Signs of Regression: Canada's NDP and Palestine

August 29, 2015 (The Palestine Chronicle)

A friend recently expressed his confusion about the outrage over the death of Ali Dawabsheh, the 18-month-old Palestinian toddler who was killed last month when Jewish settlers firebombed his home in the occupied West Bank. (The child’s father was also badly burned in the attack, and eight days later died from his injuries.) An attack that kills a sleeping toddler is surely horrific. But Israeli violence against Palestinian children is an aspect of the Palestine conflict almost as central as the perpetuation of historical lies through the force of repetition. What is it then, in the Israeli and Western public arena, that makes the assault on Palestinian life sometimes seem outrageous, and at other times acceptable?

Of the approximately 1.9 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, nearly half are eighteen years old or younger. Nearly forty-three per cent are fourteen years old or younger. Not that the targeting of adults is less than horrific! But the siege on Gaza, in its entirety, is part of a war on Palestinian life. It was in February 2008, several months after the ongoing siege of Gaza was imposed, that Israel’s deputy defence minister threatened the Palestinians of Gaza with a ‘Shoah’ – the Hebrew word usually reserved exclusively to refer to the Nazi holocaust. Public relations aside, Israeli policy has incrementally moved in this direction. Several weeks after Vilnai made his threat, 50,000 infant vaccines were spoiled in Gaza as even the general storage unit of Gaza’s health ministry was starved of fuel.[1] At year’s end came Operation Cast Lead. T-shirts circulated among Israeli soldiers featuring a veiled, pregnant woman, her belly targeted in the crosshairs of a rifle, alongside the slogan ‘One Shot, Two Kills’. So it was, and so it has remained; last summer, more than five hundred Palestinian children were among the more than two thousand Palestinians in Gaza killed by Israel’s armed forces.

Educated Western liberals wince at these facts. Like they winced when Israel’s current justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, posted an article referring to Palestinian children as ‘little snakes’. But they also know that Palestinian life can be a form of antisemitism. Israel, after all, demands a Jewish majority in any territory it rules with representative institutions. It also wants the land where Palestinians live. The dilemma is clear. It was not prime minister Netanyahu, that friend of Republicans, but prime minister Golda Meir, that object of liberal admiration, who once expressed her fear that she ‘would have to wake up every morning wondering how many Arab babies have been born during the night’.[2] If too many Palestinians live in Palestine, the Jewish majority is threatened; and with it, we are told, the Jewish right to self-determination. This, explain Israel’s finest liberals, is antisemitism.[3] In other words, Palestinian existence itself verges on antisemitism. Likewise, anyone who does not understand Israel’s historic need to expel Palestinians, or its current need to force them into densely populated enclaves in which they are stripped of political rights, is something of a racist.

We in Canada are well schooled in this logic. From our liberal intellectual community, Irving Abella, for example, has long argued that ‘Israel’s democracy is at war with Arab demography’.[4] Abella has not yet done the ethnic head-counting to determine exactly how many Palestinians is too many. But he and others have pointed us in the right direction. What is Palestinian life, in this logic, if not the legitimate object of a decades-long war? And when the facts of this war are considered, who can be considered innocent? Visiting Ottawa a few weeks before Israel’s full re-invasion of the West Bank in 2002 (Operation Defensive Shield), then Israeli president Moshe Katzav stood next to deputy prime minister John Manley as he delivered the message to Canadians. ‘Each Palestinian baby, when he was born, he took with the milk of his mother incitement against the Jews.’[5] The basic sustenance of Palestinians and the antisemitic threat; decade after decade, respectable Canadians have been made to understand. Jean Chrétien took the occasion of Katsav’s visit to declare that ‘the friendship between Canada and Israel is a horizon which expands whenever we approach it.’[6]

A Moral Rot Deeper than Tory Governance

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