“Thousands of books describe various aspects of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict … This is the first book to focus on Canadian support for the dispossession of Palestinians, for a state based on one religion, and for the last major European colonial project.”
Several years ago, Yves Engler co-wrote Canada in Haiti and last year, The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy; now he focuses on the history of Canada’s relationship with the state of Israel. Engler is a full-time writer and speaker, living simply and travelling by bus across Canada to make his work known. Fortunately, there are still publishers that will take on writers like Engler.
He writes a primer on how Israel came to be. Israel fits the definition of apartheid: one privileged ethnic group occupying land and denying rights to millions. Not only successive generations of Canadian politicians and the corporate media have supported Israel but also Christian evangelical churches.
In Engler’s view, the reason for Canada’s support of Israel, beyond the religious context, was and is the need to defend and expand first the British Empire and now the American Empire. He writes, “Canada gains little from Israel’s occupation, which costs Palestinians so dearly” as we willingly participate in the defence of the Empire. Trudeau, who saw more value in doing business with Arab countries than with Israel, was the first prime minister to distance himself from pro-Israel support – even though half of his Montreal riding was Jewish.
Chapter ten, Changing Course, discusses the rising awareness of and increasing solidarity actions for Palestinian rights in Canada including major demonstrations for Gaza and positive responses to polls, including those that suggest “the more Canadians know about the conflict, the greater their sympathy for Palestine.” He says, “educating Canadian is the key to changing our foreign policy.” Speak out publicly and fearlessly; “there is no need to pander to manufactured fears.”
The BDS movement, in response to calls from about 200 Palestinian organizations, joined by more and others in the rest of the world since 2005, is gaining ground on many levels. Canadians activists are boycotting Chapters-Indigo (where this book is not available at the author’s request).
Engler says we should focus on ending weapons sales to Israel, revoke charitable status of organizations which support and fund pro-Israeli state policies that oppress Palestinians, and rescind our CSIS security agreements with Mossad.
“We want to ‘de-ethnicize’ the conflict. This is not an Arab or Jewish issue but rather one of global importance about basic human dignity.” Many Jewish groups do not support Israeli policy or Zionism.
Finally he writes, “On a broader level it is essential to democratize Canadian foreign policy. More than other aspects of government policy, foreign policy is dominated by a small elite. Most of the population is simply shut out of the discussion and until that changes the interests of the foreign policy establishment will take precedence over social justice …”
This article appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of Canadian Dimension (Queer 2).