Daniel Xie of The Canada Files wrote a report on an event we promoted. You can read it below.
Illegal Israeli Military Recruitment on Canadian Soil challenged by JPA event
Link to article in The Canada Files
Written by: Daniel Xie
On February 3, 2021, Just Peace Advocates hosted a webinar titled “Stop illegal Israeli Military Recruiting in Canada”. The event discussed the mounting evidence that the Israeli Military has been illegally recruiting Canadian citizens in violation of Article 11 of the Foreign Enlistment Act, and the growing awareness and opposition to Israeli military recruitment on Canadian soil by various progressive organizations and activists.
The panelists for this webinar included:
Rabbi David Mivasair, representative of Independent Jewish Voices
John Philpot, attorney, international law and International Courts
Aseel al Bajeh, Al-Haq member, Palestine
Ruba Ghazal, Quebec National Assembly Member for Mercier. Québec solidaire. Member of the Office of the National Assembly
Mario Beaulieu, Bloc Québécois MP La Pointe-de-l’Île, was originally slated to speak, but was ultimately unable to speak due to scheduling conflicts.
The event was co-hosted by recognized international human rights lawyer and Just Peace Advocates co-founder Jonathan Kuttab along with Rachel Small of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network and World Beyond War.
The Whitewashing of the Israeli Military in Jewish-Canadian Communities
A topic touched on by the panelists regarding Israeli Defence Force recruitment in Canada is how the romanticization of the IDF and Israel’s role in the Middle East within Jewish communities played a key role in enticing Jews to join the IDF. According to Rabbi Mivasair, part of the learning experience in Jewish Canadian schools revolves around the idea of the IDF as a heroic force defending Israel from all threats. The whitewashing of the IDF in Jewish Canadian schools is carried out with the help of Israeli military personnel serving as teachers in these schools, with the goal of encouraging Jewish children to join the military in Israel.
Of course, the romanticized image of the IDF within Jewish communities obfuscates the many war crimes committed by the IDF in enforcing Israeli settler colonialism in Palestine. The impact of these war crimes on Palestinians was discussed by Aseel al Bajeh, who also notes that the framing of the Israeli military as the “Israeli Defence Forces”, and their operations in the Middle East as fighting a conflict against an enemy force, obfuscates the actual purpose of the IDF in operating within Palestine.
The actual purpose being, according to Bajeh, to serve as an occupation force in Palestine; an occupation force which was responsible during the founding of Israel for the forced removal of 75 per cent of the Indigenous Palestinian population in the Nakba. This process of ethnic clensing, as Bajeh notes, continues to this day through the role of the IDF in the continued construction of Settlements, as well as the violence inflicted by the IDF against Palestinian dissidents such as during the 2018 march for the Right of Return in Gaza, which saw the IDF killing 216 Palestinians in response, 47 of whom were children.
Part of the reason that Israeli military recruitment has been so effective within Jewish communities, according to Mivasair, is because of how pro-Israeli Jewish organizations play up the suffering of the Jews in the holocaust and other historical injustices in order to generate sympathy for Israeli policies; Mivasair noting that in the past, before he became aware of the extent of Israeli settler colonialism, himself was only told positive things about Israel and it’s role in the Middle East within his own community. To Mivasair, the playing off of the historical injustices by pro-Israeli organizations makes it easier for pro-Israeli policies to be accepted by a wider audience who find it difficult to reconcile the historical suffering of the Jewish people with the current oppression perpetuated against the Palestinian people by the Israeli government.
In response to the playing up of historical suffering experienced by the Jews by pro-Israeli Jewish organizations, Mivasair calls on Jewish-Canadians to raise in their communities the uncomfortable questions that should be raised regarding Israel and the Israeli military. He also suggested not donating to pro-Israeli charities, pushing for better ways to raise Jewish children and teaching Jewish children about Israel and Palestine.
Canadian Complicity in Israeli War Crimes and the Fight for an Independent Foreign Policy
Apart from discussing the whitewashing of the IDF within Jewish communities, panelists also discussed Canada’s complicity in allowing the IDF to recruit on Canadian soil. According to Mivasair and Philpot, no foreign countries are allowed to recruit on Canadian soil, with Philopt pointing out that Article 11 of the Foreign Enlistment Act makes it forbidden to recruit in Canada unless they are citizens of their own country and not Canada’s, meaning Israeli Consulate officers and local organizations facilitating recruitment potentially face criminal charges. Despite these laws making recruitment illegal, groups such as the United Jewish Alliance are blatantly publishing web pages and articles on joining the IDF without any punishment whatsoever; while the RCMP was given evidence of IDF recruitment on Canadian soil, they have yet to act on the evidence provided by Philpot to the RCMP.
Mivasair notes the politics of the Canadian government that may be influencing their inaction in the face of the Israeli military’s recruitment of Canadian citizens. According to Mivasair, mainstream pro-Israel Jewish organizations, along with pro-Israel Evangelicals, are pushing for the Canadian government to maintain a pro-Israel foreign policy though lobbying. They are assisted by pro-Israel MPs and politicians such as Irwin Kotler, who seeks to impose adherence to the IHRA definition of anti-semitism in Canada; a definition suspected by pro-Palestinian activists to be a tool to shield Israel from all criticism through trumped-up charges of antisemitism.
Discussion of Canadian complicity in the war crimes of the Israeli military were also framed by the various panelists in the context of the fight for an independent Canadian foreign policy. Ruba Ghazal, in her discussion, cited Canada’s willful ignorance towards Israeli military recruitment on Canadian soil as yet another example of foreign policy hypocrisy in the Middle East along with it’s arms sale to Saudi Arabia and it’s voting against pro-Palestinian resolutions in the UN at the behest of Israel and the US; this happening despite the majority of Canadians opposing these foreign policy stances.
The connection between Canada’s willingness to let the IDF recruit soldiers on Canadian soil and it’s broader foreign policy in the Middle East was also discussed by John Philpot, who noticed that in order to effectively organize towards Palestinian solidarity, we need to understand how Canada’s support for Israel is connected with other manifestations of Canadian imperialism in the Middle East, such as Canada’s support for Saudi Arabia, our complicity in the assassinations carried out against Iranian nuclear scientists, and our support for sanctions being imposed on countries opposed to American hegemony in the Middle East such as Iran.
The task of civil society in exerting pressure on government to move away from our current foreign policy in the Middle East was discussed briefly towards the end of the panel by co-host Jonathan Kuttab. According to Kuttab, the values of human rights must be universal and Israel should not be given a free pass for its actions in Canada, or anywhere else. Otherwise, the concept of a “law” loses its meaning. Yet, due to great power chauvinism and the existing geopolitical situation today, the concept of universal human rights has been neglected by the great powers. In this situation, the task of enshrining human rights for all falls onto civil society and activist organizations such as BDS to push for greater respect of universal human rights and international law.
Lessons learned and looking forwards
Just Peace Advocates’ Webinar regarding illegal Israeli recruitment on Canadian soil was an insightful discussion about illegal Israeli military recruitment on Canadian soil, particularly with regards to the whitewashing of the Israeli Defence Forces within Jewish communities by pro-Israel Jewish Organizations. As noted in the Webinar, the diplomatic ties between the Canadian government and the Israeli government, along with Canada’s stances regarding the existing geopolitical situation in the Middle East today, has not been conductive to greater Palestinian human rights or to peace in the region.
The onus now falls, as Kuttaba and Mivasair both noted during the Webinar, onto progressive-minded Canadians and progressive Jewish-Canadians seeking a just peace in the Middle East, to challenge the pro-Israeli foreign policy of the Canadian government and the pro-Israeli Jewish organizations complicit in IDF recruitment, and push for not only an independent foreign policy respectful of human rights and international law, but also to make sure that no country is exempt from Canadian laws pertaining to military recruitment regardless of their diplomatic relations with Canada.