One of the best articles I have read about the Hamas-Israel war is The New York Times “There Is a Jewish Hope for Palestinian Liberation. It Must Survive” by Peter Beinart. Beinart is a Jewish-American professor of journalism and political science at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.
In his article he discusses how the United States has “repeatedly undermined Palestinians who sought to end Israel’s occupation through negotiations or nonviolent pressure.” This reminded me of how we have dutifully followed the American lead.
Ostensibly, we have consistently supported a 2-state solution in Palestine—one Israeli, one Palestinian. We recognized the first, Israel, upon its founding in 1948. We recognized it immediately and unconditionally. Recognizing a Palestine state was rather more complex due to the scattering of the Palestinian people. Nonetheless, the Palestine Liberation Organization formally declared such a state in November, 1988. It has been recognized by 138 of the 193 United Nations’ members. But not Canada.
In 2006, elections were held in the Palestinian territories. The elections were by all accounts free and fair. Prior to the election, Israel took measures to put the fix in, arresting candidates and suppressing Hamas’s campaign efforts.
To the chagrin of Israel and its supporters, Hamas won anyway. The United States and Canada refused to recognize the new government and Canada cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority. So much for Canada’s respect for democratic process—vote for our guy or it doesn’t count.
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution upgrading Palestine to “non-member observer state” status. Incredibly we voted against it along with Israel, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Panama and the United States. We claim to believe in a Palestinian state, yet we object to the Palestinians making a significant step in that direction through a peaceful process supported by a solid majority of the international community.
The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement attempts to use economic means to pressure Israel into meeting its obligations under international law. It defines these as withdrawal from the occupied territories, removal of the separation barrier in the West Bank, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and “respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.”
BDS is modelled after the anti-apartheid movement’s approach in South Africa. That, you may remember, Canada endorsed. Indeed, Prime Minister Mulroney became something of a hero in South Africa for his strong support. This was particularly commendable as the PM of the UK, Margaret Thatcher, opposed the sanctions, and for a conservative to buck the Iron Lady took guts.
In any case, it was a peaceful effort and that alone is worth something in the Middle East. But for some unfathomable reason our parliamentarians took umbrage and, in perhaps the most shameful day in the House of Commons (well, now the second most shameful) they voted overwhelmingly to reject it.
In Beinart’s article he discusses how the African National Congress was encouraged to use peaceful means to achieve freedom for their people because it worked. It brought governments on board, including ours, and achieved success. Their people were freed.
In contrast, due to vigorous opposition by Western nations, particularly the U.S., and sadly including Canada, peaceful means have completely failed the Palestinians. We are complicit in maintaining the conditions that created the monster, Hamas.
So no, our hands are not clean. The blood of the Israeli victims is on Hamas’s hands, but to say they are solely responsible is shallow thinking. No one person and no one group is solely responsible for anything. There is always history and context.
We are part of that history, and not an honourable part. We have co-operated with the Israelis and the Americans in holding the Palestinians in bondage until they accept a state that serves Israel’s interests, not their own. We have made our claim that we support a Palestinian state an exercise in hypocrisy.