Hussein Hoballah, Montreal
In time of Israel’s aggression against Ghaza last month, thousands across Canada took to the streets. The massive rallies brought our community members – despite their different prospects –together for one cause: Palestine. The rallies as well enlivened what many politicians have been trying to bury by outlawing any criticism of Israel and labelling it anti-Semitic, by criminalising the Palestinians’ attempts to reclaim their confiscated lands and rights, or by politically, parliamentary and electorally supporting Israel’s interests.
Any observer of Canada’s recent events can make important, encouraging notes on this stage, which will be radically different from the previous one. It may, however, draw some serious repercussions if things are not considered very carefully.
The recent aggression against Ghaza has killed dozens, including children. And to Judaise the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, the invaders have been trying to dislodge the residents by so-called “legal” means. Across the oceans, significant participation in anti-aggression protests has been made by our community’s Canadian-born youth. This fact is a major transformation that our community leaders must not underestimate; they should rather guide the new enthusiasts in order to reach the goals that best serve our community.
Significantly, too, anti-occupation slogans were made during the protests. For a while, most of us had thought those slogans existed no more in the Canadian and global communities; the ruling and opposing parties have been forever trying to criminalise any criticism of Israel and the BDS campaign.
The stances of local Canadians and parliamentarians demanding that the Israeli occupiers stop their crimes are also significant. Following the party’s general convention, the NDP has made clear stances, necessitating that Canada suspend its arms trade with the Israeli entity. As for the Green Party, it has clearly been divided, with some members making strong criticism of Israel and refusing resorting to accusations of anti-Semitism to silence legal criticism of human rights violations or to label that criticism as offending and dangerous.
Two Canadian senators and 24 parliamentarians from different parties, including the Liberals, have signed a letter addressing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and calling on the government to sanction Israel in support of Palestinian human rights.
The signees tell the government that it is no longer acceptable to overlook the Israeli government’s violations of Palestinian human rights. They also call on the Canadian government to do more than just showing concern, and to work with the international community to slam the forced evictions, construction of settlements, inequality, attacks against journalists, bombarding civil and medical facilities, and wasting of civilian life, and to demand that international law be respected. The signees as well believe it is essential that the government immediately denounce occupation and the illegal settlements.
The stances of Québec Solidaire’s MP at the National Assembly of Québec, Ruba Ghazal, are not to be forgot, either. She still reminds everyone she belongs to people who’ve been displaced from their lands and have sought refuge in many countries. When she came to Québec, MP Ghazal had a refugee certificate and a travel document issued by the Lebanese authorities. “My parents sought refuge in Lebanon, and I still care about keeping these documents because they are witness to my Palestinian identity, of which I am so pleased and proud,” Ghazal told “Sada al-Mashrek” in an interview published a couple of weeks ago.
The new transformation is a historic juncture that we must reflect upon in order to take well-planned action, away from any overexcitement or haste. That way we can work within certain boundaries so that none can exploit any miscalculation to terminate our initiatives. The situation ahead of May 2021 mustn’t at all remain the same.
Obviously, the standpoints made by pro-Israel parties and MPs have been exploiting any slips to make anti-Semitism claims. Their focus has been on stones thrown at some rallies and pro-Israelis, and on slogans chanted by protesters; those have been labelled as anti-Semitic to distract attention from Israel’s crimes, and thus this reality warns of the plot to counter pro-Palestine actions in the offing.
After all, the fear of many politicians and the power and influence of the pro-Israel lobby and its expertise in silencing any opposers make us expect everything from the lobby, which will try to counter any new transformations. For instance, pro-Palestine McGill students have been targeted, and that is so serious that its setbacks can’t be overlooked and undiscussed, with it happening at one of Canada’s highest institutions.
On their website, “Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR)” report that students supporting Palestinian human rights have been being terrorised by pro-Israel groups. The website as well reports discovering “a list circulating on campus – seemingly compiled by a group of Zionist McGill students” and containing “the names and personal information of countless pro-Palestine students at McGill.” SPHR adds that one of the list’s goals “is to surveil and document students suspected of pro-Palestine sympathies.”
SPHR also mentions that those students were horrified once they discovered that “their names and personal phone numbers had been circulating on a website stating that they were offering sexual services in exchange for monetary compensation. The ad deployed vile, racist, and orientalist tropes against them and sought to smear them as anti-Semites.”
Beginning such an unethical, unlawful, strange battle shows how bad the massive protests – mainly led by young students – have been for the lobbyists, whom are expected to do anything they can to challenge such protests, no matter how unethical things get. Nor will they refrain from targeting any anti-occupation group – be it in parliament, media or education…
What could be done now to ward off pro-Israel lobbyists? Well, things must be carefully planned. Our line of action and activists must be guarded well; they must be backed up by pro-Palestine lawyers once they’re targeted by those lobbyists. We just can’t leave them alone.
It is crucial that our line of action not allow any childish behaviours that some feverish members of our community may show. Otherwise, those behaviours will be exploited by the lobbyists and defamers who are trying to destroy any anti-Israel actions.
We can make no physical, verbal or any kind of attack against any Canadian citizen of any faith or political doctrine. We must rather respect others’ rights to express their opinions, even when they’re so different from ours. We must also challenge any member of our community if he/she seeks to go against Canadian law and our religious moral code.
The next stage may be hiding shocking plots made to destroy the achievements we’ve made so far. Caution is needed, and making the right steps to confront those shocks is essential. That way we can preserve what’s been achieved and the achievers.