On April 14 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent out a video message congratulating Israel on its Independence Day. But Trudeau’s message seemed to be principally aimed at Canadian Jews. “Canada will continue to condemn BDS and any movement which attacks our Israeli friends, Jewish Canadians and the values we share”, he said. Trudeau conflates his support for Canadian Jews with his unflinching support of Israel, ignoring its repeated violation of Palestinian human rights. I sent a letter to the Prime Minister pointing out that the two things are quite different. Read more…
It is customary for countries that have diplomatic relations to congratulate each other on their respective independence day – even countries with whom we have strong tensions (e.g. China or Russia). But in his “Israeli Independence Day” message, Prime Minister Trudeau went far beyond that, actively linking his support for Canadian Jews (a good thing) with support for Israel and its policies.
I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister explaining that support for Canadian Jews is not the same thing as supporting the idea of a state in which Jews have more legal rights than non-Jews.
My letter follows
April 15, 2021
Rt. Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Rt. Hon. Prime Minister,
I watched with some disappointment your recent video address to Canadians on the occasion of Israel’s independence Day, in which you appear to confuse support for Canadian Jews with unquestioning support for the State of Israel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pchcr9sWtM0
It is not the same thing.
Israel was created in 1947/48 in the wake of the terrible events of the Holocaust. At the time, many thought that the Zionist approach to protecting Jews, by the creation of a special Jewish State, made sense. Unfortunately, no concern was paid to the fact that the new Jewish State was created in an area where millions were already living. Almost 3/4 million non Jewish Palestinians were expelled. Many of them along with their descendants are still refugees to this day.
What Israel calls its “Independance Day”, Palestinians call their “disaster’ or Nakba.
Many Canadian Jews support that idea of a special state for Jews because the history of European persecution of Jews leaves them understandably insecure. Anti-Semitism in Canada reinforces that fear and must be strongly opposed.
The best way to protect Jews in Canada is through strong laws and a strong public ethic against racism of all kinds. I share your concern about an upward trend in evidence of racism in Canada, including anti-Semitism. Your government has taken good steps and you personally have shown a good example in this regard.
As you rightfully point out, Canadian Jews have made significant contributions to our country in many fields. Their success in Canada over several generations deserves to be recognized and supported. So, increasingly are Palestinian Canadians, most of whom are still first or second generation immigrants.
But supporting Canadian Jews is NOT the same thing as supporting the State of Israel which has expelled and oppressed Palestinians since 1948.
To celebrate the creation of the State of Israel without also recognizing the ongoing injustice done to the Palestinians is unfair and misguided. And to claim that those who defend Palestinian human rights by calling for a legal and nonviolent boycott of Israel, are anti-Semitic, is completely wrong.
I hope that next year you will express interest and concern not only for Canadian Jews but also for Canadian Palestinians.
Thank you in advance.
Peter Larson, Chair, Ottawa Forum on Israel Palestine
If you agree with the thrust of my letter, please consider sharing it with your friends who might not know about Trudeau’s statement, or who might not be clear on why supporting Israel is not the same thing as protecting and supporting Jewish Canadians. Or make up your own letter.
A handful of letters, no matter how well written, won’t change Trudeau’s mind, of course. It seems the Liberal Party has its eye on an election and has decided that there are more votes and more money in supporting Israel than in supporting human rights for Palestinians. But if 100 or 1000 people were to send in letters along the same lines, that might have an effect on the Liberal Party’s electoral calculus.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
Want to learn more about us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.org.