Tag Archives: Foreign Enlistment Act

Challenging illegal Israeli military recruitment in Canada

The campaign to oppose illegal Israeli military recruitment in Canada has received a significant boost. A parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into IDF recruitment has quickly surpassed the number of signatures required to be presented in the House of Commons.

Submitted by Rabbi David Mivasair and sponsored by NDP MP Matthew Green, the petition “calls upon the Minister of Justice to undertake a thorough investigation of those who have recruited or facilitated recruiting for the Israel Defense Forces, and if warranted lay charges against those involved in recruiting and encouraging recruiting for the IDF.” In 48 hours over 1,000 individuals have signed the petition, which is twice what’s required for it to be read in Parliament. The government then has to respond.

The petition is part of a multi-faceted campaign that began in the fall with a formal complaint and open letter signed by Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, filmmaker Ken Loach, author Yann Martel, former MP Jim Manly, poet El Jones and more than 150 others. The letter called on the federal government to apply charges under the Foreign Enlistment Act against those recruiting Canadians for the Israeli military.

It is a crime to recruit anyone for a foreign military or to encourage any person to serve in a foreign military. The Foreign Enlistment Act states, “Any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”

On several occasions the Israeli consulate in Toronto has advertised that they have an IDF representative available for personal appointments for those wishing to join the IDF. In 2019 the consulate announced, “an IDF representative will conduct personal interviews at the Consulate on November 11-14. Young people who wish to enlist in the IDF or anyone who has not fulfilled their obligations according to the Israeli Defense Service Law are invited to meet with him.” Subsequently, United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto and Federation Combined Jewish Appeal Montréal publicized a webinar last June by Nefesh-B’Nefesh titled “Joining the IDF”, which claimed to offer participants “everything you need and want to know about joining the IDF.”

As part of drawing attention to the recruitment, Justice Minister David Lametti received a formal complaint and letters from nearly 1,500 individuals. Additionally, the chief of staff for the office of the RCMP Commissioner, Rob O’Reilly, received a packet of evidence and 900 emails regarding illegal Israeli military recruitment in Canada.

The campaign has been widely covered in left Canadian and pro-Palestinian media. “Why is the Israeli military still recruiting in Canada?” (Canadian Dimension), “Canadians should not be recruited to fight for the Israeli army” (Rabble), “Canadians recruited for Israeli war crimes” (Spring), “Toronto schools push students to join Israeli military” (Canada Files), “What Constitutes Recruiting” (Jewish Independent), “Civil society groups demand action on illegal Israeli military recruiting in Canada” (Rabble), “National Campaign Against IDF Recruiting Begins in Canada” (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs), “Justice minister asked to investigate alleged illegal recruiting in Canada by Israeli Military” (Canada Talks Israel Palestine), “Canadians call on justice department to investigate IDF recruitment in Toronto schools” (Mondoweiss), “Israel illegally recruits Canadian citizens to its army” (Electronic Intifada), “Open letter declares opposition to the Illegal Recruitment of Canadians by the IDF” (Canada Files), “Campaign to stop Israeli military recruitment in Canada gathers pace” (Middle Eastern Monitor) are some of the articles published on the campaign.

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 evidence presented to the justice minister and RCMP. A number of reporters expressed interest in the campaign but got cold feet or were stopped by their editors from covering the public letter and evidence compiled. In February Davide Mastracci wrote a powerful article about how “Media Is Ignoring Alleged Illegal Israeli Army Recruitment In Canada”.

The lack of corporate media attention partly reflects the silence of the anti-Palestinian lobby. Generally quick to denounce pro-Palestinian activists “toxic obsession with Israel”, the Israel lobby have failed to find fault with a campaign suggesting they are engaged in criminal activity. They understand that publicly denouncing the anti-recruitment campaign would draw attention to an issue difficult to defend. The potential illegality of the recruitment is embarrassing and promoting a foreign army rests uneasily with even right-wing nationalist thinking, which is generally sympathetic to an anti-Palestinian outlook. Prominent military historian Jack Granatstein, for instance, told an interviewer, “in my view no one who is a Canadian should be able to enlist in some other country’s military and keep his Canadian citizenship.”

At the same time, the Israel lobby doesn’t want to stop convincing young people to join the IDF. According to 2017 statistics from the IDF, 230 Canadians served in the Israeli military. In 2020, 9 per cent of “lone soldiers” in the Israeli military were from Canada according to the IDF. Canadians staff West Bank checkpoints and ships enforcing the blockade of Gaza.

About 3,500 “lone soldiers” serve in the IDF. This is significant but a relatively small proportion of the 150,000 enlisted in the Israeli military.

But “lone soldiers” are of value beyond their military capacities. Foreigners volunteering to fight for Israel are a powerful symbol to pressure/reassure Israelis weary of their country’s violent behavior.

“Lone soldiers” also intensify the Zionist ethos within much of Canada’s Jewish community. If a friend or family member is willing to give up two years of their life to ‘protect the Jewish people’, goes a certain Zionist logic, I should at least donate to an Israel focused group, lobby a politician, undermine a pro-Palestinian professor, etc.

The campaign to oppose Israeli military recruitment in Canada challenges this ideological climate. Bringing the issue into the House of Commons is an important step in disrupting a dynamic where a young Torontonian can be in charge of overseeing Palestinian misery. Please sign the parliamentary petition.

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Challenging illegal Israeli military recruitment

Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv hosted party with Canadian “lone soldiers” in IDF on Jan 16 2020

There’s a Canadian law that makes it illegal to recruit soldiers for a foreign state, but you’d never know it the way Israel and its supporters operate in this country.

The Foreign Enlistment Act states: “Any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”

But for three quarters of a century Canadians have been recruited inside this country to fight in Israel’s military. Finally, however, there is an organized effort to stop this practice.

Recently a formal legal complaint was delivered to Justice Minister David Lametti detailing recruitment for the Israeli military in Canada and calling on the federal government to apply charges under the Foreign Enlistment Act where appropriate. Additionally, an open letter was released last week demanding the Trudeau government take action on recruitment for the Israeli military. Signed by Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, filmmaker Ken Loach, author Yann Martel, former MP Jim Manly, poet El Jones and more than 150 others, the open letter points out that “the Israeli consulate in Toronto has advertised on several occasions that they have an IDF representative available for personal appointments for those wishing to join the IDF.”

Last November the Israeli consulate in Toronto openly announced a military recruitment effort. According to their notice, “an IDF representative will conduct personal interviews at the Consulate on November 11-14. Young people who wish to enlist in the IDF or anyone who has not fulfilled their obligations according to the Israeli Defense Service Law are invited to meet with him.”

A number of groups help bring and support Canadians in the Israeli military. Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman’s Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers supports non-Israelis in the IDF and at its Toronto office the Friends of Israeli Scouts’ Garin Tzabar program has provided Hebrew lessons and support services, as well as help with transport and accommodation in Israel, for Canadian “lone soldiers”. Nefesh B’Nefesh’s also helps non-Israelis join the IDF.

When I was Vice President of the Concordia Student Union in 2002 Hillel, a Jewish student group, provocatively handed out flyers entitled “Volunteer for the Israeli Defense Forces!” In the aftermath of then former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being blocked from speaking on campus, Hillel advertised a recruitment program for the Israeli army!

While the number of Canadians in the IDF is always in flux, a January estimate put it at 78. In 2017 it was 230 and during Israel’s 2014 destruction of Gaza, which killed 2,200 Palestinians, 145 Canadians were thought to be fighting in the Israeli military. At least 25 individuals from the Greater Toronto Area fought in Gaza during Israel’s 22-day 2008/2009 assault, which left 1,400 dead. During Israel’s 2006 assault on Lebanon the Canadian Jewish News reported, “Canadian youths leave home to join Israeli army.”

Israeli military recruitment in Canada is long-standing. The most important and well-documented recruitment took place during the war unleashed by the 1947 UN Partition Plan and Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Representatives from Haganah, the primary pre-state Zionist military force, recruited 300 experienced Canadian soldiers to serve in Israel’s ranks a decade after Canada adopted the Foreign Enlistment Act to stop Canadians from fighting against Franco’s fascist forces in Spain. Haganah’s main recruiter in Canada, the heir to Tiptop Tailors, Ben Dunkelman, claimed “about one thousand” Canadians “fought to establish Israel.” Dunkelman wrote, “the Haganahcommand had decided to recruit experienced combat soldiers to serve in the Jewish forces. They wanted me to get to work on recruiting an infantry brigade of English-speaking volunteers, which I would lead in action.” More than half a million dollars ($5.5 million in today’s money) was raised to pay for the travel and living costs of the Canadian troops.

During the 1948 war Israel’s small air force was almost entirely foreign, with at least 53 Canadians, including 15 non-Jews, enlisted. Montreal’s Sydney Shulemson is considered the “father of the Israeli Air Force” and, in a highly mediatized move, Canada’s top World War II fighter ace, Buzz Beurling, went to fight for Israel.

Ottawa did little to stop Canadians from joining Israel’s fight despite outlawing recruitment for a foreign army during the Spanish Civil War. Far from stopping it, Canadian diplomacy helped gain the release of Canadians detained in Lebanon en route to fight in Palestine.

Canadians engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. “By the summer of 1948,” reports researcher Dan Freeman-Maloy, “he [Dunkelman] was in command of a Brigade actively depopulating Palestinian villages by force — a unit so heavily comprised of recruits from Canada, the United States and South Africa that it came to be known as the ‘Anglo-Saxon Brigade.’”

The Israeli military’s belligerent, violent character has not abated since then. In his 2008 book Defending The Holy Land: A Critical Analysis of Israel’s Security & Foreign Policy Zeev Maoz notes, “there was only one year out of 56 years of history in which Israel did not engage in acts involving the threat, display, or limited use of force with its neighbors.” Over the years Israel has bombed Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia and Iraq. In recent years the Israeli military has bombed Syria on a weekly basis and has multiple boots on Palestinian necks. The Israeli military administers a brutal occupation in the West Bank and regularly kills Palestinians in Gaza.

The Liberal government needs to apply Canadian law regarding recruitment for the Israeli military. It’s long past time to disrupt the flow of Canadians killing Palestinians.

 

 

Please take a minute to email Justice Minister David Lametti to ask him to investigate recruitment in Canada for the Israeli military 

 

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