Canada Allows Illegal Volunteers to Fight for Israel

Canada Allows Illegal Volunteers to Fight for Israel

The Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv hosted a party with Canadian “lone soldiers” in the Israel Defense Forces on January 16, 2020. Yves Engler and Karen Rodman on Canada’s support for Israel’s war on Palestine, on theAnalysis.news with Paul Jay.

Transcript

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay welcome to theAnalysis.news. Please don’t forget the donate button at the top of the webpage, the subscribe button, the share button, the sign up on our email list, all the buttons, and we’ll be back in a second to talk about Canada’s response to Israel’s war on Palestine.

Israel’s war on Palestine continues with at least 200 deaths in Gaza, including 58 children. In Israel, there have been about a dozen deaths reported, including two children. The Canadian government released a statement by its foreign minister, Marc Garneau, which said, “The indiscriminate barrage of rocket attacks fired by Hamas into populated areas of Israel is absolutely unacceptable and must cease immediately. Canada supports Israel’s right to live in peace with its neighbors within secure boundaries and recognizes Israel’s right to assure its own security,” which is another way of saying condemning what Hamas rockets are doing in Israel but supporting Israel’s rockets and bombs falling on Gaza. Back to the statement. “Canada is deeply disturbed by the completely unacceptable violence in Jerusalem, including in and around Al-Aqsa. These events are especially upsetting during the holy month of Ramadan. Places of worship are for people to gather for peaceful reflection and should never be sites of violence. It is crucial to respect the sanctity and safety of holy sites. Violence in and around Haram al-Sharif and Temple Mount must stop,” while there’s an actual hint of a critique of Israel, but of course, they don’t mention the word Israel there. Back to the statement, “Canada remains gravely concerned by the continued expansion of settlements and by the demolitions and evictions, including ongoing cases around Sheikh Jarrah, and so on. These actions impact families and livelihoods and do not serve peace or international law. Unilateral actions that prejudge the outcome of direct negotiations further jeopardize the prospects for a two-state solution must be avoided.” Well, again, a hint of a critique of Israel here. What’s missing, though, is a condemnation of the brutal Israeli attacks on Gaza or laying blame on Israel for the “unacceptable violence in Jerusalem,” which was, in fact, a campaign of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Israeli government that triggered the current escalation of the conflict.

Canada tries to appear as having an even hand towards the conflict, but its support for Israel goes way beyond such statements. Now joining us to talk about Canada’s relationship to Israel and Palestine is Karen Rodman. She’s a human rights advocate and founder of Just Peace Advocates and Palestine Just Trade. Karen served as a human rights volunteer and observer in Palestine for the World Council of Churches. She’s a retired senior management in leadership with the Ontario Public Service.

Also joining us is Yves Engler. He’s a Montreal-based activist and author. He has published 11 books, including his latest House of Mirrors: Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy. Thanks very much for joining us.

Karen Rodman

Thank you.

Yves Engler

Thanks, Paul

Paul Jay

Karen. When I say we’re looking at the relationship of Canada to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we’re not just talking about the government. So why don’t we start with what’s happening across the country in response to the recent events?

Karen Rodman

Yeah, so civil society is very much coming onto the streets and taking action in other ways through letter writing and Twitter and social media over the weekend. I think Yves can speak better, but there is probably close to ten thousand people on the streets of Montreal. There was here in Toronto as well, large crowds in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, thousands of people, Halifax, but even more amazing than that in many cities across the country that haven’t had actions, at least not since 2014 and maybe not even then, since the last war in Gaza, places like Windsor, Milton, places that have small, strong Palestinian activist communities or advocacy communities like Victoria and St. John’s, Newfoundland, had large numbers of people out. The other thing that’s just quite amazing, our own small organization, Just Peace Advocates, does quite a bit of letter writing to the Canadian government through an action network letter writing as does the organization that Yves part of – Canadian Foreign Policy Institute – and we put a letter out just about two weeks ago or so around Sheikh Jarrah, and we had ten thousand letters written within a few days by Canadians to the Canadian government in regards to Sheikh Jarrah and also asking the government to make a strong statement urgently in regard to a petition that was presented by a liberal member of parliament, Nathaniel Erskin Smith, from here in Beaches-East York, in Toronto. So far as you’ve just said in mentioning the most recent statement, I think three statements have been made by the Canadian government and none of them have begun to touch the points that we have raised in that petition around the seizure of Gaza, around international law and Canada’s responsibility under article one of the Fourth Geneva Convention, around Sheikh Jarrah specifically, and the families impacted there. Over the last week, as things started to become clearer with the attacks on Al-Aqsa right at the end of Ramadan and going into Eid and into actions across 48 and then Gaza, close to 150000 responses, letters, petitions have been signed to the Canadian government. A large number of those came from the National Canadian Council of Muslims, which traditionally has not spoken out about Palestine at all but has engaged at this time. So, the government is hearing loud and clear, they’ve heard from, at least one hundred fifty thousand probably several hundred thousand people and still the response is the one that you saw.

Paul Jay

Hearing what?

Karen Rodman

Hearing very strongly, a call for sanctions, calls for an emergency debate in the parliament, calls for speaking out loudly and clearly and using whatever means are necessary diplomatically or through sanctions or other mechanisms to hold Israel accountable, stop the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. Then as attacks on Gaza, to speak out against that. To end the siege on Gaza. So very strong calls of Canada and accountability.

Paul Jay

Yves. These calls are quite concrete in terms of Canadian law. You and I were talking off-camera a couple of days ago. There have been general responses of support for the Palestinians and such, but this is more specific, that some of what’s going on here is in direct violation of Canadian law in support of Israel. What is that story?

Yves Engler

Yeah, well, Just Peace Advocates and Canadian Foreign Policy Institute put out a letter-writing campaign around upholding Canadian law regarding enlistments for the Israeli military, which contravenes Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act. There are a couple of hundred Canadians fighting in the IDF, and they’ve been recruited in ways that almost certainly contravene Canadian law. Also, part of this call was for calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to uphold its guidelines regarding support for foreign militaries, and the Canada Revenue Agency guidelines were quite clear that you can’t support another country’s military and be subsidized by the Canadian taxpayer to charitable status. So, we put out a call on those issues and really the intent there is to highlight Canada’s complicity in Palestinian dispossession. That’s an issue that really doesn’t get enough attention. This isn’t just if the Canadian government tomorrow came out with a clear statement that said Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza, that it’s committing ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem, Canada would still be massively complicit in those war crimes and in that ethnic cleansing because Canada has innumerable ways in which it’s been supporting Israeli apartheid in recent years and going back decades before the creation of Israel.

Paul Jay

Talk a little bit about this law against Canadians volunteering to fight in other countries’ armies. I know it goes back at least to the time of the Spanish Civil War, where they actually tried to go after some Canadians that were fighting on the anti-fascist side. To what extent has this law been implemented?

Yves Engler

Yeah, so there is a Foreign Enlistment Act that Canada had, and that goes back to 1870. It was a British law, and it was an even earlier British version, and British law was Canadian law for a long time. In 1937, when there were Canadians that were going to fight against Franco’s fascist forces in Spain, the Mackenzie King government at the time, which was, I would say softening the lines with Franco’s fascists, actually brought in an updated Canadian version of the Foreign Enlistment Act that said it was illegal to recruit or induce others to join another country’s military with the intent of stopping the few thousand Canadians that went to Spain at the time. So that law has been on the books since 1937, but since at least.

Paul Jay

Let me just add that my uncle was a volunteer. He went to Spain, part of the Mac-Paps [Mackenzie–Papineau Battalion] and they had to essentially smuggle him to get over there. There was a real concern of the Canadian authorities arresting individuals who are going to support the anti-fascists in Spain. I can’t remember what the whole thing was, he told me once, but it was quite a complicated endeavor to get out of the country without getting arrested.

Yves Engler

Yeah, and I believe there were individuals that were pursued criminally for violating Foreign Enlistment Act. I don’t believe they were ever convicted. I think the government eventually sort of dropped the cases. I’m not sure of all the details, but the Enlistment has been on the books since that time, but since at least 1947, there have been Canadians fighting for the IDF or its predecessor, Zionist forces. So, in 1947/48 during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, there were at least three hundred Canadians that were recruited from World War Two Canadian veterans, in some cases very highly skilled military people. The most famous Canadian fighter pilot at the time [George Beurling]. They were recruited to join the Israeli military. The person who recruited in Toronto, Ben Dunkleman, who was the heir to the Tip-Top Tailers. He claimed that a thousand Canadians that he was involved in, including a thousand Canadians to fight for the Israeli military.

Paul Jay

Was there any attempt by the Canadian government to stop it?

Yves Engler

No. They actually did all kinds of things to facilitate it.  At one point the Canadian fighter pilot, Buzz Beurling, his name was, the most famous World War “Ace,” he actually got stopped, I believe, in Lebanon en route, and Canadian officials got him out, if I’m remembering the story correctly, got him out of detention. But, yes, there was support for that recruitment at the time.

That’s basically continued to varying degrees for the past 70+ years to the point where in January of 2020, the Canadian ambassador in Israel actually organized a pizza party for the Canadians fighting in the IDF – had a formal dinner party for Canadians fighting in the IDF, which is kind of an unbelievable thing from the top diplomat of Canada to be supporting any country’s military as a top diplomat in Kampala, Uganda. The idea of supporting Canadians that were in the Ugandan military or the French military or any militaries is kind of hard to imagine, but particularly egregious when we know what the Israeli military is involved in. It’s involved in this longstanding occupation that even the Canadian government accuses is contrary to international law, when they repeatedly, as they put it, “mow the lawn” in Gaza and destroy buildings, kill people, shoot sniper fire at protesters in Gaza on and on and on. This is just one way in which Canada is deeply complicit in Israel’s apartheid regime. Probably the most important way Canada is complicit in an issue that gets basically no attention is the fact in 2018 there were more than a quarter billion dollars raised by registered Canadian charities for Israel focused projects, and that’s being subsidized by the Canadian taxpayer by about a third, maybe 30 to 40 percent of those donations are being paid for by the Canadian taxpayer. So, something in the range of $100 million, and these are mostly going to supporting the Israeli symphony or Israeli University Hospital, but also a lot of it is channeled to projects that support the IDF in one way or another, that support explicitly racist organizations like the Jewish National Fund, that support West Bank settlements, and all of that ostensibly is contrary to the Canadian Revenue Agency guidelines. Charities are not allowed to support another country’s military. They’re not allowed to support explicitly racist organizations are not allowed to support West Bank settlements, which are contrary to Canadian policy. So certainly millions, probably tens of millions of dollars are being channeled to projects that ostensibly contravene Canada Revenue Agency guidelines. There’s almost no campaigning on this, but this is just one of many different ways in which Canada has going back decades and continues to be supporting Israel as it continues to dispossess Palestinians.

Paul Jay

Karen, your organization, I think Yves, there is a campaign petition on the question of Canadians joining the IDF. Is there one on this issue of the contributions, financial contributions? And where are those campaigns at?

Karen Rodman

Yeah, so there are two active campaigns right now. One is a letter-writing campaign, which I think is around eighteen hundred or more letters in the last few days to the minister of finance, the minister of foreign affairs, and Justice Minister Lametti. So, it brings together, just as Yves has spoken, the charity aspect, as well as the illegal military recruiting for the Israeli military. So that letter is there, and people can send it. There also is the parliamentary petition that I think you’re responding to mentioning as well, which NDP member from Hamilton Center, Matthew Green, has sponsored, and it’s about, I think, five times the number of signatures required for it to move forward for presentation to the parliament.

Paul Jay

What does it say?

Karen Rodman

It basically is the campaign around military recruiting. It calls for investigation into and requires Lametti or calls for Lametti, the minister of justice, to do an investigation into military recruiting and inducing military recruiting, using the language of the Foreign Enlistment Act and laying charges were warranted. So essentially, that petition follows the legal complaint that Yves and my organization, and two other organizations put in as an official legal complaint to Minister Lametti on October 19th. At that time, there were one hundred seventy signatures, some well-known Canadians and others like Roger Waters and Ken Loach and others who signed it. Then that has followed through with many, many letters that were written originally about fifteen hundred to Lametti, and then the RCMP was to move forward and does have an open investigation at the present and that was because Lametti basically deferred the issue to the RCMP. So there’s been letter writing in that regard and evidence has been provided by our organization through an attorney in Montreal, John Philipot, on two occasions to the RCMP. So all of this is the ongoing aspect of the campaign to call on the minister of justice to do his own investigation or to follow through with the RCMP to have the RCMP do the full investigation.

Paul Jay

And is there any indication that they actually are doing an investigation?

Karen Rodman

They’ve indicated that it’s active on two occasions to us, but there has been no follow-up to look into further information that we’re aware of. So we feel it’s important to have that public voice, public pressure, I suppose, through now the parliamentary petition, as well as the ongoing letter-writing that’s been happening.

Paul Jay

And what about the mainstream media? Has there been any real coverage of this issue? It should be a news story.

Karen Rodman

It should be and it was actually initially. The Quebec media and the Francophone media have been more favorable to us than the English media. Originally, the day that we delivered the registered letter to Lemetti in October, Le Devoir ran an article and the reporter followed up Marie Vastel, I believe it is followed up the next day with a question to Lemetti during another press conference. He then mentioned that it was going to the RCMP. So that was actually October 20th and that was on, I believe, the front page of Le Devoir. There has been pretty wide coverage, but a lot of it has been in alternative coverage or coverage from other countries rather than our own mainstream English media. There was some coverage in the Jewish Independent and also another article showing that this is an item that really should have got coverage but hasn’t, because the mainstream media has covered the “lone soldiers” through articles in the CBC and other media over the years and even those journalists weren’t prepared to pick up on the story in this light. Right.

Paul Jay

Yves, when there are lists of Western countries that are “pro-Israeli”, Canada is usually right up there, maybe after the United States. I don’t think that reflects Canadian public opinion, but it certainly reflects decades of Canadian government policy. Why do you think the Canadian government goes so overboard in being so pro-Israel?

Yves Engler

Well, there’s a few factors, first of all, I think that people should understand just how pro-Israel the Canadian government is. I mean, just a couple of days ago, the Trudeau government, which claims to be antiracist, pulled out of a UN racism conference to placate Israel and its supporters. If you go back historically, the partition plan that was the first 1947 UN plan that basically began a very formalized Palestinian dispossession Canada was a central player at the UN on the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine that went to the region that shaped the plan.

There were Canadians that helped conquer Palestine for the British Empire in 1917. Hundreds of Canadians in general led a failed mission to conquer Gaza and then later individuals were successful. Today you have a Canada-Israel free trade agreement that includes the occupied West Bank where Israel’s custom laws apply. You have the Canadian government voting against something like 70, this is the Trudeau government, voting against something like 70 UN resolutions that have been supported by basically every other country in the world. And then it just goes on and on and on in different ways. I think that there are a number of factors going on. I mean, historically, Canada was part of the British Empire and Zionism was an outgrowth of British imperialism. Zionism found a lot of favor among the elites in Canada, certainly after the Balfour Declaration in 1917, but before and then even more so after the Balfour Declaration. Subsequently, Canada has become, with World War Two, has gone from being very tightly tied to the British Empire, to being very tightly tied to the American empire, and the American empire has been very pro-Israel and Zionist, certainly at least since 1967, but even before that. There’s a long history actually in Canada. Zionism doesn’t begin as a Jewish movement, but in fact as a Christian movement. Christian Zionist activism for decades in Canada before there was Jewish Zionist activism. There’s many different factors. In recent decades I would say that the pro-Israel lobby, predominantly Jewish organizations, but not exclusively, is very influential, I would say, especially since 9/11, and there are very effective lobbying campaigns that basically put the pro-Palestinian movement on the back foot every step of the way. Canada is a mix of a history of Christian Zionism, Canada’s ties to empire, and a substantive anti-Palestinian lobby that is able to scare politicians. Look at what’s happened with Jagmeet Singh of the NDP [New Democratic Party]. He’s shown very clearly how fearful he is of being labeled anti-Semitic for taking up the Palestinian cause.

Yves Engler

These sort of campaigns are quite effective in undermining official political expressions of what you point out, and polls show that the Canadian population is way more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than is expressed in Canadian political life. So the outpouring of protests over the weekend are really important, but it’s also important to channel that political energy towards a movement that really starts targeting the different ways in which Canada is currently and has been complicit in the Palestinian dispossession.

Paul Jay

All right, well, thank you both very much for joining me.

Karen Rodman

Thank you.

Yves Engler

Thank you.

Paul Jay

And thank you for joining us on theAnalysis.news. Please don’t forget the donate button and all the other buttons.

5 comments

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  • “Recently detained Belarussian neo-Nazi “journalist” Protasevich served in Canadian backed neo-Nazi Azov Battalion”
    Aidan Jonah’s expose at Canadian Files reveals how recently detained Belarussian neo-Nazi “journalist” Protasevich served in Canadian backed neo-Nazi Azov Battalion which was integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard halfway through his time with them (June 2014).

  • Excellent piece. Unfortunately, the horror of Zionism will quickly become forgotten once a cease fire occurs.

    Once the grass is mowed, once more land is seized, once the rubble pile of Gaza increases and the Balkanization of Palestine expands….Israel will smugly smile; it will have temporarily sated its genocidal urges. The horror simply does not end.

    The two-state solution is dead. What must end is the total transformation of Israel from a religious despotism to a real democratic state, a state where Jews and Moslems are completely equal, where even a Moslem can be an Israeli prime minister.

    What I propose–an end to hideous religious and racial tribalism–is clearly beyond the primitive capabilities of those now in charge. Superior what?

    So how will this debacle end: It will begin with the collapse of the American Empire, already teetering economically, already running out of sanctions to impose, already exhausting its capacity to feed its military…. Such a collapse is not a happy prospect, but moronic, short-sighted thinking will be brought to heel.
    And what will the Zionist–Jewish and Christian–do then, poor things?

  • I guess theAnalysis.News doesn’t want to be confronted or reminded of the fact that the Hamas charter does not say they want Palestinian nationhood, or that they want peace with Israel. No, what the Palestinian charters says, still says and has said since Hamas came into existence – is that their first priority is the destruction of the Jewish state. It’s on the web, the whole world can read it if you want.

    You also seem to leave out that every time Israel retaliates against Hamas and the Palestinians it is in response to a violent provocation by Hamas and the Palestinians. Am I missing something here, because I never see or hear that reported in any of your pieces on Middle Eastern issues?

    So, when I see an line like this, front and center …

    ” … on Canada’s support for Israel’s war on Palestine … ”

    I think that in terms of honest, accurate reporting, theAnalysis.News is just as bad as FOX News or Sinclair Broadcasting, etc is on the Right and the end result, that really bothers me no end, is that this biased and dishonest reporting undercuts all the good stories you do on domestic Progressive political issues. You are branding my personal politics as pretty much repugnant to a lot of people that will never go further than this issue to consider Progressive causes.

    We Progressives always ask ourselves why so many Americans seem to vote against their own best interests?

    Why wonder about that when theAnalysis.News brand of reporting goes way past a totally legitimate and compassionate concern for the Palestinian people, as pawns raised as martyrs, child soldiers and cannon fodder all to make Israel look bad, and off into realms that are either anti-semitic hate mongering against Israel, or sentiments that can very easily be mistaken for that?

    The Palestinian people, as such, are not Liberal, they are not Progressive, they are not democratic. The Palestinians are hardcore Islamic radicals that would by following their religion – oppress women, kill gays, kill apostates, punish certain speech, and demand that anyone living under their religious government’s rule follow those laws or be punished, and maybe killed.

    My feeling is that you do not do the Palestinian cause any benefit by giving them the notion or hope that they can fulfill their chosen destiny and destroy Israel, and the long they hold that dream the more unfree they are, and the more they will be living in hell that bleeds all over the rest of the world as well, including back on themselves … just as much as some of their 3000+ plus rockets fired into Israel malfunction and fall on innocent Palestinians.

    I truly wish facts mattered more to some of us on the Left than they seem to those on the extreme Right.

    • Bruce:

      “The Palestinian people, as such, are not Liberal, they are not Progressive, they are not democratic.” This proves you are a racist.

      “Hamas charter does not say they want Palestinian nationhood, or that they want peace with Israel.” The following summary from a CIA/NED funded organ proves you are a liar.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas_Covenant

      Keep it up, every post you make discredits Israel by association.

  • brilliant to see the solidarity for Palestine soo massive in the US,UK,France,and Canada and always a treat to listen to Yves engler, Canada’s finest dissident historian, media critic, NGO critic and anti-imperialist thinker

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