The world is watching as Israel commits open genocidal violence against the Palestinian people and some of the most sacred sites of Islam, such as Al-Aqsa Mosque. But as is usually the case, capitalist media and politicians across the Western world have either blamed Palestinians for their own suffering, or attempted to wave away the violence with ‘both-sides’ rhetoric which draws an absurd false equivalence between an Israeli military equipped with state-of-the-art tools of death (and backed by the world’s imperialist powers), and Palestinians who lack the basic dignities, liberties, and necessities of life.
In Canada, our media—in too many examples to chronicle—have insisted on highlighting ‘Palestinian aggression’ or using terms like ‘conflict or clashes’ between two equal forces. But we know the truth: this isn’t a clash, this is a massacre.
But if you listen to most of Canada’s political parties, they fall into this very trap. The Trudeau government’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau did note concern with some of Israel’s actions, but made sure to call upon all sides to avoid escalation and violence. But this ignores a fundamental reality: only Israel can end this conflict, and they have only chosen to intensify it.
Not to be outdone, former Green Party Leader Elizabeth May retweeted Garneau by underling that “both sides must step back. This situation is egregious.” Unfortunately, the Greens’ official party statement was even worse than Garneau’s. It fell back on the rhetoric of clashes and all sides needing to de-escalate, but utterly failed to even mention the asymmetry of violence, and the specific attacks on Palestinians, their homes, and their sacred sites. Finally, and not at all surprisingly, Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives released a vile statement which painted Israel as the victim of terrorist attacks and having a clear right to defend itself.
But the NDP took a different path, thus breaking with the all-party consensus in favor of Israeli genocide, and with the party’s own approach in recent years which sought to excuse Israeli aggression. Jack Harris, the NDP foreign affairs critic, put it plainly without caveat that Israel is at fault in this instance:
Escalating violence in East Jerusalem as a result of the ongoing illegal occupation is deeply troubling. The demolitions, forced removal of Palestinians from their homes, and blocking access to popular gathering spots must end. Israel needs to put a stop to the illegal evictions and de-escalate, and Canada must increase efforts to seek a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict.
This was mirrored by leader Jagmeet Singh, who said that “The threatened evictions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah of East Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan—or any other day—is deeply troubling. Illegal occupation, demolitions, and forced evictions must end. PM Trudeau must take a stand and uphold International law.”
But there was real concern from progressives in Canada that Singh and the NDP would not demand specific action with respect to party policy. Fortunately, Singh stepped up and made a pointed demand—as the vast majority of NDP members called for at the recent federal convention—for Canada to stop selling weapons to Israel so long as it continues to attack innocent Palestinians. He also did this during Question Period yesterday in calling upon the prime minister to implement this principle, because Canada arming one side of this “conflict” does the opposite of promoting peace. Trudeau, of course, cowardly emphasized the ‘both-sides’ narrative.
NDP leader @jagmeetsingh calls on Canada to respond to violence in the Middle East by banning weapons sales to Israel! We were waiting for this, it’s the right thing to do @ndp pic.twitter.com/9K9gEvGzPO— CJPME #SaveSheikhJarrah (@CJPME) May 12, 2021
Singh and Harris were not the only outspoken voices, however. NDP MP Matthew Green put the situation in stark terms that Western audiences may understand viscerally: “I can’t fathom a scenario where a group of people would throw flash bombs into the Vatican”
Many will rightly say that the NDP’s position still needs to be stronger in favour of Palestinians and their liberation. They can rightly point to the fact that Singh has been unclear—at best—on the question of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement against Israel in a general sense. And some NDP MPs like Randall Garrison have often taken positions on Israel’s violence that align him more with the Liberals, Greens, and Conservatives than the actual NDP membership. Nonetheless, one could never see the Tom Mulcair NDP taking such a stand, and this is one that will almost certainly lead corporate media to denigrate Singh and the NDP as “terrorist sympathizers.”
This is a first step, but a historic one. With continued pressure from activists within and beyond the NDP, hopefully it can become a rare beacon of justice for Palestinians among mainstream parties in the Western world.
Christo Aivalis is political writer and commentator with a PhD in History. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, and Passage. He can be found daily on YouTube and at his new podcast Left Turn, Canada.