The campaign to oppose illegal Israeli military recruitment has broken new ground. The Liberal government recently responded to a parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into those who have recruited or facilitated recruiting for the Israel Defense Forces. Last week, charges were laid on an organization allegedly violating Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act.
The 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 [combatant or non-combatant] in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”
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 act against those recruiting Canadians for the Israeli military.
In my latest piece in @ricochet_en I thank @MatthewGreenNDP for taking pro-Palestinian wishes of NDP members seriously. In a courageous move he recently sponsored a parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into illegal IDF recruitment in Canada https://t.co/hmAiIr4ejC— Bianca Mugyenyi (@Bianca_Kabibi) April 27, 2021
On September 20 the Liberals finally responded to a parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into recruitment for the IDF in Canada. Launched in April of last year, the petition sponsored by NDP MP Matthew Green received 15 times the number of signatures required to be presented in the House of Commons. But, it died on the order paper when Parliament was dissolved before the election. A follow-up petition was launched that the Liberals responded to last week.
In their response, the government ignored the evidence offered but reiterated the illegality of “anyone recruiting anyone in Canada to join the armed forces of a foreign state or other armed force operating in that state.” Seeking to wash their hands of the matter, the Liberals’ concluded that “the responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of offences under the FEA rests with independent law enforcement and prosecution services.”
In a more significant development, the court accepted a private prosecution launched against Sar-El Canada for its role in recruiting and/or inducing Canadians to assist the Israeli military. “The value of Sar-El to the IDF,” explains Sar-El, is its volunteers take on “routine logistical support tasks normally assigned to active-duty soldiers and reservists.”
Working under the direction of Israeli soldiers, Sar-El volunteers usually spend three weeks assisting in maintaining bases, painting helmets and packing food rations. They also service firearms and stock tanks with ammunition and other supplies.
Sar-El Canada is the Canadian branch of Tel Aviv based Sar-El (National Project for Volunteers for Israel). The Israeli Defense Ministry promotes the group as a way of “volunteering for the IDF without becoming an Israeli citizen” and one program participant describes the work as happening “alongside or under the direction of Israeli soldiers.”
After the federal government and Toronto Police failed to investigate evidence detailing Sar-El Canada’s violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act, a private prosecution was instigated by Rehab Nazzal and Rabbi David Mivasair. Last week a justice of the peace considered the evidence and determined the case deserved to be heard, compelling Sar-El to defend themselves in court.
While Sar-El Canada’s operations are certainly immoral, they may also be illegal. No one should be recruiting or inducing Canadians to assist a military that continues to oversee a system of racial apartheid that inflicts horrors against the Palestinian people.
Bianca Mugyenyi is an author, activist and director of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute. She is based in Montréal.