Action Please! Media must cover illegal military recruitment story 

Sar-El Canada brings about 150 Canadians to volunteer on Israeli army bases each year (Photo Sar-El)

Violating the law by directly assisting a military enforcing apartheid seems of little interest to English Canada’s major media unless they can celebrate it. 

Recently a Justice of the Peace accepted there was sufficient evidence to bring charges against Sar-El Canada for violating the Foreign Enlistment Act (FEA). Set up by an Israeli General four decades ago Sar-El has more than two dozen branches around the world. Sar-El volunteers do non-combat tasks such as maintaining the facilities, stocking shelves and cleaning guns. According to Sar-El, the volunteers are responsible for “routine logistical support tasks normally assigned to active-duty soldiers and reservists.” Sar-El Canada brings about 150 Canadians to volunteer on Israeli army bases each year.

The legal ruling is a significant victory for a heterogenous campaign to press the authorities to crack down on illegal recruitment for the Israeli military. Two years ago the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Just Peace Advocates and others instigated a multi-faceted campaign calling on the federal government to apply charges under the FEA against those recruiting Canadians for the Israeli military. Since then, there have been no less than 20 articles about the campaign published in Canadian Dimension, Rabble, Spring, Ricochet, Canada Files, Canadian Jewish News, The Jewish Independent, Passage, Breach, Middle Eastern Monitor, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, Mondoweiss and other left-wing outlets. In Québec Le Devoir discussed the campaign on its front page and in a follow-up article while Journal de Montréal also ran a story on the challenge to Israeli military recruitment in Canada. But in English Canada the dominant media has ignored the campaign against illegal recruitment for the IDF.

It’s not due to lack of outreach or media hooks. When the campaign was instigated a number of reporters expressed interest but got cold feet or were stopped by their editors from covering a public letter signed by prominent individuals and the formal legal complaint delivered to Justice Minister David LamettiThere have also been several releases sent to hundreds of journalists and editors after a formal criminal complaint was delivered to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and new evidence was sent to Lucki’s assistant Rob O’Reilly as well as a parliamentary petition and thousands emailing the minister. In the case of the recent Sar-El Canada ruling the lawyers even paid to send the press release over the Canada newswire. Still, there has been no pick-up.

It’s not that the media is unwilling to report on Canadians joining or volunteering with the Israeli military. They’ve, in fact, published a slew of stories sympathetic to Canadians joining/assisting the IDF.

A year before the launch of the campaign CBC Calgary ran “‘I don’t see why I shouldn’t have to serve’: Why young, Jewish Canadians are enlisting in the Israeli military”. In 2014 the National Post published “When Duty Calls; Dozens of Canadians have decided to go to Israel to take up arms for the Jewish state” while an Edmonton Journal story that year took a slightly different angle: “‘I just want her to get through this in one piece’; Worried parents of Canadians serving in Israeli military hope for safe return”.

There have also been numerous stories about Sar-El Canada voluteers. Grannies find adventure with Israeli army. Thrill-seeking Hampstead neighbours spent two months volunteering with the Israeli Defence Force”, noted the Montréal Gazette in 2015. For its part, the Toronto Star published “Seven months after reading an ad in the paper these Metro women were working for Israeli army” and “Uniformed vacations; It’s summer camp for adults. Tourists sign up for a stint in the Israeli Army for a unique experience not offered anywhere else”.

Five months after the launch of the anti-recruitment campaign Davide Mastracci wrote about the blackout in Media Is Ignoring Alleged Illegal Israeli Army Recruitment in Canada”. He pointed out that the subject of Canadians fighting in Syria had received significant media attention and that the anti-recruitment campaign was newsworthy due to the evidence it offered and prominent individuals who signed the public letter. Mastracci concluded, “we have a story Canadians would be interested in and on a topic the press has cared about in the past, being told by a trustworthy group of people, with evidence to back it up, that law enforcement is taking seriously enough to investigate. And yet, nothing from mainstream English-language press in Canada.”

For two years the dominant media has refused to cover a peace and anti-colonial minded campaign rooted in upholding Canadian law. Well, at least the campaign seems to have deterred them from running stories lauding Canadians who join/assist a military terrorizing Palestinians.

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