Since Hamas’ surprise attack on Oct. 7, the entire Canadian ruling class and its lackeys have risen as one to support Israel ahead of its new offensive on Gaza. In the process, they have obscured all the suffering and oppression to which the Palestinians are constantly subjected.
Capitalist politicians and the so-called “free press” constantly demonize the Palestine solidarity movement. Anyone who defends the liberation of Palestine is accused of defending terrorism or being an antisemite.
We must resist the lies and slander of the ruling class. In the face of these attacks, the labour movement and the left must unapologetically stand with the oppressed, and build a broad solidarity movement with the Palestinian people.
Naturally, Justin Trudeau’s government immediately came out in support of Israel’s “right to defend itself”. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre followed suit, as did all the provincial governments.
Every official statement, and every piece of news coverage, was framed so that anyone defending the Palestinians would be portrayed as a supporter of terrorism. All politicians were under pressure from the media and bourgeois parties to label Hamas a terrorist group and denounce it, and ignore the suffering that the Palestinians have endured for generations.
It was Thomas Mulcair, the Liberal former leader of the NDP, who expressed the opinion of the ruling class in the most crass fashion, claiming that “there are no two sides” in this story. It’s not as if every attempt at peaceful resistance by the Palestinians in recent years has been met with violent repression—it is only Hamas that’s attacking!
As demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian people erupted across Canada, the ruling class and their media attacked protesters as defending terrorism, some going as far as accusing the protesters of “celebrating the mass murder of Israelis”.
Trudeau condemned the so-called “glorification of death and violence and terror”. In Quebec, Premier François Legault called the fact that hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Montreal in support of Palestine “shameful” and “unacceptable”. Both lied about the protesters being there to “support Hamas”, when in fact, as our own eyewitnesses can attest there was no such expression of support in either the Montreal or Toronto demonstrations. Of course, no journalist tried to verify the politicians’ claims.
But who is really on the side of violence and death? Israeli government representatives talk of treating Gazans like “animals” and turning Gaza into a “city of tents” with no buildings. The fact that Trudeau and his friends elsewhere in the world are urging Israel to comply with “international law” doesn’t change a thing, when the Israeli government itself has already made it clear that it won’t abide by any rules.
It has already razed entire neighbourhoods to the ground, and has targeted schools and hospitals with air strikes, and this is only the beginning. On Oct. 13 Israeli planes dropped leaflets on northern Gaza, informing the region’s 1.1 million residents that they had 24 hours to evacuate, otherwise they’d be placing themselves “in extreme danger”. This is ethnic cleansing, backed up by the Western powers. And to take to the streets against the coming bloodbath in Gaza would be to support terror and violence?
Trudeau demonstrated the boundless hypocrisy of the ruling class when asked if he condemned the complete blockade of Gaza—a blockade that cut off water, electricity, and aid, and will result in starvation, suffering, and death for thousands of civilians. He simply dodged the question and stuck to the script: Israel has “the right to defend itself in accordance with international law”—never mind that such collective punishment is actually a war crime and a flagrant violation of said “international law”.
The fact that over 200 Palestinians had been killed this year alone before last week, that settlers protected by the police and army are continuously murdering Palestinians and stealing their land with total impunity, that Israel has the most far-right government in its history, and that members of the government are talking openly about inflicting a new “Nakba” on the Palestinians; all these facts and the countless other crimes of Israeli imperialism are swept under the carpet.
The lackeys of Canadian imperialism are incapable of admitting it, but it is these crimes of the Zionist state that pushed the Palestinians to their breaking point.
But in the world of imperialism, the oppressed become the oppressors, the terrorists, the violent, and the murderous. And the oppressors become the oppressed, who have the right to commit the worst atrocities with the complicit silence of the great powers.
As is the case whenever Palestine is concerned, any defence of the oppressed Palestinians against Israeli imperialism is presented as antisemitism.
Provincial president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario Fred Hahn tweeted on Oct. 8, “I know I’m thankful for the power of workers, the power of resistance around the globe.” He was subsequently smeared in the media, and bombarded with calls to resign. The union’s national office came to the president’s defense, denouncing the attacks on him as coming from the “highly organized pro-Israel lobby”.
The federal minister of Labour even joined in, accusing CUPE of spreading antisemitism!
This level of hypocrisy is frankly comical. The minister seems to have a rather short memory: has he already forgotten that he applauded a Nazi in Parliament last month?
The same accusation was made against an Ontario NDP MPP Sarah Jama. She issued a statement calling for a ceasefire, and describing the occupation of Palestine as “apartheid”. The statement mildly added, “My heart genuinely goes out to all those impacted by this on-going violence.” These are the comments that were called “heinous” by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
Doug Ford, Ontario’s Conservative premier, called for her resignation, quoting her alleged “well-documented history of antisemitism”. One wonders if Doug Ford has mentioned this to his friend and supporter Faith Goldy, a white supremacist and notorious antisemite.
Conservatives and Liberals are in no position to be lecturing anyone about antisemitism.
Meanwhile, National Post columnist Barbara Kay tweeted on Oct. 11, “Israel does not *want* to ethnically cleanse Gaza. Israel *needs* to cleanse Gaza of Hamas to stop their genocidal action.” Terry Glavin, another columnist for the National Post and Ottawa Citizen, wrote on his Substack that it’s difficult to see how Israel should treat the West Bank and Gaza except to “smash it to bits.” These are just two examples from the chorus of right-wingers ghoulishly cheering on the extermination of Palestinians.
Who in mainstream media or among the Liberals and Conservatives is condemning these cheerful calls for mass murder and crimes against humanity?
Cowardice on the left
Major world events such as those in Palestine present the left and the labour movement with a stark choice between siding with the oppressed, or making concessions and capitulating to our ruling class.
With a few honourable exceptions, the left in Canada has miserably failed the test and capitulated to the pressure of bourgeois public opinion.
Jagmeet Singh’s NDP has managed a spectacular contortion. Not content with simply denouncing Hamas like the rest of the ruling class, they made Hamas responsible for… attacks by the Israeli state! An NDP statement reads:
“Civilians in Gaza are caught in a horrific cycle of violence; like the Israeli civilians killed over the past few days, Gazans are victims of Hamas’ brutality. Israel’s bombardment of civilian homes and infrastructure in Gaza, where over half the population are children, has killed hundreds of Palestinians with entire families wiped out.” (Our emphasis)
So, if the Israeli army wipes out Gaza and kills thousands of civilians, as it is openly planning to do, it will be Hamas’s fault, not this far-right government’s. It is just a short step from that to saying the Palestinians “had it coming”.
Faced with the accusations of antisemitism mentioned above, Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles asked her MPP to withdraw her statement, and distanced herself from her remarks. Jama eventually apologized. Unfortunately, these apologies reinforce the idea that criticizing Israel automatically amounts to antisemitism.
In Quebec, Québec solidaire also buckled under the pressure. This party was once led by Amir Khadir, who claimed that the creation of Israel had been an injustice and a catastrophe. But in response to Oct. 7 co-leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois’ post was virtually indistinguishable from those of other political parties: “Total condemnation of Hamas attacks”, followed by a few empty pacifist phrases that avoided any criticism of the Zionist regime.
Since then, with the horrendous attack by Israel on Gaza, GND came out explaining that “the right way to respond to Hamas attacks is not to unreservedly side with this extremist government”. But nowhere in the statement does it explain who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed. It is framed as “how to answer Hamas”. The incalculable number of deaths and untold suffering inflicted on the Palestinians is put on the same plane as the Hamas attack.
There’s no equivalence here: on one side there’s an imperialist state armed to the teeth, on the other an oppressed people with literally nothing to lose in a situation of oppression and suffering more exacerbated than ever.
It is ironic that it is precisely at a time when working-class solidarity with Palestine is more necessary than ever that the Palestinian cause has been largely abandoned by labour and left-wing organizations.
Another example: Quebec trade union CSN voted at its May convention, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, to support the Palestinian unions’ “Appeal against Apartheid”.
According to the resolution, the CSN is now supposed to be “pressuring the Canadian and Quebec governments” to “support UN efforts to investigate Israeli apartheid; ban arms trade and military-security cooperation with Israel; suspend trade agreements with Israel that are complicit in Israeli apartheid and military occupation; and ban trade with illegal Israeli settlements.”
Yet the CSN has been radio silent since Oct. 7—as have all the other labour federations in Quebec. What was the point of this resolution? It reminds one of an umbrella full of holes: useless precisely when it is needed.
To their credit, Fred Hahn and CUPE Ontario did not back down in the face of a deluge of slanderous articles and inflammatory statements by politicians falsely characterizing Hahn’s statements as antisemitic. The left should never apologize for crimes it does not commit.
But unfortunately, most of the left and the labour movement have proven to be cowards, through either their silence or capitulation.
Against imperialist hypocrisy! Free Palestine!
The war in Israel-Palestine is a showcase of the nauseating hypocrisy of the ruling class. Surely these people who were falling over themselves to support Ukraine against the Russian invasion would want to help the poor Palestinians fighting against occupation and bombing by the mighty Israeli imperialist regime? Despite the lies and distortions of the ruling class, the double standard is obvious for all to see.
As Israel prepares to crush Gaza and inflict incalculable suffering to the Palestinians with the full backing of the Canadian ruling class, we have a duty as members of the international working class. The labour movement, student movement, and the left in Canada need to build a powerful solidarity movement with the Palestinians.
This should start by openly denouncing the hypocrisy of the establishment, and rejecting their attempts to portray solidarity as pro-terrorist or antisemitic. It is they who defend oppression and violence, helping the Israeli regime in its ongoing slaughter.
Mass demonstrations should be organized in every city possible with the full backing of the unions. So far, the rallies have been mostly left up to courageous pro-Palestinian activists. But with the resources and support of the whole labour movement, these demonstrations could really take a mass character.
Where workers in Canada are involved in the production or delivery of arms to Israel, they should halt this production and delivery. Workers are the most powerful force on the planet, and by their position in production could hamper the Israeli war machine. This has been done before, for example in Italy and France to prevent arms shipments to be used against Yemen. It can be done here too!
Everywhere in the world, the capitalist system brings hunger, poverty, pain, and war. Nowhere is this truer than in Palestine. The empty calls for “peace” from our rulers and reformists here will solve nothing.
What we need is a root-and-branch socialist transformation of society. The best way we can help here is by mobilizing the working class in solidarity, and by overthrowing our own Canadian ruling class, which has the blood of Palestinians on their hands.
This is why we are working to bring the voice of communism into the movement. Join us in this task.