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February 18, 2014

Harper offers false choice for Middle East peace

Morgan Duchesney

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Inspired perhaps by the fading echoes of George W. Bush; Stephen Harper has presented Canadians with a false choice on Middle East peace: either voice "absolute, non-negotiable belief in Israel" or be declared an anti-Semite. Stephen Harper refuses to be a real friend to the Israelis in the sense that he excuses their more objectionable behaviour for the sake of political support, business deals and misplaced guilt.

Much like medieval witchcraft charges; the anti-Semitic accusation is impossible to refute because the concept of anti-Semitism is subject to infinitely flexible and subjective definitions.  Even the most reasoned defense can somehow be twisted into a fresh offense and thus, many Canadians have been falsely branded for even daring to examine this volatile concept. According to Stephen Harper’s definition; both Israel and Canada’s Jewish community are crowded with anti-Semites who experience “self-loathing.”  It was recently reported by the Canadian Press that the offices of Harper and foreign minister John Baird were flooded with over one thousand letters from Canadians highly-critical of the government’s rigid pro-Israeli bias.

However, prominent among Harper’s Canadian boosters is conservative senator Linda Frum, sister to former George W. Bush speechwriter and strident Zionist David Frum. When asked recently about Canadian Jewish support for the Harper government; Senator Frum commented in MacLean’s magazine that Canadian Jews had simply grown tired of the”…notion that, when Israelis and Palestinians quarrel, Canada should consider the grievances of both sides equally.” In the current climate, senator Frum has little to fear in that regard.

According to rabble.ca, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) is a publicly-funded pseudo-parliamentary committee dedicated to convincing the federal government to adopt a sweeping new definition of anti-Semitism that would criminalize any criticism of the Israeli state as a hate crime. Current immigration minister Jason Kenney and former Liberal justice minister Irwin Colter have been the most public voices of this bizarrely Orwellian program.

It is disappointing to hear Harper and Baird presenting the red herring of Palestinian homophobia in their attempt to deflect attention from reasoned opposition to Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Perhaps we are to believe that the Netanyahu regime will remove the illegal settlements if the Palestinian Authority starts flying the rainbow flag. The fact that the Israeli state treats gays with greater kindness than Palestinian Arabs further undermines the flawed logic of Harper and Baird, who have no interest in open-ended dialogue on the illegality of these expanding settlements.

The Harper government recently announced $66 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority in stark contrast to their former threats to cut all funding if the PA pursued observer status at the UN. Rather than donate Canadian tax dollars, Harper would do better by encouraging the Israelis to relinquish control of Gaza’s borders, air space and coastal zones; thereby empowering the Palestinians to begin extracting the offshore natural gas reserves. The profits from this industry would largely solve Gaza’s financial woes and restore dignified independence to her people.

Many Western pundits are so enamored of Israeli military prowess that they either ignore or edit the complex history of the Middle East to fit their views. They might be surprised to learn that Israel is full of traumatized veterans and citizens who abhor their government’s Palestinian policy. In fact, many Canadians and Americans are more Zionistic than the average Israeli. Perhaps Israel-boosters might examine the original causes of the struggle before offering their strong opinions about “terrorism.”

The Israeli state was established largely through the terrorism of para-military groups like the Stern Gang, the Irgun and the Haganah; all of whom were active in driving Palestinians Arabs from their homes through a deadly strategy of lies, intimidation and overt violence. In spite of this history, Stephen Harper condemns the violence of Hamas and Hezbollah without considering historical context; as though the Palestinians suddenly awoke one day in the 1970s in the grip of bloodthirsty madness.

Those who wonder why a “terrorist” organization like Hamas continues to flourish among the Palestinians probably doesn’t know the sordid details of the struggle between Palestine’s Arab inhabitants and those European Jews who supplanted them in the first half of the 20th century. Europe’s Zionistic Jews approached the territory of Palestine and its Arab inhabitants with the same arrogant attitude that the Spanish, French and British brought to North America 400 years ago. They considered Palestine to be virgin land free of “civilized” people. This neo-colonial influx has been likened to a man, who; in the act of jumping from a burning building, lands on a passerby and declares himself safe.

The presentation of the Israelis and Palestinians as military equals is beyond ridiculous.  The corporate media rarely mentions of Israeli military violence in Gaza and the West Bank, settler terrorism against Palestinians and Christians or illegal Israeli air raids into nations like Syria and Lebanon. Arrayed against Palestinian rockets, mortars and automatic weapons is an Israeli military superior to most European NATO members; not to mention intelligence units like the Shin Bet, Mossad and the elite Saryet Golani Special Forces who respect no borders and kill with impunity.

The Israeli state claims to be committed to the so-called peace process. This empty exercise is merely a permanent delaying tactic on the road to annexing East Jerusalem, The West Bank and retaking Gaza. This phoney process can only lead to one of three conclusions: ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, total apartheid or a bi-national state. Witness the endless procession of rejected UN resolutions and the constant complicity of the U.S. government; Israel’s arms dealer and financier. Evidence to the contrary includes Israel’s categorical rejection in April of a renewed version of the 2002 Arab League peace plan endorsed by the Palestinians and every Arab state. This plan offered “full normalization of relations in return for Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders.” Nowhere in the corporate media will you read about Israel general Matti Peled’s 1967 warning to the Israel cabinet about the wisdom of immediately helping the Palestinians to establish a state to avoid the future deterioration of Israeli society. Such dissonant information has been written out of official history.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have utterly destroyed any hope of a separate state for the Palestinians because no Israeli leader will dare to use the army in to oust the settlers. Ironically; this is good news for Palestinian and Israeli peace activists who desire a secular bi-national state where Arabs and Jews live together as equals with the same laws and rights for everyone. 

The state of Israel is strongly critiqued precisely because it is a liberal democracy and should know better than to abuse its Palestinian subject population. Attacking the ugly behaviour of the despots in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia is just and necessary but is largely futile because these states are unaccountable both to their people and the world and sanctions only hurt the poor. We need only look to the tragic example of thirteen years of U.S.- backed sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. U.S. ambassador to the UN Madeline Albright publicly stated that the hundreds of thousands of child deaths were an acceptable part of the U.S. government’s Iraq strategy. How many lives must be spent before peace and justice arrives in Palestine?

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