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Gaza: Defiant City

Spirit from Ashes, Strength from Rubble

Middle East

Illustration by Galen Johnson

This is not a war. It is a slaughter – Dresden 2009. So far, over 1,300 Palestinians have been killed, a third of them children. Thirteen Israelis are dead, most of them victims of friendly fire. As we have seen on our television screens, all of Gaza has been turned into rubble with the children of Gaza mutilated, bleeding and dead. We can barely imagine the psychic wounds inflicted on 1.5 million cowering civilians subjected to 1,000- and 2,000-pound bombs, 155 mm artillery shells, cluster munitions, heavy mortar fire, air-to-ground missiles, white phosphorus and high-powered tank shells.

Many commentators have observed that the immediate pretext of Israel’s savage attack, rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, does not explain the disproportionality of its attack, especially given the unrelenting sanctions, attacks and assassinations carried out by Israel throughout the ceasefire. Focusing solely on the rocket attacks conceals the political policy that led to them.

To say it bluntly, Israel’s massive attacks aimed at eradicating Hamas and ending the rocket attacks on Israel, without ending the impetus for those attacks, is 41 years of Occupation – with Israel meanwhile doing everything possible to ensure a sovereign and viable Palestinian state will never emerge. There are now more than 250,000 heavily armed Jewish settlers living in the West Bank, where a future Palestinian state is slated to be. They have made it clear they intend to stay. (We can add that, for Israelis who realized Hamas cannot be eradicated, the invasion boiled down to showing hawkishness as a weapon for next month’s elections.)

Once Hamas was crushed, according to plan, the U.S.- and Israel-financed Fatah would remain the sole voice of Palestinians. Fatah would then agree to the U.S.-Israeli plan for the West Bank, which allows Israel to retain its useful parts and leaves millions of Palestinians squeezed into Israeli-policed tribal enclaves, or Bantustans – like Gaza. But Hamas survives, and the invasion further weakens an already discredited Fatah, leaving Israel and the U.S. with no surrogate to rule over the Palestinians.

Even now, in the wake of ceasefire, Western diplomats say Israel intends to exert control over the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and is seeking guarantees that no projects will benefit Hamas. Israel retains full control over Gaza’s commercial crossings, through which goods and other materials for rebuilding must pass.

As Toronto Sun columnist Eric Margolis writes, the strategy of Hamas, the Arab world’s only democratically elected government, is simply to survive and continue to defy Israel and its allies. The homemade rockets fired by Hamas were an act of foolhardy but determined defiance. In Margolis’ view, Hamas “is a democratic revolutionary movement that threatens all of the Mideast’s U.S.-backed dictatorships and monarchies.” Which is why the U.S., the U.K. and most Arab governments are so determined to see Hamas destroyed.

Canadian Complicity in Israeli War Crimes

Canadian foreign policy, which in the past has claimed to be neutral in regard to Israel and Palestine, has shed any pretence of independence under Jean Chretien’s and Paul Martin’s Liberals and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives – aligning itself completely with the United States, Israel’s chief financial backer and arms dealer.

Further, not a single Canadian political party has come out in explicit condemnation of Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza. Instead, with Gaza nearly exterminated, they proclaim Israel’s right to defend itself until Hamas ceases to fire its homemade rockets.

Actually, Canada’s one-sided, multi-dimensional support for Israel goes back many years. For the record:

  • Since 1973, Canada has provided tax-free status to contributributions financing Canada/Ayalon Park – a recreation centre built on the ruins of three Palestinian villages.
  • Subsidized by Canadian tax dollars, Canadian Highways International Corporation built the Cross-Israel Highway, which is part of the military network of Jewish-only connector roads among the cantons in the West Bank.
  • In 1994, the two countries established the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Fund.
  • In 1997, they signed the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.
  • Heavily subsidized companies like Canadair, Canadian Marconi Company Electronics, Derlan Aerospace, Haley Industries and Magellan Aerospace make parts for Israel’s F-15 and F-16 fighter bombers and Apache and Black Hawk helicopters.
  • Caterpillar and Motorola are among the many Canadian companies profiting from Israel’s occupation.
  • April, 2002: Following Israel’s armed occupation of seven Palestinian cities, Canada was one of only two out of 53 counties at the UN voting against sending a team to investigate reported war crimes in Jenin.
  • Canada opposed the ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague that the “security wall” constructed by Israel on the West Bank was illegal and be dismantled.
  • Canada has refused refugee status to several hundred Palestinians who had fled from the violence, persecution and poverty of refugee camps in Occupied Palestine and in Lebanon. Many have been deported.
  • March, 2006: Canada became the first donor to suspend aid to the Hamas-led Palestine Authority on the grounds that it was a terrorist faction.
  • July 13, 2006: Prime Minister Harper described Israel’s massive attack on Lebanon as a “measured” exercise of Israel’s “right to defend itself.”
  • March, 2008: Canada and Israel signed a declaration of intent to address “common threats” to national security.”
  • January 12, 2009: Canada was the only country to vote against an emergency UN resolution that “strongly condemned the ongoing Israeli military operation which had resulted in massive violations of human rights of the Palestinian people and systematic destruction of the Palestinian infrustructure.”

Popular protests that drew thousands into the streets of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg and across the country show that increasing numbers of Canadians are saying “no” to Canada’s unconditional support for Israel. The pro-Israel lobby in this country, as in others, remains highly influential – but there are now serious divisions within the Jewish community. Still, many Canadians who might otherwise speak out remain mute out of fear of being labeled anti-Semites. This disabling and vile slander should not silence those who desire peace and justice.

The Call from Gaza

Canadian Dimension endorses this call from the Gaza University Teachers’ Association and Gaza Arab Cultural Forum:

  1. That Israeli war criminals be brought before the International Criminal Court or a Special Tribunal for war crimes committed in Gaza.
  2. That, in response to Israel’s severe breaches of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, Canada terminate all favourable trade agreements and economic relations with Israel.
  3. That Canada cut all diplomatic ties with Israel.

And we endorse their call on civil society to support the Palestinian campaign for an international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

As Israeli peace activist and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Jeff Halper said on the eve of his January cross-Canada speaking tour, “Israel is not a victim; it is the active perpetrator of a permanent apartheid regime over all of Israel/Palestine. It is toward that goal that Gaza is being violently pacified today. Israel’s killing with impunity scores of Palestinian civilians constituting nothing less than State Terrorism.”

The struggles of the Vietnamese against American imperialism and the liberation struggles in South Africa were historical moments that galvanized people to act in solidarity. The time has come for us to denounce this new form of apartheid and dispel the myths that cloud the path towards justice for Palestine.

This article appeared in the March/April 2009 issue of Canadian Dimension (The Great Recession).


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