By Yves Engler
Israel has attacked Gaza again and it is time Canadians understood their country’s contribution to the brutal treatment of those living in the 360 square kilometer strip of land.
On August 5, Israel killed at least 10, including a five-year-old girl, in Gaza. Seventy-five more Palestinians were injured in the latest outburst of Israeli violence.
Most of those living in Gaza were driven from their homes in 1947/48. Canada played a central role in drafting and promoting the 1947 UN partition plan, which legitimated the Zionist movement’s ethnic cleansing. Before that Royal Military College of Canada graduate, Charles Macpherson Dobell commanded Britain’s 1917 Second Battle of Gaza and hundreds of Canadians fought in the General Allenby-led Third Battle of Gaza. They employed significant amounts of chemical weapons.
Canada armed Israel in the years after it ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians. The weapons deliveries continued even after the IDF launched a number of murderous raids into Gaza and Egypt that left dozens dead in 1954 and 1955.
After Israel invaded Egypt with the British and French in 1956 foreign affairs minister Lester Pearson wanted to take Gaza away from Egyptian administration and make it UN controlled. This proposal was rejected by the Arab countries because it would’ve made it more difficult to expose Israeli aggression on Palestine. Syria’s spokesperson at the UN complained that “the representative of Canada is … deftly supporting the Zionist policy.”
Between 1967 and 2005 Israel formally occupied Gaza. Soon after withdrawing, Israel imposed a blockade, which has restricted food and medicine entering the tiny coastal territory. Today two million Palestinians live in a giant prison cut off from the world by the mighty Israeli military.
Canada has enabled Israel’s siege of Gaza. After Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 Canada was the first country to impose sanctions against the Palestinians. Ottawa’s aid cutoff and refusal to recognize a Palestinian unity government was designed to sow division within Palestinian society. It helped spur fighting between Hamas and Fatah. When Hamas took control of Gaza Israel used that to justify its siege of the coastal territory.
Canada has refused to criticize Israel’s brutal blockade. For example, Canada was the only country at the UN Human Rights Council to vote against a January 2008 resolution that called for “urgent international action to put an immediate end to the siege of the occupied Gaza Strip.” The motion was adopted with 30 votes in favor and 15 abstentions.
In November 2011, the Canadian Boat to Gaza set sail to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade. The Israeli navy captured the Canadian flagged boat in international waters, a violation of international law, with no protest from Ottawa. Instead, Foreign Affairs criticized the political-humanitarian mission and the Canadians imprisoned, tasered and robbed by the Israelis.
In 2009 Ottawa barred British parliamentarian George Galloway from Canada for delivering humanitarian aid to Hamas officials who were the elected administration in Gaza. Similarly, the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy lost its charitable status and was the first-ever Canadian-based group designated a terrorist organization for engaging in the ghastly act of supporting orphans and a hospital in Gaza through official (Hamas controlled) channels.
The Toronto based organization tried to send a dialysis machine to Gaza and continued to support orphans in the impoverished territory with the money channeled through the Post Office controlled by the Telecommunications Ministry.
Canada also legitimized Israel’s siege of Gaza by directly participating in it. In 2009, Canada joined the Gaza Counter-Arms Smuggling Initiative alongside the Netherlands, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Italy, and the U.S. “We look forward to continuing work with our partners on the program of action to coordinate efforts to stop the flow of arms, ammunition and related material into the Gaza Strip,” then Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said in a statement.
As it has locked up Gaza’s population, Israel has launched a series of deadly wars (2009, 2014, 2021, etc.). In 2018-19, 200 Palestinians were killed and another 5,000 injured by live fire in peaceful March of Return protests in Gaza.
About 5,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in Gaza during the past 15 years. Ottawa has generally ignored or justified Israel’s killing. The Trudeau government has so far failed to condemn Israel’s latest outburst of violence.
Canadians of conscience must at minimum condemn Israel’s violence against the long-besieged Palestinians in Gaza and call on our government to do the same.