Canada’s Christian PM now Israel’s chief cheerleader
There is an advantage in looking at the relationship between Israel and a politically weak country like Canada; how much Israel needs any ally in the international arena and how a wannabe international player like Canada looks to Israel for technological know-how.
1) AFP: Muslim group threatens Canada PM with libel suit;
2) JTA: What makes Canada’s PM one of Israel’s staunchest supporters?;
3) AFP: Canada pledges financial aid to West Bank, Ynet chooses the agency report about Canada’s gift to Palestinians;
4) Haaretz: Harper tells Knesset: Anti-Zionism is the new face of anti-Semitism, Barak Ravid on Harper’s use of all the right words;
5) Media Line: After warm Israeli welcome, Palestinians cooler on Harper’s visit, Linda Gradstein compares and contrasts Harper’s reception in Israel and Palestine;
6) Global Research: Canada and Israeli Apartheid: Why are the Harper Conservatives So Pro-Israel?, James Cairns provides a socialist analysis of Canada’s new foreign policy;
In Bibi’s grip: Stephen Harper, Canadian PM and Netanyahu. Photo by AP
Muslim group threatens Canada PM with libel suit
National Council of Canadian Muslims bristles after Harper compares organization to Hamas
BY AFP / Times of Israel
January 29, 2014
OTTAWA — A Muslim organization said Tuesday it will sue Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his spokesman for libel unless they retract and apologize for a statement linking the group to Hamas.
Canada lists Hamas as a banned terrorist organization.
“To say that our organization has illegal affiliations is deeply offensive to us and to Canadians of all faiths and backgrounds and only serves to reinforce ugly stereotypes about Canadian Muslims,” Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), told a press conference.
He pointed to Harper spokesman Jason MacDonald’s comments to a Canadian media outlet earlier this month.
The NCCM had asked the prime minister’s office to bar a rabbi accused of links to an American anti-Muslim “hate group” from Harper’s first official trip last week to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.
MacDonald responded saying: “We will not take seriously criticism from an organization with documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas.”
Since his election in 2006, Stephen Harper has been full throated, unapologetic and seemingly indifferent to consequence in his support for Israel.
January 18, 2014
It took seven years, but one of Israel’s staunchest allies among world leaders will be making his maiden voyage to the Jewish state on Sunday.
In announcing the trip last month at a Jewish National Fund dinner, where he was being honored, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Israel “a light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness” and pledged that the Jewish state “will always have Canada as a friend.”
Since his election in 2006, the Conservative prime minister has been full throated, unapologetic and seemingly indifferent to consequence in his support for Israel.
Harper was the first Western leader to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority following Hamas’ 2006 election in Gaza and the first to withdraw from the second UN World Conference Against Racism, known as Durban II, saying the event would “scapegoat the Jewish people.”
Canada has sided openly with Israel in every one of its military operations since 2006. Harper’s Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, calls him Stephen, and the two speak regularly. And earlier this month, Harper appointed Vivian Bercovici, a Toronto lawyer and an outspoken Israel supporter, as Canada’s ambassador to Israel.
Harper has backed Israel with such fervor that some scholars and diplomats “rank it as the most dramatic shift in the history of postwar Canadian foreign policy,” according to journalist Marci McDonald’s 2011 book, “The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada.”
The jolting change has left many of Canada’s 375,000 Jews swooning following decades in which Ottawa sought a more neutral posture toward Israel. And they have repaid the good will: Polls showed that for the first time, more than half of Canadian Jews (52 percent) voted for Harper’s Tories in the 2011 election, a historic departure from their traditional base in the Liberal Party.
Observers agree that Harper, an evangelical Christian, stands to gain little by supporting Israel and in fact may be paying a price. Canada failed in its 2010 bid for a seat on the UN Security Council for the first time, a result some attributed to its foreign policy in general and support for Israel in particular.
Politically, Harper also has little to gain and much to lose. The shift in Jewish voting has helped Conservatives only in about 10 of Canada’s 308 electoral districts, though Jewish voters in three key Toronto-area districts helped replace Liberal members of parliament with Conservatives, two of whom are Jewish themselves. Among Muslims, a community roughly triple the size of Jews in Canada, Harper won a meager 12 percent in the last election.
“I do think his support for Israel is a principled one because he will stand to lose more non-Jewish votes than gain Jewish ones by his forthright defense of the country,” said Henry Srebrnik, who got to know Harper when he taught at the University of Calgary in the early 1990s and Harper represented the city in the House of Commons. “I doubt there was any sudden epiphany when it comes to Israel, but more likely a growing, and probably somewhat religiously based, admiration for the Jewish state.”
Above, leading conservative Rabbi Philip Scheim, part of Canada’s delegation to Israel.
Harper is Canada’s first evangelical prime minister in 50 years, and most observers accept that his faith plays some role in his support for Israel. Toronto Rabbi Philip Scheim, who will accompany Harper to Israel, dismissed the notion that Harper’s support for Israel is part of an “end-of-days, apocalyptic scenario.”
“I sense that he sees Israel as a manifestation of justice and a righting of historical wrongs, especially in light of the Holocaust,” Scheim said.
In speeches and interviews, Harper has credited his late father, a teetotaling accountant who raised his son in the mainline liberal United Church of Canada, with being his greatest influence. Joseph Harper spoke favorably of the Jewish people, teaching his three sons of the Jews’ biblical status as the chosen people and that in the wake of the Holocaust, they deserved kindness.
According to McDonald’s book, the younger Harper shifted to evangelicalism after being encouraged to read the works of Christian thinkers C.S. Lewis and Malcolm Muggeridge. He joined the Christian and Missionary Alliance, an evangelical denomination headquartered in Colorado that stresses the authority of the Bible and the physical healing powers of Jesus but does not have an especially strong Zionist component.
McDonald paints an alarming picture of a right-wing, Christian takeover of Canadian politics. Others aren’t convinced.
“I haven’t seen signs that [Harper] is motivated all that strongly by anything distinctively Christian,” said John Stackhouse, a theology professor at Regent College in Vancouver and one of Canada’s top watchers of evangelicals. “On two of the main issues from his purported religious constituency — namely abortion and homosexuality — he has done next to nothing and prevented others, actually, from doing anything.”
Harper was exposed to Middle East policy issues when he was first elected to Parliament in 1993 under the banner of the Western-based, populist Reform Party, many of whose members were pro-Israel evangelicals who saw Israel as an oasis of democracy surrounded by dictatorships.
The Reform Party begat the short-lived Canadian Alliance, which Harper led briefly before all right-leaning parties were united in the current Conservative Party of Canada. But in its three years of existence, the Canadian Alliance worked to broaden its base by forging close ties with the Jewish community — notably B’nai Brith Canada, according to Lloyd Mackey’s book “The Pilgrimage of Stephen Harper.”
Norman Spector, who served as Canada’s ambassador to Israel from 1992 to 1995 under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, offers a simple reason for Harper’s pro-Israel stance.
“I think it’s simply that he is an intelligent man who has read widely and thought deeply about the issue,” Spector said
PM Harper says Canada would provide additional financial support for West Bank, in meeting with Abbas in Ramallah
By AFP / Ynet news
January 20, 2014
Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada said Monday the staunch Israeli ally would provide additional financial support for the West Bank, as he met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah.
“I have the pleasure to announce today that Canada will this year give additional (financial) support for the economic development of the West Bank,” Harper told reporters, saying this was key for “social stability” and for advancing peace.
Harper was on his first official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, as the US-backed Middle East peace process falters ahead of an April deadline after nine months of talks.
He did not elaborate on details about the aid.
Israel ally Canada was one of the few countries that opposed a successful Palestinian bid for upgraded status at the United Nations in 2012.
Abbas acknowledged “differences” with Ottawa on the question of Palestine, but said these should be resolved through discussion, and that the Canadians were entitled to their own views.
A diplomatic spat last April saw the Palestinian Authority summon Canada’s envoy over a controversial visit by Foreign Minister John Baird to annexed east Jerusalem to meet Israel’s justice minister.
Baird met Tzipi Livni , lead peace negotiator in Israel’s cabinet, at her office in east Jerusalem, a move normally avoided by visiting diplomats because it could be seen as legitimising Israel’s controversial annexation.
Abbas also reiterated that Palestinians were committed to the agreed nine months of talks, despite Palestinian anger at Israel’s continued settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.
The Middle East Quartet published a plan in September to revive the ailing Palestinian economy, in an effort to support peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The three-year “Palestinian Economic Initiative”, which is to focus on private sector growth, came after international financial institutions urged Israel to loosen sanctions against the territories.
Stephen Harper is first Canadian PM to address the Knesset; ‘Canada won’t tolerate delegitimization of Israel
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz
January 20, 2014
Speaking in both French and English, Canada’s national languages, Harper opened his address by telling members of Knesset that “Canada and Israel are friends in a natural way.”
“To truly understand the ties between Canada and Israel one must go beyond the institutions and look at the ties between peoples,” Harper said. “Jews have been present in Canada for more than 250 years… 350,000 Canadians share with you their heritage. They are immensely proud of what was accomplished here.”
“Canada supports Israel fundamentally because it is right to do so,” he added. “We stand up for a free and democratic Jewish state.”
But, Harper said, Canada also supports the creation of a Palestinian state. “Just as we support Israel we support peace for the Palestinians,” Harper said, later adding: “I believe that a Palestinian state will come when the people will realize that peace is the way.”
Canada will not accept the delegitimization of Israel, Harper declared. “Canada finds it horrible that there are those in the international community who challenge Israel’s legitimate right to exist,” he said. “That with one solitary Jewish state among many others, it is all too easy to isolate Israel.”
The Canadian prime minister also told MKs that he believed expression of anti-Zionism to be on par with anti-Semitism. “Anti-Semitism still exists in its traditional form based on ignorance in some of the dark corners of the world,” he said. “In the Western world it takes on a more sophisticated form. With some intellectualized arguments on some campuses.This is the new face of anti-Semitism.”
Harper also turned his attention to the issue of Iran, which dominated headlines on Monday after the Islamic Republic began halting uranium enrichment and prompted the U.S. to suspend some its sanctions. “Canada’s sanctions against Iran will stay in place,” Harper vowed.
While Harper’s speech was welcomed by most parliamentarians, he was heckled by two Arab lawmakers: MK Ahmad Tibi screamed “settlements,” and MK Talab Abu Arar then shouted and stormed out of the hall. After the outburst, Harper received a standing ovation from other parliamentarians.
A royal welcome
Harper arrived in Israel for his first visit on Sunday night, greeted with a royal welcome by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu considers Harper his best, perhaps only, friend among today’s world leaders, and to be a wholehearted supporter of his government’s policy.
In introducing Harper to the Knesset, Netanyahu told his Canadian counterpart: “The people of Israel appreciate your steadfast support and sincere friendship. Welcome to Israel, dear friend.”
“There are those in the international community know the true facts, but you have the bravery to stick to the truth and to say the truth,” Netanyahu added. “Canada under your leadership is a moral compass and a lighthouse of honesty in the age of hypocrisy we live in.”
Throwing in some Canadian humor, Netanyahu told Harper: “There are streets in Toronto that are longer than the distance between Jerusalem and Ramallah,” referring to Yonge Street, which feeds into the TransCanada Highway. “This is why security is crucial.”
Netanyahu also praised Canada for standing with Israel against those who would delegitimize it, for backing it in the war on terror and against anti-Semitism, and for supporting a real peace with has “at its roots the Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish national state.”
Changing subject to Iran, Netanyahu said, “The international community must take the Iranian nuclear train off the tracks in a permanent agreement… it is about time the international community stop legitimizing Iran while it is still calling for the destruction of Israel,” he said.
During a press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah earlier on Monday, Harper dodged a question about the Israeli settlements. “I will not single out Israel on this trip,” he said. “Our position on this is known.”
This is Harper’s first visit since his election in 2006, and he is the first Canadian prime minister to ever address the Knesset. He will also receive an honorary degree from Tel Aviv University.
On the eve of Harper’s visit to Israel, the Foreign Ministry in Ottawa issued an updated policy paper on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although many on the right believe the Harper government to be a full-fledged supporter of Israeli policy on the Palestinian issue, the policy paper states that Canada believes the settlements are illegal and an obstacle to peace.
The policy statement, published on January 13, six days before Harper’s arrival in Jerusalem, points out that Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories conquered in 1967 and says the settlements constitute a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. “Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace,” it reads.
The policy paper reveals that the Canadian government also does not support Israeli policy on Jerusalem, for Netanyahu’s demand for recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, nor Netanyahu’s position that not a single Palestinian refugee will return to Israel.
Canada’s stated support, however, for Israel touches on several issues – security arrangements, Israel’s right to self-defense, and opposition to anti-Israel discrimination at the UN.
The policy statement says that Canada recognizes Israel’s right to ensure its security: “Israel has a right under international law to take the necessary measures, in accordance with human rights and international humanitarian law, to protect the security of its citizens from attacks by terrorist groups.”
By Linda Gradstein, The Media Line/ National Post
January 21, 2014
JERUSALEM and RAMALLAH — At a time of increasing tensions between Israel and Europe over Israel’s ongoing construction in areas acquired in the 1967 war, and amid nervousness over a new American framework peace plan due to be announced any day, Israelis were happy to welcome Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as one of Israel’s staunchest friends among national leaders. In contrast during his visit to the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah, tension was evident.
Harper, is in the region for four days at the head of an especially large delegation consisting of more than 200 politicians and business leaders. Included in the group are six cabinet ministers and six members of Parliament.
On Monday, Harper became the first Canadian Prime Minister to address the Israeli Parliament [Knesset], an honor previously bestowed upon such notables as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; King Juan Carlos of Spain; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and former and present French Presidents Francois Mitterand and Francois Hollande.
Among Israelis, Harper is known for his consistent support for the Jewish state and for his close personal relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who hosted a private dinner in his honor. Israel Schwartz, a Canadian-Israeli delegate to the Harper mission, explained to The Media Line that Harper’s father’s admonition that, “the Jewish people have suffered enough,” plays a role in the Canadian Prime Minister’s determination that Israel must be “independent in defending itself.” In his remarks before the Knesset, Harper said his nation supports “the Jewish State of Israel for no reason other than it is the right thing to do.”
To Israeli diplomats who are hosting a succession of international leaders far more critical of its policies than Harper, the Canadian’s visit stands in contrast. “Stephen Harper has been very clear, very public and very straightforward in his policies,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirshson told The Media Line. “It’s not because he’s doing us a favor. It’s because he believes it’s what’s right for Canada. It’s a nice feeling having him here.”
Despite the welcome warmth, some Israelis believe that Canada is nevertheless not as important on the diplomatic front. Jonathan Livny, an Israeli lawyer, told The Media Line that, “I have Canadian clients, but Israel doesn’t really care about Canada. They don’t see Canada as having the same kind of international significance as the United States.”
It was not surprising to many that the atmosphere was more tense during Harper’s visit to the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah earlier in the day. A Palestinian source speaking to The Media Line on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press characterized the mood as “tense,” noting that the Canadian security detail was larger than that of most other heads of government visiting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
In his remarks in Ramallah, Abbas thanked Harper for Canada’s financial aid and said he hoped relations between Canada and the Palestinians would improve. Abbas took note of Canada’s decision to vote against Palestinian statehood at the United Nations when Ottawa took the position of the United States and Israel that statehood could come only as the result of negotiations between the parties rather than by a unilateral act.
Some Palestinians were skeptical that Harper could make a real contribution to the Palestinian push for an independent state.
We’re not really expecting anything because he is completely pro-Israel
“We’re not really expecting anything because he is completely pro-Israel,” a senior Palestinian official told The Media Line. “He is coming to drink coffee with Abu Mazen [Abbas’s nickname] and get his picture taken. That’s it.”
But others felt the visit offered a chance to improve the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Canada.
“At the beginning of peace process in 1993, and for years after until 1998/ 2000, Canada was part of the multinational talks and dialogue on refugees. Canada was involved in supporting [the Palestinian Authority] in some way, not like Norway, the EU or the US, but it was ‘acceptable’ to offer support towards the Palestinian economy,” Dr. Saadi El Krunz, a former Palestinian minister of Industry and Trade told The Media Line. “After the Intifada broke out in 2000, a pro-Israeli, right-wing government emerged in Canada. It almost stopped all kind of support to the Palestinians. There was little dialogue between us and the Canadians. Canada did not even attend important meetings for donors. “
Krunz, currently a professor of finance at Al-Quds University, said he hoped Harper’s visit to the West Bank would encourage him to take a more even-handed approach on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
“The Jewish community has great influence over the Canadian government which influences decisions on the Middle East,” he said. ” Canada is working in the interest of Israel.”
Harper’s delegation includes prominent Jewish leaders.
“Prime Minister Harper represents the sentiments of most Canadians who recognize Israel as a liberal democracy which protects its minorities and the rights of individuals,” David Koschitzky, chairman of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs [CIJA] told The Media Line. He represents the advocacy arm of the Jewish Federations of Canada.
Elections are due to be held in Canada next year. Koschitzky said that even if the National Democratic Party, headed by Thomas Mulcair, wins, Canada’s support for Israel would remain steady.
“If there was a change of government, it would be the exact same thing,” Koschitzky said. “The bottom line is that Israel and Canada have shared values that cement the bond that is blind to party politics.”
Other members of the delegation said that the Conservative party is popular because the Canadian economy is stable and has weathered the world recession.
“Harper might not be the most charismatic, but he is a man of principle and sticks to his principles. He does not yield because something is not politically correct,” according to Shwartz. “Conservatism is not popular in the world arena today, but it does keep society and culture in place. In 2015, I believe that the Conservatives will win on the platform of ‘economy and integrity,’ even if it’s not by a large margin. The Canadian economy is at its peak; it was able to maintain its economy better than G-8 countries during the turndown of 2008.”
Not everyone agrees. Laurence W. Zeifman, another businessman in the Harper entourage believes Israel would lose the intensity of its relationship with Canada if Harper were to lose power. “I do not trust the Canadian Liberal Party leadership nor the New Democratic Party to maintain such a relationship. Either of them, if elected, will abandon principled leadership on the Middle East and revert to Canada’s traditional record of following Europe’s lead.”
Economic ties between Israel and Canada are very strong. Since 1997, the two countries have had a free-trade agreement. In 2009, the scope of trade between them was $1.3 billion. The large delegation of businessmen traveling with Harper hope to sign new deals and expand business ties even further.
Canadian entrepreneur Alan Greenberg, chairman of GreenSoil Investments, explained Canada’s benefits from doing business with Israel. “It is important for Canada and the world to access the Israeli innovation pipeline. In the past two years.” Greenberg said that in the past two years his company has invested in five innovative Israeli food and agro technology companies. “We couldn’t find similar technologies anywhere in the world,” Greenberg explained. “We are confident these companies will help ease the global food crises.”
In his warmly-received speech to a packed Knesset chamber, Harper singled-out defence co-operation, saying the use of Israeli military technology during Canada’s Afghanistan mission “saved the lives of Canadian soldiers.”
Abdullah Erakat contributed to this report from Ramallah.
By James Cairns, Global Research, Socialist Project
May 14, 2013
The Canadian government has been a strong supporter of Israel since the country was founded in 1948 through the expulsion of most of the indigenous Palestinian population from their homes. In its friendly treatment of Israel, Canada has long played an important international role in covering up the violent dispossession of Palestinians and the apartheid system that maintains and normalizes their oppression.
Yet even by the standards of Canadian complicity in Israeli apartheid, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have taken support for Israel to a whole new level. Harper’s government has declared that “Israel has no greater friend in the world today than Canada.” A leading Israeli newspaper calls Harper “Netanyahu’s closest ally” and “the foreign leader friendliest to Israel.” When the Palestinian Authority sought greater recognition at the UN in 2012, Canada threatened to cut off aid to Palestine.
The Harper Conservatives’ approach marks a significant break with Canadian government policy of the past sixty years. Although Canada has always been pro-Israel, it has traditionally represented itself as more of a neutral party in disputes between Israelis and Palestinians, and indeed has acted less one-sidedly in the past. In 1967, for example, Canada supported the UN resolution demanding Israel withdraw troops from newly-occupied Palestinian lands and calling for a just settlement of refugees. This sort of position is inconceivable today. Political scientist Harold Waller is clear about the current government’s shift: “I think Harper’s backing of Israel is unprecedented for any Canadian prime minister. He’s much more a staunch supporter of Israel than any of his predecessors.”
Describing Harper’s pro-Israel policy as extreme need not contradict the fact that Canada has always been complicit in Israeli apartheid. In fact, if Palestine solidarity activists in Canada are to clearly identify the challenges and openings faced in our current organizing context, we need to address the question: why are the Harper Conservatives so extremely pro-Israel?
Harper’s Israel cheerleading has become so passionate as to puzzle some in his own ranks. For example, even Canadian government officials, including former ambassadors to Israel, have argued that Canada’s extreme pro-Israel stance weakens Canada’s reputation in the international arena. Others wonder why Harper would pursue a policy that more than half of Canadians disapprove of. In contrast to the suggestion that the Harper government’s policy is illogical (because it tarnishes Canada’s international reputation or because it risks alienating voters or for some other reason), I want to suggest that there is in fact a clear logic to the government’s support for Israel when interpreted in the context of a much broader policy shift.
This argument is different than the main ones on offer. The government’s own explanation can be dispensed with immediately. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s claim that “Israel is worthy of our support because it is a society that shares so many values with Canada – freedom… democracy… human rights and the rule of law” is absurd not only because of the apartheid character of Israel but because Canada itself is built on the dispossession of indigenous people at home and abroad and has a long track record of befriending all sorts of brutal, anti-democratic regimes (Pinochet’s Chile, Suharto’s Indonesia, and Mubarek’s Egypt, to name just a few).
But the answers typically offered by both mainstream and radical commentators are also inadequate. They tend to focus on the power of the “Israel lobby” and Conservative electoral strategy. For example, the CBC radio show The Current aired an episode called “Jewish Voters” that began: “Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s staunch support for Israel appears to be attracting a sizeable number of Jewish voters, many of whom have traditionally voted Liberal.” In the run-up to the 2011 federal election, much was made about Harper’s Israel policy as a strategy for winning close ridings in Toronto and Montreal.
Approaching the question from the radical left, Yves Engler argues that “rather than ‘Jewish votes’ Harper’s ‘Israel no matter what’ policy has more to do with mobilizing his rightwing, evangelical base on an issue (unlike abortion) that has limited electoral downside.” Other radicals assert that Canada has a default interest in supporting the Israeli state because the two have a shared history of settler colonialism.
There is probably some truth in both these viewpoints. Like all major political parties, the Conservative Party is crucially motivated by a quest for votes. But it is misguided to attribute such a significant policy change to electoral struggles in a few urban ridings, especially when polls suggest that the Conservative brand of extreme support for Israel is actually out of step with a majority of Canadians. More importantly, explaining a major policy shift as a result of vote-seeking is inconsistent with a critical understanding of state and society that recognizes that what states do is crucially shaped by their role in reproducing capitalism in the part of the world in which they are located. Radicals need to be careful not to reproduce mainstream assumptions about the main forces that shape how governments act.
What about the other common explanation, that Canada backs Israel because both are colonial states? It’s true that both Canada and Israel were built on the dispossession and displacement of indigenous peoples, and both work hard to hide their unjust foundations beneath the mask of liberal democracy. But many states around the world that were not built upon settler colonialism are also strong supporters of Israel. The fact that both Canada and Israel are settler colonial states is worth considering, as I do below. But this fact alone does not explain why the Conservative government has so drastically changed Canadian policy toward Israel since taking office. After all, Canada has always been a settler colonial state but its support for Israel has only become so extreme under the current government.
The Logic of Harper’s Israel Policy
If we are to understand Harper’s Israel policy more fully, we need to view it in the broader context of the government’s overhauling of domestic affairs and repositioning of Canada’s place in the world. To be more specific, it’s clear that in an increasingly competitive global economy, the Harper government is staking Canada’s future on becoming a leader in the field of natural resource extraction and related hi-tech industries. It recognizes Israel as a model of this sort of economy and the type of social system required to support it. Israel is a trailblazer in a range of neoliberal strategies that the Harper government desperately wants to profit from and mimic.
By neoliberalism, I mean a socio-economic model in which the state plays a very active role in pushing land, goods, services, and human capacities for labour onto the market where they can be bought and sold for profit. The budding relationship between the Canadian and Israeli states reflects the Harper government’s particular neoliberal strategy for Canadian capitalism.
The Harper government has been explicit about its intent to reshape politics and economics in Canada, and its actions confirm this commitment. Harper is seeking to turn Canada into an “energy superpower,” where a top priority of the state is establishing the conditions for the aggressive advance of the extractive industries and related ventures at home and abroad. The prime minister’s words are instructive: “We are an emerging energy superpower. We want to sell our energy to people who want to buy our energy. It’s that simple.” Realizing this goal is the government’s core project.
To do this, more and more people, land, and services must be driven into the market, because the market is the only place that profits are made. This ongoing process has been called “accumulation by dispossession” by the geographer David Harvey. Anything that obstructs the buying and selling of land, resources, labour, and social support systems is treated as an obstacle to be demolished.
For example, one of the key planks of Harper’s aboriginal policy has been to privatize reserve land, breaking up the legal basis of collective ownership and opening up indigenous lands to capitalist development. Shiri Pasternak writes that “collectively held indigenous lands continue to pose major barriers to capitalist expansion” because massive deposits of minerals and fossil fuels and “over half of large intact forest landscapes are found on lands in historical Aboriginal treaty areas.” In order for Harper’s energy superpower to thrive, indigenous rights must be extinguished and indigenous people forced off their lands.
At the same time, the government has imposed new rules that make it virtually impossible for critics to speak at government hearings on oil-sands and pipeline development, giving exclusive voice to industry advocates. Foreign policy is also being used to further the interests of Canadian mining, oil, and gas companies. For example, in the 2013 budget the government folded the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) into the Foreign Affairs ministry, and pronounced that the job of CIDA is to support Canadian businesses overseas, and indeed partner with private corporations. Funding to universities is increasingly tied to researchers’ ability to generate knowledge that can be turned into profit.
The Harper government’s extreme support for Israel becomes easier to understand when we realize that Israel is a leader in endeavours that are key to the success of Harper’s strategy.
Israel provides the Harper government a model for the integration of dispossession, research, innovation, and commercialization that has led Israeli companies to become global leaders in biotech, military, and other hi-tech industries. Adam Hannieh explains that after decades of state ownership of major industries in Israel, the 1980s and 1990s were a period of rapid privatization in which a domestic capitalist class was consolidated. The core focus of the Israeli capitalist class is the hi-tech sector, where innovations in fields such as water purification, pharmaceuticals, information and communication technologies, and armaments are the basis of profit-making that depends on the commercialization of knowledge and “permanent siege” of Palestine.
Postsecondary institutions in Israel are closely aligned with the private sector, and Israel’s Technion university is ranked sixth in the world for “entrepreneurship and innovation.” A course at the University of Haifa entitled “Innovation in a Nation: The Israeli Phenomenon” explains that “Israel has earned a reputation as one of the most active hubs for innovation, second only to Silicon Valley. Its ventures gain their founders multibillion dollars worth of ‘exits’ every year, promoting the country as an attractive target for acquisitions.” The Harper government’s efforts to tie postsecondary funding to private sector development, especially in science and technology, demonstrate its commitment to this framework. So does the change to CIDA mentioned above. In fact, the Harper government recently signed a foreign aid pact with Israel designed to “encourage the two countries to share strategies for international development.”
Political leaders in Canada are clear about wanting to learn from and link with Israel in order to develop a similar economic model in this country. For example, while visiting Israel in 2010, former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty explained the importance of partnering with Israeli companies like Teva Pharmaceuticals: “Teva Pharmaceuticals is a perfect example of the kind of partner we’re looking for in Israel. This is a country where scientists and academic leaders have figured out how to turn today’s ideas into tomorrow’s new investments. We’re here to learn and promote the benefits of doing business with Ontario’s life sciences companies.” In April 2013, two ministers in the Harper government – Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, and Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear – announced a request for proposals under the new Canada-Israel Energy Science and Technology Fund, seeking collaborations that will “spur the development of innovative energy technologies… of interest to both countries.”
The Harper government recognizes the way in which the resources of the Israeli state have been used to create a more integrated economy, in which the needs of business determine regulatory frameworks and knowledge generated in universities, which feed into profitable technological developments that fortify the institutions of apartheid that Israel depends on for its success. This is not to suggest that the situation in Canada is identical to conditions in Israel-Palestine. But Israel is a master teacher in the modern arts of accumulation by dispossession, and Canadian governments and businesses want a piece of the action.
Importing the Matrix of Control
Of course, Harper’s neoliberal project also requires beefing up the state’s security apparatus. A successful new phase of accumulation by dispossession must guard against resistance at home and abroad and eliminate alternatives. Canada looks to Israel on this front as well, as Israel is also a global leader in the repressive “securitization” project.
At a symbolic level, Israel provides lessons in mobilizing the emotional basis of national identity to consolidate its version of neoliberal settler colonialism. This is also what the Harper government is doing through military pageantry, tough-on-crime rhetoric and legislation, and generating fear of foreign influences at the same time as the Conservative austerity agenda actually drives down most people’s standards of living.
More concretely, the Harper government is purchasing Israeli technology and partnering with Israeli organizations that prop up the Israeli economy through the theft of Palestinian land and attacks on Palestinian resistance.
As Jeff Halper argues, Israel profits by exporting elements of its “matrix of control,” the system it uses to dominate Palestinian life. In Naomi Klein’s words: “Many of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs are using Israel’s status as a fortressed state, surrounded by furious enemies, as a kind of 24-hour-a-day showroom, a living example of how to enjoy relative safety amid constant war.”
The Harper government is developing ways to turn this into a partnership: “Canadian forces use Israeli-made drones in Afghanistan and the IDF uses Canadian-made electronics in its operations in the West Bank and Gaza.” The ministries responsible for securitization in Canada and Israel have signed a declaration committing the two countries to sharing “knowledge, expertise, experience, information, research, and best practices” and to facilitating “technical exchange cooperation, including education, training, and exercises” in the name of forging “a more structured framework for the continued cooperation on public safety issues between Canada and Israel.” Israeli security companies such as G4S, which support Israeli prisons that brutalize Palestinians, do open business in Canada. Police and military forces in Canada have received training in Israel.
Importing aspects of Israel’s matrix of control fits with the logic driving Harper’s energy superpower agenda. This new phase of accumulation by dispossession seeks to open up new lands to private development at the same time as it shuts down access to entitlements such as pensions, unemployment insurance, welfare, and environmental protections won through popular struggles of the past. Part of Harper’s project is developing mechanisms of discipline to deal with challenges to growing social and environmental injustice.
Resistance to Harper’s agenda rages on multiple fronts, from indigenous peoples like the Embera Katio nation in Colombia (fighting against Canadian construction firms) to the inspiring Idle No More movement in Canada, as well as non-indigenous environmental and anti-capitalist activists. Pasternak notes that Canadian governments and corporations recognize that “critical infrastructure in Canada is at the mercy of Indigenous peoples, who are more rural than Canadians and have access to important arteries for economic flows: transportation corridors, energy sectors, and sites of natural resource extraction.” In the words of Idle No More activist Pamela D. Palmater, a Mi’kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick, “First Nations represent Canadians’ last best hope at stopping Harper from unfettered mass destruction of our shared lands, waters, plants and animals in the name of resource development.”
So while settler colonialism in Canada has always been about the violent displacement of indigenous peoples, the Harper government’s passionate defence of Israel and attacks on opposition to Israeli apartheid is also connected to its determination to defeat resistance to its agenda, at home and abroad. Canada not only supports but partners with and profits from Israel’s domination of Palestine.
Strengthening Coalitions to End Canadian Complicity in Israeli Apartheid
The Harper government’s extreme support for Israel is more complex and wider ranging than is often recognized. It is linked to Harper’s version of 21st century neoliberalism in Canada, which depends upon a new phase of accumulation by dispossession that includes a more aggressive securitization project.
Tracing out the ways in which the emergent Canada-Israel bond works in both symbolic and material ways can help Palestine solidarity organizing and anti-capitalist activism more broadly. Struggles for indigenous sovereignty, environmental protection, prison abolition, workers’ power, and economic equality are not merely allies in the sense that they share a desire for social justice and wish the best for each other. The problems we face are integrated and so require an integrated fightback. Supporting the “Sovereignty Summer” called jointly by Idle No More and Defenders of the Land, for example, could be done in solidarity with Palestinian liberation not only in the general spirit of anti-colonial resistance of peoples around the world but in substance as direct action against the Canadian and Israeli joint project in accumulation by dispossession.
The breadth of Harper’s neoliberal assault should provoke all sorts of discussions and actions that integrate Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions activism against Israel into struggles for social and environmental justice in the workplace, on campuses, in neighbourhoods, and throughout society.
As Adam Hanieh puts it, “It is not merely the depth of suffering or length of exile that makes the Palestinian struggle an imperative of international solidarity in the current period. It is also the central location of the struggle within the broader context of global resistance to imperialism and neoliberalism.” •
James Cairns is active with the Toronto New Socialists (where this article first appeared) and Faculty 4 Palestine. He and Alan Sears recently published The Democratic Imagination: Envisioning Popular Power in the 21st Century.
Conservative Rabbis discuss movement’s future, Canadian Jewish News, April 2011