For decades, Israel has been implementing an apartheid system that includes occupying Palestinian territories, expropriating Palestinian lands, building illegal settlements, and committing human rights violations and war crimes against the Palestinian people.
Largely because of its status as a staunch US and NATO ally in a key region of the world, Israel has implemented this strategy with impunity.
For far too long, countries like Canada have turned a blind eye to Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, save for the occasional tsk-tsk when the level of violence crossed the lines of bourgeois decorum.
But in recent years, the blind eye has turned into a bright green light, with parliamentarians in Canada tripping over themselves in their rush to declare their support for Israel’s “right to defend itself” and their condemnation of Palestine solidarity activists.
Today, in the face of genocidal bombardment, destruction of homes and civil infrastructure, and a siege which cuts off access to water and electricity, politicians at all levels spend more time and energy demonizing voices for peace and human rights than in offering even the mildest reproach to Benjamin Netanyahu.
It’s a tired cliché that “the first casualty of war is truth,” but there is a good reason for the saying’s overuse: its veracity. Somehow, the simple act of pointing out blatant violations of international law has become grounds for accusations of anti-Jewish hatred and support for terrorism.
Such perverse logic is now being justify efforts to attack and silence those who speak out in solidarity with Palestine including CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn, Ontario MPP Sarah Jama, student unions throughout the country and many thousands of individuals whose only “crime” is speaking about the very real history and consequences of Israel’s aggression.
Irish MP Matt Carthy put it succinctly. Speaking to the Irish parliament, he noted that the phrase “Israel has the right to defend itself” has now become a cover for Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians.
“Hamas violated international law on October 7,” Carthy stated. “It targeted innocent civilians in the most cruel and inhumane ways [and] right-thinking people around the world have rightly condemned its actions.”
But he then went on to note that “Israel has violated international law almost every day for decades. Israel occupies Palestinian territories, besieges Palestinian territories, builds and expands illegal settlements, and imposes an apartheid regime that restricts the movement of Palestinians and denies their basic rights. It regularly and systematically attacks and kills Palestinian civilians, all of which is contrary to international law.”
Carthy concluded his comments by observing that, “when it comes to the horrific war crimes committed by Hamas, the response was very clear and consistent – world leaders lined up to say that Israel has the right to defend itself. Why do we never hear the phrase: ‘Palestine has the right to defend itself?’”
We do, of course, hear the latter phrase. It’s been proclaimed clearly and repeatedly by Palestine solidarity groups and activists (including this publication) and, more loudly than all others, by Palestinians themselves.
It’s high time we heard it from Parliament.
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