Prime Minister Trudeau rarely misses an occasion to talk about how Canada and Israel have “shared values”. But the most recent Israeli election, in which more than 80% of Israelis voted for parties espousing Jewish supremacy, including extreme racist parties, challenges that assertion. Is it time for Mr. Trudeau to drop that language and face the reality that Israel is a state in which the majority of the population holds views very different from those held by most Canadians? Read more….
CTIP was in Israel/Palestine for three weeks from October 27 to November 14 after 3 years of covid-imposed absence. This is the first in a series of 3 articles on our observations. It deals with Israel’s recent election, which took place during our visit. As we watched the election campaign and Israeli coverage of it, we reflected on its implications for Canadian policy.
The significance of the recent Israeli election for Canada is much deeper than the return of Benjamin Netanyahu. It sheds a light on what Israelis really think and they values they really hold.
Jewish Israelis across the political spectrum overwhelmingly showed support for parties that espouse what Amnesty International has labelled “Jewish supremacy” over the whole of what was once Palestine. (Tellingly, the Amnesty International allegation was not even discussed during the election.(
Over 90 out of 120 members in the parliament represent right wing Zionist parties. The “liberal Zionist” Meretz party, descendant of Israel’s founding political party, was wiped out. And the “Arab” parties, as they’re referred to, will once again be shut out of the governing coalition – as they have been for 72 of Israel’s 74-year history.
And Mr. Netanyahu is far from the most right wing member of the Knesset. His coalition. includes open racists like Bezalel Smotrich known for his homophobic, ultra-nationalist and religiously bigoted statements (he said that he was “a proud homophobe”) and Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Jewish Power Party, a convicted Jewish terrorist who is a disciple of the convicted Jewish terrorist rabbi Meir Kahane.
Even on the other side of the aisle, Netanyahu’s opposition has its own racists. It includes former General Benny Gantz, whose election video a couple years ago featured him boasting of having killed 4000 “terrorists” in Gaza and Naftali Bennett, formerly of the New Right party, whose government oversaw an unprecedented peak of house demolitions.
Do Canadians and Israelis really have shared values?
All this must be awkward for Mr. Trudeau who seems determined to ignore the slow but incessant evolution of Israeli society into a right wing racist culture. In his recent congratulations to Mr. Netanyahu on his election, Trudeau again referred to our our “shared commitment to upholding democratic values”.
While Trudeau remains blind to the rightward drift of Israeli politics, even people like New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a longtime supporter of Israel, have yielded to the evidence.
“The Israel we knew has gone”, he lamented in a recent opinion piece. “The coalition that Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu leads is (…) a rowdy alliance of ultra-Orthodox leaders and ultranationalist politicians, including some outright racist, anti-Arab Jewish extremists once deemed completely outside the norms and boundaries of Israeli politics.”, he wrote.
Friedman is a liberal Zionist. One of those who hoped Israel would be a light to the world. He expresses shock and disappointment at these elected right wing politicians, but skips over the fact that they were elected by millions of Israeli voters.
“The most surprising thing about the Israeli elections is the surprise and “disappointment” expressed by liberal Zionists, in Israel and abroad.“, notes longtime Israeli activist Jeff Halper. “How could this happen?” Shock at “the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.” As if anything has really changed except that Israelis no longer feel the need to dress up their settler regime in liberal, “democratic” terms.”
Time to stop pretending
Palestinians have been saying for a long time that Israel is a colonial state built on the expropriation of their lands. The recent election has made it clear that Israel is not the romantic dream once imagined by many Jewish Canadians.
Isn’t it time for Prime Minister Trudeau to stop pretending that Canada and Israel share the values of democracy, human rights and equality, when Israeli society has just massively indicated that they hold no such values?
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