Melanie Joly traveled to Israel to support its genocidal policies in Gaza. The trip will go down as one of the more shameful moments in Canada’s odious anti-Palestinian history.
Amidst the brutal siege of Gaza foreign affairs minister Joly traveled to Israel Friday. After meeting her Israeli counterpart, Eli Cohen, Canada’s top diplomat tweeted, “I reiterated our support for Israel’s right to self-defence”. In describing the meeting, Israel’s foreign minister boasted, “We continue to mobilize the world for the fight against Hamas! I met today with Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, who also came to support Israel.”
In the hours before Joly released her tweet, Israel demanded that half the population of Gaza move to the southern part of the narrow coastal strip. Additionally, Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant boasted about cutting off water, food, fuel and electricity to the open-air prison. Gallant declared, “Gaza won’t return to what it was before. We will eliminate everything.” For his part, Israeli President Isaac Herzog rejected the idea that there are civilians in Gaza declaring the 2.2 million living there collectively responsible for Hamas’ attack. “It’s not true this rhetoric about civilians being not aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true,” he said. “They could have risen up, they could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup ‘détat.”
Alongside the genocidal statements and strengthened siege, Israel has fired over 6,000 rockets at a territory about the size of Montreal. During the past week they’ve killed 2,700 Palestinians, including 750 children. According to the Palestinian health ministry, 45 families have been entirely removed from the Gaza civil registry. The UN estimates that one million Palestinians have been displaced in Gaza.
Even if Israel were to stop its crimes against humanity tomorrow, Gazans would reel for years from the damage already inflicted. But everything suggests the apartheid state plans to escalate its murderous onslaught. Thousands more will likely be killed as Israel seeks to cleanse the southern part of the strip (most in Gaza are refugees from Zionist ethnic cleansing in 1947–48). According to US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, Israeli officials are debating employing Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs capable of killing everyone within “one-half mile” from the dropping site.
Understanding full well the war crimes Israel is committing, Canada’s foreign minister greenlit their violence during her visit. As she talked about Israel’s “right to defend itself”, Joly, Justin Trudeau and other Canadian officials have refused to condemn Israel’s war crimes.
Despite claims the entire conflict began nine days ago, Hamas’ violence doesn’t explain the Liberal’s anti-Palestinian policies. The Trudeau government has expanded the Canada-Israel free trade agreement, organized a pizza party for Canadians fighting in the Israeli military, voted against over 60 UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights, sued to block proper labels on wines from illegal settlements and created a special envoy to deflect criticism of Israeli abuses. During a 2018 visit to Israel former foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland announced that should Canada win a seat on the United Nations Security Council it would act as an “asset for Israel” on the Council.
The Trudeau government has been little different than Stephen Harper on Israel. But their policy also reflects a much deeper history. At the time of confederation Canada’s preeminent Zionist was Ottawa businessman Henry Wentworth Monk. A Christian, Monk began the Palestine Restoration Fund to buy Palestine from the Ottoman Empire and called for the British to establish a “dominion of Israel” similar to the dominion of Canada. In the 1978 book Canada and Palestine, Zachariah Kay notes: “Monk believed that Palestine was the logical center of the British Empire, and could help form a confederation of the English-speaking world.”
In subsequent decades Monk’s idea became increasingly popular, with leading politicians repeatedly citing a mix of Christian and pro-British rationale to support Zionism.
Canada helped realize the 1917 Balfour Declaration, a crass expression of British colonial thought granting Palestine to European settlers. Fresh from leading the First World War Anglo-French conquest of German West Africa, Québec City-born Lt-Gen. Charles Macpherson Dobell commanded a force that attempted to seize Gaza during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. As many as 400 Canadians (about half recruited specifically for the task) also fought in British General Edmund Allenby’s Jewish Legion that helped conquer modern day Israel/Palestine.
Canada’s most significant contribution to Palestinian dispossession was its central role in imposing the unjust 1947 UN partition plan. External Affairs Lester Pearson promoted Zionist objectives in two different UN forums dealing with the matter and Canada’s representative on the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, which was dispatched to the region to propose a solution for the British mandate, and is considered the lead architect of the partition plan. The UN partition plan gave the Zionist movement 55% of historic Palestine despite the Jewish community being less than a third of the population and owning 7% of the land. A huge boost to the Zionist movements’ desire for an ethnically-based state, partition legitimated the displacement of at least 700,000 Palestinians.
Hundreds of Canadian World War II veterans fought to ethnically cleanse Palestine. During the 1948 war Israel’s small air force was almost entirely foreign. At least 53 Canadians were part of it including Montreal’s Sydney Shulemson who is considered the “father of the Israeli Air Force”.
With the exception of Israel’s 1956 invasion of Egypt with Britain and France, Canada has supported Israel’s multiple foreign invasions and bombings.
For decades Canada’s intelligence agencies have worked closely with their Israeli counterparts. The Communications Security Establishment has long spied on Palestinians and shared the intelligence with Israel. For their part, Mossad agents have used Canadian passports to carry out numerous foreign assassinations. “A member of an Israeli hit squad that mistakenly killed a Moroccan waiter in Norway in 1973 had posed as a Canadian,” reported the Canadian Jewish News.
Maybe Canada’s least anti-Palestinian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien signed a free trade accord with Israel in 1997. In an implicit recognition of the occupation, CIFTA includes the West Bank as a place where Israel’s custom laws are applied.
While government ministers and opposition politicians justify it as a response to Hamas violence, Canada’s support for Israeli barbarity is routine. Joly’s encouragement of genocidal policies in Gaza reflects a long anti-Palestinian history by a fellow settler state, which, like Israel, is a key cog in the US Empire.
That is Canada’s reality. Until we acknowledge this truth and struggle to overcome it, we will never be a force for good in the world.