Lia Tarachansky, The Real News Network – 14 March 2011
Canada’s political support of Israel is well known; its military, intelligence and arms trade with Israel are not
While portraying the image of the “honest broker” Canada’s military and intelligence cooperation and arms trade with Israel paint a different picture. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky interviews Yves Engler, the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid about the political, military, and corporate support Canada extends Israel and its meddling in Palestinian internal politics. She also speaks to Richard Sanders of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade about Canada’s weapons export to Israel and the government’s failure to report accurate exports statistics.
Yves Engler is a Canadian commentator and author. His most recent book is Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid, and previously he published The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy and Canada in Haiti: Waging War on The Poor Majority.
Richard Sanders is the Coordinator for the Ottawa-based Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade. He is a researcher and the Editor of Press for Conversion!
LIA TARACHANSKY, JOURNALIST, TRNN: I’m Lia Tarachansky with The Real News in Ottawa, Canada. In the fall of 2010, the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, declared that Canada will stand with Israel no matter what. In a broadly televised speech, he said Israel is unfairly isolated and criticized. He said:
STEPHEN HARPER, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: There are, after all, a lot more votes–a lot more–in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand. But as long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the United Nations, the Francophonie, or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand whatever the cost.
TARACHANSKY: Last year, a comprehensive book by Yves Engler entitled Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid outlined the military, financial, intelligence-sharing, corporate, and diplomatic support that Canada extends to mostly one side in the conflict, Israel. In February, Engler spoke in Ottawa. The Real News caught up with him at the National Archives, where he’s currently researching his next book.
YVES ENGLER, WRITER AND ACTIVIST: You know, the multibillion dollar US support is of more consequence than Canadian support, but the Stephen Harper government has gone out of its way to orient Canadian foreign policy as much as possible in a direction that’s supportive of Israeli policy, and you see that both on a regional level and vis-a-vis the Palestinians.
TARACHANSKY: In 2009, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Canada. In an interview with The Jewish Tribune, he said: “Canada is so friendly that there was no need to convince or explain anything to anyone. . . . We need allies like this in the international arena.” And as Engler outlines, Canadian support for Israel doesn’t end in the political sphere. The Canadian military intelligence and policing forces work closely with their Israeli counterparts, and this relationship is becoming more entrenched under the current Harper government. When the peace negotiations began in the 1990s, Canadian agents harassed any domestic opponents to the now failed peace process. After 9/11, Canada was the first country to freeze the financial assets of Palestinian political party Hamas, though it was never alleged to be connected to the attack. In 2002, Canada placed it on its list of terrorist organizations and worked closely with Israeli agencies to gather information inside Canada on any political opponents of the Palestinian Authority. And in 2008, Canada and Israel officiated their intelligence-sharing relationship by signing the declaration to cooperate on public safety.
ENGLER: There’s historic ties between CSIS and Mossad (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and its Israeli counterpart) in terms of Mossad using Canadian passports on foreign assassination missions. And there’s a number of books on the intelligence world that discuss these different ties historically. One of the ways you see that even coming out in practice is a sort of witch hunt against some of the pro-Palestinian activists in Canada by CSIS agents, particularly a number of pro-Palestinian activists in Montreal. About a month ago, Peter MacKay, Canada’s defense minister, visited Israel, where he–in the final press release that was sent out, he said Israeli technologies are really helping Canada out in Afghanistan. Right? So the technologies and the security methods that Israeli forces have, you know, practiced on the Palestinians, Canada now is putting to use in Afghanistan. Most notably, of course, are the drones that the Canadian military has purchased from Israeli companies.
TARACHANSKY: And the arms trade goes both ways. In February, the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade published an extensive report about Canadian weapons exports to the Middle East. The Real News spoke to Richard Sanders, the report’s author, about Canadian arms exports to Israel.
RICHARD SANDERS, RESEARCHER, COALITION TO OPPOSE THE ARMS TRADE: So in my research I found about 125 or 200 Canadian military-related companies that say, that report that they have export experience with Israel or that they are actively pursuing exports to Israel. Many, if not most, military exports do not go through customs, especially when they’re going from government to government. So we don’t really know what the extent of this military export–what level this military export is at. The column on the left shows different categories of military equipment that have been sold to Israel. This is from data that’s put together by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The major categories of military equipment that Canada sells to Israel are high-tech electronic components. Another major category is components for tanks and armored vehicles. There are major loopholes in the Foreign Affairs data. For example, it only covers those 22 categories of munitions, but then there’s all these other categories of equipment which could be used for civilian purposes or for military purposes. This happened with Colombia: Canada sold helicopters to the Colombian Air Force, and they did not show up in the Foreign Affairs annual reports of military exports, because they didn’t have any weapons attached to the helicopters.
TARACHANSKY: And Canadian corporations also support the Israeli occupation. Canada’s official position is that it doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of Israeli settlements. However, Canadian companies helped build them and their segregation roads.
ENGLER: You can receive a tax rebate from the Canadian government for sending money to Israeli charities, you know, involved in the settlements. And that’s–we’re not talking about small amounts of money; we’re talking about millions and millions of dollars every year that would be directed towards that endeavor.
TARACHANSKY: And the concrete military support that Canada extends Israel is to train the Palestinian Authority. Operation PROTEUS is Canada’s second-largest deployment after Afghanistan. Seen by many as the rising future leader of the opposition, MP Bob Rae is one of the only Canadian politicians to have spoken publicly about the program.
BOB RAE, CANADIAN MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT (LIB.): I suspect there are not many people in this hall tonight who know that Canadian soldiers, without any publicity, without any publicity, without any attention, Canadian police officers from the RCMP, without any publicity, without any attention, are providing vital assistance to the Palestinian Authority to be able to provide the peace and security for the region that is so necessary, the men and women who will ensure the security both of the West Bank and of Israel.
ENGLER: It’s about supporting a Palestinian Authority in the West Bank that has no electoral mandate. His electoral mandate ran out two years ago. And it’s being used to, you know, control the population. And it’s received most of a $300 million, five-year aid program that Canada has given to the Palestinians. So, you know, we cut off aid–first country to cut off aid after Hamas won the elections in 2006, and we used the aid as a tool to weaken, you know, to sow division within Palestinian society. And that’s–you know, Operation PROTEUS is the continuation of that policy. It’s about supporting the most compliant Palestinian political factions.
SANDERS: We’re, you know, one of the top ten or so military exporters in the world. We are exporting military goods hand-over-fist to whoever wants to buy them. Now, there are countries that we don’t export to, but those are usually the countries that the United States doesn’t want us to export to.
TARACHANSKY: As Engler outlines, Canada’s support for Israel goes back decades, with the current Harper government solidifying this relationship. By selling arms, spying on behalf of Israel, and training the PA forces, Canada’s image as an honest broker in this conflict seems like nothing more than an illusion. For The Real News, I’m Lia Tarachansky in Ottawa, Canada.
End of Transcript