Engler, Yves. Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid. 2010. RED Publishing, B.C. and Fernwood Publishing, N.S. Canada.

Canada and Israel: Book Review

“Thousands of books describe various aspects of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Only a handful detail Canada´s ties to the dispute and most do from a pro–Israel perspective. This is the first book to focus on Canadian support for the dispossession of Palestinians, for a state based on one religion, and for the last major European colonial project.”

Canadian progressives and activists are distressingly like the right–wing elite in one way; we tend to get our information and analysis from the USA, not Canada. So Yves Engler´s books are really important to our understanding of ourselves and our history. Several years ago he wrote with Anthony Fenton, Canada in Haiti and last year he published The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy; this year he focuses on the history of Canada´s relationship with the state of Israel. It has an amazing bibliography of Canadian books which provide a much needed record for this much needed, very Canadian analysis.

On this website there is also an account of Engler´s public speech in Victoria, based mainly on this book. He is a full–time writer and speaker, living simply and travelling by bus across Canada to get his work out to the public. Fortunately there are still publishers that will take on writers like Engler.

Engler gives a primer on how Israel came to be and how it is clear that as a one religion, one ethnic group of Privilege, occupying and denying rights to millions; Israel fits the definition of Apartheid. Not only successive generations of Canadian politicians and the corporate media have supported Israel but also Christian evangelical churches. He gives the early history of Zionism – originally a Christian movement and still now a Christian ideology for millions.

Until recently labour unions were also enthusiastic supporters of Israel´s policies as was CBC´s “Greatest Canadian” Tommy Douglas. But now unions are taking leadership in the BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement in Canada and Europe. Not since J. S Woodsworth of the CCF, the original democratic socialist party of Canada, whose pallid offspring, the NDP, will not support Palestine, has any political leader taken a stand on the rights of the indigenous people of Palestine. In 1938, J.S. Woodsworth was asked to support the Zionist settler project by adopting a resolution for the right of Jewish settlers to enter Palestine, he said: “It was easy for Canadians, Americans and the British to agree to a Jewish colony, as long as it was somewhere else. Why ´pick on the Arabs´ other than for ´strategic´ and ´imperialistic´ consideration…”
In Engler´s documented opinion the real reason for our support of Israel, beyond its religious context, was and is the need to defend and expand first the British Empire and now the American Empire. In fact he says, “Canada gains little from Israel´s occupation, which costs Palestinians so dearly” before he examines our willing participation in defence of empire. Trudeau, who saw more value in establishing business deals with Arab countries than with Israel, was the first prime minister to distance himself from pro–Israel support – even though 50% of his riding in Montreal was Jewish.
In Chapter 10, Changing Course, the author discusses the rising awareness of and increasing solidarity actions for Palestinian rights in Canada. He cites major demonstrations for Gaza and positive responses to polls, including those that suggest “the more Canadians know about the conflict, the greater their sympathy for Palestine.” He says “educating Canadian is the key to changing our foreign policy.”
We need to act and speak out publicly and fearlessly; “there is no need to pander to manufactured fears.”

The BDS movement, in response to calls from about 200 Palestinian organizations, joined by more and others in the rest of the world since 2005, is gaining ground on many levels. Canadians have and should continue the boycott campaign against Chapters–Indigo bookstore (where this book will not be sold at the author´s request.)

Engler says we should focus on weapons sales to Israel, revoke charitable status of organizations which support and fund pro–Israeli state policies that oppress Palestinians. We should rescind our security agreements that link Mossad and our CSIS.

He writes, “we want to ´de–ethicize´ the conflict. This is not an Arab or Jewish issue but rather one of global importance about basic human dignity.” He names the many Jewish groups who have undercut the notion that all Canadian Jews support Israeli policy or Zionism.

It´s time to ´de–zionize´ our political culture, which is a struggle that must engage Canadians of all background.”

And finally he writes, “On a broader level it is essential to democratize Canadian foreign policy. More than other aspects of government policy, foreign policy is dominated by small elite. Most of the population is simply shut out of the discussion and until that changes the interests of the foreign policy establishment will take precedence over social justice. As always the first step is to educate ourselves so that we can educate others.”

Engler has other books in the works including one on Canadian Aid, NGOs, and Imperialism and another titled Pearson: Peacekeeper or War Criminal? He also intends to write a book examining Canada´s role in perpetuating poverty in Africa. This Canadian needs our support! Buy his books and spread them around. Give thme to libraries, friends, schools and political activists.

Filed under Book Reviews, Yves Engler