On the Front Lines of a Global Struggle: Recognizing the greatest enemies of Palestinian freedom
In the immediate context of the global struggles and contested histories that are taken very seriously in the pages of three fine books Canadians should be reading — I’ll get to them in a moment — it was almost comically ironic last week that the family of United Church pastor and former New Democratic Party MP Jim Manly was appealing to Ottawa to “help secure his release” from Israeli authorities. You’d think he’d been kidnapped by al-Qaida or something.
It was ironic because of the utterly unserious engagement with the sufferings of the Palestinian people that is at work every time one of these ship-borne spectacles disgorges to the care of the Israeli Defence Forces another cargo of westerners pretending to be “breaking the siege of Gaza.” Last week it was the vessel Estelle, flying the flag of Finland, with Manly, among others, on board. Manly is already back home safe and sound.
That the greatest enemies of Palestinian freedom are the Hamas gangsters who run the bleakly razor-wired Gaza Strip never seems to get a look-in. That the best way for a Canadian to see to it that humanitarian aid reaches Gaza is to simply pay one’s taxes — Ottawa has spent roughly $300 million in Gaza over the past five years — is practically heretical to even mention.
For much of the past decade, the earnest and the animated have been adorning the walls of church basements and student union buildings across Canada with Israeli Apartheid banners and Hands Off Iran posters. Meanwhile, after the Khomeinist regime in Tehran crushed an insurrection in 2009, a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in January 2011 and then Tahrir Square erupted in Cairo in the following weeks. Suddenly, Arab liberals, feminists, students, reformists and revolutionaries were at the vanguard of tumults from the Barbary Coast to Bahrain. They were on their own.
In Gaza, they were bullied and beaten by the same Hamas thugs who take only slightly less delight when they notice yet another ship on the horizon carrying Torontonians or Berliners or Parisians intent on making exhibitionist nuisances of themselves with the IDF. As of this week, the death tally in the Syrian abattoir run by Hamas benefactor Bashar Assad is roughly 30,000 (was there a teach-in that I missed?). Nobody even talks about Darfur anymore. Then again, hardly anyone wanted to talk about it while the genocide there was in full force.
The massacres carried out by Islamist supremacists in Darfur were first inspired and armed by the Libyan madman Moammar Gadhafi and later directed by the Sudanese genocidaire Omar Bashir. Perhaps 300,000 people died as a consequence. Across the Sudanese border in Chad, by 2006 the UN could only guess that the number of refugees was in the hundreds of thousands. There wasn’t the staff to count the corpses. But the dead were no less dead than the Israelis, the Palestinians and the occasional Lebanese whose deaths are brought to our attention more dependably.