First, Nakba72 will commemorate the continuing dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Second, the COVID-19 pandemic is showing the fragility of the living conditions and the lack of security for Palestinians, especially those in Gaza and in refugee camps. And third, the Israeli government is preparing to officially legitimize its de facto annexation of large swaths of the occupied West Bank.
Yet, the dominant narrative in most Western countries regarding any right of Palestinians to live in security is fundamentally flawed, and contains many layers of pro-Israel protectionism, so much so that it is difficult for many people to appreciate the threat Palestinians live under on a daily basis.
Put simply, this narrative upholds as sacrosanct that Israel always has a right to security, to defend itself, and to decide when, where and how its ‘security’ is threatened. This principle is so ingrained and so fundamental to statements and reporting on the region that pro-Palestinian advocates are often forced into the position of having to prove their ‘non-violent’ credentials before being taken seriously.
In Canada, the stated and official foreign policy on “key issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” (as described on the Global Affairs Canada website) even begins with this principle, entitled “Support for Israel and its Security”. This lead point “recognizes Israel’s right to assure its own security, as witnessed by our support during the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah and our ongoing support for Israel’s fight against terror.” In contrast, the second principle is entitled only “Support for the Palestinians”, and mostly consists of the standard lip service paid to the non-existent and debunked two-state solution.
Not only is the Canadian government highlighting that, above all else, Israel’s “right to security” is inviolable, it justifies Israel’s actions to “assure” that right. The brief mention of Palestinian security that Canada officially embraces is limited to financial support for the Palestinian Authority to monitor and control their own population. To break down the diplomatic doublespeak, that means assisting Palestinian security inasmuch as it helps to guarantee Israeli security. This is why every time the Palestinian Authority announces it is (once again) breaking off bilateral relations with Israel, security coordination is never impacted.
Is there any circumstance in which a Palestinian facing the Israeli military or an Israeli settler or any other branch of the Israeli government would be entitled to the right of self-defence? This is not just a rhetorical question. Similar to the experiences of black people in the United States during the Jim Crow era, this double standard is the backbone of the oppressive system Palestinians are forced to endure.
Canadian politicians are quick to reinforce this hypocrisy. Recent history gives us multiple examples. In December 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated:
We will continue to stand strongly against the singling out of Israel at the UN. Canada remains a steadfast supporter of Israel and Canada will always defend Israel’s right to live in security.