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Canada, Palestine and Imperialism

Rohit Revi

March 10, 2024
Even before capitalism in Canada, the seeds of imperial power were laid with the colonial occupation of Turtle Island and the expansion of the British and French Empires to North America. The dispossession of Indigenous peoples here is a precondition, upon which capitalism developed in Canada. Indigenous Nations in Canada are not just occupied territories, they are also colonized nations, with legitimate claims to sovereignty and self-determination. When we truly understand that fact, we will recognize that all operations of Canadian capital and state on unceded and un-surrendered sovereign Indigenous land – such as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion – are imperialist in nature. 
Canada’s role in NATO
For the last many decades, the Canadian state has for long portrayed itself through a myth of “peacekeeping” and as a conflict avoidant, peace-loving country. 

Sometimes people think of Canada as just a background member of the NATO, but in reality NATO itself was in many ways a Canadian Idea in the first place. It was former Prime Minister of Canada Lester B Pearson who wrote the first public proposal for a military alliance of Western powers. This was in the context of growing communist movements in the Global South, because he believed that the UN Security Council may not be able to enforce Canadian and Western interests globally. He describes the formation of the NATO as the most important thing he participated in. Within 3 years of the creation of NATO, Pearson boasted that his government had given away $324 million to NATO countries. This was the largest donation, alongside the US. This money was given solely to suppress anti-colonial resistance across the Global South – to suppress Independence movements in Algeria and in Vietnam, to fund Dutch colonial powers in Indonesia and West Papua New Guinea, to fund Belgians for the same in Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi, and to the British as well. This is story of Canada’s central role in the formation and fortification of NATO.


It was Canada’s Undersecretary of External Affairs who chaired this First Committee on Palestine – which established the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, or UNSCOP. At the First Committee, Lester B. Pearson rejected the Arab calls for an independent, democratic country, and insisted that the committee discuss all questions related to Palestine, which means including the future settlement of European Zionists. 

The UNSCOP then sent a mission to Palestine. The Canadian delegate was Ivan C. Rand, who trade unionists will know as the author of the Rand formula. Rand was a Zionist, and after his mission to Palestine, he was one of the lead authors of the majority report that supported the partition of Palestine in two ethnically segregated states. In many ways, Canadian imperialist interests have authored the occupation of Palestine from 1947 onwards. We should also know that a partition agreement, signed by US and USSR, was called the Canada Plan, after Pearson’s role in authoring it. 
In 1960, Pearson received Israel’s medallion of Valour, and in 1968 he received the Theodore Herzl Award – named after the founder of Zionism – from the Zionist Organization of America for “his commitment to Israel”.
But why did Canada and Pearson take such a personal interest in the partition of Palestine and the occupation of Palestine by the Israeli state?

 Was it because Canada considered it important to develop a safe home for Jewish refugees after the Holocaust? The answer is absolutely no. You would be shocked to know that Canada accepted only less than 5,000 Jewish refugees between 1943 and 1945. In fact, it was precisely because Canada did not want to accept Jewish refugees that it forced the creation of Israel. In this sense, this was Canadian antisemitism that was one of the big motivators. Another big motivator was that Ottawa, alongside Washington, wanted an outpost in the Middle-East for Western powers and they recognized the creation of Israel as the creation of that outpost. This is an old idea, dating as far as Theodore Herzl, the architect of Zionism who tried to convince Europe back in the 1890s about how useful Israel would be to Western Imperialism. In the 1970s, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz published a piece that basically said Israel is to be the watchdog of the West, to punish any country in the region that goes against Western interests.

 During the war that was unleashed by occupation in 1947 and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, more than 300 Canadian volunteers were recruited to be a part of the Zionist military form. And it is believed that more than 1000 Canadians were on the ground over the years to establish Israel. Ottawa did not interfere with any of these recruitments and looked away, even though they had outlawed the same when Canadian socialists volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War.

 Once the creation of the Israeli state was secured by the Western imperialist forces, Western capital – including Canadian capital – became heavily involved in the settlement of occupied Palestine. 

For example, after the 1967 war, there was a Canada Park that was built in the West Bank. This is one of the most disgusting things, where $15 million were sourced from Canadians to create a national park on land that was once occupied by Palestinians, for recreational enjoyment of the settlers. But this is just one example. 
Another example, Canadian Highways Infrastructure Corporation was the lead organization that created the private consortium which spent $3 billion in creating a settler-only apartheid highway. 
In July 2008, a West Bank village filed a historic lawsuit in Montreal Supreme Court against two Quebec based companies – Green Park International and Green Mouth International – for building an Israeli settlement in West Bank on land that was illegally seized after the agreements of 1967. The Superior Court of Québec dismissed the claim, asking them to file with the Israeli High Court of Justice instead.

During the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, the Harper government publicly supported Israel and was one of the only votes in defense of Israel at the United Nations Human Rights Committee. During this war, when Venezuela broke off all diplomatic ties with Israel, Canada took over Israeli diplomacy in Venezuela and became the official representation of Israel in Venezuela. Canada became Israel. 

Canada arms Israel
And no discussion of Canadian imperialism in Palestine can happen without talking about the arms sales between Canada and Israel. Since Justin Trudeau came to power in 2015, Canadian companies have exported over $114 million Canadian worth of military goods to Israel. Every year since 2015, the amount of arms sold to Israel has been on the rise. But we don’t know the exact numbers because Canada hides behind the US. The 1956 Defence Production Sharing Agreement between Canada and US makes it possible for Canada to sell arms to US without regulation or reporting, and then US can sell this to countries like Israel.

There are numerous companies in Canada that are involved in the business of genocide. The biggest company invested in the genocide of Palestinians is perhaps Lockheed Martin, which also operates out of Canada, which leads the consortium that creates F-35  fighter airplanes that is used to bomb Gaza right now. Since the late 1990s, at least 110 Canadian-based suppliers have been awarded contracts for this program in excess of C$3.8-billion. Companies like Pratt and Whitney in Missisauga make war plane engines that are sold to Israel.
The Liberal Government has also lied about Canadian military exports to Israel since October 7th 2023. At first it denied any sale, then it changed its position to say it has only exported non-lethal military goods. But that doesn’t mean anything. Non-lethal military goods just means components and parts, that are fitted into lethal weapons and arms used to kill people. Reality is, Canada has authorized $28.5 million worth of military sale to Israel since October 7th.

And so for us, here in Canada, it is absolutely crucial to make sure that our movement for Palestinian Liberation maintains its focus on shutting down these companies that produce weapons and military parts, and an absolute end to the sale of military weapons by Canada to Israel, whether it be direct or through the US.
Imperialism is about globalizing capital and globalizing war. 
The only way to resist this is by globalizing resistance, and this means to globalize the Intifada.


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