The Trudeau government presents itself as both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian. In fact, Ottawa pursues policies that enable Israel’s expansionism while its relations with the Palestinians also serve the colonial authority.
At the start of last week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had successive calls with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali “I have killed lots of Arabs” Bennett and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. Foreign Minister Marc Garneau then met his Israeli and PA counterparts. The outreach is designed to offer diplomatic support to the new Israeli government and the PA, which recently canceled elections it has postponed for over a decade.
According to polls 84% of Palestinians consider the PA corrupt and many are critical of the Palestinian Authority for yielding in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement expansion. In recent days there have been major demonstrations in Hebron, Ramallah and elsewhere in the West Bank calling for the fall of the PA due to its role in repressing the Palestinian liberation struggle. In response the PA has asked Israel if it could buy gas canisters, stun grenades and “non-lethal” munitions to replenish its stocks.
The protests are a response to Palestinian security forces killing Nizar Banat, a 43-year-old media activist who documented alleged PA corruption. “Now the Dayton authority is arresting political activist Nizar Banat and confiscating all his possessions, including computers and phones, and brutally assaulting him,” his family posted toBanat’s Facebook account minutes before he was killed.
Palestinians regularly denounce the “Dayton Authority” and “Dayton forces”, which is a reference to former US Security Coordinator Keith Dayton. In the late 2000s the US lieutenant general oversaw organizing a 10,000-member Palestinian security force. “We don’t provide anything to the Palestinians,” Dayton told the Associated Press in 2009, “unless it has been thoroughly coordinated with the State of Israel and they agree to it.” For instance, Israel’s internal intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, vets all of the Palestinian recruits.
Like colonial authorities throughout history, Israel has looked to compliant locals to take up the occupation’s security burden. What is unique about the PA security forces’ operations are their international ties. In a 2011 story detailing how PA security “undermine efforts by Palestinians to challenge the occupation”, Adam Shatz wrote: “It is an extraordinary arrangement: the security forces of a country under occupation are being subcontracted by third parties outside the region to prevent resistance to the occupying power, even as that power continues to grab more land.”
Canada was/is the second-biggest contributor to the Dayton/Office of the United States Security Coordinator. A fifth of Dayton’s initial staff were Canadians, including a counterpart Canadian Brigadier-General. During the Stephen Harper government ministers repeatedly praised Dayton and Canadians trained the Palestinian security force in Jordan at the U.S.-built International Police Training Center (established to train Iraqi security after the 2003 invasion). While the number has varied slightly, 23 Canadian troops and 3 RCMP officers are currently part of Operation Proteus, Canada’s contribution to the Office of the United States Security Coordinator.
“The Canadian contribution is invaluable,” explained Dayton to The Maple Leaf, a publication of the Canadian army. Canadians are particularly useful because, Dayton said, “US personnel have travel restrictions when operating in the West Bank. But, our British and Canadian members do not.” Calling them his “eyes and ears” Dayton added: “The Canadians … are organized in teams we call road warriors, and they move around the West Bank daily visiting Palestinian security leaders, gauging local conditions.”
Canada has plowed more than $100 million into the PA security services over the past 15 years. In 2021 the military is allocating $8.8 million to Operation Proteus and millions of dollars more in “aid” supports Palestinian security forces. In 2018 the Trudeau government initiated the $1.25 million “Empowering the Palestinian Security Sector” and the $3.5 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.”
At the height of Canada’s involvement in Palestinian security sector reform tens of millions of dollars a year supported the Dayton led mission. According to former Minister Peter Kent “most” of a five-year $300 million Canadian “aid” package to the Palestinians that began at the end of 2007 was for the Palestinian security forces.
When Harper’s Conservatives threatened to sever aid to the PA for pursuing recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN, the Israelis pressured Canada not to cut off assistance. “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”, explained Canadian International Development Agency president Margaret Biggs. In the heavily censored 2012 note released through an access to information request Biggs also suggests the goal of Canadian “aid” was to protect the corrupt PA from popular backlash. She 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.”
Canadian military trainers and aid money have supported a Palestinian security force explicitly designed to enforce Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. An associated objective of Canadian support for the PA security forces was/is to bolster Abbas’ Fatah against Hamas. In 2007 Canadian ambassador to Israel Jon Allen was quoted by the Canadian Jewish News saying Ottawa supported the Palestinian police “to ensure that the PA maintains control of the West Bank against Hamas.” Dayton all but admitted that he was strengthening Fatah against Hamas, telling a US audience in 2009 his force was “working against illegal Hamas activities.” Between 2007 and 2011 PA security forces arrested 10,000 suspected Hamas supporters in the West Bank as part of the Israel–US–Canada stoked Palestinian civil war.
After Hamas won Canadian-monitored and facilitated legislative elections in 2006 Canada was the first country after Israel to cut its assistance to the PA. The aid cut-off was designed to isolate Hamas, which has long been a Canadian objective.
A principal way this has been accomplished over the past two decades is by criminalizing Palestinian political life. Eight of the oppressed nation’s organizations are listed as terrorist groups by Ottawa, which means Canadians cannot support those groups in any way. According to the terrorist legislation the federal government has to review listed organizations’ status every five years and last week the Trudeau government relisted HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, which were all listed in the early 2000s by Liberal governments.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a left secular organization that barely engages in armed struggle. Hamas won the last Palestinian election in 2006 and despite its obvious ideological problems appears peaceful when compared to the Israeli military, which recently killed 67 children in Gaza.
In 2018 the Trudeau government relisted the first ever Canadian-based group designated a terrorist organization. The International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN) was listed a terrorist organization in 2014 for engaging in the ghastly act of supporting orphans and a hospital in Gaza through official (Hamas-controlled) channels.
The Trudeau government has proffered innumerable forms of customary diplomatic/economic/security support to Israel, ranging from selling it arms to an enhanced free-trade agreement, security forces’ collaboration to diplomatic visits. It has also provided numerous forms of unconventional backing, including celebrating Canadians fighting in the Israeli military, withdrawing from a major UN conference on racism to placate Israel’s supporters, saying Canada would act as an “asset” for Israel if it gained a UN Security Council seat, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to stop consumers from knowing where wines are produced to obscure Israeli land theft, etc.
Despite professions of support for both Israelis and Palestinians, the Trudeau government’s relations with Palestinians largely serve Israel. Ottawa has a pro-Israel Israel policy and a pro-Israel Palestinian policy.