by Barry Weisleder, Published on Socialist Action, June 15, 2019
On Saturday, May 18, the first Pan-Canadian Day of Action for Palestinian rights took place. In Toronto, close to 500 people rallied and marched to demand justice for the Palestinian people. Shortly after 2 p.m., the gathering at Yonge and Dundas heard the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, listened to music, then speeches from a number of leading activists.
An attempt by a dozen flag-waving Zionists to infiltrate and disrupt the event was repulsed by loud chanting and the presence of a stalwart corps of marshals.
Speakers at the rally included: Hammam Farah, newly elected to the executive board of the Palestinian Canadian Community Centre; Emily Green of Independent Jewish Voices; Felipe Nagata of the Canadian Federation of Students; Zafar Bangash of the Canadian Council for Justice and Peace; Wala Al-Safi from Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights at McMaster University; Ali Mallah, a veteran union activist and member of the Al Quds Committee; this writer on behalf of Socialist Action; and Rabbi Dovid Feldman of Neturei Karta International (whose written statement I read aloud at his request due to his strict observance of the Sabbath). MC Lina Assi of McMaster University SPHR, did a brilliant job of chairing and leading chants en route.
The Day of Action, sponsored by the Canadian BDS Coalition, took place in cities from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Demands included Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state and economy, End the Occupation, Tear Down the Apartheid Wall, Lift the Siege of Gaza, and establish the Right of all Palestinian Refugees to Return home.
The Toronto crowd grew as it marched slowly north on Yonge Street to Bloor, site of an office tower that houses the Israeli Consulate. There we occupied Canada’s busiest intersection for over 45 minutes to hear speakers and to engage in loud chanting. Please take note that we did not apply for a parade permit; we did not ask for police permission to rally. In fact, they closed off lanes of traffic and intersections, including the final rally site. They cooperated with our marshals, while BDS Coalition members distributed information to passers-by, all afternoon.
The array of red flags and colourful banners, along with a contingent of anti-Zionist Jewish rabbis, was a sight to behold. It was the first time that proponents of Palestine solidarity seized that famous crossroad and held it long enough to present a democratic, anti-imperialist narrative for the city and the world to witness through social media. How could this happen, especially at a time when the authorities, at all levels, are trying to vilify, even to outlaw BDS, to ban the Al Quds march and stop anti-Zionist free speech?
Part of the answer is this: Public opinion in Canada now backs sanctions against the Zionist state. That is why Socialist Action proposes that there be an annual cross-country Day of Action, and that Palestine solidarity work be stepped up on a year-round basis. It is important to grasp the growing convergence of anti-imperialist struggles, to see the fissures in the world system of domination, and to comprehend our tasks as working people, from the Middle East to Latin America to Africa and Asia.
As I said to the May 18 rally, the eyes of the world are on Palestine and Venezuela. Why? Because of their proximity to vast reserves of oil. The corporate energy giants want to control the resources of the world. They try to crush any nation that stands in their way. Recently, we saw examples of that behaviour when Washington seized the embassy of Venezuela in the U.S. capital, and earlier when it moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, indicating that the Zionist Occupation will be permanent. To that we say NO, NO, NO. Imperialist Hands Off Venezuela! Free, free Palestine!
The Palestinian people are in the forefront of resistance to world imperialism. They did not choose this role. It was thrust upon them. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed in the early 20th century, the Western powers carved up the Middle East, just as they did Africa and Asia earlier.
Never forget that it was Winston Churchill, as Britain’s war minister, 1919-1921, who authorized dropping poisonous mustard gas on the population of Iraq. In the face of rebellion by the Arab masses, the imperial masters sponsored a military fortress in the region. They exploited the survivors of the Nazi Holocaust for their greedy goals. But the fact remains: Israel is a colonial settler state, an outpost of imperialism in the Arab East. Zionism began as an extreme bourgeois nationalist minority movement. It ran counter to the strong socialist and internationalist tradition of Jews in the diaspora.
Theodore Herzl, a non-religious Jew and founder of Zionism, gained sponsors in France, Britain, even Czarist Russia. Later, Canada, the USA and Christian Zionists joined the project. Even the Stalinist-ruled USSR voted at the United Nations in 1948 for the partition of Palestine that led to the establishment of Israel. Why did the Stalinists do this? Because they thought that the Israeli Communist Party, then called the Maki party, could be part of the government in the new state. The Palestinian people were sacrificed by Stalinism on the altar of bourgeois electoral expediency. Looking at the big picture, the Zionist state was founded on a big lie: that Palestine was a land without people for a people without land. But the Palestinian people are here today to refute that lie.
I speak for Socialist Action as its federal secretary. SA is part of the world Trotskyist movement. Our movement opposed the creation of the Zionist state 71 years ago. We oppose the so-called two-state solution—which is just a cruel cover for racism and ethnic cleansing. The truth is there is no solution to the Jewish Question under capitalism. The only solution is world socialist revolution.
Leon Trotsky predicted in the 1930s that a Jewish state would be a death trap for the Jews. The odious actions of the Zionist state fuel hatred of Jews. Though world revolution may seem beyond reach, world capitalism is clearly a prescription for racism, war, and climate catastrophe that threaten the demise of civilization. The best hope for humanity is majority self-empowerment, the revolutionary road forward. The precondition for that is firm and undying support for national liberation struggles, which only the working class and poor farmers can lead to victory. That means no reliance on bourgeois parties, or on the capitalist state, or on imperialist military alliances like NATO. This is a cornerstone of Trotsky’s strategy, which is summed up in two words: Permanent Revolution.
Oppressed nations the world over, from Kurdistan to Ireland to the Philippines, have long eaten the bitter fruit of betrayal after their aspirations to national liberation have been subordinated and betrayed in favour of the preservation of capitalist rule.
SA is proud to have initiated, through the Canadian BDS Coalition, the first cross-country Day of Action for Palestinian rights. It all began with a discussion in the SA leadership last November, followed by adoption of the idea by the Coalition in December, its confirmation in January, and then four months of solid, grassroots organizing with many wonderful people all across the country.
But, once again, why now? Because over the past decade, public opinion across the Canadian state has shifted. A big majority, 66 per cent, support sanctions against Israel. The majority recognize that Israel is guilty of systematic oppression and war crimes, according to a 2017 poll by EKOS, commissioned by the CPJME.
- Canadians believe overwhelmingly that sanctions are a reasonable way for Canada to censure countries violating international law and human rights;
- Given the UN Security Council’s recent condemnation of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, a strong majority of Canadians believe that government sanctions on Israel would be reasonable;
- In the context of Israel’s ongoing violations of international law, a very strong majority of Canadians believe that the Palestinians’ call for a boycott of Israel is reasonable;
- Far more Canadians oppose than support Parliament’s February 2016 decision to condemn individuals and groups who promote the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel.
Voters for four out of five major parties in Parliament favour sanctions. Among Liberal voters it is 75 per cent. Among NDP voters it is 84 per cent; Green Party 85 per cent; and Bloc Quebecois 94 per cent. Even among Conservative voters, 30 per cent say sanctions against Israel are reasonable.
So, why are Zionists in a panic? Because they have lost the battle for public opinion. In the Jewish community a remarkable change has occurred. A September 2018 survey conducted by polling firm EKOS, co-sponsored by Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) and the United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO), found that among Jewish Canadians:
- More than a third (37 percent) have a negative opinion of the Israeli government;
- Almost equal proportions oppose (45 percent) and support (42 percent) the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel;
- Almost a third (30 percent) think that the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel is reasonable, and 34 percent also oppose Parliament condemning those who endorse a boycott of Israel; and
- Almost one in three (31 percent) oppose the military blockade of the Gaza Strip.
But party leaders and the big media conceal this tectonic shift in general public opinion, and in Jewish opinion. So, now is the time to proclaim the truth. Across the board, we represent the new majority! And we will not be denied. The time has come to target Canadian corporations that profit from the misery of the Palestinian people. Here is a question for the audience: Can you name any Canadian companies that operate in Occupied Palestine?
Actuonix Motion Devices, based in Canada, provides micro motion solutions for robotics, aerospace, automotive, medical and radio control industries. Bombardier, the Canadian multinational aerospace and transportation company, says it is no longer involved in Jerusalem Light Rail. But a senior manager of Bombardier has gone over to WSP. WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff provides technical expertise and strategic advice in property and buildings, transportation, and infrastructure sectors.
EffiSolar enterprises Inc. is a renewable power developer with projects in Ontario, New Jersey, Saipan and Israel. The Metrontario Group is a private Canadian corporation with investments in real estate, environmental development, nuclear medicine, marine agriculture and tourism.
Have you heard the news? South Africa has broken diplomatic relations with Israel. But Trudeau and Freeland, following in the foot steps of Stephen Harper, continue a free trade and military security alliance with the Zionist state. NDP MP Randall Garrison was recently reappointed vice-chair of the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG), which promotes solidarity with a government that says Israel is a national homeland for the Jews and not a state for all its residents.
It is a state that just annexed the Golan Heights, aims to do the same to the West Bank, and has used snipers and bombers to kill hundreds in Gaza who protest the lack of clear water, electricity and freedom of movement. Randall Garrison is retiring. Now his policy should be retired. Jagmeet Singh ought to learn the lesson of Paul Manly, or Jagmeet too must go.
Around the world today there are many states guilty of atrocious conditions. The importance of Israel is that it is a lynch pin of global imperialist rule. Richard Nixon, a strident anti-Semite, put it best when he called Israel “America’s biggest aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.”
Freedom for Palestine means freedom for humanity. For that reason, we will not stop demanding: End the occupation! Down with the Zionist apartheid state! For the right of all refugees to return to their homes. Lift the siege of Gaza! For a democratic and secular Palestine for all its residents: Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists and agnostics! Disarm the nuclear powers, starting with the U.S. and its Israeli client state. From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free!
Barry Weisleder is a secondary school teacher, union organizer, writer, editor, and for 47 years, a member of the Canadian New Democratic Party. He frequently writes for Socialist Action.