of Palestinian resistance, both armed and civilian on the ground, taking place in parallel to a strong global solidarity movement, lead-by the BDS campaign, now it's only a question of time before the system of Israeli apartheid falls.

Stefan Christoff is a writer, community organizer and musician living in Montréal, you can find Stefan @spirodon

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