Yves Engler: Israel/Palestine has become an issue in the election despite attempts to keep it out

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The Israel/Palestine issue has become an issue in the Canadian federal election, despite the wishes of the NDP, argues Yves Engler. See my video interview. 

Yves Engler is a Montreal-based writer and researcher. He is the author “The truth may hurt”, a critical reassessment of the peacekeeping legacy of Lester Pearson. He is also the author of “Canada/Israel: Building Apartheid”, a severe evaluation of Canada’s historical relationship with Israel.

According to Engler, Harper’s Conservatives intentionally raised the Israel issue just before the election by announcing the signing of an upgrade to our free trade agreement with Israel. This is something that has very little economic significance, according to Engler, but is dear to some important elements of Harper’s base.

The opposition parties would like to avoid debating foreign policy issues at all, feeling that Harper is more exposed on domestic issues. As a result, neither one commented on the trade agreement, despite the fact that the terms of the agreement include allowing goods from what Canada OFFICIALLY calls “occupied territory” to enter tariff free into the country.

For the NDP in particular, however, this is a tricky issue. A significant part of the party’s base, including many of its activist supporters, feels strongly about the issue of human rights for Palestinians. Despite its attempts to keep Israel/Palestine in the background, the NDP has seen the issue pop up unexpectedly as several candidates have been outspoken in their criticisms of Israel.

Engler analyses why the Conservatives and the NDP are doing what they do.

Engler has made a special effort to understand the evolution of the relationship between Harpers Conservatives (formerly rather anti-Semitic, or at least unfriendly to Jews) to its current stand. For more on this, see Engler’s longer article in the Huffington Post, in which he explains “How Harper Won the Jewish Vote”.


  1. Peter the religious analysis in this article is poor.

    There is no evidence that Zionism was influential in mainstream Protestantism during the 19th century. Christian Zionism is a development from a very conservative movement in Protestantism called ‘Dispensationalism’ which believes that world history is divided into distinct calculable number so years, leading up to the cataclysmic return of Christ. One of the necessary developments leading up to Christ’s material return is the reestablishment of the Kingdom of Israel. Anglicanism, Luthreanism, Calvinism Methodism have all considered dispensationalism to be a perverse interpretation of scripture. Harper, however, belongs to a tradition of Chrisitianity that holds to this dispensationalist theology.

    Of course people like Shatftsbury, Balfour ,Lloyd George were more favourably inclined to Jews than Arabs. They knew present day Jews in person and ancient Jews from the bible. In the case of the UK, Weisman, the leader of Western Zionism, had made significant contributions to the war effort. They also were imperialists, used to dividing control of the world to suit their interests. At the same time, they were leading countries whose economies were were increasingly being based on energy from oil, to which they needed secure access.. They led countries where there was a high degree of anti semitism which they had not taken any leadership role in combatting. They also did have genuine disapproval of the progroms of Russia and sought to bring diplomatic pressure to end them. Jews in their own ‘homeland’ would be very convenient and effective response to all these issues.

    Amongst the associates of Harper religion plays a much more important part in support for Israel than amongst the leaders of the dominant political parties in the UK or USA at the turn of the 20th century. Whether that religious basis for support for Israelis present amongst conservative party members is highly doubtful. that support, I suspect, would be based more on Islamaphobia, in which perverted, brutalised claims and expressions concerning Islam, are believed to be mainstream,.

    Regards Mervyn

  2. I’m convinced that Mulcair’s attitude about the Palestinian kefuffles in various ridings is “keep your eyes on the prize,” which is win the election and send Harper into retirement. Because the issue is controversial even within the NDP, he just doesn’t want it to be the cause of media attention. I disagree with Yves that he has room to move on this. He will have room to move once he wins the election!
    So yes, keep your eyes on the prize. As a supporter of Palestinian rights, I am quite prepared to accept this as a pragmatic and temporary decision.

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