Canada Indifferent to Palestinian Autonomy Struggles
Nizar Binat’s June 24 death at the hands of Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces is a harsh reminder of the PA’s attitude toward Palestinians who dare to criticize their authoritarian policies and security cooperation with Israel. Binat had been a candidate in the PA’s overdue parliamentary elections recently canceled by Israel.
Before this unilateral Israeli action, PA president Mahmoud Abbas had announced that the PA would hold parliamentary elections in May and presidential elections in July to “…heal long-standing internal divisions.” Abbas’ bland rhetoric offers little hope to restive Palestinians living precarious lives under Israeli martial law. Many Canadians (and Americans) may not be aware of their indirect complicity in Israel’s successful efforts to illegally seize all the valuable parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
“Operation Proteus is the Canadian military mission in the West Bank, part of the U.S. Security Coordinator office in Jerusalem and aid to the Palestinian Authority. Behind the façade of peace enhancement, Canada supports and trains the security forces of the Palestinian Authority, a collaborationist administration whose governance of the Palestinian areas of the West Bank primarily serves the interests of local elites and the Israeli occupier. Like the former colonial powers, Israel realizes the strategic value of recruiting indigenous peoples to police each other.”
Recently, Trump-inspired normalization (arms) deals between some Arab states and Israel have inspired limited cooperation between Fatah and Hamas who witnessed Israel pressuring Arab states to abandon the Palestinian cause. Such cooperation represents a potential threat to an expansionist Israel state that rightly fears Palestinian solidarity and peaceful resistance.
Hopefully, these new threats may alter the collaborationist nature of the Palestinian Authority, whose governance of the West Bank’s Arab enclaves has primarily served Israeli interests.
Most Palestinians and many Israeli citizens oppose continued Israeli interference in Palestinian democratic activities. These tactics have included arresting candidates, blocking access to West Bank areas, and preventing local elections in East Jerusalem under the ubiquitous “security” rationale. These actions undermine Israel’s self-proclaimed status as the Middle East’s sole democracy.
Recent mainstream media coverage of the Jerusalem strife highlight’s the grave difficulties faced by those who use democratic means to enhance Palestinian autonomy. A recent Associated Press article mentions how Hamas “…seized power in 2007”. In fact, Hamas was democratically elected in 2006 after an electoral process that Canadian observers considered fair. The results were unacceptable to both Israel and the PA who initiated a failed Gaza coup with U.S. support. While often harsh and even brutal, Hamas’ conduct is unsurprising to those with a comprehensive understanding of the conflict.
If overwhelming military force were capable of breaking the collective Palestinian spirit, it would have happened already. Israeli Arab participation in Israeli democracy is also under constant threat. While the current Israeli government of Naftali Bennet contains a small and ineffectual Arab faction, Israel had previously banned a Coalition of Arab Parties from participating in the divisive April 2019 elections. That exclusion prevented candidates from the Balad-United Arab List— which represents Palestinian citizens of Israel—from seeking election to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.
Unfortunately, the national election committee may have believed Netanyahu’s unsubstantiated remarks about Palestinian Israelis being “terrorist sympathizers.” Meanwhile, the national election committee had also approved the participation of the Jewish Power party, an organization linked to the Jewish Defense League – which was officially classified in 2000 by the FBI as a “rightwing terrorist group.”
Israel’s oft-repeated claims to democratic excellence and military morality must be contrasted against its simultaneous objection to any criticism of itself that is not applied with equal vigor to its despotic neighbours. Those who know Israel’s long-standing support for “stable” dictatorships like Sisi’s Eqypt will recognize the hypocrisy of such posturing.
Since Canada and the U.S. provide diplomatic, economic, and military support to Israel, it is well within the right of Canadians to hold Israel to the same standards we expect from our own government. Unfortunately, powerful forces are working to discourage such accountability. Middle East commentators continue to risk spurious anti-Semitic accusations, even for legitimate critiques of Israeli state policy.
I encourage Canadians to reject bad-faith accusations of anti-Semitism since many prominent Israeli, Canadian and American Jews are highly critical of Israeli conduct in the Occupied Territories. According to May 22, 2021 comments by Sun Media columnist Lorrie Goldstein, “Some of the harshest criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians comes from Jews in Israel.”
The Canadian government is well aware of the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories and that the Palestinian people are basically helpless against Israeli military and security forces who consider them aliens in their own land. The original Zionist term for Palestinians lingering on conquered territory was the Orwellian “present absentees.”
Not surprisingly, the Trudeau government has continued Stephen Harper’s aggressive opposition to the peaceful Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement and so-called anti-Zionism: according to Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), the three stated goals of the BDS movement align virtually perfectly with Canada’s official principles on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The goals of the BDS movement are: “1) Ending [Israel’s] occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall, 2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, and 3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”
After many decades, the two-state peace process has been revealed as a cynical annexation tactic that lends credibility to the notion of a binational Israel with equal rights for all citizens. Before such a possibility occurs certain facts and historical truisms must be faced by all parties to the matter. The ugly alternative is a worsening of current conditions leading to official apartheid.
Israel’s founders knew well that territory taken by force must be held by force and cannot be enjoyed in true peace. Despite this, the Israeli state has consistently suppressed Palestinian resistance to military rule while protecting its citizens in Israel proper and illegal settlers in the Occupied Territories. These developments gradually created a seamlessly militarized society where armed force became the first response to every territorial issue. Nevertheless, Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem continue to resist Israeli oppression and military rule; as any occupied people would.
The current strife could have been avoided if both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership had seriously considered a wonderful opportunity that presented itself in 2002. At that time, a fair and lasting peace seemed very possible. A proposal from the Arab League Peace Initiative offered the “…establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel in return for the…full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, in implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338…” but Israel chose not to accept it.
It’s not too late to revisit this forgotten initiative. Once the United States, and to a lesser degree, Canada and other world powers cease justifying and excusing Israel’s behaviour; lasting peace will be possible.