Interview with Dan Freeman-Maloy
Like every week since Israel began bombing Gaza on July 8th, hundreds of Montrealers met again this Wednesday July 30th, in front of the Mont-Royal metro station to denounce war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. This week’s protest was particularly focused on highlighting the complicity of Canadian political parties with these crimes.
Speakers strongly condemned the stance of the three main Canadian federal parties, who have refused to condemn Israel for its war crimes. The organizers of the protest released this statement:
“While the UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay, warns that Israel is committing war crimes, and the international community is engaged in working on a sustainable cease-fire, the Harper Government is extending enthusiastic support to Israel, building upon the complicity of previous Liberal governments. The opposition parties have also stated their backing of the apartheid state in their war on Gaza. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has reiterated Israel’s “right to defend itself” and the NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has yet to issue a condemnation of Israel.”
Indeed the conservative government has given its complete and unwavering support for Israel and has blamed Hamas for all of the deaths that the Israeli raids and bombardment have caused. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird gave a 15 minutes speech at the Rally for the People of Israel on July 16th. The conservative party has also released a ‘Stand with Israel’ campaign on their official website to prove their unconditional support for Israel.
Statements coming from the Liberal Party of Canada haven’t proven to be much different from the Conservative party’s position. On July 16th the liberal MP Marc Garneau even shared the stage with Conservative Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird at the Rally for the People of Israel to also showcase his support for the state of Israel. Under the leadership of Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party released a statement on July 15th putting the entire blame on Hamas and indicating that Israel should be “commended for having accepted the ceasefire proposal, and demonstrating its commitment to peace. (…) Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Hamas is a terrorist organization and must cease its rocket attacks immediately.”
As for the official opposition party, the New Democratic Party (NDP) has yet to release any clear condemnation of Israel’s assault on Gaza. On July 14th the NDP, under the leadership of Thomas Mulcair, did criticise the Canadian government’s stance while at the same time blaming Hamas for all of the Palestinian casualties caused by Israeli raids: “Hamas’ continued rocket attacks from Gaza, which are aimed at civilian centres in Israel, and the use of civilians as human shields are entirely unacceptable. The escalating violence and reports of civilian deaths are deeply troubling.” In its July 22d statement, the NDP continued to mainly condemn Hamas for the ongoing situation in Gaza. It was only in the NDP’s brief statement of August 1st, that Israel was condemned for its action: “The shelling by the IDF of a United Nations shelter in Gaza housing innocent civilians fleeing the violence was horrifying and completely unacceptable. Canada must urge Israel to take further measures to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law.”
Some 1400 Palestinians were murdered in the 2008/2009 Israeli Operation Cast Lead. Another 160 Palestinians were killed in the 2012 Israeli Operation Pillar of Defense. This latest Israeli assault on Gaza exceeds both numbers with over 1800 Palestinians killed so far and over 9000 injured in what Israel is calling Operation Protective Edge.
We had the chance to talk with one of the protest organizers, Dan Freeman-Maloy, who explained to us why it’s important to keep mobilizing for Gaza. We also talked about the one-sided stance of Canada’s main political parties and what ordinary citizens can do to challenge their unconditional support for Israel.
Under The Olive (UOT) – It’s been 3 weeks since the start of the attack on Gaza and this is the 9th Gaza-solidarity protest taking place in Montreal. How important is it to keep organising protests and mobilizing in solidarity with Gaza?
Dan Freeman-Maloy (DFM) – The fundamental reality is that western support is very critical in allowing Israel to continue the policies it’s been pursuing. That’s been true for the whole Israeli history. But the siege on Gaza and the impunity with which Israel attacked Gaza are all part of politics that the west at large has supported directly through diplomatic initiatives by designating Palestinian political organisations as terrorists or by supporting Israel economically and diplomatically. So I think it’s incredibly important that we have throughout the west democratic opposition to these governments and to try to impose a cost for supporting Israel.
UOT – This protest in particular is focused on the complicity of the Canadian government and all other Canadian political parties. Can you explain to us why you chose to focus on this aspect in particular?
DFM – For those of us in Canada and in Quebec, the representatives that we are sending to international forums are those from the Federal Canadian Government. Harper’s Tories are the most extreme government in the world (when it comes to) cheering on Israeli killing and encouraging Israel in its very belligerent military approach towards Palestinians and others in the region. That’s true of the Harper’s Tories but it’s also true that there’s been no serious opposition from either of the two main federalist opposition parties. We’ve seen from (Justin) Trudeau in his statement of July 15th and from Mulcair in his statement of July 22d a real blaming of Palestinians for being attacked and arguments that it’s Palestinians, who are besieged and occupied, who need to lay down their meagre arms while Israel’s killing of Palestinians, (among them) hundreds of children, is framed as self-defense. That is the sort of consensus that is found across Canadian federal political parties and that needs to be broken as aggressively as possible. (Thinking about) what sort of political embarrassment, what sort of demonstrations and what sort of popular activities can break that consensus should be a real priority for people of conscious.
UOT – How do you think the Media has covered what is going on in Gaza so far?
DFM – The media is terrible. The corporate press in the west and throughout Canada are very closely aligned with government policy on numerous issues. It’s a world of online media now in a lot of different communities. The corporate media represents a sort of fairly well-off political establishment constituency and they reflect the same politics. The media has been awful and is terribly distorted and always has been. I do think that some of the media are themselves even uncomfortable with how extreme Canada has been in distinguishing itself even from other complicit western governments, but by in large the media coverage has been terrible. Thankfully there are well established outlets, among them Electronic Intifada and others, that people now know to look to for more reliable information.
UOT– Many are saying that there’s a shift in the media, and Israel is starting to be criticized more. Do you agree with that?
DFM – Whenever one thinks that it can’t go further to the racist jingoist chauvinist Right, it does, and I’m talking here about Israeli politics. What that means is that for the Western powers, the United States and Europe in particular who have been willing to impose a tiny puppet state on the Palestinians and who have been willing to impose an entirely skewed and unjust settlement, the idea that the Palestinians will be given nothing and will be targeted for an almost annihilation, like we’re seeing in Gaza, is something that goes beyond what Western government considers to be in their interests. So, I do think that we see a split and I think the conservative opinion in the west, for reasons that are not particularly ethical, is just a little surprised by how really crazy, extreme, and aggressive the Israeli politics are getting. So, there are some concerns and that’s a good thing but what we don’t want to do is (to let this) establish the terms of discussion. What we’re seeing mostly in mainstream criticism is real bankrupt politics. For example, the Canadian criticism says ‘we shouldn’t be so extreme, we should be more like Europe’. It is less extreme but there’s a fundamental complicity that is allowing Israel to, year after year, grind Palestine to dust as best it can. This framework of complicity needs to be addressed, rather than just the extreme policies that are getting some critical attention in the mainstream.
UOT – What would you say to people to encourage them to get involved?
DFM – I think this is a fight that is going on politically throughout the West. What Palestinians can do and what people of the region can do are different questions. But the questions for those of us, who follow those events in Palestine, are what we can do in our local context. The framework of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) has been an extraordinarily useful framework for focusing not only on an abstract standing in solidarity but on particular institutional complicity and how to challenge it. We can also sharpen our analysis in opposing government policy to major areas; we should focus on calling for an end to preferential trade ties with Israel as a first step and the delisting of Palestinian political organisations from the terrorist list which is indeed an attack on Palestinian self-representation.
Under the Olive Tree is a Montreal-based community radio program in solidarity with Palestinians aired live every Thursday from 11am – 12 noon on CKUT 90.3 FM in Montreal and on CFRC 101.9FM in Kingston, Ontario.